Adoption is a beautiful calling that has the power to change many lives. If God has whispered adoption in your heart, you’re doing the right thing by learning more about it. Choosing to adopt a child is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make, and it needs to be made with the right motives and expectations in mind. While there is no definitive quiz that can tell you if adoption is right for your family, the best adoptions are those that put the interests of the child first.
A lot of adoptive parents are kindhearted people who see a need and really want to do something practical about it. They often have big hearts for kids. Many have traveled and seen orphanages or children’s homes in other countries, and they have a great desire to get involved. Many of them are Christians and hear a calling to help the vulnerable, and that’s why they want to adopt.
While wanting to help when you see a need is commendable, it’s not ideal motivation to adopt. Helping vulnerable children can look like many things—monetary or in-kind support for institutions, lobbying for policies that encourage paths to independence for children in institutions, one-on-one sponsorship so that children can remain with their families and break the cycle of poverty—but adoption is not the right response. In fact, the only sensible motivation to adopt is love.
What is real sacrificial love? One answer lies in Corinthians 13:
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Adoption is love and while parents don’t have to be perfect (none of us are), they must be ready to commit to practicing that kind of love. This is because adoption changes a child’s whole world, but it changes a family’s whole world, too. And often, to practice the type of love adoption requires, parents must be willing to work on themselves (hence why adoption can’t be solely about helping others). Recognizing the strengths and opportunities in their own upbringing and how it influences their behavior today, enables parents to develop a stronger connection with their child and understand how to meet their needs.
All that to say, it’s important to manage expectations related to adoption. No parents, even if they are bringing their biological child home from the hospital, have a complete idea of what they’re getting into. They’ve internalized expectations seen in pop culture of snuggling in their rocking chair with their perfect newborn who isn’t crying, doesn’t have a dirty diaper, and doesn’t have a need that they don’t know how to meet. So, the element of surprise is there for all parents. The thing about adoptive parents is they aren’t bringing their child home from the hospital. Their child has a history that unfolds before they bring them home. Even if they are very young, they’ve already experienced great loss—of their first family, culture, home—and that affects them. Understanding that makes a big difference in managing expectations. And, in the end, families will need to rely on love.
If God is whispering adoption in your heart, know that it looks different for each family, but behind the call to adopt is a simple invitation to lead with love.
Ready to talk with an adoption specialist to explore if adoption is right for your family? Start here.