' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Cultivating a Culture of Adoption

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cultivating a Culture of Adoption


“Adoption is the natural result of our redemption.” I came across these words when I Googled “Culture of Adoption” looking for follow-up materials to my article “Does Adoption Run in Families?. The words came from an article by Carolyn Curtis, “Cultivating a Culture of Adoption”* in the Presbyterian Church in America’s web magazine.

I was stunned. The Presbyterian Church, the Church in which I was raised, unabashedly promoting adoption? Although I haven’t attended the Presbyterian Church or any other church in more than fifty years, I can still recite the biblical passages I memorized in Sunday School and hum the tunes to “A Might Fortress is Our God,” “Faith of Our Fathers,” the Doxology, and other hymns I heard each week. I’ve always thought of the Presbyterian Church as a good institution, progressive, a model of what a church should be, certainly not an institution promoting adoption as the inside track to heaven.

After more research I was relieved to find that there are several Presbyterian Churches. The offending church, the Presbyterian Church in America was organized in 1973. It’s not connected with my former church, FirstPresbyterian Church of Chicago, founded in 1833.

Even though it’s not my church, it’s still unsettling to read that “Christians should be motivated to adopt, to participate in the ‘big story’, the renewal of all things, the advancement of shalom.”

Curtis considers Jose and Nikolle Reyes a model for other Christians: “The more they prayed, the more aware of how adopting earthly children mimics our Father in heaven adopting us. So [the Reyes] bypassed options to have biological children and pursued adoption through a Christian agency …. About a year after they began the actual process of adoption, they stepped off a plane in Guatemala and welcomed Alex and Ella into their hearts and home.” Guatemala? The government in Guatemala shutdown adoptions because of rampant corruption.

The author exhorts Churches to create a culture of adoption following the lead of Pastor Adam Jones of the Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Lecanto, Florida. Pastor Jones gave “pulpit messages that emphasized the grace of our adoption into the family of God followed by church families who adopted, which in turn caused other families to consider the process” creating a “domino effect.”

If Curtis’ expansive view Christian grace was restricted to “hard to place” children, older children and those with disabilities, we might hold our tongues. But Curtis would cast a wide net, gathering all the world’s orphans and take the US  back to the Baby Scoop Era (1945 to 1973) where single moms routinely surrendered their children to adoption. In fact, Curtis includes a bold print warning that many children available for adoption are infants conceived out of wedlock”. She reassures the reader, however, that “women who conceive children out of wedlock [are] just like us—sinners—although those who choose to give birth to the baby and allow a couple to adopt are perhaps more courageous.” We first mothers are sinners? Is she seriously suggesting that the one million plus babies born each year to single mothers be raised by biological strangers?

Family Matters: Secrecy and Disclosure in the History of Adoption“Child savers” like Curtis and Reverend Jones increase the demand for foreign children, resulting in wide-scale corruption. These children are often not orphans and their parents did not consent to their adoption. There’s some irony here. In the 1880’s a Presbyterian minister, Martin Van Buren Van Arsdale, founded children’s homes throughout the country which took children off the street and placed them for adoption. However, Van Arsdale “made it a cardinal principle to investigate each case thoroughly in order to avoid 'severing the bonds of blood relationship’” and accept “children who had  parents or guardians only if written surrender or commitment was given by the courts” (E. Wayne Carp, Family Matters). 

Curtis concludes with a pitch for Bethany Christian Services quoting Bethany’s president Bill Blacquiere that Bethany is “’doing God’s work, participating with Him in caring for the world’s orphans.’” Bethany is a supporter of the National Council for Adoption, the foremost opponent of opening records to adult adoptees. Although I haven’t been to church in over 50 years, I’m sure that denying adult adoptees the right to know their original identities is not doing God’s work.

*Cultivating a Culture of Adoption

  Lorraine here: Overheard at dinner Saturday night:  A group near me was talking about the woman who had a face transplant after being bitten by a chimp...and the just-graduated-from-Harvard young woman who was among them said: If somebody wanted to have a chimp for a pet, why didn't she just adopt a child? There are so many who need to be adopted...I wasn't really part of that conversation at that point...and, Dear Reader, I admit did not turn from the man sitting next to me (her grandfather, my friend) and jump in and say something contrary. There are times I just don't have the energy to take on every comment, but now, Monday morning remorse has set in, and I'm feeling very upset that I did not.

But as Jane write,this is the pervasive culture if ideas we live in. Most people believe there are starving children everywhere who need to be adopted.

Regarding the book International Adoption shown above (from Amazon): In the past two decades, transnational adoption has exploded in scope and significance, growing up along increasingly globalized economic relations and the development and improvement of reproductive technologies. A complex and understudied system, transnational adoption opens a window onto the relations between nations, the inequalities of the rich and the poor, and the history of race and racialization, Transnational adoption has been marked by the geographies of unequal power, as children move from poorer countries and families to wealthier ones, yet little work has been done to synthesize its complex and sometimes contradictory effects.


  1. Dear Sinner Jane:

    *Sigh* I have written about this topic over on my blog a couple of times, the most recent one being last November in "celebration" of National Adoption Awareness Month.

    National Adoption Awareness Month ~ Day 8: Let Me See if I Can Be Perfectly Clear About This: God DOES NOT DO ADOPTION (Unless of course, the adoptive grandfather is trying to kill the child, then God makes an exception) http://tinyurl.com/3cz8a38

    Sinner Jane, I don't know why we sinful first mothers can't seem to get it through our thick skulls that we deserve the treatment we have received from our more righteous fellow human beings. We just need to shut up and move to the back of the bus, thankyouverymuch.

    Sinfully yours,

    Sinner M.

  2. Well said Sinner M.

    At the risk of offending the religious:

    If God was so all fired up about adoption, you'd think He would have just found some boy to adopt instead of begetting Jesus. Clearly He thought a a bio son necessary to do His work.

  3. Lorraine,

    You should have told the young woman who asked why the chimp owner just didn't adopt: "Adoption is no monkey business."

  4. No offense taken by this religious person, Jane. In fact, I have thought the very same thing many times as I have pondered the relationship between God, Jesus, and the atoning sacrifice which culminated in an empty tomb.


  5. “women who conceive children out of wedlock [are] just like us—sinners—although those who choose to give birth to the baby and allow a couple to adopt are perhaps more courageous"

    @Jane, If you are used to Calvinism, this is sweetly written, they admit that THEY ARE SINNERS, we are all sinners, aren't we? I am just wondering, what are women who conceive children out of wedlock, choose to bring them forth in sorrow (better pain than being coerced to sign something terrible in a drugged state) and accept the full yoke of motherhood? Certainly more courageous? Yes, yokes are usually for a pair, that can be solved too.

    Mimicing?That does not work that way, you see, I admit that if you are only talking about adopting underage prostitutes, gangmembers, pickpockets and such, it would work. But babies have not been around long enough to do lots of sins, so offering unconditional love and marriage to some deeply fallen, promiscuous woman, that would be mimicing. Comparing yourself to a baby, my goodness, such types cannot even declare themselves a sinner with conviction.

    M, you are forgetting something, this are Presbyterians, they are not righteous, they are sinners too, just like us. Isn't it cute?

  6. Oh, that chimp thing, well, biologically seen the difference between Pan and Homo is very small, and Homo sapiens is the least dangerous species in that combined group as an individual.

    I see nothing offensive in that. It is a correct and sarcastic description of the way many PAPs and people keeping HIGHLY dangerous animals think.

  7. Jane--

    The perfect retort!

    Why didn't I channel you, lady of quick quips? I am still feeling put out with myself, and it's my damn birthday!

  8. Yes, I am a sinner. Now if only I could get laid once in a while...

  9. This is from Ansley who posted it on Face Book via phone but isn't able to post it on the blog.

    Ansley wrote: "Lol at the monkey business quote! I am a Christian and I have a problem with the 'adopt someone because He adopted us' rhetoric for one reason: we are not God. We don't have the omniscient wisdom of a God who knows every detail of his children's stories. Earthly adoption is much unlike adoption by God- which is about redemption- not retrieval. If Christians who adopt are doing God's work, then are mothers who relinquish doing Satan's work (since God is adopting us out of the world- Satan's domain)? See, it just doesn't add up."

  10. maybe:


    EVERYONE NEEDS a laugh today...

  11. Have a wonderful birthday Lorraine!

  12. Sinner M... I think you made a typo... "I don't know why we sinful first mothers can't seem to get it through our thick skulls that we deserve the treatment we have received from our more righteous fellow human beings." Didn't you mean *self-righteous*?? ;-)

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  14. So now adoptees are compared to chimps? What next!? That comment offends me and speaking of offensive comments I'd love to hear Jane and Lorraine's take on Ann Coulter's latest, "If I found out my child was gay I'd tell him he's adopted." Aargh!

    But on a more positive note, I wish you a very happy birthday, Lorraine :)

  15. No Cully, righteous, she is used to the LDS. They aren't that good in the "We are ALL sinners"-stuff.

  16. My take on Ann Coulter is unprintable.

  17. There are several branches of the Presbyterian Church. The larger and more liberal one has issued a statement in favor of adoptee rights, thanks to Pam Hasegawa, adoptee and activist who is also very involved in her local Presbyterian Church and also worldwide mission and help for the poor in other countries like the Asian Rural Institute that helps farmers from third world countries learn better sustainable agriculture methods. Most Presbyterians, probably what you were raised, Jane, are fairly liberal and mainstream Protestant, not Evangelical.

    But there are splinter groups like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church that is ultra-conservative and heavily Calvinist. That may be the group that is pushing adoption as soul-saving. The local one here won't even join in any ecumenical events that the other Catholic, Protestant and Eastern churches regularly hold, because they consider all others damned.

  18. "My take on Ann Coulter is unprintable."


  19. A reminder of why I don't practice ANY religion.

  20. Ever wonder if Mary (mother of Jesus) didn't pull off the greatest story ever in order to keep her son and not have people think she was a "bad girl"? Hmmmm

  21. Lorraine,
    Hope therapy is going well. You have all the good blood vibes I as a sinner can send.:)


  22. Yes, the PCA generally supports all things adoption. I believe that Bethany Christian Services is PCA-based.

    I was adopted through Bethany and raised PCA. "Unwedmotherhood" is still seen as very shameful in the church. One young couple was made to apologize to church leaders when they had sex and got pregnant without being married recently in my old church's congregation. Sex is sin, pregnancy outside of marriage is unthinkable, and adoption is a redemptive act.

    You can only imagine how that made me feel hearing all of that growing up in the PCA church, as an adoptee.

    I am now a Christian Universalist and a member of a PCUSA church (Presbyterian Church of America) now. While you will hear the occasional support for adoption from the PCUSA pulpit, overall they are much more concerned with and dedicated to social justice and providing people with support. They also have officially resolved to be in support of Adoptee Rights (although I am not aware of their General Assembly being active in the movement).

    PCUSA, OPC, RPC, PCA...there are a lot of Presby variations

  23. Do people who adopt ever speak to adult adoptees? It should be required.

  24. Sinner Stephanie here....

    This sinner lost her first born son to a woman that actually said that god allowed the conception of my child for her and her husband. That woman and anyone else who believes that NONSENSE is deluded.

    That just goes to show you how brainwashed I was as a young, vulnerable, scared woman faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

    I have said this a probably a hundred times and will probably say it hundreds more... There is NO god whom allows adopters to gain, while the natural family must suffer for the rest of their lives. If there was, he or whatever it is is one sick, twisted, convoluted supernatural being.

  25. Hey Jane!

    Love this thread!

    “women who conceive children out of wedlock [are] just like us—sinners"

    No, we're not just like these individuals. We're not running around patting ourselves on the back for being better than everyone else. Pride.....now there's a sin for ya!

  26. Jane, "If God was so all fired up about adoption, you'd think He would have just found some boy to adopt instead of begetting Jesus. Clearly He thought a a bio son necessary to do His work."

    Jane, based on non-religious study of the text, I have to say that I am afraid God did just that, if we accept Mark as the original gospel,with it being older than the others. Matthew and Luke are both more or less the equivalents of an ABC-claiming that the adoptive father is the father, but if you study those stories a bit you see they do not fit with reality. [This is of course a view not very popular with the religious ones, but one thing is certain: Just as with many modern adoptees, the documentation about Jesus's ancestors is incomplete and contradicting itself.]

  27. Panem et circenses.

  28. I am just wondering whether that culture of adoption may have already be about universal in some parts of the USA.

    In Foreskin Man, the political comic concerned with the circumcision issue in San Francisco and there abouts, it is of course assumed that circumcision itself is a bad thing.

    That is its message, but just because a baby is threatened by his bad father in #2, not by his caring mother, a) the hero kidnaps the baby, b) breaks all contact between mother and child, c)cowardly leaves the mother with a head wound in the power of the bad daddy, d) decides to let the child grow up with some sort of motor gang of Hipies, far removed from his original Jewish heritage.

    And he is supposed to be the hero! Is the entire adoption culture, so accepted that the creator ofthe comic fails to see that his "hero", behaves like a villain, thus harming his own case?

    (In case you are curious, both issues are online)

  29. Damn, that is one sick comic book! Nobody could make this stuff up." "Monster Mohel"?? Where is Mel Brooks when you need him?



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