Saturday, August 6, 2011

Louisville Courier on Adoption 2.0

Adoption 2.0

Cristi Slate, whose biological parents adopted eight children from Russia, might seem to be a natural spokeswoman for the burgeoning emphasis on adoption among evangelical Christians.

And she is — but not just in the familiar sense of Americans bringing home adopted children from overseas.
She’s also promoting a program to support adoptions of Russian and other orphans by families within their home countries.

"Americans coming in and putting in their programs is not the best thing," she said last week during a national conference, the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit, that drew about 1,500 people at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville. It often leaves "nationals feeling disrespected," said Slate, grants manager for Doorways to Hope, which has supported such things as repairs and expansions to adoptive families’ homes in Ukraine.
She wasn’t alone. At the same conference workshop, others spoke up from countries as diverse as Ukraine and Uganda about efforts to recruit adoptive parents.  Call it Adoption 2.0.

As we reported earlier this year, evangelical churches in Louisville and elsewhere in the United States have increasingly called on members to take care of orphans through adoption and other means. They see this as fulfilling two biblical mandates — to take care of the needy and to evangelize.

But the movement has expanded, and not just in promoting efforts to have children adopted by families in their home countries. It’s also emphasizing the need for foster parents in the United States itself, and on adopting children who have experienced such things as homelessness, disease, disability and exploitation.

“Early on, a lot of the movement was adoption cheerleading, kind of emphasizing the beautiful elements of adoption without also emphasizing the costliness of it,” said Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. “The movement is maturing.” Some of the titles at the workshops at this year’s Orphans Summit reflect the change: “The Plight of the Trafficked Orphan”; “Street Children in America”; “Attachment and Trauma”; “Adopting and Advocating for Children with HIV”; “Adopting the Deaf Child.”

The summit is the organization’s seventh annual conference. The first, Medefind said, drew 38 people.
Neither Medefind nor anyone else in this evangelical adoption movement have figures on how many adoptions it has promoted.

But its growth is evident in the current size of such conferences and orphan-awareness church activities.
International adoptions have stirred controversy, and not just when evangelical Christians are involved, because people in some poorer countries view it as an imperialist insult to their culture.
But “to me, there is no controversy,” said Ruslan Maliuta of the group Ukraine Without Orphans. “I approach it from a child’s perspective. It is very controversial when you’re talking about politics, when you’re talking about economic issues. But when you see a child that needs a family, … if there is no such home in country, I don’t care where that family comes from as long as they provide a permanent home for that child.”

Yet Maliuta’s group works extensively to encourage Ukrainian churches to adopt children.
In the past, they saw adoption as "sending kids abroad to rich Americans," he said. "But it has changed.”
More and more Ukrainian Christians are adopting, recognizing the act as “a spiritual concept," he said. There was a recent breakthrough when a couple adopted an HIV-positive child, he said.

In Uganda, despite extensive poverty, a church movement has prompted 13 in-country adoptions in the past eight months — a modest but promising start, according to Kenneth Rwego, a representative of the Loving Hearts Babies Home in Kampala. People’s “hearts were really moved” to get involved, he said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates there are 163 million children worldwide who have lost one or both parents, but that figure doesn’t break out how many are actually eligible for adoption.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child, approved by the U.N. in 1990, emphasizes putting the best interests of a child first, including the right to stay with family if possible, and having a firm legal structure to determine if no family that can safely care for him or her.

The convention says international adoption is an option but puts priority on finding solutions in the child’s home country and on the "desirability of continuity in a child’s upbringing and to the child’s ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic background."

Medefind said the Christian faith, which teaches that God "pursued us when we were destitute and alone," offers a model for adoption. But, he added: "Regardless of your faith, when you come face to face with the needs of a child without a mother or father, that conscience within you cries out, ‘This is not right.’"

No comments: