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The Next Era of Pro-Life

  • How Adoption is Changing and How Christians Can Help

In the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade earlier this year, Justice Samuel Alito referenced the possibility of adoption to women who decide they are pregnant with a child they do not want. 

“…That States have increasingly adopted ‘safe haven’ laws, which generally allow women to drop off babies anonymously; and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home,” Alito wrote. 

Alito’s words echo a belief pro-life advocates have spread for years: adoption is the antidote to abortion. For every unwanted pregnancy, there’s a family out there who wants a child. But the data shows that isn’t necessarily true. 

According to a study by Good Housekeeping, more than 33 percent of Americans consider adopting a child, but only two percent actually follow through with the process. This means  approximately 117,000 children will spend years of their life in the system waiting to be adopted.  

 

All things considered, the state of adoption has been improving. The National Council for Adoption reports the number of domestic infants relinquished in private adoptions (without involving a step-parent) has dropped about two percent a year since 2012, hitting an all-time low in 2020. 

Fewer children are entering foster care due to increased wages, better welfare options and more support from local, state and federal governments. However, the future of adoption is a bit unsteady at the moment. 

Yet the future of adoptions are unsteady at the moment.

It’s too early to determine how the overturn of Roe will ultimately play out, but experts predict the number of women giving their children up for adoption will increase each year. 

Their best guess? Ten thousand additional newborns are expected to enter the adoption process annually. 

Christians have been the most vocal supporters of overturning Roe. Immediately following the Supreme Court decision, social media was full of Christians celebrating the news. Many were intonating that the fight for life had been won—but the fight against abortion isn’t over because one law was overturned. If anything, it’s just beginning. 

Many women with unplanned pregnancies will have valid concerns of not being able to financially care for their child, provide proper medical care, or mentally withstand all it takes to raise a child. These women will need help — and grace — more than ever. 

So, if adoption is to be the antidote to abortion, that means there will be thousands of children needing safe homes and loving families to care for them. And this is where the Church can step in. 

“The goal of adoption and foster care is all about helping strengthen families and keep them together,” says Cheri Williams, the senior vice president of domestic programs for Bethany Christian Services. 

“Whether that’s birth families who need us to come around them and help bring services and support to help them stay together, or adoptive families after the adoption has taken place.” 

Williams has spent decades with BCS placing children in healthy adoption and foster care homes. BCS is based in Michigan but has offices in 32 states, making it the largest Protestant adoption agency in the U.S. In 2019 alone, it oversaw 3,406 foster  care placements and 1,123 adoptions. 

Agencies like BCS have rigorous training for would-be adoptive parents, educating individuals on how to handle emotional, physical and psychological trauma. Federal and state agencies have been working to ensure their employees have the resources they need to keep children safe and thriving. 

This can make the adoption process longer for families, but it’s imperative the child receives the best care possible, even if that takes time. Agencies often need months to vet would-be families and prepare them for a wide range of children with specific needs. 

For Williams, adoption is not just an alternative for an child born into a difficult situation, but an opportunity to share a message of hope.

“We see adoption and the theme of adoption and the spirit of adoption throughout the Bible,” Williams says. “It can be a beautiful thing, but adoption always starts with trauma and loss. By God’s perfect design, every family would be able to raise and care for children that are born into that family. But we know we live in a fallen world.

“I think it’s to our detriment to think of it as either a beautiful thing or a bad thing or a hard thing or a traumatic thing,” she continues. “It’s both, and ultimately, at the end of the day, we believe that family changes everything. We will do everything we can to make that transition as positive as possible.”

While Williams believes in the beauty of adoption, she also stresses how important reunification is for families. The goal should not be for every unwanted pregnancy to end in adoption. Rather, it should be meeting the needs of someone who needs help, and that can look different in every situation. 

Sometimes that could mean giving a child up for adoption, or sometimes it means making meals for a struggling single mom. 

“It can be a beautiful thing, but adoption always starts with trauma and loss.”

“What could our world really look like if we really came around vulnerable families and helped them stay together?” Williams wonders. 

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This is the next step for the fight for life for the Church. Now more than ever, Christians have the opportunity and responsibility to step in and provide support to those who need it the most — physically, financially, emotionally and yes, even spiritually. 

Williams equates the work of foster care and adoption to the story of Moses. 

“Moses’ mom — due to the genocide that was happening — put Moses in the river and he floated downstream. Miriam pulled him out of the water, took him into Pharaoh’s home, and raised him and gave him love and a home. He was raised in the context of a family, but what does it look like now for us as believers to go upstream and say, ‘What is happening up the stream that is causing Moses’s mom to have to put him in the river to begin with?’ How can we as believers come around families while they’re vulnerable, help them stay together?” 

That’s the question the Church should be asking now. For decades, advocates spent their time working to overturn the law legalizing abortion. But the reasons women choose to have abortions, or inevitably give their children up for adoption, still remain. 

Now, the Church must figure out how to help the women who is unable to shoulder the financial burden of raising a child (the average cost of raising a kid from birth is approximately $233,610) or who is stressed with how a child will effect it would have on their education or career (the U.S. ranks last in government-mandated paid parental leave). 

The underlying goal of the Church moving forward should be supporting those who feel like they are out of hope. By showing them that God and His people care about them, struggling families have a chance to stay united together. 

“I’ve seen families quite honestly give their life to Christ because of the love they’ve experienced from the Church,” Williams says. “I’ve seen families be able to stay together and provide for their kids because they had people cheering them on or helping them make connections for their new job or just giving that concrete support that we all need.”

Anitta (not her real name), who gave birth to her daughter when she was 22, relied heavily on her local church community to make it through the first few years of unexpected motherhood.

“I was not in a good place,” she said. “I was on my own and the father didn’t want to stick around. At first I was nervous about what my friends would say, but I can honestly tell you now if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have my daughter with me today. They showed up with meals for us, or would just come over to watch her so I could take a nap. I wouldn’t even have to ask sometimes. They just knew I needed help and would offer right away.” 

“It is a much easier ask of God’s people to wrap around and do what we do and love on families and help support families.”

It doesn’t take a lot to make a difference for families in need. There are many ways God can use His people to minister to one another. The Bible talks often about the importance of adoption. From spiritual adoption as co-heirs with Christ in Galatians to the tangible adoption of Moses by Miriam, God has woven adoption into the story of humanity. 

It’s a foundation of the Christian faith. And it continues to be a call for believers everywhere today. 

Williams, who has spent her entire career working in foster care and adoption, remains hopeful the Church will continue to show up for vulnerable families who need extra help.

“It is a much easier ask of God’s people to wrap around and do what we do and love on families and help support families,” she says. “That’s a much easier ask than actually adopting a kid for life forever, and bringing a kid into our family. I have this vision that God’s people are going to catch this vision as well, and that we as believers will be known for our love and for wrapping around vulnerable families in need.”

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