Despite the growth of single households and the growth of orphans worldwide, many Christian organizations refuse to support solo parent adoptions.
The newest rage among evangelical Christians now is adoption and how Christians should at least make a stab at taking on the world’s 132 million orphans.
But there is a secret underneath it all: Single Christians need not apply.
When I was considering adopting my daughter, one of the most disheartening things was the active discouragement of many Christians who told me point-blank that only married couples should adopt. It was bad enough, I thought, to be consigned to a life of singleness because of the lack of unmarried men in church. For people to say singles are unworthy to adopt a child who would otherwise be living in an orphanage boggled my mind.
In a recent copy of SBC Life, the Southern Baptist Convention’s denominational magazine, I saw an article by David Roach: “Adoption Ministries Thriving in SBC Churches.” It talked of a few loan programs out there for those wishing to adopt, as the costs — especially for international adoption — usually climb well past $30,000. But all the photos and the pronouns used in the article referred to couples.
This was true on some of the related websites, such as Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, where I found no mention that some of the adoptive parents might be single men or women. This was certainly true on the application forms attached to these sites. I e-mailed Highview’s adoption ministry director about this, and she was not aware of any singles adoptions there. “The leadership of Highview believes that it is the best for children to be adopted into traditional homes with a father and a mother,” she told me.
I also e-mailed another member of Highview, Russell Moore, senior vice president at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, dean of its school of theology, and author most recently of Adopted for Life. I asked him about his stance on single adoptions, and he wouldn’t say what that might be. He just said the answer was in his new book, which he said he’d be glad to send to me. It arrived, and over the weekend, and I found one sentence addressing my concern: “Generally speaking, if you are single, pray for a marriage before you seek children.”
Well, of course. But what if God says no to a mate?
There are new Christian conferences on the topic, most notably Together for Adoption, which you can read about on togetherforadoption.org. Their 2010 one is Oct. 1-2 at Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. Such gatherings are more than I see any other religious group doing. But when I checked out the 2009 conference at Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, I noticed the main speakers were married men. Female speakers were assigned to the break-out sessions, but there was nothing there for singles. I was told the conference organizer was single but that didn’t affect the content, which sent a message that singles are disqualified from parenthood.
An aside: Singles also get it in the neck from many foreign governments that have closed their doors to them. Countries such as Korea, Uzbekistan, Ukraine and China forbid adoptive single parents entirely. Other countries, such as Ethiopia, limit how many singles can adopt from there per year, as though there is something less desirable about single parents.
At least single women are allowed to adopt from some countries; single men have far fewer choices overseas. There are no such barriers with domestic adoptions; however if a single parent is competing with a couple for a healthy baby, chances are the birth mom is going to choose a two-parent family instead of one. Thus, singles are left with older children who have special needs. Taking on one is praiseworthy but tough when you’re working a full-time job as the household’s only breadwinner.
About a year ago, I was talking with a publisher about ideas for books, and I mentioned my interest in writing something to encourage single adoptive parents in the evangelical world. The emerging adoption movement is so focused on couples, I thought an alternative voice was needed. That idea lasted two seconds. I was told the book would be too niche, that no one would read it, and that no evangelical publisher would print it.
I applaud the fact that many of the special needs adoptions done overseas are by self-sacrificing American Christians. Read some of those adoption blogs closely and you’ll see these folks attend a church.
If Christian groups are serious about making a dent in the world’s orphans, then all hands are needed on deck: single as well as married. Every available resource needs to be freed up to care for these children. There are 100 million single persons over 18 in the United States alone — one-third of the population. I think it’s safe to estimate that at least a third of all adults in a typical U.S. church are single. Why is it verboten to mobilize the unmarried so they too can nourish and bring up children?
Several years ago, I was interviewing a professor at a Catholic college who also told me singles should not adopt. In fact, he said, children would be better off staying at orphanages than being adopted by a single mom or dad. I was speechless. I have seen the conditions of orphanages in Iraq, Kazakhstan and India. What sane person would want a child to grow up in one of those? When I see Christian adoption activists ignore singles, I conclude, sadly, that despite their rhetoric, they are not fully committed to doing what it takes to make sure every child gets a home.