Thursday, February 23, 2012

"Rescuing the Orphan"

I received a comment this morning regarding this post and it reminded me of a topic I've mulled over many times yet never blogged about. Until now, that is.

"I think it is an awfully big burden to place on a child - feeling that you rescued her, feeling that she OWES you something. I know this is not your intention but I would be really careful about presenting Johanna's life this way because this is what adopted children read into words like this. I've read your blog for some time now and I know that you are an amazing mum, so I give this thought to you with the kindest of intentions.

What Johanna has now is simply what every child deserves."

First, let me say thanks for reading my blog and offering your insight in a respectful way. I'm not exactly sure what about that post made it sound like we feel Johanna owes us anything--obviously, she doesn't! I'm truly sorry if it has ever sounded like any of our girls "owes" us for adopting them.

Secondly, I couldn't agree more with this statement: "What Johanna has now is simply what every child deserves." You hit the nail on the head, figuratively speaking of course, with these words. This is the reason behind my blogging about some of the more personal things that Johanna has shared with us. It's not about US, the parents. It's about the children. All of them. My sweet girls and those that are still desparately waiting for their chance at a normal life within a loving family.

However, if no one is completely honest in sharing how these older children feel, it does the adoption community at large a disservice. I would not have been even remotely interested in adopting an older child had I not read many success stories and heard how the children felt from the families themselves. Johanna's story is blended together with my story. If just one person comes to know the Lord or loves Him better from reading our story, then it was worth sharing. And if just one child (older or younger) rests their head on the shoulder of a loving parent someday because of my story, then it was worth sharing. 

I realize there's a fine line between sharing the truth and respecting our children's privacy and sometimes I'm not even sure where that line even IS. Sure, I could post all sunshine and rosy posts about how awesome adopting a teenager is. Or I could go to the other extreme and complain over and over about the many discipline challenges of adopting a teenager (who didn't speak a word of English and was never taught appropiate behaviour). Personally, I am trying to find the balance between the two extremes. And I guess, along the way, it might occasionally seem as if I am stepping too close to that imaginary line.

Rescuing a child is not a bad thing. Saying it out-loud (even virtually!) can get you into hot water, though. Certainly there are many reasons to adopt and I won't take the time to list them here. While rescuing a child should never be the only reason to adopt a child, I don't see the problem with it being one of the reasons you adopt a child. It's just a fact: Some adoptions are more about the parents fulfilling a void by loving a needy child, and some adoptions are more about the child needing a void filled by parents willing to choose them. NEITHER one of these truths are wrong, and no one should be judged on the reasons they adopt. In the end, children get families and ultimately that's what it is all about.

While rescuing a child is not a bad thing, making your child feel like they owe you because you rescued them is wrong on so many levels. Children deserve families. God designed it that way! Giving an abandoned child the very basic need of a loving family does not indebt them to you. It simply rights the wrongs established when the child was abandoned.

Millions of orphans need rescuing. It's as simple and as complex as that. More Christians need to answer the call to meet the needs of the least of thest. But Brent and I don't feel that Gabriella, Alyssia or Johanna owe us anything for adopting them, even though in some ways, we rescued them from some horrible circumstances. Quite the opposite, we feel in a sense that we owe them. We owe them our gratitude for slowly opening up their darling little hearts and letting us in. We owe them for the immense happiness and joy they have brought to our lives. We owe them because, in the process of stepping out of our comfort zone and adopting them, we have been grown, molded, stretched and strengthened beyond measure. We owe them because, through them, we have experienced the hand of God.


  1. Selina, That was beautifully put. I understand how that "line" can be tough to discern. My two teenage boys, adopted this year, sometime cringe (in a funny way) when they see silly pictures of themselves on my blog, but like you, I try to share real life so that it might inspire, educate and encourage someone else to take that plunge when the Lord nudges their hearts. God bless you all!

  2. Well put Selina. I have really enjoyed following your blog and seeing what it is actually like to adopt. We've considered it but just haven't felt like the door was open yet. I'll admit I thought you guys were crazy for adopting a teen, but I totally understand how God calls us to things that might seem crazy on the outside, and I knew if He had truly called you to it, then He would bless you through it. Thanks for sharing the good and the bad and helping to increase our awareness and burden for these little (and bigger) ones that need someone to reach out and love them.

  3. Wow, I'm really honoured that my comment led you to create a blog post! I would like to clarify a few things though as I am sure I do not write as eloquently as you. I didn't think for a minute that you were saying that Johanna owed you for "rescueing her" and I wasn't very clear of that. What I meant was that adopted children can often feel like they owe their adoptive parents if their early lives are presented in a way that makes their new lives seem so much better. Does that make any sense at all? So when talking about how awful it was for them in China (or wherever) one has to be really careful to not portray the adoptive family as the rescuers. I have two daughters adopted from China, one who suffered malnutrition, neglect and abuse during her time in the orphanage and although it's been really important to have those talks about how life was for her in China, I try really hard not to make it seem like she's going to be okay because now she has a mother who loves her, and a warm and safe home with enough to eat. Putting the two in the same conversation can result in indebtedness, I think. And from what I have read this issue for adopted children can be even more complicated when the adoptive family felt a calling to adopt and have a strong relationship with God because now the child also feels owing to the universe, the powers that be, and of course, God. I tell my daughters that God wants all children to be raised by their birth parents but when things go wrong for people and they are not able to raise their children then adoption is a man made solution in that adoptive parents get what they want/need (a child to love) and adopted children get what they want/need (a family to love and raise them). I try really hard not to make the loss of their birth family equated or connected to my joy at being my girls' mother.

    Does this make it clearer or have I just confused everyone more? Thank you so much for being open to discussing this Selina, I think it's an important conversation for adoptive parents to have. Leann


I welcome any and all comments as long as they are Christ-honoring. Please let me know what you think!