Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. – James 1:27
Aside from the millions of lives snuffed out by abortion every year, thousands more children are born unwanted. Some are rejected by parents who cannot face the demands of feeding yet another mouth; others are abandoned because they are malformed or crippled. And these infants are not only abandoned in hospitals and clinics. Increasing numbers have been left in garbage cans and dumpsters by teenagers who cannot cope with them, or by adults who are abusive, addicted to alcohol and drugs, or simply unable to make ends meet.
Obviously it is the biological parents of such children who bear the greatest obligation toward them. Yet at the same time, the abandonment of babies and small children is an indictment on all of us. As long as there are slums and ghettos – and exploitation and unemployment – those of us who enjoy economic security bear a guilt, too.
How can we help women who feel so overwhelmed that they refuse to care for a baby they themselves have carried? My grandfather – who was clearly opposed to abortion – stated that it was wrong to protest against it without giving women and families a practical alternative. In the same way, we cannot condemn people who abandon or give up their children unless we address the very real pressures that drive them to such a drastic decision. This will not be an easy task, but it is clear that churches, shelters, clinics, and social workers are not doing enough.
It can take years of waiting and thousands of dollars to adopt a child, and matching hopeful couples with unwanted children can be extremely difficult. In some cases this is because a child does not meet the high standards or particular wishes of its prospective parents; in other cases, government agencies have been forced to go great lengths to protect clients from illegal operations. But it is clear that something radical needs to be done to make adoption easier and less economically burdensome, while remaining safely regulated.
Even when an adoption goes through, raising the adopted child is not easy. Many such children are victims of abuse and neglect, or the circumstances of their birth have left them scarred in soul and spirit. They may also have underlying medical or psychiatric problems.
Still, they must be welcomed with unconditional love. Already one hundred years ago, the German pastor Blumhardt offered this still-timely advice:
Whoever adopts children must accept them with all their ingratitude, or it will not go well. To take in children and expect thanks from them is unnatural. Children never show special thanks to those who feed and clothe them, apart from showing love the way children do. They take it quite for granted that we won't let them go hungry or naked, and that we won't do just the minimum if we could do a little more. And they will feel they have a right to this, whoever cares for them.
Many who adopt children, however, think that these children should acknowledge them – that they should feel awed by the fact that people who do not owe them anything have taken them in out of compassion. But that is just what they do not feel, so we should not demand it of them.
Love them without expecting thanks, even if they cause you trouble; you have to accept them along with their naughtiness. They will feel this and will love you for it, but without words.
Often foster children are given what they need, but without love, and they are made to feel this even in words. It hurts them deeply and can even give rise to hatred in their hearts...
Foster children do not want to have fewer privileges than the children they live with; they have a sharp eye, and if they see differences, it hurts them terribly. Why is that? They are simply children, and they do not see why one child should have more than another.
If you adopt children, adopt them fully so they can be free to simply be children and can make any childlike demand of you.
We would do well to remember that Jesus said, "Whoever receives a child in my name, receives me" (Matt. 18:5). Surely this wonderful promise applies to adoptive parents – to every couple that welcomes a child into their home.
From Why Children Matter by Johann Christoph Arnold.