“It is in love that we are made” (National Catholic Register)

I was grieved and not a little aggravated to read this article in the National Catholic Register today. If I hadn’t read it with my own eyes, I would never have imagined that a respected Catholic publication such as NCR would permit such a blatant attack on what is at the heart a truly pro-life issue.

As I’ve often said, adoption is never God’s first choice for a child. He intended children to be raised in the loving embrace of a man and woman joined for life in the sacrament of matrimony. When that bond is broken, yes the child suffers. So do the parents.

And yet, it is not the act of adoption that is the source of the problem. When two people fail to live up to their God-given calling, they make choices that leave permanent scars on their child.  Whether the marks are genetic or caused by living in a toxic environment prior to placement, adoption is often that child’s best chance to find the loving support he or she needs to recover.

As a mother of two children adopted from the foster-care system, I do not share the author’s amazement that the adoptive parents she encountered seemed like “normal” — even kind — individuals. It takes a great deal of heart to accept God’s call to participate in the redemption of a human soul. We make mistakes, as all parents do. But we accept the calling because we have a profound belief in the power of God to transform lives.

My letter to NCR reads in part:

No child is adopted as a “clean slate.” Any number of difficulties — both genetic and environmental, including those that led to the child being “in the system” in the first place — made an indelible mark on that child long before he was adopted.

It is true that adopted children grieve the loss of their birth parents, and that part of our job as adoptive parents is to help them work through their grief. But to blame the act of adoption itself is simply wrongheaded.

Just as two people participate with God in the act of creation when they come together as man and wife to produce a child, so through adoption we have an opportunity to participation in the REDEMPTION of that child. It is not always an easy road, and like all parents we make our share of mistakes.  But there is ample grace as well.

If your life has been touched by adoption, please feel free to add your voice to this important pro-life issue!

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14 Comments

  1. Well done, Heidi! They ran one of the letters to the editor in this week’s paper. I hope to see more…including yours!

    God bless,
    Jane

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  2. While not involved in an adoptive relationship myself, I agree with you whole-heartedly. While it may be true that in most cases, biological parents are the best ones to raise their children, it is certainly not true in all. We need more wonderful people like yourself who open their hearts and homes to children who need them.

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  3. for one person to be willing to take another person’s child and raise/love that child AS THEIR OWN is a gift from God, one that should be respected and admired. Those who don’t agree are simply ignorant.

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  4. I may not blame the act of adoption. I do however blame the secrecy behind adoption. I commend you for adopting from foster care but that does not make you a savior for a child. That is one myth that needs to stop. It sets up the child to be “eternally grateful” for having been adopted. We adoptees did not make the choice of adoption. It was made for us. Why should we be grateful for the actions of adults?

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  5. Amy: There is only one Savior — but if we did not believe in that Savior, who has the child’s very best interests at heart, it would be almost impossible to have hope for children whose abuse and neglect brought them to us in the first place. (I’m speaking here of children who became wards of state through the actions of their birth parents … not all birth or first mothers are abusive or negligent. Some are very brave indeed.)

    If you have someone in your life who invested in your childhood, and made sure that you had everything you needed and experienced a loving family atmosphere, you should indeed be grateful to that person. As someone who has seen the “group home” alternative that awaits children who are not placed in good and loving private homes, I can tell you that there are hundreds of THOUSANDS of children who would give anything to have had what you did.

    Speaking only for myself (of course), my greatest hope is not that my children will feel indebted to me, but that they will take the chance they’ve been given and make choices with their lives that reflect a love for God and desire to help other people … just as they were helped. As a child, there was a time when I was passed from family to family (temporarily, due to my sister’s illness) … It inspired me to want to help another child someday. The bad families taught me what NOT to do … and the good ones inspired me to imitate them. Either way, lessons were learned that stayed with me for life.

    It may well be that you experienced hardship in your adoptive home, or that you are simply grieving the loss of your first family. Both these things are likely to color your perception of adoption. I hope one day you are able to find peace … and yet, that does not change the fact that for many children, adoption is their ONE chance at having “forever family.”

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  6. A friend of mine who might later comment here said that there is a major difference between foster care adoption and infant adoption. I was an infant adoption in 1965. My natural mother did not get the choice of raising me. Abortion was not even an issue or an option for her. Her only choice was forced adoption. Why? She was unmarried.

    I also don’t believe that religion has a place in adoption. I am sure that you have read that many religious bloggers and prospective adoptive parents are calling for Bristol to relinquish. It allows certain religions to increase the coercion factor in infant adoption. Yes that still happens today. I can name at least ten cases of coercion pending in the courts right now.

    I do thank God that I was placed with my adoptive parents. I would not be the activist that I am today without my adoptive mother. My adoptive mother encouraged me to take this path. Was it God’s actions? No it was human action that placed me in the family that I was raised in. I did not have a bad adoptive home. To be honest, why does that even matter? It seems to me that dismisses the adoptee experience. You can love your adopted child with your soul, being, and heart. It still doesn’t change what adoption as it is practiced in the United States has done to that child.

    Adoption is supposed to be finding a home for a child. Not a child for a home. An adoptive parent is not saving a child. They are choosing to parent in a different way. With that way, it does come with loss. In your situation it was court terminated. In infant adoption,it is not.

    My bad experience with adoption came when I searched. It certainly wasn’t before. Again infant adoption is very different from foster care.

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  7. To say that “religion has no place in adoption” is to discount the idea that God created the family with a certain order in mind. He intended children to be born in the secure embrace of a man and woman joined for life in the sacrament of marriage.

    When individuals make choices (such as your natural parents engaging in extra-marital sexual relations, or other people engaging in other behaviors within marriage that create a toxic environment for children) that are contrary to this plan … the ones who suffer most is the child(ren). Your story is one example. My children’s is another.

    The problem is NOT the adoption, but the choices that preceded that adoption. (The child is not a problem, but a gift: God’s way of bringing something good out of a bad situation.)

    You distinguish between foster care and domestic adoption, but I’m not convinced this is necessarily wise. Bristol has the loving support of her extended family … and yet everyone acknowledges that this seventeen year old has a hard road ahead of her (as does her child). Within my own family I can point to three examples of teenage pregnancies in which the mother kept the children … who have all been affected deeply by the lack of stability in their homes. In one case, the child was very nearly killed by the man her mother later married, then divorced.

    When children are conceived outside of a loving marriage, they suffer for it. It isn’t fair … but it is a fact of life. You ARE very fortunate to have been placed in a good home, and it matters because there are SO MANY CHILDREN who do not have that gift. And by bad-mouthing adoption, you may well be discouraging someone who is in a position to be able to give that gift of a real home, a real family, to a child who desperately needs it.

    Even those of us who were raised by our “natural” families are often affected by the choices our parents made for us (or, in my case, the choices that were foisted upon us over which we had little or no control). We can choose to harbor those resentments and let them define us … or we can choose to forgive, release the resentment, and move on.

    In point of fact, you have no way of knowing what your life would have been like if you had been raised by your natural mother — many adopted children harbor idealized pictures well into adulthood. You might have wound up with a stepfather who adored you (as my niece did). Or one who burned you with cigarettes and attempted to strangle her mother in front of you, or who beats you and locks you in the closet while his “real kids” opens their Christmas presents. I know for a fact this happens. Or one who simply ignored you, except to remind your mother what an inconvenience you are.

    On the other hand, you DO have the gift of a mother (perhaps a father, too … you don’t mention him) who has stood by you and encouraged you all these years. I hope that you will find a way to work through your issues in a way that brings you peace … and does not add to her pain.

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  8. “To say that “religion has no place in adoption” is to discount the idea that God created the family with a certain order in mind. He intended children to be born in the secure embrace of a man and woman joined for life in the sacrament of marriage.”

    From your point of view that may be true, but a person could only ‘discount’ that idea (and that’s all it is – an idea) if they shared your belief system.
    Even if they did share your general beliefs, they could have a very different perspective on the matter (Heresy! Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!).
    Giving something consideration and then disagreeing doesn’t amount to discounting, at least not in my book.

    Personally don’t think I have the right, God given or otherwise, to impose my beliefs on others. To use reasonable argument to persuade, yes. But not to hide behind the rules and regulations (which are open to interpretation anyway) of an ancient work, however venerable. The bible is not a “how to” manual to be rigidly adhered to, though it may be a source of inspiration and a guide. Again, my opinion.

    I think this is a classic “is/ought” confusion. I’m not a Catholic but am close to many who are and I’ve always thought the Catholic Church believed children *ought* (ideally) to be conceived within a marriage, but accepted that this was not always the case, and did not come down harshly when it wasn’t. I thought there was room for compassion and understanding. I don’t see much of either in your homilies.
    You know, “Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone” and all that.

    “When children are conceived outside of a loving marriage, they suffer for it.”
    Children also suffer when they are conceived in miserable marriages. Or adopted into miserable marriages, for that matter, which happens more often than you’d think.
    Sometimes children are conceived within a genuine and profound relationship and marriage is forbidden and the child removed, simply because the parents were unmarried at the time. When this happens it is usually for religious reasons. They have transgressed, and the child must be ‘saved’ by being removed from the source of taint.
    IMO this has the effect of increasing stigma, not reducing it. For the child too, as much as the parents. It is punishment masquerading as compassion.

    The only justifiable reason for removing a child from its biological family is abuse that poses serious physical and/or emotional danger to the child. Poverty alone is not a reason, nor is single parenthood.

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  9. Kippa: Objective truth — something that is true whether or not you want to believe it — is something that is not very popular in American culture today, which tends to get caught up in a lot of relativistic whitewash: “Well, that may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”

    Hogwash. You don’t have to believe in gravity, but if you step off the side of a building … *splat*

    You don’t have to believe you can get pregnant on the first time, especially if you use a condom. But once those little swimmers hit their targe … TA-DA! Instant parenthood.

    Even if you do not hold to the traditional Judeo-Christian concept of sex being appropriate only within marriage, you cannot seriously suggest that a child is just as well off with only a teenage mother as he would be had that teenager grown up, gotten married, and THEN started her family so that her children could have both a mother and father who loved them and each other.

    The fact that I acknowledge that my ideas and opinions are subject to a higher authority is not “hiding,” but recognizing the fact that I am not the center of the universe, and that (like most people) my mind is no more perfect than the rest of me. That the combined wisdom of more than two thousand years is a better bet than my own ramblings, as my intellect is still subject to all kinds of human imperfections — ignorance, prejudice, and passion among them. Anyone who says they don’t have these things is just kidding himself.

    Incidentally, the Bible does say, “Thou shall not commit adultery.” This is understood to include all forms of sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Jesus spoke of it as well. To the woman caught in adulter (John 8:10), he said, “Go and sin no more.” Not, “Whew! Those old hypocrites are gone now, so just steer clear of them and do the best you can.”

    In Ephesians, St. Paul wrote: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children … Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones. No obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is an idolator, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph 5:1-5).

    “The only justifiable reason for removing a child…” For someone who is uncomfortable with objective truth, that sounds like something awfully close to it. And how are we to know whether a child is in a situation that “poses serious physical and/or emotional danger to a child”? Wait until he is actually abused? And who has the right to make this call? No, poverty is not enough — there are plenty of loving parents who do their very best to give their child a loving, stable home.

    I’ve also known single adoptive parents, and those who are forced to raise the children born to their marriage alone. (The Bible is very clear about the need to care for the widow and orphan.) What I find interesting is how quickly women seeking to justify their behavior by conceiving children outside of marriage hide behind the “widow” verses — discounting the fact that in order to be a widow, one must first become a wife!

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  10. I’m all over this with this write-up, I really think this site needs considerably more consideration. I will probably be yet again to read additional, thanks for that info.

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