Voices of Foster Care: One Side or the Other?

I sat with her as she signed the life of her son over to another.

I held her hand as with a stroke of a pen, she chose to surrender her rights, her name removed from his, the right to have his head upon her chest.

The "Church" calls him orphan, but he was never an orphan.

Yes, he was removed from her, for good reason. Yes, he needed safety, protection and stability established.

But there was not an hour of his life that his name has not been wailed from the deepest parts of her soul.

There has not been a night that his face has not fluttered through her dreams.

There is not a day that passes that her mind doesn't dream of her hand reaching for his.

In the world of "Orphan Care," it's easy to draw lines in the sand before we understand the sides....

System vs. Church

Birth vs. Adoptive

International vs. Domestic

Adoptive vs. Foster

Is there a reason it has to be one or the other?

Yes, I know and understand the places where the lines must be drawn. An adoptive family must "break" from the birthfamily for a season or more to establish their child's place in the family.

The system must be faithful to keep its boundaries and parameters in order for them to do what the government has commissioned them to do.

But in order for the Gospel to go forth in this world of orphan care, we must begin to listen; to understand; to acknowledge and celebrate the stories God is writing through us and the roles He is calling us to play, because we are not all called to same roles.

I recently came across a post that verbalized some of the unspoken words I've heard through the faces at various conferences and orphan care meetings.

It drew a line in the sand between international orphan care and domestic orphan care.

Granted, I understand that people on both sides of our callings can be accused of diminishing the significance of the other's calling. But, who said that was ever our job?

The post I am referring to did challenge readers to examine the greater need for international adoption, claiming that foster care statistics are inflated, foster children are cared for, and foster children have greater options upon aging out.

Folks, let me tell you. There is NO line to be drawn here. For us to stand on one side or the other, I truly believe is a divisive effort of our Enemy in the ways God longs to unify us and use us for His kingdom to be brought to earth.

Though we haven't adopted internationally, we have explored it numerous times and begun the paperwork at various points.

Though we haven't adopted domestically, we were in line for a child we longed for, but because of circumstances beyond of control, we were called to walk away in order to protect one of our foster children to whom we had first committed.

So though I don't have first hand knowledge in all these areas, I will tell you Jamie and I have studied, listened, researched and observed close friends and the systems a great deal.

Internationally, the needs are beyond anything we can comprehend...in one country. Multiply that by the countries across the world, and let your heart break for the these things that break the heart of God.

But the great need internationally, does not diminish in any way the need domestically, or belittle it.

Yes, domestically, my children are placed in a safe home with access to medicine and food, but I will tell you also that the majority of them did not know that before they came into my home, and some of them truthfully won't know it again when they leave my home.

Yes, foster children do have access to educational and career opportunities once they "age out," but as we read yesterday in Leslie's post, there are few among this nation stepping up to walk with these children. And as is across the world, the reality is our American children are walking from the door of foster care into the world of human trafficking, kill or be killed, crime, and manipulation in order to survive.

And the little girl who is banging her head against my wall is suffering from the same attachment disorder as that little girl in China in an institutional crib.

These children are not either/or; they are both/and.

And our command as believers is not either/or; it is the command to carry the Gospel of Christ into the places of darkness in which these children, mothers, and fathers abide.

Walk into Child Protective Services on Monday and say you want to serve the "orphans" of the city, and you will be shunned from their front door forever.

These children we are serving on the domestic front are Orphans of the Living. Many of their mothers and fathers are jumping through hoops of the system to fight tooth and nail to have them back.

Some are not and have relatives standing in the battle.

Others, do become lost, pushed forward and labeled unadoptable. In Alabama, if each church was willing to only take one, just one of these children aging out, and walk with him, mentor him, fight for him...then the outcome and opportunities of our youth would be different than that of the horrors we have heard of around the world.

Can we check our expectations at the door? Can we leave our pride outside?

I have dear friends who have placed their babies for adoption at birth. I have precious friends who have been forced into surrendering their older children to adoption.

Are we willing to claim a child as a member of our family even though he or she may never want to have our name?

These are the faces of domestic adoption. They are vastly different than the young girl abandoned at the Chinese orphanage or the millions of hearts in Africa, but they are still faces.

Let's not give way to the division the Enemy longs for us to become entangled in. Instead, let's link arms, hit our knees for one another, and go out into the world to be the Incarnation of Christ to places of darkness by His mercy and grace that unites us all.

Because of the One who is the light,


  1. I think here that the blog post you're referring to was trying to answer the question why some go international vs. some go domestic. I shared the blog post. i agree with several points but not all. i shared because of answering that question which is posed to my family often. That's a hard question and for my family, we simply go where God leads. Having done foster care myself (while single), I found it more difficult than parenting my internationally adopted kids. But the needs were the same. I also sat for four years at our county's court house as a deputy listening to the countless sad, devastating, horrible child abuse, neglect, deprivation cases. I understand the need to help these children and families get help, remain together if possible. To speak of adopting an infant domestically, we just tried and were literally "fighting or vying" for position for one infant with dozens of other families. It struck us as crazy to fight over one child everyone wants vs. seeking one (no matter location) no one was fighting for. We sought God on this and indeed felt his leading to go back international. I wouldn't say we will never foster or adopt domestically. But I really can't answer why God chooses us to go international. I believe God does truly choose certain paths for each family. Some only domestic. Some only international. Some a mixture of both. We have tried 3 separate times to adopt domestically. We even tried to apply to a Christian organization to foster to adopt in our county only to be told we had too many kids....it was disheartening. One thing i don't agree with in that other post is that there aren't younger kids available or a need. There are 100k kids now in US available for adoption...legally free and my cousin has 5&9 yrs old foster girls now right now;) I don't ever want to diminish the need for domestic foster care or adoption. I believe it's a vital part the church needs to engage in. I would really just love to have a set answer to others about why we currently adopt internationally vs. domestic. I say because God leads us that way but so many don't understand. I find many people when they ask this question in judgment, they themselves have never once attempted or desired helping the children in the US, they'd just rather pass judgment. Your post to me is very good! Thank you for sharing your heart. The caring for children issue is very sensitive;) and one that's close to many of our hearts.

    1. Becky, so grateful for you and your heart. It honestly wasn't one post that prompted me to write. It's been on my heart for a bit. And though I referenced one post, I longed to address an unspoken, looming danger to us all. And in no way do I promote domestic over international. As I've even been asked in the last months why we don't feel we should be called to international, I've even considered that the way we engage one another's stories can be done in partnership or division. God has increasingly been urging my heart to examine the spaces we as a family can promote partnership because of the Gospel, rather than individual stories....on every front: system vs. church; birthfamily vs. foster; etc, and the places where we claim partnership but are actually absent. Because, as I know you would say too, the only reason any of us even have individual stories is because of His mercy and grace that wrote the ultimate story. So incredibly grateful for the story He is writing through you. It is beautiful.