While much of the focus of respecting life revolves around in the issues of abortion, caring for the poor and homeless, and end of life, Cardinal Sean O’Malley tells us adoption is also a respect life issue. My purpose in this post is to flesh out some of the basics this “great work of love” to help those not familiar with adoption as a respect life issue.
Respecting Life Begins With Solidarity
Cardinal O’Malley writes “The Church’s antidote to an individualism which threatens the respect for human dignity is community and solidarity. ” This goes along with what Saint Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical The Gospel of Life. “A particularly significant expression of solidarity between families is a willingness to adopt or take in children abandoned by their parents or in situations of serious hardship.” In another post, I have written at length about the solidarity of adoption.
Consider what it would have been like growing up without a family. Even if we did not have the best family situation, being an orphan goes against several aspects of natural law because families are necessary for healthy development. It is from our families that we get our sense of belonging, connectedness, and legacy.
Children growing up without families – even within foster care – will struggle as adults because they don’t have a frame of reference for how relationships are supposed to work. “The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor.”ƒ
Adoption is a respect life issue because being raised in a dysfunctional family is better than being raised in no family at all. While many of us think of adoption of young children, the need is great to adoption those in their teens as well. Adopting this age can be more challenging because of the emotional baggage they bring to the new family. Perhaps Saint Pope John Paul II had this in mind when he wrote that “True parental love is ready to go beyond the bonds of flesh and blood in order to accept children from other families, offering them whatever is necessary for their well-being and full development. ”
Let’s look at some of the basics of adoption.
What Is An Orphan
According to UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund), there between 135 to 210 million orphans worldwide. Their numbers play to the emotion of the word orphan. They define an orphan to include children who “have lost one parent, some both, and some are “virtual” orphans that have been turned out onto the streets by their families, but all are vulnerable and in need of help”. UNICEF has a political agenda to forward. Having hundreds of millions of children to serve helps promote that agenda more than only tens of millions of orphans. Please think twice about helping with their Halloween fundraiser because while UNICEF might claim to be all about children, they do not respect life.
Using the more accepted definition of orphan as a child with no parents, the worldwide number is closer to 18 million, which is still 18 million too many. Many of these children live in orphanages or on the streets. They do not have access to the basics we take for granted for healthy development into adulthood. They are at higher risk for preventable disease, retarded growth and development from malnutrition, and early death. Many of the girls will become prostitutes and the boys will become criminals just to provide for themselves.
Orphans In The USA
The American foster care system replaced our orphanage and children’s home system during the 20th century. Foster care is overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is administered by the individual states.
There are over 101,000 orphans in our foster care system awaiting adoption. About 50,000 are adopted each year but another 50,000 take their place the next year. Many of these children wait 3 years for adoption. To learn more about adopting from the foster care system, click here.
I mentioned earlier that there is a great need to adopt older children. Over 23,000 children age out of foster care this year. This means they are too old to be in the program and are turned out on their own. Without a family, these young adults are less likely to have completed high school and never attend any type of higher education. Like in the rest of the world, too many of these former orphans will turn to prostitution and crime to provide for themselves.
While I give thanks to God that these young people were allowed to be born in America, in many ways their lives have been still disrespected. We American Roman Catholics have failed them during their formative years. Of the 27 million American Catholic households, are there not 101,000 who respect life enough to adopt one of these children? Before you snip what about me, my call was to help with one of the 18 million and adopt from Guatemala.
Adoption In the USA
Looking at U.S. census data gives us a better sense of adoption in America. For this discussion, we are only focusing on the 2.3% of American children have no biological connection to anyone else in their home. They were granted the gift of a family through adoption.
Contrary from what you might have picked up from the popular media about adoption, 83% of these children were born in the USA and 62.5% of them are Caucasian.
Most of these children have been adopted through private adoptions. Adoption from our foster care system is called public adoption since the children are under the care of the public and majority of the fees paid during the process are public funds.
Private domestic adoptions occur when American birth parents contact either an adoption attorney or an adoption agency seeking to have their child placed with American parents.
The other form of adoption in the U.S. is international adoption. This is when a child born in another country is adopted by American parents. In part because of UNICEF’s over reaction to corruption in some countries and American politicians trying to earn votes, this form of adoption has dropped significantly in the last 10 years.
Since many adoptions are driven by women, only 87 boys are adopted for every 100 girls. As of 2010, 73% of adoptions are done by married couples.
The Last Word
In addition to working hard to ensure no human is murdered in the womb, we need to ensure that every person has a family to call their own. That is why finding homes for orphans makes adoption a respect life issue.
“Among the various forms of adoption, consideration should be given to adoption-at-a-distance, preferable in cases where the only reason for giving up the child is the extreme poverty of the child’s family. Through this type of adoption, parents are given the help needed to support and raise their children, without their being uprooted from their natural environment.”