Providing gospel-centered resources to mobilize the church for global orphan care.


Please Note: In this blog series, all lowercase occurrences of the word “adoption” refer to the practice of families adopting children. All uppercase occurrences (“Adoption”) refer to God’s work of Adoption within redemptive-history. Article synopsis: While lowercase “adoption” presents a cosmetic solution to the global orphan crisis, uppercase “Adoption” presents a cosmic solution.

Jen Hatmaker can flat-out write well. She’s a very gifted writer. Case-in-point: her recent blog series “Examining Adoption Ethics” (Part 1 & Part 2) was received by hundreds of people as “cold water to a thirsty soul” and as “good news from a far country” (Proverbs 25:25) in a cultural climate that often produces much “more heat than light.” The first two parts of her ongoing series contain quite a few powerful (and very valuable) “stop you in your tracks sentences” that encourage us to think, reflect, and consider how we might better approach this critically important issue. I highly recommend you read her excellent series on ethical and unethical adoption. Here are several of Jen Hatmaker’s sentences which had that effect upon me:

We cannot be complicit in what amounts to trafficking.”

“I am pro-family: first families when possible, and second families when they are not” (Part 2).

“You are no villain, Baby Adopter, and many adoptive parents choose a baby to keep birth order intact or remove her from an institution early to diminish long-term effects” (Part 2).

“While your personal adoption may be completely legitimate, as a community, we still must guard against systemic weak links and refuse to discredit obvious failure within the movement” (Part 2).

“The more people, systems, and organizations in place, the higher the accountability, and I cannot stress this enough: we want the highest possible accountability here” (Part 2).

If they place a premium on reunification and in-country placements and insist on exhaustive investigations to approve an international placement, we say AMEN and commit to wait” (Part 2).

“Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one that hasn’t” (Part 2).

“Most [many?] of us don’t pursue the kids there are; we pursue the kids we want, and these countries know the score.”

One of Jen’s comments that I can’t shake is that “Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one [i.e., tragedy] that hasn’t” (emphasis mine).  As much as I agree with the first half of her of claim, I have concerns with the second half in which she hopes that adoption may “never be the impetus for one that hasn’t” (found in Part 2).

My concerns stem not from what she does say but from what she does not say. Since by adoption she’s only referring to “adoption,” I whole heartedly agree with her conclusion. The adoption of a child should never, never be the cause of the tragedy of a child be trafficked. Never! But if the discussion centers on “Adoption” instead of “adoption,” the entire discussion becomes a game-changer. Therefore, what I am really suggesting is that this discussion/issue needs broadening.

The waters of this discussion of ethical and unethical adoption are often severely muddied by the unintended neglect to approach the discussion from the perspectives of both “adoption” and “Adoption.”

While lowercase adoption” refers to the practice of families adopting children, uppercase “Adoption” refers to God’s work of Adoption within redemptive-history. Although there are certain similarities between adoption and Adoption, the differences between them are cosmic in their scope; and, therefore, must not be neglected or glossed over if we are to see the kind of reform needed to address the complexity of unethical adoption practice. While “Adoption” is cosmic in its solutions to the global orphan crisis, “adoption” is cosmetic. From what I’ve been able to gather, most of the discussion on pursuing ethical adoption focuses on “adoption” rather than “Adoption.” Now, while I do not expect the secular world to approach solutions to these ethical issues from the perspective of uppercase “Adoption,” I hope many who disagree with us will see that our approach/perspective has much to offer.

Ultimately, I’m convinced that both sides of the ethical vs. unethical adoption debate want children to be raised, loved, cared for, and nurtured by their biological parents. I’ll never back down on this conviction: lowercase “adoption” most certainly does not prevent the disruption of families. It’s absolutely preposterous to even suggest that adoption is a solution (let alone the solution) to the sin and brokenness that results in the breakdown of the family.

None of us want to see children lose their parents to HIV/AIDS or to the horrors of genocide or any other tragedies that befall mankind. As the Apostle Paul would say in old KJV language, “God forbid that children would lose their parents in those ways!” Lowercase adoption doesn’t solve these massive and systemic problems. Yes, it certainly serves children who have lost both parents to HIV/AIDS or genocide, but it doesn’t begin to provide a solution to the reason these problems exist in the first place.

We within the evangelical orphan care and adoption movement want to avoid cosmetic changes “like the plague.” At best, cosmetic changes delay real change and healing while eventually adding to the complexity of the problem. What we are passionately committed to is working toward comprehensive solutions that always have God’s decisive cosmic renewal in view.

God’s solution to our world’s problems is his work of Adoption within our broken world. In other words, the answer to all these ethical problems is Adoption as I understand it: “Adoption is God’s redemptive activity within the world to reconcile, restore, and renew all creation.” Unpacking this particular understanding of Adoption is the mission of our soon-to-be-launched Live in the Story initiative (stay-tuned for the launch date announcement). In the meantime, check out the Live in the Story Facebook page. It’s full of quotations that encourage readers to live more intentionally and simply within God’s Story of Adoption.

To conclude part 1 of this series, I’d like to return to Jen’s thought that I quoted earlier: ”Adoption is an answer to a tragedy that has already happened, but may it never be the impetus for one [i.e., tragedy] that hasn’t” (emphasis mine). While the “tragedy that hasn’t happened yet” is certainly not a non-issue when we place this conversation within the larger framework of Adoption, the way we address it may be very different if we approach it from the larger framework of Adoption.

Let me also encourage you to read John Piper’s May 21, 2013 article “Christian Adoption: Disavowals and Affirmations.” It’s excellent.

  • Jodi Jackson Tucker

    Great post Dan. I so appreciate your contributions to this important conversation.

  • Dan Cruver

    Thank you, Jodi. That encouragement means a whole lot coming from you.

  • Pingback: Cosmetic vs. Cosmic Solutions to Unethical Adoption (Part 2) « Together for Adoption

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  • phildarke

    Dan, I really like where you’re going with this series and this post in particular – its tone, content, thoughtfulness, and the heart that clearly is driving it. I particularly like your commitment to excellence and real, long-term, comprehensive solutions that are always working with God towards shalom – to “make all things new” (“What we are passionately committed to is working toward comprehensive solutions that always have God’s decisive cosmic renewal in view.”). With the orphan crisis and any other global issue, I often say that we are wasting our time if we’re merely putting a band-aid on a gaping head wound. We need to really figure out what is (are) the foundational, root cause(s) of wound (i.e., the problem) and take care of it (them) – then we will have started to really address the problem. A lot of great things are happening in the orphan care movement today – but as this series shows, we’re just scratching the surface of the root causes and we’re just getting started in really addressing the problem. Thanks for your leadership and wisdom, brother.

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  • Dan Cruver


    I completely agree with you! If the global orphan crisis is the Pacific Ocean, we’re currently just standing on the shoreline with our toes touching the cold water…

    I’m very grateful for all your efforts to address this issue and have thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve read so far of the draft you sent me. Great work, brother!

  • Pingback: Cosmetic vs. Cosmic Solutions to Unethical Adoption (Part 5) « Together for Adoption

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