I remember sitting in my first adoption training session at a local church, staring at a board, engaging with the questions around why adoption rates in South Arica are so low. I was faced with a question around the screening behind adoption and whether our checks and balances are too strict.
I remember clearly, declaring with absolute certainty that they were, only to be comprehensively rebuffed by the lady leading the course that the processes followed in screening parents were not to blame. More than this they were necessary, practical and perhaps slightly too lenient.
We have come a fair way since that first “knowledgable” outburst of mine, but the question still remains, what is the solution?
Wouldn’t it be nice if I was able to blow the lid off the challenge and give an answer of biblical proportions that not only weighed in on our current orphan crisis but rendered it defeated. Alas, I don’t have the answer and have realised such arrogance would be at best ill received and at worse, deadly to the children who need such an answer.
So do we give up, lose hope and ignore the challenges, or should we be throwing some ideas around, highlighting where the problem areas are and offering possible solutions? My position is that the people who know where the gaps and cracks are not those putting pen to paper, creating policy and enacting laws. The people who know best are those who stand at the coal face, who have the errors, inadequacies, foolish decisions and blatant ignorance revealed to them daily. They are the social workers, the house parents, the adoptive and foster parents, the people who daily are faced with a failing system or at best one that barely chugs along. To this end, I thought I’d raise a few areas of concern, give possible solutions, the enactment of which would go a long way towards resurrecting the system that currently is failing our children.
Lets break it down into 3, introduction, body and conclusion.
Given that we are staring at an adoption rate that is nearly 50% lower than it was 10 years ago, we must agree that our introduction needs a little work. The introduction in my mind consists of raising awareness, being champions for the cause, highlighting the needs and getting onto peoples radars in such a way that they cannot escape the reality that our children need us. We can’t blame government, at least not here.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks here is the local churches lack of engagement with the orphan crisis. Heres a thought, why do we take up tithes and offerings every week but only refer to the need to adopt on special occasions like “adoption Sundays”. Doesn’t the bible speak of both, I’d even go so far as to say that it is much more specific about looking after orphans than it is about giving. Why then don’t we engage on a local church level?
Sure there is the argument that we should have this on our radar anyway as Christians, we can’t blame those pushing the agenda of the fatherless when we all should be. Fair enough, but I fear the only losers when relying on this position remain the children.
Perhaps we should not only be pushing the need but equipping those around us, in our local churches, life groups etc, with the tools to push the need to their circle of influence. The crux of the matter is there are too few champions for this cause. These champions do get opportunities to punt their cause (much like anyone wanting to get buy-in from the congregation) but the problem I have is that this is not another issue that should just be raised, but rather a reality that must be kept at the forefront of peoples minds, it needs to become our culture, a part of our DNA. “We are here to help place the fatherless in families” should be more synonymous with the local church than it’s ability to drink coffee.
Once we have people on board, once they have raised their hands to the need and decided to bring a child home and after all necessary checks have been done, there should be an effort by those in power to expedite that homecoming. Once I am screened, once I have ticked all the boxes and a child is matched with me, there should be an intentional approach by government to get that child into a family as quickly and as completely as possible. Special courts, special rules, specialty trained magistrates, special processes at home affairs that actually assist and not frustrate the completion of the process need to be instituted.
This is where so much frustration is caused and for no good reason. Why should a required form take 3 weeks for one family and 52 for another? The officials don’t seem to understand that when dealing with adoptions, it’s not simply another application for an adoption registration or birth certificate, what they don’t seem to realise is that they have the power to close the chapter on an orphans loss, they have the power to bring finality and closure to a family desperate to move forward as a new family unit. They are not annoying officials, they are abusers of power, they are villains in the story of this child, and they are willingly choosing to play such a role.
It’s not about a birth certificate, its about the final step in a process that results in an orphan becoming a son/daughter. These roles that officials play are not merely administrative they are spiritual and perhaps those in power need to view them as such and convey just how significant their actions can be.
When all is said and done and you look into the eyes of your little treasure, the romance is so powerful, but it does fade. The reality of attachment issues and lack of bonding can rip peoples hearts apart. Children can be further hurt when their parents are not supported in this new season. I think we have also failed a little here, those pushing the introduction and assisting through the Body seem to let go a little too early here, or at least don’t punt the possibility that this new little one may not fit in as quickly as you would like or you may not feel what you’d hoped. There needs to perhaps be more work done around post adoption services, support for adoptive parents and an equipping with the understanding that things may not not happen as quickly and as easily as you’d hoped, and thats ok!
I fully believe that there are many people doing such an amazing job in the area of adoption and adoption services and they cannot be applauded enough, they are unsung heroes and deserve to be treated as guardian angels with the ability to change futures. We can’t rely on them to do all the work though, at local church levels, to government to post adoption services, we need to wake up! We are failing our children and even though many good works are being done, we need to up our game, we need to become more involved, more purposeful, more dogged in our resolve to find a solution.
Let me know your thoughts, share your initiatives, let’s turn the volume up on the dialogue around the orphan crisis, it’s been muted for far too long!