“Poverty alone should never be a reason for adoption”

Please note: I originally posted this three years ago. Now, though, in July 2017, I have been hearing more reports about prospective adoptive parents deciding not to move ahead with adoptions, even when they are far along in the process. These are hard decisions, and many parents are reluctant to discuss them publicly, for fear of being criticized. I hope, though, that all of us in the adoption community will listen to these stories, and support those who are genuinely working to do the best for children.


Amy Davis is mom to 3 little boys. She and her husband planned to adopt one or maybe two little girls from Uganda. After much paperwork, time, money, prayer, travel, energy, and high hopes, they learned that Eliana, the little girl they thought would join them in their Tennessee home, has a living mother. A mother who wanted to keep the child, but was desperately poor.

So Amy and her husband decided not to take Eliana to a place of love and economic prosperity. They chose to leave her in a place of love and abject poverty, having helped put a plan in place to move the child out of the orphanage and back to her mother, a plan that partners with a family reunification organization in Uganda.

In her moving and heartfelt blog post, Amy wrote:

The (Ugandan) family felt hopeless, but when asked privately, they said they WANT their daughter and granddaughter, if only they could support her financially. At first thought, I said to myself, “well, they can’t financially care for her, so she can’t stay there.” But the more John and I thought about it, the worse and worse we felt.

Poverty alone is never a reason to adopt. It’s not right, it’s not ethical, and it’s certainly not biblical. We said from the beginning, we wanted to commit ourselves to an ethical adoption, one in which the mother and father are deceased or if alive, want nothing to do with their child. A Ugandan child that has a mother that wants her should be with her mother. Period. And if we truly are caring for orphans and widows as we were originally called to do, then it certainly isn’t taking someone’s baby due to poverty. 

A harsh truth is that many children are placed for adoption internationally because their parents–who love them–are desperately poor. If they had the money, they would keep the child. The amount of money they would need per month is about what we pay for one tank of gas.

Adoption should be an option for children who genuinely do not have families. Adoption agencies and governments must do stellar work to ensure that the story accompanying a child is truthful. Prospective adoptive parents must demand that truth. How else can we look our children in the eyes, and claim them as our own?

I know many families who are committed to open international adoptions (which have their own complexity, joy, opportunities, and integrity), connecting with the original family, assisting family members, ensuring that the children understand their truths and are surrounded by love.

That said, while I believe in adoption, I speak out as much as possible about family preservation. It’s less heartwarming than adoption. My daughter Aselefech’s fundraising campaign for an Ethiopian NGO  has not been of interest to many people, it turns out, compared to fundraisers by prospective adoptive parents. Yet the $5000 she hopes to raise will keep 10 families together (food, education, clothes), and the children out of orphanages, for a year. (Note: She successfully raised $6500, though it wasn’t easy. One donor’s single large donation at the end helped a great deal. When we traveled to Ethiopia, we toured the NGO Bring Love In, and it was wonderful. I urge anyone who is concerned about declining adoptions to consider supporting the many groups which are doing reputable, good, hard work in family preservation and orphan prevention. You can read more here and here.)

As the poet ee cummings wrote, “now the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened.”







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