In the beginning, JD adamantly only wanted two children. I thought that four would be perfect. Once we caught God's vision of putting orphans into families, our plan was multiplied by God. We are currently blessed with 12 children; five biological, six adopted and one more waiting in Ethiopia. Our first adoption was from the U.S., the next three were from Liberia, West Africa, and our last two were from Ethiopia. We are supporting our 12th child in Ethiopia after her adoption could not pass court.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Adoption Complications

As a precursor to what I'm about to say, please know this only applies to our family - it is no way a judgement to what others do in building their family through adoption.

We feel rather strongly about maintaining certain birth orders in our family. We we first began foster care, Alyssa was turning three and we asked for children under her age. When we first headed to Liberia, James was turning six, so it was quite easy to claim a toddler well under his age. When we returned for Ben and Julia, only Ben broke our birth order rule and he was Tori's sibling. There was one other time in foster care that we took in an girl older than Alyssa and that was also because we already had her sister living with us. Again, I have lots of friends I know that have not maintained birth order and it was worked out fine; however, I think almost all would agree that it can be a greater challenge than bringing a new younger "baby" of the family. While I certainly am not opposed to challenges, we really feel that if a new son comes home, he needs to be Elijah's younger brother instead of older. We also feel that if a new daughter comes home, she needs to be younger than Julia and ideally, younger than Elijah as well.

This brings us to our Ethiopian challenge. I have talked to agency after agency that tells me that it isn't "doable" to adopt more than one child under the age of three; several agencies have told me that I would have to agree to adopt only one. Ethiopia, the country, is putting severe limits on adopting more than one child, unless they are siblings and the children are usually placed in the orphanages come one at a time around the age of three. So, often siblings are placed up for adoption in different years. Logically, many people just adopt one child, then turn around and return for another child the next year. More often than not, families only plan on adopting one child, but return due to the reality of what they saw while visiting their child's birth country. Due to the financial aspects of traveling twice per adoption, doing two separate adoptions increases the cost to the point that it is not even realistic for our family. Another HUGE benefit to adopting siblings is that Ethiopia greatly discounts the second child's adoption; which is a benefit that we did not reap when we adopted from Liberia.

I have refrained from quoting actual costs in the realm of adoption, mainly because I don't want to frighten anyone. There are also things to consider, like the adoption tax credit, that greatly reduces the bottom line scary figure, BUT in my best estimation, it would be about $25,000 more to adopt two children in separate adoptions than to adopt two siblings at one time. At the level of adoptions that we are willing to do, we can not afford to do it inefficiently.

One discussion my husband and I have had is the one of being a good steward of our money and being willing to invest in the lives of orphans. While I would NEVER say that adopting is being a bad steward of any resources, I believe at this point to overpay to the point that we are limited from saving other orphans is not being a good steward of the money that is on loan to us from God. Again, I would never think or say that someone adopting one child, and paying whatever they have to, is wasteful; I just feel like God has given us a glimpse into what He has called us to do and we need to be able to stretch our resources to the level they need to go!

All that said, I've listened to agency after agency tell me that my children would have to come home at one time. Then I've talked to agencies that show me how easy it would be to bring home two from China or Uganda. A tiny piece of my heart resides in China and Uganda in spite of not really knowing if I have any future children from either place! I've looked at little Ugandan faces that desperately need families and have been incredibly swayed in my "calling" to Ethiopia.

What stops me from switching countries? Very simply, my husband, who remembers over and over the God answered miracle of selling a boat (you can read it here if you haven't). That prayer was directed specifically at adoption in Ethiopia, not just adoption in general. That same weekend, before the boat actually sold on Sunday, JD had two other Ethiopian "coincidences." I have to agree that I'm being swayed by the facts, and if I intentionally put faith before the facts, I believe our future children are in Ethiopia.

So, at the urging of JD, I'm laying aside the logic and the agency given facts and I'm waiting for my young siblings or twins to surface (and let me remind you that we also feel called to a specific special need.) I know God is able and I pray that when He matches us to our sibling group, it will testify to how big and able He is if we stand aside and allow Him to work!

And because I keep writing picture-less posts, I present Julia and Gus enjoying some quality together time.

By the way, I define coincidence as when God chooses to remain anonymous.


  1. Didn't Linny at A Place Called Simplicity adopt 2 children that were under 3 from Ethiopia?

  2. You know that God already knows your children. I completely understand wanting to adopt more than one. This will be our third trip for one and it is expensive. I would love to adopt more than one. China is just this week becoming an option for us. Maybe someday.

  3. A lovely and loving story, but...I cannot help wondering why you perceive that God would want chidlren taken so far from their heritage and culture, especially when there are so many children who could be adopted right here in the U.S. (more than 120,000)?

    When I read the bible stories of adoption, the one that stands out the most is that of Moses who returns to "his people."

    When I look at the recommendations of caring unselfish volunteers on the ground, those who work for the UN, UNICEF, Save the Children, Christian Children's Fund, SOS Village, etc...I hear them saying that transnational adoption should be a last resort for children.

    When I educate myself further I find that:

    - 90% of children in orphanages worldwide are not orphans, but have at least one parent or extended family who hope to reunite their family, as was the case with the two children adopted by Madonna. I have learned that people in many parts of the world use orphanages for temporary care and education of their children.

    - the tens of thousands of dollars Westerners are able to pay in adoption fees keep people within their own nation from adopting.

    - I learned that numbers of alleged abandoned babies drop when countries cease international programs and resume again when adoption restart indicating that children are stolen and kidnapped, trafficked to meet a demand, by claiming them as abandoned.

    I think sometimes we need to listen much closer to God's messages for us...and for His children. We do not want to rush in, like some so-called "missionaries" did in haiti and grab up children who have families.

    Taking them one a time increases the fees to the agencies but does nothing to ameliorate the poverty or other hardships of their families, their villages or their nations. There many are other ways to help children in need...AND their families!

    Mirah Riben, author, THE STORK MARKET: America's Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry

  4. Ms. Riben,
    It appears that you have an agenda. For what purpose would you try to convince a family that they are not hearing from God correctly, but you have insight more relevant? My research shows that there are 147 million orphans in the world and I'm fairly confident that there are more than 120,000 that are "true" orphans in your definition. I'm also fairly certain that many more of the 147 million will die without being adopted than the 120,000 here in the States. Aids babies will die in Africa without treatment, for which they don't have it there; but the same afflicted baby here will live a full life. Why would you try to second guess someones "calling," as this family obviously is driven to follow, when they seem willing to adopt one that is unfavored (as indicated by their "special needs" calling)? You should not presume to judge whether one needs to "listen much closer," or not. Your expertise does not read God led, and you appear to be using this family's blog as an advertisement for your book, which lacks integrity since you probably did not obtain their permission first (a judgement that you may answer true or false).

  5. well said Anonymous.
    Ms. Riben's comment just ticks me off totally. She has no clue who this loving family is nor the struggles this loving family has endured attempting to adopt through the states.

    I know that the 3 beautiful children that they adopted out of Liberia were not all doing so hot there in their birth country as 2 of them were sick when they got home to their new home in the states. Thankfully Jenny & JD's love & ability to get them medical care has provided them with a wonderful new life full of love, hope & a future....not to mention that these children, (along with the other children in their home) all have been presented with the gospel of Jesus Christ. it sounds like a win-win to me.

    Jenny there are a lot of us that fully support you pursuing adoption where ever God calls you to adopt from and a lot of us that will help you love those babies/children as well.
    More power to you! And Thank God for your heart!

  6. and oh my goodness, her statement that orphanges around the globe are being used for educational purposes and temporary care for children is understandable BUT it's insane to believe that these orphanges have an understand with birth parents & then just adopt their children out without consent. crazy.
    i am just astounded by Ms. Riben's comments - totally astounded.

  7. On a Hot Tin Roof - Actually there have been cases reported where orphanages did adopt out children without their parents' real understanding of what's going in. Keep in mind that in many parts of Africa, there is a long history of missionaries running "boarding schools" for kids--whether for educational purposes or because their parents can't provide for them. And traditionally those institutions did not lead to parents losing their kids forever. Some African parents and relatives have signed their kids away, not realizing that they would be gone forever--it was a foreign concept to them. I realize that you may think that Ms. Riben's comments are not "God led," but whatever her intentions may be, that's not an excuse to bury your head in the sand and pretend that some of the things she says aren't true when they really are.

  8. You know I was just thinking how awesome it would be for these adopted kids from other countries to grow up so healthy and full of the love of Christ because of their adoptive families that they return to their native countries and multiply that love and help the hundreds of thousands waiting to hear and receive what God has given them. We are so short sighted but God works in eternity present. I just made that up "eternity present." These are eternal seeds being planted now that will reap a harvest for God.

  9. that was a huge blessing for our children. I love my kids so much, and it broke my heart to know that there were so many children in the world without the security of a loving family. learn more