“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”- James 1:27
Adoption is an emotional roller coaster. Each step leaves you feeling that you’re one step closer to the finish line of becoming a parent to the child you’ve dreamed of and prayed for…the child God has called you to adopt. The mountains of paperwork, the endless wait, the financial cost, and the heartbreak leaves nearly every adoptive parent wondering at some point “Is it worth it?” Yet, virtually every parent comes to answer this question with a resounding “Absolutely!”
But what happens when the paperwork only grows, the wait continues to get longer, the emotional and financial costs continue to mount, and the heartbreak deepens? What if months or even years go by and there is nothing more than another form to complete, another document to file, another glimmer of hope that is yet again deferred or dashed? And most importantly — what about the child that is waiting? In other words, what happens when the system and everyone affected by it gets ‘stuck?’
There has been a great deal of talk recently about a new documentary entitled STUCK. You’ve likely received an email or seen a post on Facebook encouraging you to go watch the film when it comes to your town (it shows in Dallas tonight and in Ft. Worth tomorrow night). The film follows a handful of families in the international adoption process from their referral to placement. It highlights some of the challenges and heartbreaks that so many families face as they navigate the bureaucracy and complexity of international adoption, all within the context of the recent dramatic decline in the number of international adoptions. Many agencies, organizations, and church ministries are encouraging people to see this film. Several of us at Tapestry have seen it. For what it’s worth we also think the film is worth seeing if we are willing to look at international adoption completely and honestly. And if we do, we might just see the possibilities for important and lasting changes that can revitalize international adoption.
The purpose of the documentary is to be a “call to action…to create social reform and change public policy,” according to Craig Juntunen, the founder of Both Ends Burning (the organization behind it). The film raises some important issues and captures in both vivid and heartbreaking terms the emotional and painful realities that unfold when children and families become ‘stuck’ in the international adoption process.
As much as anything I found the film to be incomplete. It portrays well what it focuses on, but the film fails to address many other important issues — issues that must equally concern us and that we must also address in order to advocate for and respond effectively to the needs of children. The problems with international adoption are complicated and complex; so too will be the solutions that bring about lasting and meaningful change to this often broken system. Simply calling for more international adoptions without also addressing the complex array of challenges is unlikely to change anything in the end. Instead, we must begin to work toward solutions that are less broken and more beautiful. Idealistic for sure; but we are called to nothing less. We must remember — Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this…and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
In advocating for international adoption we must not overlook or minimize the fact that the process in many instances has been polluted and stained by corruption. The extent of the corruption is always a matter of heated debate, but there is no dispute that it exists and in some cases continues to persist. This simply cannot be okay with us, and finding our ‘voice’ on this issue is one of the most needed and necessary ways we can begin to effectively advocate for the revitalization of international adoption.
Make no mistake — we passionately support international adoption. I have personally worked in the field of child placement for nearly 30 years. Couple that with the fact that over the past eight years Tapestry has connected, supported, equipped thousands of families in their international adoption journeys. We know the hope and transformation that international adoption brings, and we believe that it is one of the many beautiful ways that God “sets the lonely in families.” We believe that every child needs and deserves the protection, provision, and holistic care of a loving, nurturing parent or caregiver. We believe in the ideal for children to know and experience the permanence and security of a family.
Despite it’s incompleteness I believe that STUCK can prove to be an important ‘voice’ in the discussion that needs to occur. The film raises serious and challenging issues and each of us must respond. Each country, each child placing agency, each government official, each non-governmental organization, each adoptive family, each church, each Christian. As we respond to look after orphans in their distress, we must always do so without becoming polluted by the world. We are called equally to do both.
To help you engage this film critically and holistically, we encourage you to use this discussion guide (which includes a short prayer guide) provided by the Christian Alliance for Orphans. And above all, we encourage you to pray…for the children around the world who are ‘stuck’ and in need of hope and help. May we find our voice and the courage to respond in a way that brings healing and hope.
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