Saturday, November 08, 2008

Why Adoption?

As some of you know, my family and I are currently in the adoption process. We are adopting from Bulgaria. We are about 4 months through a process that most likely will be 18-24 months long.

In addition to the Nielsen family adoption, I recently gave a proposal to the elders of my church dealing with starting an official adoption ministry (with the help of The ABBA Fund).

I wanted to share some of this proposal with you as it sheds light on why our family is adopting and also why it might be a great idea for more churches to start adoption ministries in their respective churches. Shame on us when the pagan government does a better job with orphan care than we as Christians do and government doesn't have any Biblical commands on orphans to fulfill (James 1:27, Deut. 10:18).

I have written more extensively on the Biblical case for orphan care here but in this post I wanted to share some statistics that might awaken our hearts more towards adoption.

Why Adoption?
Consider the need:

- It is estimated there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide (recent UNICEF report.)

- The current population of the United States is just a little over 300 million… to give you an idea of the enormity of the numbers… (The current population of Russia is 141 million)

- Every day 5,760 more children become orphans

- 2,102,400 more children become orphans every year in Africa alone

- Every 15 seconds, another child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan

- There are an estimated 14 million AIDS orphans in Sub-Saharan Africa (a number higher than the total of every under-eighteen year old in Canada, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Ireland combined)

- This figure is estimated to reach 18 million orphans in Africa alone by 2010 (only two and a half years away)

- 8 out of 10 children orphaned by AIDS lives in sub-saharan Africa

- Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…

- Each year 14,505,000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen

- Each day 38,493 orphans age out

- Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home

- In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10% - 15% of these children commit suicide before they reach age eighteen

- These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals

- Another Russian study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three years…

(Sources: Human Rights Watch: “Abandoned to the State: Cruelty and Neglect in Russian Orphanages” November 1998 ; ; ; UNICEF’s Childhood Under Threat: the State of the World’s Children, 2005;

In light of need, answering the question, “why adoption?”, quickly turns upon itself to ask a perhaps better question: “Why NOT adoption?”


Christy said...

Those are incredible stats! I totally agree that we as Christians need to do more in regard to caring for the orphans, and the church needs to be at the head of it. There is no good reason why more people can't adopt these orphans, except that it is a lot of work and might be inconvenient. Thanks for sharing!

John C said...

good post. I want to ask some very honest questions however, that I literally don't know the answers to, and I'm not trying to be facetious here. Just things that have always bugged me or I have questioned and don't know:

1.) What are the statistics for the US in terms of orphans, infants needing adoption, etc.?

I guess every Christian couple and program I've heard about for adoption is all about adopting in foreign countries. That's all very well and good of course. But why does it seem you don't hear about people adopting locally or within the US in and around the church? Every other night on one of the news stations here, they have a feature called "Iowa's Children" that features a child (or several from one family) living in foster care that need to be adopted. Why does it seem that we don't put more emphasis on these adoptions right in our own backyard that seem to be so needed, as well as for mother's considering abortion and to be able to offer alternatives/adoptive parents? Are these needs met by other means somehow? Are there legal/laws/lawyer issues causing problems? Why does it seem as if the Christian culture "appears" anyway to ignore these situations? I'm not saying it does - just that I NEVER hear about anyone adopting grown children (or infants) from the US. i.e. - you don't see Steven Curtis Chapman with a family full of African American children from Detroit, or other, etc. And heaven knows, he could afford a whole dormitory full. Does it cost way more money or is it harder or something? Again, all good and well to adopt from anywhere of course. But, like evangelism and missions, I tend to look first in my own backyard first before I think about overseas - and that's just me. My heart and passion is for those in and around me. I say that not to belittle those seeking to do global missions or adoptions. And, with limited resources in my case anyway, I'm honestly better equipped resource and training wise to target my own backyard than a foreign country - for now at least. Not to say that I would never be involved in global missions. (actually I have.)

3.) Why does it cost SO much to adopt foreign wise and where does that $30,000 go? Who's getting the funds out that? Are we sure people on some end are not benefiting through all of these foreign adoptions? (outside of the children of course?) Of course from what I understand, it costs quite a bit to adopt in the US also. Is is more or less than than to adopt globally?

Anyway - I guess I see all of this emphasis and large amount of resources being spent on foreign adoption. And hear me - that's all GOOD. But for someone like me, I'm sitting hear saying I'd LOVE to adopt locally if we had the resources. We have the room in our family and the desire, but I see no one through the church that ever talks of that or anything to set up to help that, not in the same way as there is for foreign adoptions. Why is that? Something just seems off balance in all of this. I still maintain that it seems as if there's some sort of feeling in Christian culture that there's extra "God brownie points" or something for adopting abroad, while I seem to see local adoption efforts, and help for mothers locally seeking abortions (to offer alternatives to them) not being paid attention to at to. At least in the churches I've been a part of. So what's the deal?

I guess can only imagine some of these grown children of any age in the US - living from foster home to foster home and yet, seeing all of these Christians adopting adorable little babies from abroad and wondering what's up with that?



Anonymous said...

Zach so glad you and Kim are adopting. Lord please provide the money for them and peace during this process. It will be neat to see God bring this to fruition!
Kellie Shramek

Vitamin Z said...


I'm sure a quick google search can get you the stats you are looking for.
I would suggest that if you have a burden for foster care that you lead the way in modeling this ministry. If you do this you'll have certain credibility to talk about it with others and maybe this can become a focus of ministry in Iowa City. We don't have the money just like you guys don't, but we know God will provide as he would for you as well if you choose to pursue this.

There are no commands in the Bible in terms of HOW to care for the fatherless,etc, thus i would say we have freedom in terms of how each individual family or person decides to fulfill this mandate.


Anonymous said...

great question and answers...unfortunately, adoption is hugely financially prohibitive for many, many people. $35,000? not many people have that lying around. may the Lord bless you in your journey to meeting your next child.

Vitamin Z said...


A.W Tozer said - "God is looking for people through whom he can do the impossible". Seems like this goes well with scripture. If God can give Abraham a son ("Is anything too hard for the Lord" the angel rhetorically asked.) from a women with a barren womb, I don't think $35K will be too hard for him either. We don't have it "lying around" but we trust in a God who "owns the cattle on a thousand hills". We all have more money than we know what to do with and if the church could get together on this we could see many many more adoptions take place.


Christopher Lake said...


I just want to say that your trust in God to provide in this situation is hugely encouraging to me, at a time when I am tempted to become discouraged about certain things in my life (which are all temporal but still painful). Thank you for encouraging me by your example, brother!

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that people are called to adopt. I don't think all people are called to adopt. Our family has not been called to do that, so, yes, God can provide, but not everyone can or should do this.

Vitamin Z said...

I would certainly agree that not all people are called to adoption. Perhaps a more important question to ask is, what is God calling me to do? Am I doing it?

Also, in light of the Biblical commands for orphan care it might also be good to ask, what we all can do to see this happen in our lives and churches. This certainly does not have to mean adoption. Adoption is not a Biblical law, but for us it seems like a logical conclusion. But again, that is just our families personal conclusion. We'll certainly reach a point where we can't adopt anymore kids (perhaps with just one), but still want to see that we are seeking to obey God's desires to see orphans cared for. This could happen in any number of ways.


Jason said...


Thanks for posting this and for all you are doing to shed light on the great need and opportunity to reflect the heart of God for the fatherless!

John - There is a growing number of evangelical groups around the country that are focusing primarily on mobilizing the church to care for the children right here in the US! Today there are roughly 500,000 children in foster care and 129,000 of those are waiting to be adopted. In the State I live in alone there are over 800 children that can be adopted today...for free! Adopting from the State does not cost you a thing, except time, sacrifice, and much faith!

The only thing in many cases that is holding folks back from adopting these children is the notion that they have major issues that would be much too difficult to handle. While it is true that many of these children are older and have been through many traumatic experiences the thing they need most is the love of a family. This is also where faith and sacrifice and the church community come in to support those who step out and adopt these children. They need to know what they are stepping into, have a support network, and have the needed resources available to them.

I can't help but think there are more than 129,000 evangelical churches in the US and if one church adopted one of these children there would be no more orphans in the US!

A couple of ministries to check into are: Project 1:27 in Colorado (, Focus on the Family, The CALL Arkansas.

Looking at the numbers, there is obviously a great need both in the US and globally! The need for the church and each believer is to seek the Lord as to where and how God would have us care for the fatherless. It is not more noble to adopt from one country than another.

On the money question, it tends to cost more to adopt internationally because of travel costs, in-country fees, immigration documents - all things you don't need when adopting domestically.

You are right though, more folks are willing to adopt internationally and through private agencies than adopting older children through the State. If you are open that I would encourage you to contact your local county Social service office. Also, contact the ministries I listed above and see if they know of any evangelical groups where you live. I hear of folks almost daily who are getting burdened for the children in the US Foster system.

God's grace!

SEG said...

Can I also add, as a person in the trenches of an African adoption, that every kind of adoption is a good thing- foster adoption, domestic infant adoption, international adoption. All of these mean a child who did not have a family gets a family, and a family gets a child! One type is not better than the other, for the Christian or otherwise. Some of us choose international adoption or feel called to international adoption due to the dire situation the children are in. In Ethiopia, children die daily without food and clean water. Simple, preventable, treatable viruses kill children in Africa every day. Every day. Please remember that God is a God of the whole world. An orphan is an orphan wherever he or she may be.

John C said...

Thanks Jason. I think you're the only person that really truly addressed some of my questions. I really can't seem to get anyone to answer why foreign adoptions seem to be so much more "fashionable" in Christian culture.

I still maintain that deep down, may Christians adopt from foreign countries for reasons that, whether they realize it or not, are more self serving than serving God's true call and the true need in our own tribe and community, for which we are first called to take care of. I might be judgmental and presumptuous in saying this, however I've lived long enough to trust my gut instinct, and I've also just plain seen it over and over again. Why would anyone seek to raise $35,000 they don't have, from other people, when they could right here and now make a difference with children here in our own land? I think the problem is - everyone looks at you a little funny when you adopt older kids -some as you said that might have issues. Those kids take a community around them beyond the parents themselves to welcome them into - they don't just lie in a baby stroller and look cute. People are intimidated by that. Versus, everyone in church fawns over and just loves the Christian couple with the cute little adorable baby from China, or wherever. "Isn't that precious and SO Godly of them?" And it feels good. Call me callous but to me, that's the biggest reason people neglect our own needs here in our own tribes and communities.

knielsen said...

I think that Shadley did seek to answer part of your question as well. Zach has never said that international adoptions are "more Godly" or more valuable than domestic adoptions. That has never been the point. It is simply where God has called us to serve. This came partially because of my experience with orphanages in Moldova. We have friends that are foster parents, those who have adopted domestically, and others who have adopted internationally. We say praise God for all of them! We can support all types of caring for orphans without tearing other people apart who have been called to something different. God does call us to serve where we are but also to remember that He is the God of the nations. It does not need to be either/or. I guess more than anything I would ask that as you write your comments you remember that your tone and implications can hurt deeply especially for those of us personally invested in adoption.

Melanie Grant said...

Zach I agree fully. We run a home for orphaned and abandoned babies in South Africa called iKhaya LikaBaba. Some of our babies have been adopted locally and internationally. I often feel like I want to shake the church and say WHY NOT? I have to constantly ask God for grace not to get impatient with those around me. My husband often says, we all have room for one more around our table. I know international adoptions are tricky and expensive but I truly believe that God is a God who is passionate about orphans and that as we take that step in faith, he will show us how.

Would you mind if I posted some of your articles on our websites, and
We would put a link in to your blog. I would also like to include it in my blog http;// (you can remove all these links to my site when you post the article, I just want to ensure that you know where I would like to post your articles).

Vitamin Z said...


You are more than welcome to use anything that I publish. Thanks for you faithful service on behalf of orphans!


John C said...

Sorry KN. I don't mean to be offensive. I DO mean to stir up the pot and the status quo however! And it's fun to get reactions here to that as, by and large, everyone seems to agree with one another and pat everyone on the back. So I like to go a bit against the grain. And Z's comment numbers go way up when I reply, too! So if I'm getting people to think a bit about what they do, believe, and think, as I am doing myself at this stage of life, by responding a bit worldly and outside the box, that might be a good thing. We all need a good dose of "world" once in awhile to get us riled up a bit. Ya - I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate. But some things I'm just tired of, too, and it's refreshing to speak my mind a bit. (I don't work for or attend a church now, so I really have no reason to hold back! *grin*)

With adoption - I guess I just see so many Christians jump on the international band wagon, one after another, with what seems like little thought otherwise. When was the last time any of us saw a family in our church adopting a 12 and 13 year old brother and sister from local foster parents? How many of us even know of any foster parents within our own churches? In my 21 years as a Christian, and 44 years of life on this big marble, I've known 1 family that became foster parents. Maybe I'm totally wrong, but that's my experience. I have NOTHING against international adoption. I just think the trend and buzz around it is WAAAY out of balance, especially in Christian circles. I love and admire Steven Curtis Chapman, but who have you seen as a major Christian Artist that has taken up local/domestic adoption as a focal point of their ministry to underwrite and endorse?

Personally, I don't see how anyone, especially those of us that are in ministry positions, young couples, etc. who DON'T have $35,000 lying around, can look at a state/local adoption page, see the pictures and stories of children in need of adoption and NOT be moved to look at that as an option? For example, see

Check out a girl like Flamisha:

How great it would be to see a girl like this in a very musical Christian family with her musical interests and already being in a Christian band! (I'm motivated myself!) (and yes, we have discussed adoption and foster parenting as something for us in the future.)

And especially when as Christians, many of us seem to be very outspoken towards abortion in the US and how we want it made illegal. Yet we don't seem to be nearly as passionate about a desire then to offer the same hope to a mother locally considering abortion, or a child given up for adoption, rather than being aborted. What could $35,000 do for a single mother facing an unwanted pregnancy who might choose a path leading to adoption?

So I don't know - it just all doesn't make sense to me. Thus, I can only deduce that our intentions must be about something more than just wanting to save a child in Africa. I think there's a certain sense of personal desire, pride, and "aura" that may creep into and be a part of our desire to save a foreign child. Is that right? There's not as much of that with local adoption - it's not nearly as romantic of an idea. (and this phenomenon is documented evidence on pages I read about domestic vs. international adoption when they got to the bottom of why people want to choose international adoption.) Why do you think you see movie stars doing it in droves?

To me, plain common sense, logic (and God) would say "Hey - if you don't have $35,000 lying around, and there's perfectly good children in your back yard in dire need of just as much love, a home, a family, and the love of GOD in their life, what is motivating you to do otherwise? Better be doing a big deep gut check! Yes, we need people to adopt all over. But our church culture and it's leaders seem to lift international adoption over and above everything else to the point where I think Joe Q. church attender receives a somewhat subliminal message of that being more Godly for some reason at the neglect of local adoptions. Just my own personal theory but one that comes from experience in several churches seeing the same thing over and over. (and I didn't say Z said it was more Godly - just that our church culture, and it's leaders that lift up international adoption, seem to foster that mindset - probably unknowingly and unintentionally, but think it does. I think it's just a natural bi-product by our Christian culture that just buys into it without even wondering. So I do!

Anyway - that's all I'm trying to say. If we are using our blogs as a forum for communication and making a motivational impression on those that read, then to me, for adoption, giving a long list of statistics supporting international adoption is great. BUT - ALSO severely biased in NOT giving equal attention to why we as Christians should consider ANY kind of adoption, including domestic, and providing equal statistics and reasoning for that also.

Erica said...

Zach -

A friend sent me a link to your blog and I'm hooked. Do you mind if I link to you from my blog?

I agree 100% with your post. We adopted from Ethiopia earlier this year. God provided every last penny, we had NO way to pay for an adoption but God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called. My God is a GREAT BIG God!

John -
I had a hard time swallowing many of your comments. We did consider domestic adoption. It does cost close to the same amount for a domestic infant adoption as it does for a foreign adoption. We didn't feel called to adopt an infant, we felt called to adopt the "less requested" for lack of better terminology. A small black boy. He certainly wasn't "less" to us. He's perfect. We felt a heaviness for Africa, Ethiopia to be specific. It wasn't for any "stigma" or "status quo" in fact at the time we didn't know anyone personally that had adopted from Ethiopia. We pushed through a lot of tough questions about why we would want to become a trans-racial family, did we understand what this could do to our bio children, did we know what we were getting into. Hardly something for the faint of heart.

The reason we didn't go with domestic adoption through the foster care system was the uncertainty of each adoption. The long waiting period with the child in your care to potentially be removed. Looking out for the good of our whole family and in the best interest of our children this wasn't a fit for us. Now if God calls us to foster care down the road, awesome, we'll embrace that. So far He hasn't. For the record, I know numerous families who are foster parents and have adopted, I knew more of those then I did international adopters when we started this process.

God called us to Ethiopia. He provided every last bit of funds for our sons adoption, and He has graciously taken us through this process and is continuing to mold us together as a family. Our son Silas is truly a gift, there is NO WAY we were on some mission to gain acknowledgment through his adoption. In fact we went to great lengths to shield him from well meaning attention. We were called, we obeyed, quite simple.

Now for the tough question. If you are so passionate about this subject and "stirring the pot" as you say why haven't you acted? I may take your words a bit more seriously if you told me you'd adopted 3 kids from the foster care system and were frustrated with other Christians vs. coming onto a blog questioning parents who adopt internationally. Take action. Adopt.

James 2:26
As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Vitamin Z said...


Feel free to link to anything on here. You don't have to ask. Thanks for your encouraging words!


Anonymous said...

Zach--I have to say that you have a great blog and I truly enjoy your insights. I'm very excited about your growing family and pray for God's blessings for you.

John--Your comments have left me shaking my head. To suggest that people adopt from overseas just to be acknowleged is just rude! That's about as bad as saying anyone who has a child is just looking for attention. Are you an attention seeker? Is making rude comments on someone's blog "to up their comment numbers" your goal in life?"

You say you don't work or attend church and if I were out of work, I'd be concerned about paying $35000 for a child too. Based on your long, wordy posts, I assume you've got some sort of education, why aren't you using it? You also talk like you are or were a Christian (since you're bashing the ones who are led to adopt from other countries), so why aren't you following God's command to go into "All the World and preach good news?" Sure, preach in America, save the orphans here AND abroad.

I'm just very perplexed by so many of John's comments I don't know where to start. Are you a former foster kid? Someone who wants to foster but is daunted by the paperwork? A 40 year old living in his mother's basement? Or some guy who's not the husband and father he should be and feels that bashing other's parenting choices somehow makes him superior?

I am not someone who's adopted, but if tomorrow God put it on my heart, I would do it. I wouldn't consider a child God gave me to merely be 'fashionable' like my Coach purse but a living being with a soul who needs loved and to be taught about the love of Christ.

John, I hope someday you experience Christ's love and it's able to come back out of you to those around you. I will pray for you.