Is Single Adoption Helping or Hurting?

By Julie Roys
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A Facebook friend of mine recently posted that she’ll never help someone find a lost dog again. Apparently, after a short search, she and the owner found the dog.  But, instead of coming, the dog bolted. The two followed – only to witness the dog run in front of a car and get hit.
This awful story highlights a well-established maxim in charitable work: often our helping – as well intentioned as it may be – only ends up hurting.
I thought of this principle recently when hosting a program on single adoption – a practice that’s become increasingly prevalent. In the 1970s, less than four-percent of all adoptions were by single adults. But today, about 28-percent are – the vast majority being by single women. Given that there are more than 120-million orphans in the world, many see this as a positive development. But Keith McFarland, an author and missionary to Uganda, warns against it. God established the mom-and-dad model of family because neither is expendable, he argued. Though he admits some children overcome mom and dad deficits, he says orphans are the least likely to do so. Given their profound identity and abandonment issues, orphans desperately need both parents to heal and thrive.
Of course, single adoptive parents argue that one parent is better than none – and they have a point. But, are the realities of single parenting, like putting children in all-day daycare, really acceptable when working with traumatized kids? Certainly, fatherless homes are a reality in our world. But, as McFarland argued and studies show, fatherlessness perpetuates fatherlessness. Though certainly there are exceptions, we need to face the fact that this solution often fails to help.
I agree the orphan problem is so huge that it requires everyone’s help and creative solutions. But, not everyone has to adopt; some of us can play support roles. Plus, overseas adoption isn’t the only solution; truth is, it’s the most expensive one. Some charitable groups instead are investing in villages with large orphan populations so couples there can adopt. Some are even establishing orphan communities, enabling adoptive couples to care for up to 12 orphans each. These, to me, seem like strategies with the best chance of actually solving the orphan problem – and ensuring that our helping doesn’t hurt.


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