If God Could Only Calculate: International Adoption, Family Preservation and Money

In a recent blog post an adoptive mother somewhere in the U.S. and blessed with 13 kids already, asks her readers for donations. She is in the process of adopting another two children from the Ukraine, special needs children that is, and she and her husband ran out of money. Now they need $9,000 for tickets to pick up the children. The total costs of the adoptions will eventually total over $40,000: 'So much to save two small lives.' 'But,' she writes, 'I know our Lord has guided us to these two little girls.' Until now the couple raised $20.

On the site of Bethany Christian Services, Philadelphia, a testimonial by a couple from Florida reads:

'We [...] wondered what kind of child to adopt--a child with special needs, a child of another race? Different countries have different requirements, and that became a challenge too. We were forced to rely on God, because we knew we couldn't do it alone. And He did provide, including taking care of the finances.'

The couple adopted a child from Ethiopia, estimated costs $40,000.

In the comments to an excellent piece on adoption ethics by Christian blogger Jen Hatmaker one could find - until the remark was deleted - this:

'God knew all along my daughter would be orphaned, knew all along He would send us to China for her, and so yes, I believe fully without a doubt that while she was birthed to another woman, God in His ultimate authority chose her to be my daughter. Things in this temporary life do not make sense sometimes, but God's plan was for her to hear the gospel in our home.'

The costs of God's will for an adoption from China, is like one from Ethiopia around $40,000.

God spent, summarizing these three cases, $120,000 to 'save' four children. I don't know God, but I have a Welsh Facebook friend in Uganda. His name is Mark Riley, who next to a season ticket holder at Cardiff City Football Club for the last 15 years, is a social worker and adoptive father. Knowing that 80 to 90 percent of orphans in institutional care do actually have parents or close family, he started with his wife Keren in 2010 Reunite in Kampala, Uganda, an organization that tries to get children out of 'orphanages' and back into families. Orphanages, how horrible they sometimes might be, are in certain countries regarded by the poor as 'boarding schools' free of charge.

I asked Mark what he could do with $120,000. That amount seemed a bit out of his league, so he answered the question with $5,000 in mind. That amount would allow him to do the following for 10 children, who currently reside in institutional care:
- tracing parents and engaging with them,
- placing at risk children into temporary institutions,
- reintegrate these 10 children, and
- monitoring them for at least 6 months.
Included would be the payments for all the necessary people needed to get the job done, including police officers, social workers and a driver. It also included health checks for the 10 children and so-called resettlement kits. Further it included counseling for the parents, engaging with the community and linking the family of the resettled children to other support services.

God helped 4 kids for $120,000 and Mark 'saved' 48 children for that same amount.

Mark and Keren Riley are very much aware that even more important than reuniting kids with their original families, it is to make sure that children don't land in institutional care in the first place. When in a poor Ugandan family one of the parents dies it is hard for the widow or widower, who has to go out to work for long, long days, to take care of the children. There is often no other choice than institutional care.

A pastor from Chubbuck (ID), who went with his wife on a series of missionary trips to Jinja, Uganda, was confronted with this situation. The pastor befriended a driver, Kelima, who was happily married with Falidah. The couple had a newborn called Grace. When Grace fell seriously ill, the pastor as a good friend paid for the treatment. And then, on March 17, 2014, young mother Falidah unexpectedly died. Kelima, not able to take care for his daughter, and wanting to avoid an orphanage for his child, offered Grace to the pastors' couple for adoption. They accepted the offer a bit over a month after Falidah's death and as the interview they gave to the Idaho State Journal at the end of last year stated: 'The wheels of international adoption were set in motion.' They hired an international adoption agency in Washington DC, and a lawyer in Uganda 'to work through the system in that country - a system marred by kickbacks and corruption. The entire adoption process has cost [the couple] thousands.' And Grace was in Idaho just after Christmas 2014 * Bethany's estimate of an adoption from Uganda is around $45.000.

In Jinja, the same Jinja where Grace was from, friends of Mark and Keren Riley run an organization called Abide Family Center. Abide works for family preservation: they 'believe that every parent deserves the chance to prove they are able to care for their children and all efforts should be exhausted before taking a child away from their family.' And elsewhere on their website they state 'that poverty should never be the reason children are separated from their families'.

One of the non-Ugandan Abide staff members, Megan Parker wrote from the perspective of a follower of Christ a moving and very personal piece about the tension between immediate help through international adoption and the more profound help through family preservation, about personal love versus charitable love, I'm Not His Answer:

'Every once in a while a child comes along and I fall a little bit too hard in love. And once again I want to be the answer. The part of me that was born to be a mom wants to be their mom. And it takes everything in me to remember not now. God is saying not now. Right now I'm called to staying late in the office, hop[p]ing on planes when needed, living on a meager paycheck, giving Abide my all. Not now.'

Without doubt the Chubbuck pastors' couple was aware of the existence of Abide, its staff, its sentiments and its goals. And still they spent a godly $45,000 on a high speed expidited adoption. And what could Abide have done with that money? January 28, 2015 Abide posted on Facebook the following: 'Today we are looking for a sponsor for Ruth. [You] can sponsor Ruth to keep her children at home and out of an orphanage at $50 a month.' If we imagine that Ruth and her kids need five years of support, then would that come to a total of $3,000.

The pastoral incarnation of God on earth spent for 1 child an amount that would allow Abide help 15 families for 5 years.

I know that God is almighty and just and leads his flock to do the right thing. I don't doubt him in general in his work in international child care, even after my calculations. I only wish he would become a bit a more proficient in math. Because these computations, favoring family preservation over adoption, not only work in Uganda, Ukraine, China and Ethiopia, but also in Vietnam, Congo, Niger, India and the approximately 50 other countries where good willing Christian Americans want to save children.

*Because of legal issues with this international adoption I didn't give the names of the pastor and his wife. The interview appeared on December 7, 2014 in the Idaho State Journal under the title: Waiting for Grace: Pastor Jumping Hoops to bring Ugandan Girl Home. It was, when the Ugandan child welfare community started to discuss the piece, taken down from the site. My request to the newspaper to repost it was not honored. I retrieved it anyway through a paysite with the help of researcher Arun Dohle of Against Child Trafficking.