The Other Side of Adoption

Lora Lynn and her husband leave for Uganda tomorrow, the final leg of a quest to enfold a new baby girl into their family. I am thrilled, both because I believe in adoption with every mitochondria in my being and because I buy Hope Suds from Lora Lynn, which helps fund their adoption. (Which means my laundry not only smells fantastic, but it’s slightly-more-holy than ordinary laundry.)

You better believe I’ll be following her journey online. And I’ll be whispering prayers over the other friends I have traveling the adoption road.

As the wife of an adopted orphan, I am blessed beyond expression when I watch a family adopt. It seems like the Holy Spirit is moving today’s generation to live out James 1:27. Everywhere I turn, Christians are talking about orphan care and foster parenting and rescuing children out of poverty. My soul swells with encouragement.

But you know what else is encouraging? The fact that the Church is starting to be honest about the difficulties adopting families can face, especially when adopting a child from hard places. Because while adoption is a holy calling, and there is a side to it that thrills with hope and love and anticipation, it is also hard, unspeakably hard and filled with grief, especially if you adopt a child like my husband.

Many of you know Corey’s story. He is the son of an American GI, born to a Korean woman, deserted at an early age, left to survive on the streets or, worse, be abused in various foster homes. Through a series of God-moments, he was adopted by an American family, a couple who had adopted a Korean baby a few years earlier. This time, they hoped to adopt a Korean boy, an older brother for their bouncy baby girl, a son who would complete their family.

Suffice it to say, they had no idea what they were getting into. The boy they picked up at the Minneapolis airport was probably close to seven years old (no birth certificate, so we don’t know his age), a child who was riddled with disease and parasites (on a doctor’s advice, they burned everything he brought with him from Korea), a boy who had never known love or stability or family.

He didn’t speak a word of English. He didn’t know how to eat the split pea soup they fed him for his first meal. (Poor choice, perhaps.) Once he did understand they had food for him in the house, he hoarded it and hid it in his room. He tried to run away when they took him to school, because he thought he was being left at another orphanage.

He didn’t attach easily (or at all), preferring instead to stay safely withdrawn. He had frequent nightmares that he never explained. He didn’t trust. He didn’t cuddle. He didn’t tell his parents anything about his past. He mocked therapy.

Corey was not the sweet little boy his parents expected. He was streetwise, scared and suspicious, even years after his adoption was finalized. I know his parents struggled. How do you love a boy who won’t let himself be loved? Did they do the right thing by adopting him? Would he have been better off in his own country?

To their credit and because of God’s great mercy, they persevered. They didn’t send him back. They kept loving him, kept feeding him, kept clothing him. I’m sure adoptive parents today, armed with volumes of knowledge about orphan psychology, would view their actions as clumsy and sometimes misguided. But back then, knowledge about children coming from hard places was nil. They had no choice but to grope through the dark and do the best they could.

That is why I am so heartened to see a honest discussion today about how we can support families who adopt kids from hard places. Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, says it best:
We have every reason to celebrate the wonder of adoption, explore its theological and earthly significance, and highlight the blessing it can be to both child and parent. We must keep the Gospel always at the very center, as both our motivation and the wellspring of perseverance in difficulty. But we must also increasingly place a strong accent on both preparation for potential challenges of adoption and provision of support when challenges do arise. We must not only affirm this need, but also lead in helping to meet it.

Perhaps it may sound overblown, but I believe there is no single factor with greater potential to derail the growing Christian commitment to adoption and foster care than failure in this point. This is especially true as Christian families increasingly open themselves to the adoption of older and special needs children. In short, for every enthusiastic but ill-prepared and poorly-supported adoptive family that crashes on the rocks of unanticipated challenges, dozens of others will permanently write off the call to adopt.
- from The Most Significant Challenge Facing Adoption in America

I am so glad Corey’s parents didn’t permanently shipwreck on those rocks. And in a twist of fate only God can orchestrate, today Corey is on the board of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, raising awareness of the plight of orphans around the world.

The discussion will continue at The Idea Camp: Orphan Care conference next month in Arkansas. If you aren’t aware of The Idea Camp yet – I tell people it’s like a Christian TED, only the participants are the idea gurus, not necessarily the speakers. But don’t take my word for it; click through and check it out.

And if you don’t make it to The Idea Camp in February, you might consider attending the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit in Louisville, Kentucky in May with me and Corey. Just don’t try to hug Corey when you see him. He’s an orphan adopted from a hard place. He has issues.


  1. This is great to read. We are in the process of adopting a 2 year old boy from Korea. He may be 3 by the time we actually get him home. I worry about the issues of language and attachment because of his age. Happily, though, he's been in a loving foster family since he was a month old so at least he has that stability. Anyway, it's going to be quite a journey! Thanks for writing about this subject.

  2. Loved this. As I have learned about Reactive attachment disorder (through the wonderful world of blogging) I have felt called to pray for these families and their kids. It is a LONG road for them to walk.
    It seems so small a thing to do, but we continue to give to organizations that work to lessen the circumstances that would cause families to adopt out adoption and to support those who do adopt.

  3. Thanks for taking (precious) time to write this. Reading it is a great reminder that God often calls us to do hard things and we need to help each other through that. I don't think adoption is a calling on our family, but I do know that we are all called to support each other in following the desires God places on our hearts. I think there are many areas of the Christian life that fit into this discussion about the hard or difficult side of good things. For my husband and I, as Catholics, we want to see more people talk about the struggles in being faithful to the call to be open to life through marriage. We know there are great graces in it, but we also know that it can be incredibly hard. So I try to tell the couples we help prepare for marriage the truth, without making them feel like it is impossible. Just telling people that the struggles they feel are normal can give them the encouragement to wait patiently for the untold blessings to come.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to write this. I have seen the struggles adoptive parents sometimes have through my pastor and his wife. They adopted a sweet little girl from China a year ago and through her private blog shared/shares their struggles! Thank you for putting these issues out there!

  5. We adopted from foster care here. I think ALL adoptions are necessary and righteous. These children need love regardless of location. If I had the money I would consider adopting international, but overall we had a great experience with our county DFCS.
    Praying for all adoptive families!

  6. I'll hug him anyway : )

    Love this post. Just last night Josh and I were talking about adoption and how God has so broken our hearts for underprivileged kids. The thing that gives us hope while they wait for forever families is that God loves them even more than we do.

  7. Thank you for sharing this! I am enjoying your blog so much. (I think this is the first time I have commented.) We have so many friends around us fostering and adopting right now. We have prayed about it and while we don't feel the Lord is leading us to adopt, there is no reason why we can't support others in their journey :D God Bless you and you're beautiful family!

  8. Fantastic post, Kelly. Just so, so good.

  9. I love reading this. Because people need to see the authentic and realness that it's not all a bed of roses. There are many thorns, but God knows every one of those thorns.

  10. Bravo and well said. We adopted domestically twice. Our second process involved a boy from a "hard place". It has been years and many mercies of God that have shown heart blessing for every heart sorrow. It was very definitely (and still is) the support of Christian friends that enabled us to remember His faithfulness when disorder threatened to overwhelm. This is a much needed clarion call to intentional action by churches and believers.

  11. Thank you. I've recently become afraid of those rocks. I've been praying for that fear to be lifted, and through reading this post it has been, I can see the hope again.

  12. I'm so thankful for Corey's parents. I mean, wow. I think of his story often and just have this urge to give him a big hug next time I see him, so thanks for the warning. Whew. Close call.

    Have you read this post by Shaun Groves? I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since I read it a few days ago. A totally different perspective of adoption, one that Corey might appreciate. It's a sucker punch to the heart.

  13. Ahhh yes. The link. I always forget you're not psychic.

  14. I love this post, friend. It is honest and powerful and asks good questions. I loved reading more of your husband's story, more of your story. I loved that you are willing to raise tough questions about when things start crumbling.

    You are amazing. I love reading here. Really, really.

  15. cool about the soap--sounds like what i make