Shopping for an adoption agency is not exactly like shopping for a car. You don’t get to test drive “the product”; you can’t haggle over prices, and you don’t have a 90-day warranty if something goes wrong. But choosing an adoption agency is probably the single most important decision you ever make in your adoption journey. They are your liaison between you and government entities (sometimes international entities) and the courts. They are a valuable resource in locating attorneys, filing important paperwork, and getting matched for a child who is available for adoption.
An adoption social worker can make or break your adoption experience. A good adoption worker will respect you and your values, give you an overview of the process, understands your needs, actively listens to you, and will help you discover your strengths and needs. A bad adoption social worker will have bad communication, miss deadlines, and will generally be unsupportive. Having a good adoption social worker is the difference between eating at a 5-star restaurant or eating at Burger King!
Christians generally choose a Christian adoption agency for a myriad of reasons but mostly because they want shared values. They want to find an agency that shares what they believe, will not discriminate, and who will not judge them simply because they choose to homeschool for religious reasons or simply because they believe in creationism rather than the theory of evolution.
If you are an expectant mother wishing to place your child in a loving, adoptive home and you are looking for a Christian agency, there are certain things you need to know.
1. The vast majority of Christian agencies are pro-life. This means that they view the fetus as a real-life human being and will value the child’s life.
2. Christian agencies value the expectant mom and seek to empower her. They will help you to explore your choices and help you choose a direction that is best for you and your baby.
3. Christian agencies will be there for you after you give birth. They will not abandon you, and they will not judge you. Additionally, they will help you even if you decide to keep and raise the baby on your own.
4. Christian agencies will strive to show God’s love. A good Christian agency will do everything they can to meet your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual needs. This type of unconditional love is rare but needed in a time of crisis.
Why is there a need for Christian agencies?
The church has often been at the forefront of social care—in general—and of children, specifically. From the pilgrims to the abolitionists to the Civil Rights movement to the pro-life movement, every time there was a major social change, Christians were there, taking the lead. The faith-based community has also been taking the lead in orphan care. Christian adoption agencies and child relief agencies have been at the forefront of caring for children. Agencies such as Compassion International, Samaritans Purse, and World Vision have been at the forefront of providing relief and aid for the world’s most vulnerable citizens: children.
How are Christian agencies the same as secular agencies?
– They have the same local, state, federal, and court regulations. Many Christians are frustrated at the state of the Child Welfare System in the U.S. As such, they turn to faith-based agencies to mitigate some of their concerns. The reality is, whether you choose a Christian agency or a secular one, you will still have to work with the same rules and regulations set down by state, local, and federal governments. This will not change.
For example, some adoptive applicants will have to abide by an age requirement of their state. All parents must abide by the guidelines set forth by the FDA, CDC, and Health and Human Services. Of course, it should go without saying that all parents, regardless of their faith, must abide by their state Child Protective Services rules. Lastly, all adoptions are finalized in a court of law, which all adoptive parents must respect.
– They have the “same” children. Whether you choose a faith-based agency or not, most agencies have the same pool of children that are available for adoption, especially those who have been in the foster care system. This may not be the case in a private adoption where you already have an identified child who is not referred to an agency. But especially in international agencies, the children overseas are available to all applicants, regardless of the adoption agency they belong to here in the U.S.
– They have the same governments. If a parent is pursuing international adoption, they will have to abide by international law in general and respect the laws of the nation with whom they wish to adopt. This is true whether the U.S. adoption agency is Christian or not.
How are Christian agencies different from other agencies?
We expect Christians to be different. As such, we expect Christian agencies to be different as well. If they were the same, many Christians would be disappointed. But there are differences.
– Christian Social Workers. The first and most obvious difference is that a Christian agency will have social workers who profess to be Christians. These special people were hired not only because of their competence and expertise in adoption, but also because of their faith. Your worker will pray for you, pray with you, and will support you spiritually. They will be churchgoers and will understand, respect, and support your right to express your faith. How are Christian agencies different from other agencies? They have workers who are Christians.
– Marriage. Another major difference in Christian agencies is their stance on marriage. Many Christian adoption agencies (not all) believe that a healthy marriage is central to a healthy adoption. As such, there may be restrictions that some of these agencies have that a nonsectarian agency may not have. One may look at these restrictions and feel discriminated against. If that is the case, search for an agency that meets your needs and shares your beliefs. But the reason why many evangelical Christians have these restrictions is not out of hatred but out of love for God. It is also because they take a more literal approach to interpretation of scripture. Here are some:
Married Couples. Many Christian adoption agencies accept applications only from married couples. Their reasoning is that children thrive the best under the careful guidance of a mom and a dad—that two loving adults can help a child in need because of the support that they give to one another. They believe that children thrive when they have an example of a loving man who loves his wife and a respectful woman who supports her husband. Many children have not seen these examples, and therefore, a family unit would be revolutionary to them.
Marriage Minimums. Another restriction a Christian agency may have is that the married couple may need to be married for a minimum amount of time. This may be anywhere from being required to be married for 3 months to 3 years. The rationale for that is there needs to be a firm foundation of a solid marriage so that there will be a solid adoption. The longer a couple is married, the more established they will be.
No singles. I have personally met and certified many single foster parents and single adoptive parents. However, many Christian adoption agencies do not accept applications from singles. Again, they believe that a couple is stronger and can offer more support than a single parent.
How are Christian agencies different from other agencies? They are different in their view of marriage.
– Pastoral reference. Many Christian adoption agencies require applicants to submit a pastoral reference. The purpose of this is to confirm whether the applicants are active members of a church. Pastors that have a relationship with the applicants show that the applicants are 1) willing to submit to his leadership and 2) willing to be held accountable. This speaks volumes, showing the character of the applicants. How are Christian agencies different from other agencies? They value the position of pastor.
– Christian testimony. Some Christian adoption agencies require testimony. A testimony is a statement of how a person came to his or her faith, what difference has Christ made in that individual’s life, and how that person is walking with the Lord today? Christian adoption agencies want to work with strong Christians. A Christian testimony is usually a snapshot of what type of Christian you are. How are Christian agencies different from other agencies? They value the Christian testimony.
What should I do if am a Christian seeking to adopt?
– Pray. If you are a Christian and you are shopping for a Christian agency, the first thing you need to do is pray. Prayer is a powerful tool that we have in seeking God’s guidance. Pray that God gives you wisdom, that God leads you to the right agency, and that God prepares you for the child for whom you can fully serve. Perhaps there is a child out there waiting for you. Perhaps God wants you to wait. Perhaps God would rather you apply to a secular company. Perhaps God is leading you to not adopt but rather to serve children another way.
– Consult the Bible. Read the Word! The Bible focuses on the weak in our society, especially widows and orphans. Read about who God wanted the people of Israel to serve. Read about who Jesus reached out to. Read about what Jesus said about children. Some key scriptures are James 1:27.
– Seek godly wisdom. In a multitude of counselors, there is wisdom. Speak to people whom you trust to make a wise decision. Speak to couples who have already adopted to get their perspective on what the process was like. Speak to clients of the adoption agency you are going to apply with and get a recommendation. Speak with grown adoptees on what it was like growing up in an adoptive home. The more opinions you get, the better.
– Do research. Do a side-by-side comparison of adoption agencies. See what they have to offer and whether they share your values. See how long they have been in business. Also, ask for their application guidelines. This way, you can make an informed decision, and you will know what their expectations are and won’t be caught off-guard down the road.
– Statement of faith. If you apply with a Christian adoption agency, ask if they have a statement of faith. This is a document that lists exactly what they believe. A statement of faith may include what the agency believes about the following: God, the Bible, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the afterlife. You may realize that you are on the same page, or you may realize that you are not even in the book!
If you are an expectant mom seeking to place your child for adoption, you should do all of the above also! Pray, Bible reading, counseling, and research is always a good idea for any life decision you make. It could also be a good idea to seek out other birth mothers you can speak with who have been in a similar place that you find yourself in now. You can visit Birth Mothers Amplified to join a community of birth mothers who have placed a child for adoption who share their stories and answer questions.
What Christian agencies are there?
The Gladney Center for Adoption is an adoption agency that has helped many Christian expectant parents find hopeful adoptive families who are also Christian whom they can place their child with. Gladney has been part of the adoption world for 130 years and was first founded by Christians. Their mission is to help children find loving, forever families. Although Gladney is not technically considered a Christian agency, they have and always will help expectant parents and hopeful adoptive families of faith, Christian or other faiths, with their own individual adoption journeys.
Derek Williams is an adoption social worker and has been in the field of child welfare and behavioral health since 2006, where he has assisted families in their adoption journeys. He and his wife started their own adoption journey in 1993 and have 8 children, 6 of whom are adopted. His adopted children are all different ethnicities, including East Indian, Jamaican, and Native American. He loves traveling with his family and is an avid NY Mets fan! Foster care and adoption is a passion and calling for Derek and he is pleased to share his experiences with others who are like-minded.