By Joleigh Little
Editor’s note. Although we are past November and “National Adoption Month,” there is no timetable on articulate, passionate expressions of the importance of adoption. Joleigh wrote this for me earlier this year but there are so many new NRL News Today readers coming on each and every week and I want them to be able to share the love.
You’ve all heard it. The story about the little boy walking along the beach and tossing back the starfish that had washed up on shore and were doomed to die there. An old man chastises the boy that the problem is too vast and that his work won’t make a difference. The boy responds, “It will make a difference to this one,” and throws a single starfish back to safety.
In a way, this simple tale encompasses all that we do for the cause of life.
So often we are confronted with vast numbers—1.2 million children lost to abortion every year in the United States. Who can even fathom that?
But we can wrap our minds and hearts around the one. The one we can save. This is what drives those in our ranks who daily work in pregnancy resource centers.
It is also what drives those among us who adopt.
I cannot count the times I have heard someone on the other side challenge, “But who is going to adopt all of those unwanted babies?” I’m guessing that every single one of you reading this has heard that argument, which really isn’t much of an argument at all.
First of all, there is literally no such thing as a child who is unwanted. Currently in the United States, for every baby born, there are approximately 36 couples waiting to adopt. This is also true for babies born with special needs.
Just last June while attending the NRL Convention, I learned of a little boy born with spina bifida who needed a family, and quickly. Literally the second person to whom I spoke told me with tears in her eyes that her daughter and her husband were waiting to adopt. As it turned out, by the time they contacted the person representing the birth mom, a number of other families had already applied to adopt this little one. He was not “unwanted” even in light of his handicap.
No child is.
Current estimates worldwide put the number of orphans (children without families due to a variety of reasons, including abandonment) at 147 million. Talk about a number that is beyond human comprehension.
Most of these children are waiting in orphanages for a family to call their own. Many wait because they have special needs. Some wait simply because they are over the age of three and are considered “harder to place.” Every single one of those children is precious beyond measure and deserving of a family to love them. And while the number is truly overwhelming, the reality is actually pretty simple. These children are not unwanted—they just haven’t yet been matched with the right parents.
All it takes to transform a child’s life is a family. That may be a mom and a dad who already have 10 biological children or a couple that struggles with infertility. Or it might be a single mom or dad ready to raise a child who would otherwise have no one.
I’ve heard every possible reason not to adopt. But when all of those questions have been considered, it really boils down to this: Do I have enough love? And can I afford to feed and clothe that child until he or she is able to make a living independently? If the answer to both of those critical questions is “yes,” the rest can be worked out.
The need is vast and it is immediate.
In one orphanage in eastern Europe, children with special needs such as Down syndrome and cerebral palsy are left to wither in their cribs. One little girl recently adopted by a family in Pennsylvania weighed a mere 11 pounds at the age of nine years. She has been home less than two months and is thriving—gaining weight and strength and radiating an incredible joy. All that was necessary to bring this child back to life from absolute despair and near fatal starvation was a family willing to bring her home.
In that same orphanage other children wait in a very similar condition, desperate for families of their own.
Hours away, little Sofia waits. She is three and was born with spina bifida. Her big dark eyes speak volumes and the care taken with her hair and clothing makes it clear that she is a favorite among the workers in her orphanage. But she waits in a country where medical care, even among those who can afford it, is far less effective than it would be here in the states. And she is an orphan. While she is fed and clothed, she doesn’t have a mom or a dad to advocate for her care—to make sure that she gets the best treatment possible. And, more importantly, to give her the love that she needs in order to thrive. She is one of many.
Patrick is four and has some developmental delays but is otherwise healthy. He is a shy little boy who would do very well in a family where he was given personal attention.
Cecily is five. She has a form of cystic fibrosis that, thankfully, doesn’t affect her respiratory system and presents itself primarily in her intestinal tract. She likes to sing and social workers warmly recommend her for adoption.
Christopher is also five and was given an initial diagnosis of infantile cerebral palsy, which has not been confirmed medically. It is common to give such diagnoses in eastern Europe when a child simply has motor and other mild developmental delays. Sadly, this scares off many potential adoptive parents.
Lana is three and has cerebral palsy. She is described as a calm child who interacts well with adults and smiles and laughs loudly when attention is paid to her. She is fortunate to be a part of a program in which a foster grandmother spends a portion of each day interacting one-on-one with her.
In eastern Europe alone, tens of thousands of children wait, among them many infants and toddlers with Down syndrome and sibling groups of school-aged children.
What each of these children has in common is a desperate need for someone to love them. For someone to tell them they are worth everything. For someone to come get them and bring them HOME.
And who is better equipped to do this than we who make up this vast and amazing movement? Let’s answer that baited question about who will adopt all of those “unwanted” children. (Right before we explain that “unwanted” just isn’t in our vocabulary.)
There will be dozens of reasons that pop into your head about why you “can’t,” but I would challenge you to work through those questions to the two very basic ones listed above. And don’t let finances stop you. International adoptions are expensive, but more and more “ordinary” people are stepping forward, putting pride on the altar, and fundraising to help bring these children home. And still others who are not currently able to adopt are thrilled to contribute to a child’s future. So it’s really just a matter of stepping out in faith. A scary thing, sure, but one that needs to be done.
I did. In less than two months I will travel to eastern Europe to bring my daughter home. Clara is two and a half. She is the light of my life, although one I have only been able to glimpse in photos and short videos. In the time it has taken to navigate the piles of paperwork and the seemingly endless waits for various governmental agencies to process documents, this child has become mine. I cannot wait to hold her in my arms.
To look into her eyes and tell her that she belongs—that she is precious beyond measure. I’m even looking forward to the struggles that I know we’ll face together. Clara has special needs, but in my eyes this child is sheer perfection. I’m eager to start the sometimes difficult, but always rewarding work of being her mommy. And I know that I won’t do it alone because I have the support of my entire pro-life family behind me.
Please give these children more than a passing thought. Let’s give them homes. Let’s give them families who recognize that they were precious beyond measure from the moment of their conception. Let’s bring them into a community that will treasure them regardless of their level of “ability.” Let’s give them hope and a future. Let’s advocate for them physically, spiritually, medically, and emotionally. And finally, let’s put our money where our mouths are and have been for the last 39 years.
“Who will adopt these ‘unwanted’ children?” I will. We will. Let’s do it!
If you are interested in adopting Sofia, Patrick, Cicely, Christopher, Lana, or any of the infants and toddlers with Down syndrome or sibling groups mentioned above, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you’re not yet sure about adoption I would encourage you to visit www.rainbowkids.com or www.reecesrainbow.com, look into the eyes of the children who wait, and ask yourself, “Can I?” If the answer is “yes,” take the first step.
Editor’s note. Joleigh and Clara now live in Wisconsin where Joleigh uses Facebook to keep her many friends and supporters updated.