How Do You Know If You're Called to Adopt?
Have you ever prayed a dangerous prayer? The kind of prayer that—if answered—will shake up your life, change everything, and force you to lean on Jesus every hour? The kind that self-sufficiency will not answer?
Years ago when my husband was pastoring overseas, he encouraged members of our congregation to pray a dangerous prayer for themselves or their family. During his sermon he passed out notecards. He asked them to document something they suspected God might be calling them to do but that they hadn’t been willing to fully consider or pray for because it felt too scary. Too dangerous. Too out there. Too faith-stretching.
Many of our dear friends and fellow church members wrote down, “Adopt a child.” And now, many of them are raising those adopted children.
It’s common to hear young Christian couples say, “Of course, one day, we’d like to adopt.” It’s almost a cliché. But in our good desire to care for orphans, we shouldn’t enter thoughtlessly into adoption.
Called to Care for Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Scripture is clear that our God is a tender Father who desires to welcome and care for the needy. He is a “helper of the fatherless” (Ps. 10:14).
In the way that our heavenly Father has pursued us, loved us, and made us sons, he asks us to do the same in his name. James tells us that pure religion requires us to visit orphans in their affliction (James 1:27). Isaiah calls us to bring justice to the fatherless (Isa. 1:17). God’s desire is to set the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6).
This command is obeyed in hundreds of ways by followers of Christ. When we invite people to know and love Christ and then bring them into the family of the local church, we reflect God’s welcome to outsiders. When we care for the needy in our midst, we display the love that God first showed us.
Orphan care is one important aspect of our concern for the spiritually and materially needy.
The question is, How do you know if you’re called specifically to adoption or foster care?
As an adoptive mom and a friend to dozens of other adoptive families, my encouragement to you is to pray and to seek the Scriptures. In addition, here are some practical and tangible benchmarks that may help you determine if adoption or foster care are God’s will for you.
The first consideration is unity in your marriage. Spouses must agree. Adopting a child will not fix anything you sense missing in your marriage or family. In fact, without strong unity, the stresses of orphan care can worsen your relational strength with each step forward.
A marriage need not be perfect (no one’s is!), but it must be able to weather the ups and downs of integrating a new—and likely traumatized—child into your home. If your spouse isn’t ready to adopt, then pray for God to move and change his or her heart. No amount of nagging is worth it—you want God-ordained unity.
You and your spouse should have a thorough understanding of what adoption or foster care entails. Before determining that you’re called to adopt, it would be wise to attend local classes, read several books, and make intimate friendships with other adoptive families. It’s important that you understand adoptive children’s experiences of loss, grief, and trauma. You’ll also need to be aware of what will be required of you as you seek to help your child and stay emotionally healthy as a family.
The challenges of orphan care do not have intuitive solutions. As you research, you may find that you desire the idea of adoption and caring for vulnerable children more than you understand what it’s like in real life.
Major life decisions like this one are best made in community. Do you have a strong and biblically grounded church? How does your leadership feel about you pursuing adoption? What does your small group think? What do your closest and most mature Christian friends think?
It’s also vital to consider some practical matters. Are you financially stable? Can you provide appropriate medical, educational, and developmental support to a child? Do you have a clean record of conduct toward children? Do you have space in your home? If you already have children, how would they be affected by an adoption? You and your spouse and your community must consider: Are there needs or pressures in your home that currently make adoption unwise?
Being an adoptive or foster family will be an arduous and unpredictable journey. It’s important that the godly people near you agree that God is calling you to this and that he has equipped you to move forward. Heed the warnings of loved ones who are both trustworthy and knowledgeable.
I don’t know of an adoption or foster journey that has gone as planned. It requires great faith before your child even comes home, not to mention the days and years of parenting ahead. Parents who do well are parents who are fully surrendered to the Lord—parents who realize that they can’t do this, but Christ in them can.
In adoption, only Jesus is the hero. No matter how prepared you are, how educated you are, how much love you have, you and your child will both need the supernatural healing power of Jesus in a way you can’t fathom before that day comes. A humble heart that clings to Christ is a must.
Asking God if he has adoption or foster care for you is indeed a dangerous prayer. If God calls you, you will need to lean on Jesus every hour. Self-sufficiency will not do. But it’s also a deeply joy-filled calling, an opportunity to abide in our Father who loves the fatherless, and a chance to live out gospel love in your own home.
Author’s Note: This article first appeared here, at The Gospel Coalition.