An Orphan's Crusade to Paradise

For some, Paradise is a long lost garden, bound to a time when Man and God walked together. For others, Paradise is the promise of an idyllic afterlife. For Lydia Schatz, Paradise was a hell hole in the northern foothills of California's Central Valley.

Lydia Schatz was one of three children adopted from Liberia in 2007, by Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz. Lydia Schatz is no more. On February 6 of this year, Lydia died on her way to a hospital. She had been beaten for hours with a length of plastic tubing, for the mispronunciation of the word “pulled”, during one of the children's homeschooling sessions.

Lydia's sister, Zacharia received similar beatings that same day. Lucky for her, she made it to the hospital alive, and survived the torture her adoptive parents administered.

The abuse of adopted children is not an uncommon phenomenon. Over the years, hundreds of cases have made the news. It is very likely many other abuse after adoption cases never became public.

The abuse of Lydia and Zacharia, is not even the only case of a Liberian child abused within an adoptive family.

In 2005, Ardee and Penny Sue Tyler adopted five sisters from Liberia. Like the Schatzes, the Tylers were a very devout Christian homeschooling couple. With financial help from their local church, the couple had been able to fly to Liberia and returned with the five sisters.

Soon after the children started living with the Tylers, one of them got in “trouble” with the adoptive couple on an almost daily bases. As a punishment, the child was tied to a chair and had to sleep outside or in a shed. The adopted child had to go without food for weeks, all because the adopters believed Satan had control over the girl.

The commonalities between the Schatz case and the Tyler case are not incidental. Adoption from Africa, in general, and from Liberia in particular, are very much driven by religious motivations.

West African Children Support Network (WACSN), the now defunct adoption agency responsible for the placement of the Tyler children, welcomed visitors to their website with statements like:

Let us come together and do as our dear saviour teaches us to do!
Let us put ourselves last and others first!
Let us come together and glorify His Holy Name!
Come Holy Spirit come!

In the world of Christian adoptions, the Holy Spirit commeth when the right amount of money is paid to an adoption agency and its affiliates. From where those children originate, and the suitability of the families with whom they are placed, seems a lesser concern.

WACSN, like several other adoption agencies operating in Africa, has been engaged in fraudulent activities to obtain children for adoption. Parents were told children were going overseas for education, while in reality they were sold for adoption to couples believing these children to be orphans.

The trafficking of children for the inter-country adoption market is certainly not something new. It has been part and parcel of inter-country adoption since Canada started shipping infants to the United States in the 1920's.

Reckless placement of children with unsuitable families is not new either. Abuse in adoptive family cases go back to the mid-1900's, the time when the first adoption laws were instituted.

Adoption as a religious cause is not new, either. Catholic charities, Lutheran social services, and Jewish family services, have been involved in adoption for at least a century.

What is new is a concerted effort made by the American evangelical movement to make the plight of the “orphan” a central part of their cause and relief. Over the last decade, many churches have launched adoption ministries, promoting the adoption of “orphans”, and in many cases, provided financial support for members of their congregation to adopt these “orphans”.

The evangelical “orphan crusade” is rooted in a very flexible notion of the word “orphan”. Unless a child is living with and raised by its two parents, it is deemed an “orphan”. As a result, there are millions and millions of “orphans” in this world, all of whom are, apparently, in desperate need to be saved by “good Christian people”.

In reality, few of the so-called “orphans” are actually in need of alternative care. The children in-care may be called “orphans”, but most have at least one living parent; many children are cared for by living extended family members. As a result, not all that many “orphans” are actually adoptable. To create the proper supply of “orphans”, the crusaders have to use deception and coercion to remove a child from the care it receives and make it available for the highly competitive inter-country adoption market.

As the case of the Schatzes and that of the Tylers show, “good Christian families” can easily not be in the best interest of a child. Imagine what it's like to grow up in a country like Liberia, and suddenly have to behave like a child in “Little House on the Prairie”. Imagine what it's like when harsh discipline is used anytime “good Christian values” are misunderstood.

Lydia Schatz died in Paradise, one month ago, because she couldn't adhere to her adopters “good Christian values”. The Tyler child was starved, tied up, and forced to sleep outside, because she couldn't adhere to her adopters “good Christian values”. The other Tyler girls have learned to believe their sister is “evil”, and followed “good Christian family values” by shunning their sister when the Tylers had to appear in court.

Just like any other religious crusade, the mission to “save the orphans”, largely makes victims and creates it's own damage. Despite all international adoptions made from Liberia and other countries in Africa, millions of children still need better food, better clothing, cleaner water. Bringing a few thousand children to the Western World doesn't do anything for those millions left-behind. The promise of a better life in places like Paradise, cannot be guaranteed. In fact, for some so-called orphans, staying put would be preferred to being saved.

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