Adoption movement or "orphan" marketing ploy?
- Orphanology, the mind-bending rationalization of evangelical adoption
- An Orphan's Crusade to Paradise
- Challenging time for Christian adoption movement
- Reviewing Jedd Medefind's response to "The Evangelical Adoption Crusade"
- The problem with saving the world's 'orphans'
- Adoption: A calling or command?
- Adoption: When God Comes Knocking and Calling
- Adoption growing among evangelical Christians
This week, Goldman Sachs reported an 82% drop in earnings, while at the same time Bethany Christian Services reported a 66% increase in the number of inter-country adoptions performed. Both organizations are doing god's work in their own special way, yet Bethany Christian Services seems to have outscored the finance behemoth in success rate this year.
Not only Bethany Christian Services was in a gleeful mood, according to an article in Christianity Today, both Nightlight Christian Adoption and Buckner International were being content with the results booked this year as well.
The business opportunities created in the wake of the Haiti earthquake certainly have amplified the results for 2010, and demand seems to be rising, Bethany Christian Services reporting inquiries about inter-country adoption being up 95%. Both Nightlight and Buckner have seen "an uptick in interest from couples wanting to adopt".
Christianity Today is jubilant about the success booked, yet the article fails to relay the fact that adoption business primarily hit the jackpot this year with the earthquake in Haiti. Such a lucky break is not likely to be had every year.
With the exception of Ethiopia, inter-country adoption has been stagnating or in decline in all sending countries since 2005. Ethiopia's booming adoption market will likely make up for many of the losses made in the industry. Those agencies with prominent presence in the East-African country, such as Bethany Christian Services, will likely see good business cycles for the years 2010 and 2011, even with declining supply from China and strained relationships with Russia.
In 2001 the Romanian bubble burst, in 2008 the Guatemalan bubble burst, and at some point burst the Ethiopian bubble will burst. The question is not if this bubble will burst, but when it will.
In spite of a declining supply for inter-country adoption, a coalition of churches, adoption agencies and orphan care organizations, the Christian Alliance for Orphans, has revved up demand for adoptable children in evangelical circles. The Christian Alliance, of which Bethany, Nightlight and Buckner are prominent members, has for several years targeted evangelical churches throughout the nation to make adoption one of their central themes and apparently their strategy for this orphan crusade is paying off.
Part of the increase in demand is temporary. After the earthquake in Haiti, inquiries for adoption surged, as happens after every catastrophe. Even this website was contacted several times by people wanting to adopt Haitian children in the wake of the earthquake.
Despite the temporary peak in demand Haiti provided, demand for adoption in evangelical circles has been growing for years, due to the marketing campaigns of the members of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Given a steady decline in supply, this will only cause more tension in an already overheated adoption market.
For over a century, demand for adoptable children has exceeded supply, resulting in coercive practices, trafficking, illegal adoption and adoption fraud. Even during the 1950's and 1960's when supply was at its peak, demand largely outpaced the availability of adoptable children, leading to particularly coercive practices during that era.
It begs the question why the Christian Alliance for Orphans keeps inflating the demand for adoptable children, when at the same time there already is a declining supply. This doesn't seem to be fair to all those people being made enthusiastic about adoption, while knowing the increased demand can never be fulfilled.
Of course the Christian Alliance hopes to get the Families for Orphans Act through congress, which would allow the Department of State to make international aid dependent on the number of children a country supplies for adoption. This piece of legislation, like most bills in Congress, was written by the adoption industry to boost their business.
The likelihood of passage of such legislation very much depends on the power the alliance can assert in DC. The adoption industry, while making several billions of dollars each year, isn't rich enough to make the kind of campaign donations the insurance industry, the finance industry and big oil can cough up. So the legislation cannot simply be bought.
The alliance has one advantage over other industries, it can easily morph itself into a grass roots movement, without it being obvious they engage in astroturfing.
Christianity Today's article very much helps the industry in their goal to look grass-rootsy. It's title An Adoption Movement? Agencies Say Interest on Rise says it all. It questions if the rise in interest equates the rising of a movement, when in fact that movement was carefully orchestrated for years, knowingly creating expectations among evangelical Christians, the industry knew it was not capable to fulfill.
There is no question about the existence of a movement. It has been in existence for years, and powerful Christian organizations such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Focus on the Family, Southern Baptist Convention and the Saddleback Church have been promoting the agenda from the get go. For these organizations, the orphan crusade is not so much about increasing market share, like it is for the adoption agencies involved, but mostly a public relations campaign. Evangelical organizations have for decades fought against homosexuality, anti-conception, abortion, women's rights etc. Being always against something started to give evangelical organizations a bad name. Being for the adoption of "orphans" gives the evangelical movement a boost by being for something.
Just like campaigning against abortion and homosexuality does not lead to anything, campaigning for the adoption of "orphans" doesn't result in anything either. The Christian Alliance claims there are some 150 million orphans in this world, a hugely inflated number derived from a misreading of Unicef information. At the same time it claims adoption to be the solution to this "orphan crisis". Remarkably the number of inter-country adoptions was less than 15,000 last year, so annually one hundredth of one percent of children deemed "orphan" is adopted annually.
The orphan crusade, while being good PR for some evangelical organizations, and good for business for others, doesn't do anything for the problem they purport to tackle. The daily increase of "orphans" in this world is larger than the annual number of inter-country adoptions in the United States. At the same time the amount of money spent in "saving" a few (adoption cost amount to some $30,000 per child), could elevate the lives of millions of children.
In short: the orphan crusade both exploits the plight of disadvantaged children in this world, and the sentiments of its own constituents to further a business and a PR agenda. It's time the "movement" is being called out on that.