Monday, May 10, 2010

A Response to the Failure of an Adoption from a Russian Orphanage

Bret & Jacqueline Smith, April 2010

As the parents of eight adopted children, seven of which came from Soviet-bloc orphanages, we find ourselves very interested in the story which has recently hit the news about a 7 year old boy adopted from Russia, Artyom Savelyev, whose grandmother sent him back to Russia unescorted.

Our hearts still ache for the children we left behind in the four orphanages from whence our children came, as well as the hundreds of little boys in yet another orphanage that Jacqueline visited in Romania in 1993. The Romanian orphanage haunted her dreams for many years, until we were able to go to Kazakhstan, and later to Latvia to bring home children. The Romanian orphanage housed many deformed little boys who longed to touch her as she passed through their midst. Her hands still long to once again reach out and show love to those boys who looked longingly at her to see if she noticed them. As Christians, we believe God has called us to provide a home for children who have been orphaned. Because of the strong religious bias among US Children’s Service Agencies, international adoption was the least onerous way for us to make orphaned children a part of our family. It is our desire to advocate, constantly, for the thousands of other children who need homes.

Arman: Kazakhstan

Various people have often said to us, “You can’t save them all.” This reflects the same attitude that was taken by Christ’s critics. When he told them to love their neighbors as themselves, they asked him, “And who is my neighbor?” His response was the parable of the Good Samaritan, and it shows us what our response should be as well. God is not asking us to save them all. He just wants us to save one!

Nevertheless, even though we encourage successful, experienced, Christian parents to reach out and save a child, we also want to be upfront and realistic about the difficulties that must be faced. As we go to the uttermost parts of the world and seek to bring home and make a disciple of a child in a foreign orphanage, we must consider why he is there, and what damage those circumstances may have caused him. Were his parents alcoholics or drug addicts? Was his mother a prostitute? Did he have a deformity or some kind of impairment that caused the mother to be either unable or unwilling to handle him? What kind of malnourishment or other deprivations did he suffer before being taken into state care? After being taken into state care, under what constraints were his caregivers working?

Yerik: Kazakhstan

Due to extensive use of the E6_4 homeschool curriculum, our adopted children (for whom English is their second language) can quote more Bible than any other children we know. If you were to spend a day at church with our family, you would likely not even notice that these children have any significant problems. But these results come after years of sweat and tears, multiple surgeries and medical treatments, and an abundant supply of God’s mercy and grace! Every one of our adopted children have problems that our 4 birth children never faced. Cleft lip/palate, hydroencephaly, autism, fetal alchohol syndrome, drug positivity at birth, eyes that don’t track together, persistent intestinal infections and infestations – these are just some of the physical problems. We are sure that if we had taken them to the modern shamans of psychology for evaluation, they would have come out with a whole host of labels, including reactive attachment disorder (RAD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ad nauseum. We had successfully reared our 4 birth children into their teen years before we took on our first adoption, and we can tell you that we needed every bit of the experience we had acquired to that point to be able to achieve the results we have seen.

Madara: Latvia

So what about people who have no children and are looking to adopt? There seems to be a relatively high failure rate among these. Should we encourage these people in this endeavor?

First of all, we need to look at some basic biblical truth which our culture ignores. The Bible has a lot to say about orphans, and how important it is for people to help them. But in the more than 30 scripture passages of which we are familiar, they all describe an orphan the same way – FATHERLESS. The Bible makes it clear that children need fathers; Ephesians 6 tells us that it is the responsibility of FATHERS to train and instruct their children, and Malachi 6 tells us that the only way to avoid the curse of God on the land is for FATHERS to turn their hearts to their children. From a Biblical perspective, a child living with a mother and no father is considered an ORPHAN. What is the advantage of taking a child out of one situation where he is an orphan and putting him into a different situation where he is an orphan? People who do not acknowledge the authority of the Bible as God’s Word would argue, “Surely it’s better for a child to live here in America with a single mom than to stay in a foreign orphanage where there are few resources?” But that same argument could be made concerning 2 homosexual men living together who want to adopt, or a practicing child molester who wants to adopt, or a pimp who wants to adopt, etc. How far do you have to deviate from God’s pattern for families before it’s wrong?

If widows want to help orphans, there are things they can do besides adopt them. The situation is even worse for divorced women; God speaks plainly in Malachi chapter 2 when he says “I hate divorce,” and 1 Corinthians 7:14 has serious implications for the children of divorced parents. The bad fruit of this unbiblical practice of single women adopting children affirms the truth of God’s Word.

Wallace: Latvia

But what about the Christian couple for whom God has chosen not to open the womb? Are these good candidates for adoption? We believe so; but if a couple has no experience whatsoever with training a child, they would do well to consider adopting a child who is as healthy as possible. If they feel called to adopt a special needs child, then we would urge them to prepare themselves thoroughly, by acquiring and arranging the very best of resources, developing relationships with mentors, and seeking out and building solid friendships with godly families who are eager to support, help and encourage them when the going gets tough.

The third season of life, the season of a godly elder, is marked by an emphasis on providing hospitality, and we believe this is the best time for a family to take responsibility for one or more orphans. The godly elder is a man who “manages his own family well;” he has a robust and stable marriage with “a wife of noble character,” in whom “he has full confidence,” and “her children arise and call her blessed;” his “children obey him with proper respect,” and they “believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.” This man’s household is now equipped to take on the daunting task of snatching a child from the fire.

Madeks: Latvia

Make no mistake about it – these children are in great danger. Many of the children in eastern European and Asian orphanages will not survive to leave the orphanage. Those who do are typically significantly immature for their age, poorly trained, and ill-equipped to succeed in the world. Statistics indicate that 1 out of 10 who leave the orphanage at age 16-18 will commit suicide in the first year of being on their own. The girls will have a strong inducement to turn to prostitution, and the young men often turn to a life of crime and die young. And the most tragic outcome of all is the real possibility that they will never receive a true witness of Christ’s love and grace.

But while the need is great, a couple must not let that blind them to the dangers that they must be prepared to face when they undertake to adopt these children. We live in a culture which has rejected God’s commandments for dealing with the folly that “is bound up in the heart of a child,” and of which these orphans have a double or triple portion. We believe the main reason for the dismal success rates of discipling these orphans stems from the promotion of unbiblical techniques for dealing with these children’s numerous problems. These techniques, developed with public and private grant monies by pagan psychologists who are almost never in the process of rearing children of their own, are venerated and extolled in the media, by the children’s services departments of our government, and even by church pastors. And so even though it leads to the kind of failure that causes a grandmother to send a Russian child back to the country from whence he came, adoptive parents are expected to use these worthless methods, and are vilified if they choose to use biblical methods. We are working with several families who have experienced varying levels of religious persecution because of their commitment to biblical principles. A couple should take advantage of the hospitality that seasoned adoptive parents are usually pleased to offer, and visit with those who are in the very midst of the struggle to bring the process of American adoption under the sway of Christ’s dominion.

Madisen: Latvia

James 1:27 says “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” We should all care about the fatherless; we should thrill at the thought of helping these little ones become normal, happy, well-developed and well-educated adults. Most likely, this is also what little Artyom’s adoptive mother wanted for him as well. But she was misinformed. She thought it was a good thing for a single woman to adopt a child. She thought that if the child she was seeking to adopt had severe problems, someone would tell her -- or perhaps they did tell her and she just ignored it in her eagerness to adopt a child. She was ignorant of the help available to her when things began to deteriorate. She could have called her agency up and asked for a rehoming of the child. She could have contacted Chask, a Christian organization that helps families when problems arise, and that when all fails, will try to help find a suitable home for a child whose needs are too great to be met in their current home. And the grandmother made a foolish decision which jeopardized the futures of orphans all over the world, some of whom undoubtedly will never get adopted due to the aftermath of the media frenzy she created.

Gavido: Latvia

Before you consider adopting a child from similar circumstances, we would urge you to consider several things:

1. The difficulties in rearing such a child are better handled by a biblical family with a father and a mother.

2. Experience with children and a great support system are extremely important.

3. If God has called you to this, then He will help you through whatever difficulties you face, but you will most certainly find yourself needing to humble yourself before him and seek his wisdom and guidance.

4. No one can guarantee that the child you adopt is not emotionally disturbed; in fact, there is a very high likelihood that he will be emotionally disturbed. Even a child who is overwhelmed with happiness to leave behind a past that he despises, can find it difficult to adjust to a new home and new expectations.

5. You should carefully study the problems you are likely to face, determine beforehand what kinds of disabilities you believe you can handle, and develop realistic expectations of what you will have to do to succeed.

6. Worldly therapeutic methods of dealing with FAS, FAE, PTSD and other behavioral problems are debated intensely and constantly changing. Popular opinion about adoption issues, such as government regulation or the best practice for dealing with past events and birth parentage, are “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men.” You will find your greatest success will come from developing a high level of skepticism concerning anything coming from the “experts” of our culture, and rather acknowledging that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Search the scriptures, and talk to others who have searched the scriptures, for enlightenment concerning how to deal with your child’s problems.
7. Love will not quite be enough, but it is the starting point; it is the foundation on which we build a relationship with our adopted children. You will need to be prepared to give it, over and over again, even when your child has no understanding of it, and no apparent desire to receive it -- even when you are exhausted and do not want to give any more. Your adopted child may love you the minute he first sees you, or he may never come to truly love you -- this is a risk we adoptive parents share with our Heavenly Father, who also loves and gives to those who reciprocate and to those who do not. You are the adult, and the child is, well, the child! Act like the adult.

8. Know that time heals many things, but it does not heal all. Some of your child’s disadvantages you can help him overcome, some you cannot. You must come to learn to discern between the two.

9. Well-meaning people will tell you that the risks are too great, that you should never consider adopting a child from a foreign orphanage. Don’t believe them. It is a risky business, and the outcome is uncertain; but if we can draw at least some of these children to the throne of Christ, show them how to receive forgiveness for sins, and love the Lord their God with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength, then we are doing the will of the Father.

Sitara: Texas

Help us pray that churches will see that one of the greatest ways they can fulfill the Great Commission is to help their own families go to the nations and make disciples of the children. Help us pray that God will grant our authorities a true and proper understanding of the issues dealing with international adoption. And finally, help us pray that Christian men and women across this land will step up to the enormous task of caring for these little ones. “For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Bret & Jacqueline Smith


  1. My husband are the adoptive parents of a sibling group of 3 children. Our daughter is now 5, and we have sons now 4 and 2. We began our adoption journey through the foster care system and our children came to live with us just over a year ago. We fostered until our adoption became final in December 2009.

    We were not "experienced" parents as we married both for the first time in 2005 (I was 43 and my husband was 38). Though we did not have children, we both had been very involved in the lives of our nieces and nephews. My husband was a surrogate father for his niece and nephew and took on the responsibility of giving them as much spiritual guidance as possible in the situation. I would not recommend a young couple take on what we did.

    It is that experience that enabled us to face head on the difficulties that would come as the honeymoon phase passed and the problems with the children would surface. Two of our children have RAD, (the oldest two) our son had violent tendencies and directed his rage on his little brother. It required my always being present when the two of them were together. It has taken a great deal of work and even more prayer and God in His infinite mercy began to heal the hearts of our children.

    Adoption of special needs children require dedication and sacrifice. It requires a determination to face head on difficulties that arise unexpectedly and be prepared as much as possible. With our children, the older two have "RAD" and our son has exhibited violent behavior towards his siblings. We have worked through this for now but we are also prepared for it to resurface as it it is a possibility.

    We have both prayed with and prayed over our children for God to work the miracle in their little hearts, we work diligently to teach them what God's Word says and be the example they need. We are experiencing the fruits of our labor. My husband is a great example of a father, husband and pastor to our children.

    Thanks for your post about this subject. I hope many read it and take to heart your advice. I am also interested in your E6-4 program but when I clicked on the link the verse was from the NIV. Is the program specifically designed around the NIV? My husband only acknowledges the KJV.

    I've been reading your blog for sometime after stumbling on it doing some research on modesty and courtship and continued to read it. It is a blessing to see families such as your flourishing and serving the Lord!

    Many Blessings!

  2. Great words. I remember from your TV show when you were going to get the children from Latvia. What an awesome gift that you have chosen to share this journey with us. Thank-you! Your children are so lucky to have you so willing to follow God's commands, be as tough as they are at times.


  3. As an adoptive mama of 2, adopted as a toddler and a baby from within my own country as the result of abuse/neglect, I agree with much of what you write. I have found faith to be the one sustainer as well as bringing great comfort that it was this child and that child we were meant to parent rather than any other. We were clear of God's will for us and that makes it easier to stick the course through the hard times. Prayers for your family.

  4. This was beautifully and succinctly said.

    Kathy P.