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Adoption is Not a Dirty Word

October 2004
By: Carrie Jacobs
Adoption seems unpalatable because of
the way it often has been presented to us.

Moses' mother, Jochebed, was under extreme hardship at the time of Moses' birth, but she held him up and proclaimed, "This is a goodly child." (This child has value.) But, because of the Pharaoh's order that every Jewish male child be cast into the river, she could not provide a secure future for him. So she wove a plan that took shape in the form of a basket, placed her son into it, and gently set the basket afloat on the river among the bulrushes. I imagine she whispered a prayer such as, "God, please take care of this child!" as she launched the tiny craft into the river the Egyptians called "the river of life." This was the humble beginning of one of the greatest men in the history of the world (see Exodus 2 and Numbers 26:59).

Moses was adopted into the royal house of Pharaoh. Born a Hebrew, he would grow up an Egyptian. Though adoption has been around for a long time in many cultures, it has developed a bad connotation. In an effort to promote adoption, the U.S. Congress has funded a grant called "Infant Adoption Awareness" (IAA).

From what I have seen, the IAA program has been a resounding success. Our staff went through the IAA training last year. Since then, our center has seen more mothers with unplanned pregnancies turn to adoption than ever before. In March we had a special trainer come to our center to train our volunteers to present the case for adoption effectively.

Why has there been a negative connotation regarding adoption? There is an old saying: "You can beat a dog over the head with a T-bone steak, but he won't want the steak." It is not because the dog would have found the steak unpalatable. It is because of the way the steak was presented to him. Adoption is good, but in our culture it often has been presented in a negative way. Many times in the counseling room when I have mentioned the possibility of adoption, I have seen the lights go off and the shutters come down. The client typically says: "Adoption is not an option" or "I don't want to go there."

Adoption seems unpalatable because of the way it often has been presented to us. People use phrases such as "she gave up her child for adoption." One may say, "I gave up smoking" or "I gave up drinking," but "I gave up my child" sounds inhuman. A child is a precious gift. Many think ill of someone who gives up a child.

Another oft-heard negative phrase is "she gave her baby away." We give away clothes and furniture when we no longer have need or desire for these items. But a baby is not just an unwanted item to be discarded or given to someone else. A child is precious. We find it difficult to understand how parents can give away their own child. While those statements about the value of a child are true, they shouldn't cast adoption in an unfavorable light.

Adoption is an act carried out by the parents for the benefit of the child. It is often a difficult, selfless act. The parents are not "giving their child away"; rather, they are "giving their child a better future."

Adoption is a gift. The mother of Moses prized her child. Jochebed did not give Moses away. Instead, she placed him into the care of someone else who could guarantee his safety and meet his needs. She did not give him up. She gifted him a future that she could not provide. She gave him to someone else, not for their benefit but his.

Jochebed wanted to give Moses a better chance of making it in life because she valued him so much. That is truly the heart and soul of a birth mother who chooses adoption for her child; she is gifting her child her best, which at the time does not include her. It is one of the most selfless acts of love. Birthparents are unsung heroes. For each adopted child, we should pray as Jochebed probably did and as many birthparents do: "God, please take care of this child who has been launched onto the river of life and raise him up to honor You."

Carrie Jacobs is the Director of Client Services at Care Net Pregnancy Center in Lewiston, Idaho, and can be reached at 208-746-9407.

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