How the Christian Right exploits adoption

When you think of adoption, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Maybe it’s the vague, rosy notion of a happy ending — of rescue, salvation or (more likely) some do-gooding Hollywood mouthpiece like Angelina Jolie adding kids of various ethnicities to her big, colorful brood.images carries a story that tells a different tale: “What probably doesn’t automatically come to mind is coercion, racism and a conservative Christian agenda that extends beyond mere abortion prevention. Award-winning journalist Kathryn Joyce describes all these issues — and, sadly, many more — as being shockingly rampant in the multi-billion-dollar adoption industry. And she delves into them, in somewhat jarring investigative detail, in her new book, “The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption.”

“Joyce details how the adoption industry has become overly enmeshed with the Christian right — how evangelical, pro-adoption church leaders have, in recent years, been creepily urging followers to adopt en masse, often internationally and from war-ravaged countries. Christian adoption booms are common in countries like Haiti and Indonesia after natural disasters and other crises — remember Laura Silsby, the Baptist church leader from Idaho who was charged with child trafficking after illegally attempting to smuggle 33 unauthorized Haitian children across the Haiti-Dominican Republic border in 2010?

“The Silsby case threw a cold light on the evangelical adoption boom, but as it has faded from public memory, our cultural focus has reverted to its usual state of viewing adoption as a unilaterally positive thing fostered by honest people with good intentions. As Joyce makes clear in both her book and the following interview, most of the Christian folks involved in adoption — at least from an adoptive-parent perspective — do have good intentions, and they see adoption as a living demonstration of their commitment to the Bible (a popular verse among Christian adopters urges followers to help orphans and widows). They want to save needy kids’ lives and give them the “gift” of evangelism at the same time.

“But as adoption has become bigger business, it’s inherently grown less ethical and more intent on increasing the “supply” of adoptable children, both here and overseas. What many of these potential adopters don’t realize is that the adoption industry is already, arguably, corrupt — and not all of the kids who get “rescued” actually need it.”


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Joyce spoke with us via telephone about what she learned while researching and writing her controversial new book (which is, unsurprisingly, rankling Christian leaders, who consider “The Child Catchers” a hatchet job).

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