A note of caution on Christian adoptions

adopt1By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

The Bible is full of admonishments to take special care of “the fatherless,” and in recent years, evangelical Christians in particular have taken this commandment to heart. On Sunday, thousands of churches across the country will take part in the fifth annual “Orphan Sunday” to bring attention to the cause of adoption. It’s not just a matter of advocacy: Financial support for orphan-related matters has surged in recent years, becoming one of the top targets of evangelical giving, according to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.

In 2012, the Center for Philanthropy at Indiana University reports, charitable giving by Americans rose about 3.5% from the previous year. Meanwhile, Christians donating to adoption causes rose by 9.5% and to groups focused on orphan care by 17%.

Megan Hill, who lives with her husband in Jackson, Miss., is one of many evangelicals who have been drawn to the cause. When Ms. Hill and her husband adopted their son, Caleb, five years ago, the only other evangelical families she knew that had considered adoption were those who struggled with infertility. The Hills already had a biological son. But without maternity insurance and after listening to an appeal from a Bethany Christian Services representative at their church, they adopted locally.

Within three years of their first adoption, the Hills decided to adopt another son—this time from Ethiopia. Ms. Hill says she knows about 50 evangelical families with biological children in the Jackson area who have started the adoption process in the past few years. “There was an attitude of ‘However many millions of orphans, we’re going to solve this crisis,’ ” Ms. Hill says.

Jedd Medefind, president of the Christian Alliance for Orphans, notes that caring for orphans has been a hallmark of the religion for centuries. But he acknowledges a recent wave of interest and says it accompanied Christians’ focus on the global AIDS crisis, encouraged by Rick Warren and other pastors.