This will wrap up my review of Child Catchers, and I'll dance at your wedding for hanging on throughout all three posts. If you haven't yet read the Intro or What's Right pieces, please do so before continuing here. My take on the work as a whole is lengthy but I want to convey the importance of taking a balanced approach in analyzing what Kathryn Joyce gets right as well as some areas of concern.
While I agree with these points and am thankful for her mention of them, there are bits of the work that are unnecessarily accusatory, exaggerative, and discourteous. Orphan care conferences and worship services highlighting adoption are painted as theatrical. A man who has given his life to serving Ukrainian orphans is likened to Willy Wonka. It is insinuated that independent adoptions are more pure than agency-facilitated. From physical appearance to blogging habits, Christian adoptive parents are typecast. The global orphan crisis is outright called a myth. A young woman who has moved to an impoverished country and adopted numerous children is made fun of. Russell Moore is repeatedly and dismissively referred to as the Southern Baptist Convention’s “rising young star.”
In reference to some international adoptions,
chiding statements about Christian adoptive parents irresponsibly not
readopting their children in the States are presented…without including the important clarification that this is not a requirement of all countries. Therapeutic treatments described for Reactive
Attachment Disorder are basically absurd, and are not only atypical but
altogether misrepresentative of the type of help Christian adoptive parents
seek. Though there is a 13-word footnote
stating that other methods are used, that does not make up for pages of suggesting
that Christians a) intentionally and recklessly adopt kids they can’t handle
and b) then subject them to utterly ludicrous methods of therapy.
I noted a few concerning areas of lack typically indicative of responsible investigative journalism. There are numerous anonymous references to Christian bloggers with a “common savior narrative” six times, one page containing a list of families' adoption blog titles, still others quoting a specific blog including the very unique first name of the adopted child…with nothing more than a few blips of blogspots or other URLs chunked into the 10-page notes section at the end of the book. It is my educated guess that in all likelihood, most of those families will be completely blindsided at their inclusion in this book...especially to see themselves painted in such unfavorable light. Additionally, most of the examples of troubled or failed adoptions, coerced birth mothers, etc. are clearly selected to communicate that most Christians are adopting heedlessly and greedily; those examples are themselves imprudently one-sided.
My husband and I know personally several of the individuals quoted or listed in the book, and still others we have met through social media, conferences, etc. We have been appalled to learn that most of these individuals were not contacted or informed in any way that this book was being written…much less asked their permission for inclusion or presented with advance copies for their review. Interestingly, one individual cited as an interview source has stated that they had no knowledge this book was even being written until its release. I would like to think that is merely an honest mistake in what is, after all, a sea of listed information sources. Of all the names and specific organizations included in the 24-page index, what intrigues me more than who Ms. Joyce did mention was those she did not. There are prominent bloggers and very strong voices in the Christian adoption culture that are completely absent from this book.
Using the classic psychological pattern of non-example (bad), non-example (bad) then example (good), UNICEF is presented as the ultimate and only trustworthy source of orphan statistics and best practices in orphan care at least 14 unique points in Child Catchers. Interestingly, UNICEF is known for the well-established pattern of arriving in a country in crisis and providing gobs of aid (great), soon after to position themselves at that country’s leaders’ table as instantly trusted and respected advisers (questionable). UNICEF is not exempt from pushing its own agenda, and it was disappointing that Child Catchers failed to include this point of view.
Joyce’s treatment of birth mothers is also cause for concern. Among the numerous birth mothers whose interviews appear in this book, domestic birth mothers’ stories were startlingly one-dimensional. In one instance, it was disturbing to read that the author names the birth mother and the adoptive parents but withholds the name of the child “to protect his privacy.” Given the abundance of details presented about this particular situation, the child’s privacy is far from protected. Additionally, the descriptive narrative of an adoption searcher’s surprise visit to an Ethiopian birth mother wholly fails to address the personal and emotional implications for a woman who had already endured a lengthy and painful relinquishment process to have to revisit those circumstances…all while in the presence of teams of strangers with cameras, including that of the author. Taking advantage of this woman’s impoverished and deferential culture in order to publish and sell a book that criticizes Christian adoptive parents for exploiting the poor remains a point of contention for me.
Scorn for adoption as the American evangelical church’s better alternative for those considering abortion seems to be one of the forces driving Child Catchers. It is my belief that criticizing how Christians adopt is in one way just another, rather creative, method of promoting abortion rights.
Adoption reform is absolutely necessary, and part of the church’s movement to adopt legitimate orphans should include doing so with the most pristine ethical practices. The voices of adoption reform advocates and further investigation should remain welcome at our (Christian adoptive parents’) table. But…for Ms. Joyce and others who deem this a cause worthy of further examination, I implore you to be fair. Be consistent. Be respectable. Be honest.
In this way we can all move forward, together, in a manner that is truly helpful in addressing the overwhelming needs of millions of vulnerable children and their families. Reflection and vigilant analysis are good and right, and I am thankful for the important discussions that are taking place as a result of this book. What was intended as a challenge to the Christian evangelical adoption movement will in reality strengthen its roots.
*To Ms. Joyce, her representatives, or counterparts: while I would welcome the opportunity to engage in a private discussion, I ask that you not use, copy, edit, alter, publish, or reference me, my family, my website, or any content therein.