Child Catchers: What's right

Jump to:
Child Catchers: Introduction
Child Catchers: What's Right
Child Catchers: What's concerning

In yesterday's post, I explained the new book Child Catchers as Kathryn Joyce's criticism for adoption practices in the American evangelical church. If you haven't yet read the introduction, please do, as in it I also explain why the book merits a three-day review.  

The fact is that many pages in this book made me want to throw things, but there were a few sadly accurate points. Many of our orphan care movement leaders get these already, but many involved in the Christian adoption movement do need to hear, reflect, accept, and repent. Among them:

  • Unfortunately, there ARE unethical adoption practices taking place, and as Christian adoptive parents we should be the ones shouting most loudly that God is not honored by Christian adopters using His name as a pass to pay bribes and take poor people’s children and generally just break rules. All adoptive parents should seek the right information about their situation before committing to an agency, country, or child. We should never enter an adoption, as Jen Hatmaker put it, armed with nothing but good intentions.

  • Joyce addresses the issue of “voluntourism” and “orphan tourism,” which are both very real problems. For months, the Captain has been sharing about this at our church within various small groups using the book When Helping Hurts. Additionally, I have witnessed firsthand the long-term negative effects for institutionalized children who are constantly exposed to fresh waves of short-term missionaries seeking to self-satisfy their own emotional needs in a third world country using vulnerable orphans.

  • Commonly referenced orphan statistics are challenged. 143 million, 147 million, 163 million, 210 million…all are disputed as misleading because those numbers (as accurate or inaccurate as they may be) include children who have lost only one parent, children who have lost or cannot be taken care of by both parents, AND children who have also lost all semblance of extended family. Joyce’s point is that the exact number of children who fall in the third category is unknown but that the larger numbers are used to sway, persuade, and emotionalize prospective adoptive parents in the church. Another element to consider is that there are uncounted, undocumented children worldwide who aren’t factored into these numbers at all. While this can be confusing, as there do remain millions of vulnerable children who have no one to defend, speak for, love, or care for them, it is my belief that all we really know is that there are too many. 

  • In her smaller section on transracial adoption, Joyce covers the legacy of racism in the Southern Baptist Convention and compares that to the fact that some churches seek to integrate through transracial adoption rather than by making their churches more appealing to African American families. She condemns the erasure of first country heritage implemented by some (this is not the practice of every family), and also points out that colorblindness is not a good thing. This is a topic much too weighty for the paltry few pages given, and while presented with a definite slant, there is at least some measure of truth to these points. 

  • Joyce communicates Craig Juntunen’s goal for adoption reform with the Stuck documentary. I’ve seen it twice and while I oppose a few elements of the film, on the whole I believe it is a very realistic and positive work that will help voiceless children who are being strangled in bureaucratic red tape. While I have understood that the current system is ineffective, I’ve continued to wonder what his plan was for changing the system.  Additionally, Joyce provides historical frames of reference for modern adoptive practices by describing the history of Holt (oldest adoption agency, with South Korea as its longest-standing program), and the use of orphan trains in the American 1890s-early 1900s. There is slanted language and presupposition, but largely this information is helpful in providing a thorough background of how orphans have traditionally arrived and been treated within the American church.


There is ongoing transformation in the Christian adoption movement. While their first exposure to orphan care may have been a calling to adopt, most American Christian adoptive families are at least beginning to understand that orphan care is more than adoption. Apart from abuse, neglect, or any other form of intentional harm, c
hildren belong with their birth families. They are their first families and we should do everything in our power to keep families who want to stay together intact. International adoption should not be the first option for a child or family in crisis. If a mother cannot keep her child solely because she is poor, well then let’s do whatever we can to help her lift herself out of poverty enough so that she and her child can remain together. While I hope that all of us involved in orphan care believe this…people, we need to act like we believe this. I believe that walking the walk of orphan prevention and preserving first families is part of the reform Kathryn Joyce seems to advocate, and if so I join her in agreement on this point.

Tomorrow, I'll delve into what's most concerning about this book.

*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.

Jump to:

Child Catchers: Introduction
Child Catchers: What's Right
Child Catchers: What's concerning