Why You Should Not Adopt

I stood near her at Starbucks, this woman who was so well-dressed and well-combed and well-showered, and I tried not to think about my own ensemble of dry sweat and yoga pants. She crossed her legs and I noticed that her thighs barely touched each other. One of her high-heel-clad feet swung gently back and forth as she smiled. She lifted one perfectly plucked eyebrow in query as she waited for my answer.

I inhaled, then quickly wished I hadn’t as I caught the faint whiff of my still-damp sports bra. I tried to tuck my scuffed sneakers under the edge of her table. How to answer? What should I say?

It had started innocently enough, as most of these conversations do. She noticed the size and color variety of my family and struck up a conversation. We visited while we waited for our coffee. She seemed genuinely curious and kind-hearted. We chatted for a few minutes and then she had asked The Question.

“I was a social worker for thirteen years.” she said. “I worked with hundreds of foster kids and foster families right here in America. Why did you decide to go overseas to adopt?”

Her tone was warm, but in my mind I added context and texture until her question sounded more like an accusation.

Maybe it was an accusation. Maybe she meant it as such. Or maybe she didn’t. I don’t really know for sure. I try to avoid adding subplot to conversations. [tweet_dis]Unintentional subplots only serve to cause misunderstanding for everyone involved.[/tweet_dis]

But this particular question has always been a sticky one for me. It triggers something inside my own heart. I can’t quite identify the emotion. It might be defensiveness. It could quite possibly be guilt. Maybe it is simply the desire to be understood.


When we were beginning the adoption process, all options were on the table. Domestic. International. Foster. One child. Four. Healthy. Special Needs. Everything was open for discussion.

There is an immense need for foster families here in America. An overwhelming shortage of families willing to adopt out of the foster care system.

There is an immense need for adoptive families internationally. An overwhelming shortage of families willing to adopt out of the orphanages.

Which need was greater? Neither.

To which did I want to respond? Both.


In the end we followed God’s leading to Ethiopia. To our four beautiful children who were there waiting for us. And ever since we brought them home, I have been asked this question by strangers.

Why did you choose to help with one problem and not the other?

The thing is, these are not separate problems. It is the same issue dressed in different clothing. I don’t look overseas at the orphanages and think, Those children are more desperate. They need our help first. I don’t look at the foster care system and think, These are our own children. We should help them first.

No. I look at the entire world. All of the hurting and broken. The foster children, the orphans, the homeless living in shelters, the Syrian refugees without a country, the victims of sex trafficking, the child crying in bed at night because of the indignities she suffers at the hands of an abuser.

I don’t see “your problem” and “my problem.” I look at them and see “our children.”

These are ALL our children. They ALL need our help.


We are a part of a global community, something I think is too easily overlooked. Hurting children care little about borders. The country in which a child lives does not quantify their need.

We need people willing to stand up and fight for the future of ALL OF OUR CHILDREN.

One of God’s marvelous attributes is omniscience. He sees all. He knows all. He looks down on His hurting world and He loves all. He orchestrates our lives according to His master plan.

God has given us each a part to play. [tweet_dis]We are each playing different notes in a grand symphony composed by God.[/tweet_dis] If we all played the same note, the world would never hear the beautiful music God’s people are capable of producing.

Here, He says to some. Right here is where I want you to help.

There, He says to another. Right there is where I want you to help.

He distributes His greatest asset – HIS PEOPLE – to the entire world. He calls us to be His hands and feet for all: for our neighbor, for our fellow countrymen, for our enemies, for a stranger. Isn’t it incredible that if we each do our one small part, together we can change the entire world?


No, You should not adopt. And You should not foster. He should not be an overseas missionary and She should not be an advocate for the homeless. Why? Because that is not your job.

Find your job and do it well. Learn how to interpret your own musical score. Don’t play the part written for another.

If you play your notes and I play mine, together we will make beautiful music.

I looked at the woman sitting across from me. I picked up my coffee and gathered my family close. I held my messy-hair-in-a-top-knot head up high and smiled as I said, “I went overseas to adopt because that is where my children were.”




31 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Adopt

  1. Jan England

    Beautifully written article, full of heart and good sense! Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

  2. Vicki Tuegel

    We, too, adopted a sibling group of four from Ethiopia, and have been asked this question many times. After 10 years, I still don’t have a definitive answer as to why we went to Ethiopia except to say that was where we were feeling like God directed us. This is a great answer. Blessings on your journey.

    1. Natalie Gwyn Post author

      Adopting a sibling set of four is both a challenge and a blessing, is it not? So thankful for a God who provides all we need.

  3. Tristen

    This is so wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    Yes, find whatever your musical score may be, but the true harmony happens when we guide and support others in achieving theirs as well. If fostering or adoption isn’t your “job,” there are still many ways to step out in compassion and help. Help with an adoption fundraiser, a suitcase drive for foster kids, offer to help watch kids for a date night, there is just so much need and so many possibilities.

  4. Susan Kelley

    What a beautifully written piece! So happy that you found ‘your’ children–even though you had to go around the world to do so. My husband and I are adopting this year–our 3 beautiful grandchildren. Little did we know that this late in life we would be starting over. We have only been married 9 years, so we have both been empty nesters for some time. Then our (my) precious daughter died of breast cancer. Her husband was not able to care for the kids properly, and CPS stepped in. They have been with us for 17 months now–17 long, exhausting, trying, wonderful months. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it. God bless your family.

    1. Shirley Mertz

      You don’t mention your age, but my husband and I are 64, raising our 7 and 8 year old daughters we’ve had since each was about 2 months old. They are our niece’s daughters…..addiction problems. Took a couple years to go through the whole foster, rights termination and adoption process, but we’ve been a forever family now for almost 6 years. Friends ask how we have the energy to do this. I tell them God doesn’t ask you to do what he won’t equip you to do. So sorry to hear that it is the result of your daughter’s death that brought the children to you. But it will be a wonderful experience for all of you. The second half of my life is as exciting and unpredictable as the first!

  5. Katrina

    I wrote a similar post years ago. It is not as eloquently written but makes the same point. Ironically, we didn’t get to finish our adoption yet and many have wondered why we don’t just go to a different country to adopt. My only answer is that is not what God wants of us. He has asked me to fight for the forgotten children and although my heart longs to adopt again that is not his plan for us right now. Instead I am scheduling a congressional screening of a documentary called To the Moon and Back to beg the Department of State once again to help us bring our children home from Russia. That is the part I have been asked to play and I am also helping out with an organization called OUR that rescues children from sex slavery. It is so very important to listen to what God is calling you to do and not worry about what others think you should be doing. http://www.operationorphannomore.blogspot.com/2012/01/ill-go-where-you-want-me-to-go-dear.html

    1. Natalie Gwyn Post author

      I love this! I also love what one of the other commenters said. He said play your own note and “the true harmony happens when we guide and support others in achieving theirs as well.” So true!

  6. chinamom3078

    As my son told us, almost 17 years ago. You know she is already a J___ ” before we ever walked out of our apartment. We adopted 2 from China while we lived there. So like yoy said, you adopt your children…regardless of where they may be.

  7. Christina

    I loved your beautifully written essay and hope I may borrow your answer to the question!

  8. Jessica

    He guides us, for it is His plan, HIS will. We are guided by LOVE …. HIS LOVE. We foster-adopted and our answer would be the same as yours … that’s where our daughters were! Same plan, different paths.

  9. Addie

    Thank you for sharing! My husband and I are getting ready to move back
    overseas. Time and again, we are asked the question, “Why there and not here? We need help just as much here.” Your article perfectly captures what I’ve been wanting to put into words for our own situation. We all have a different portion of this earth to steward. Thanks for advocating that we steward what He has given to us!

  10. Ruth

    We adopted from the US. But like you said – that is where my children were and that was God’s plan for our children. We tried to adopt from overseas but we are missionaries and that made it difficult to adopt from overseas. So we adopted on furloughs. We get why did we adopt black children all the time. We did indeed seek out the hard to adopt or those that no one else wanted to adopt. Again, we were limited because of living overseas from taking any child that needed medical care. But we ended up with 3 wonderful children – now adults and providing us with beautiful grandchildren to love on.

  11. kobolila

    Very Nice.
    We’ve been home a little over a year now with our little one. I haven’t had too many people ask that question; maybe, because we’re older (I’m 55) people think that she is a grand child. But when it has happened, I shrug & say something like: “I try to make it a point not to question God’s motives; China is where we were sent, China is where we went. But why don’t you ask & let me know what he says?”



  12. Karen Stewart

    What a beautiful, respectful way to address this issue. I must admit I have been judgmental toward those who adopt overseas, thinking what was wrong with our own U.S. kids… but this article cleared away my errors in thought and opened my eyes to what should have been the focus all along. I hope many people will find this blog on Facebook “accidentally” like I did. Many blessings to you, sister in Christ.

  13. Deb Eckstine

    Ten years ago my husband & I decided we were going to do IVF. I was getting ready to call to set up the appointment to begin our process. A couple days before, my friend called me and said she had friend that was pregnant & was putting the baby up for adoption. She asked if we had considered adopting & if we would please meet her friend before moving forward with IVF. We met the birth mother & agreed to adopt her baby. It was the best decision we ever made. God definitely led us to our daughter. She just happened to be local to us.

  14. Shannon

    We adopted our son from Russia 10+ years ago and when people ask us why we adopted from Russia rather than the US, my husband always responds, “because our son was born in Russia”

  15. Tracy Willis

    The strings of my heart are touched again as I read and listen to your story, your Song. Each time I am holding back tears because I didn’t read in the privacy of my car 🙂 Thank you Natalie! Be being brave and true; transparent and willing. <3

  16. LIsa K Shaull

    I tell everybody who asks that God builds a family and he built mine and I am so pleased that I was right where he needed me to be so i could be mommy to the three girls that he blessed us with. I have a mexican-persian daughter who happens to have down syndrome , a portuguese caucasian beautiful sweetie and my very own niece who actually looks like me 🙂 God knows who belongs in your family and will open the doors accordingly. We are in the process of adopting my niece right now so we definitely covet your prayers

  17. Michelle

    As a mom who has one baby home from Ethiopia and waiting to bring sons home from Haiti and Ethiopia, I was particularly touched by your response. Thanks for sharing this

  18. Jana Meyerstein

    There is a plan and my adopted baby was chosen for me before the beginning of the earth. He is 19 this month. Just pray for your baby before he is ever born.

  19. Betsy Williams Briggs

    We adopted two-one from the US and one from China. Both were precious gifts from God. They are girls, 5 mos. apart. My greatest delight was one day in K-mart, when an elderly woman asked me if they were twins ( one is, of course, Asian, and the other is African American. LOL I could have hugged her.

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