The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption. Joyce's work has appeared in top-notch publications such as Mother Jones and The Atlantic, and she's been awarded numerous residencies and fellowships. A previous book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, was published in 2009. The Child Catchers takes us inside the evangelical Christian adoption movement, exposing the corruption of the so-called "orphan crisis" and of the adoption industry in general through rigorous research and numerous heartbreaking personal narratives.
In lieu of a traditional book review, we have decided to read the book together and discuss it book-club style. We are all adopted women, several of us are adoptive mothers as well, and one of us is also a mother who lost a child to adoption. You can learn more about our individual connections to adoption on our contributor's page. This week we discuss the first half of The Child Catchers, through chapter four, and next week we will talk about the second half. We have a lot to say, so grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and settle in. And we invite you to join the conversation via the comments at the end of each post.
Our first installment deals with the concept of God's will as it pertains to adoption and the moral imperative to adopt.
Karen Pickell: Joyce hits us hard beginning with the preface where we meet Sharon, who already has seven biological children when she decides to adopt three more. After those adoptions, she is still not satisfied that she’s done all she “should” do to fulfill her Christian obligation to orphan care, and seeks to adopt more children. As I read her story, I couldn't help putting myself in the shoes of all those kids and wondering how they could possibly be getting the attention they need when Sharon was always so focused on obtaining the next child. How did you all react to Sharon’s story?
I personally find Sharon and others like her to be repulsively selfish, because their focus is not on helping any particular child but rather on their own ticket into heaven, their own “holiness,” if you will. This religious zeal is discussed later in the book as well, and it angers me that these kids are being used to fill a quota of “lives saved” for these parents and sometimes for entire congregations.
The other thing that struck me about Sharon’s story is that the huge demand for adoptable children stems less from infertile couples than from this religious quest. I feel like I’ve had my head in the sand in a way, maybe because I’m a Baby Scoop adoptee whose parents adopted due to infertility so that’s the reality I’m most familiar with and have learned the most about. This book is causing me to broaden my perspective in huge ways, which is a good thing.
Carlynne Hershberger: I also was repulsed by Sharon and her attitude but I also felt like there was a compulsion similar to obsessive behavior. These children were like projects to her. It's almost like a hobby she became obsessed with—hoarding children. I knew about the religious aspect of the call to adoption for Christians but had NO idea the size and scope of it. I'm finding that aspect to be horrifying and scary.
Deanna Shrodes: I know individuals who have unexpectedly become pregnant, and were in a situation of already being overwhelmed with many children in the home and had concern about how they were going to give each child the attention they deserve. In such situations I've witnessed God's grace at work and strength granted to meet the needs of the children. However, I strongly believe that to purposely plan whether through birth or adoption to have additional children when you are not adequately caring for the ones you already have is not only unwise but tragic. When someone has made such a decision it is most certainly for the wrong motivations and, of course, never centers around the child.
Julie Stromberg: Several thoughts came to mind while considering Sharon's story. There seemed to be such a lack of depth and self-awareness that came across to me as being somewhat childlike and elitist at the same time. This was a recurring theme throughout the book. Sharon felt that the God she believes in was entirely on her side so there was no need to actually investigate or take a more critical look at the adoption industry. Which confused me because the scripture verse Sharon posted as inspiration to her adoption blog reads "help the widows and the orphans." Many of those involved in the Christian Adoption Movement ignore the "widows" part of the verse and focus only on the orphans. I agree with Karen in that Sharon presented as someone who was taking on some sort of religious project designed to position herself at a higher level within her chosen religious community. The needs of the actual adoptee are inconsequential because Sharon hides behind the "it's God's will" wall of thought. It's magical thinking shrouded in religious dogma. And that can be dangerous for the well-being of a child adopted by Sharon and others who take a similar approach.