Churches to Celebrate Orphan Sunday Amid Calls for Caution Against Fraud, Trafficking

Thousands of churches across the United States will reflect on God's call to care for the orphan as they celebrate the fifth Orphan Sunday amid calls for introspection to minimize the possibility of adoption-related fraud and trafficking.

"On November 3rd, 2013, thousands of events will echo across America and around the globe, all sharing a single goal: that God's great love for the orphan will find echo in our lives as well," says Orphan Sunday's website.

On Orphan Sunday, churches and families celebrate God's deep love for orphans and how ordinary people can make that love tangible via adoption, foster care, and global ministry.

However, while churches and Christian groups were preparing to observe the Orphan Sunday this week, a study released by the Donaldson Adoption Institute, a think-tank, warned against online groups offering adoptive parents, calling for "targeted laws, policies and practices."

The new study, which involved a survey of 1,500 adoptive parents and adoption professionals in the U.S. and abroad, and not just the Christian groups, took note of a September report by Reuters about desperate parents using online groups to offer unwanted adopted children to others. It was "the tip of an iceberg of unmonitored, unregulated adoption-related activities taking place on the Internet," the study said.

Jedd Medefind of the Christian Alliance for Orphans has also called for caution. The CAFO is a coalition of more than 130 organizations and urges churches and Christian groups and individuals to "defend the fatherless" (Isaiah 1:17).

On his group's website, Medefind calls for orphan-care programs and change in attitude. "When the dominant feature of our thinking becomes 'us as rescuers,' we're in grave danger," he writes. "What often follows is the pride, self-focus and I-know-better outlook that has been at the root of countless misguided efforts to help others."

Professor David Smolin, director of the Center for Biotechnology, Law and Ethics at the law school of Baptist-affiliated Samford University in Alabama, also urged the evangelical movement to be careful.

Evangelical groups "uncritically participates in adoption systems riddled with child laundering, where children are illicitly obtained through fraud, kidnapping or purchase," Smolin wrote in a law journal article, according to The Associated Press. "The result is often tragically misdirected and cruel, as the movement participates in the needless separation of children from their families."

Smolin and his wife adopted two daughters from India in 1998, and later found out that they had been abducted from an orphanage where their mother had temporarily placed them.

The study by the Donaldson Adoption Institute also points to a shift in international adoption from mostly infants to a growing number of older children who have disabilities or other special needs. Many parents surveyed said they did not know about those problems at the time of the adoption. While less than one-fourth of parents wanted to adopt a child with special needs, about half of them ended up doing so without their knowledge.

However, the institute's executive director Adam Pertman has also applauded efforts of some major Christian adoption agencies to expand programs aiding orphans in their home countries.

Hundreds of thousands of Christians have participated in local Orphan Sunday events each year since 2009, following the example of Zambian believers.

Medefind has said, "Errors and pitfalls will always come with any effort to address deep human need. We must do seemingly opposite things at once: relentlessly pursue the highest ideals - while also knowing that the situation we enter and the results we achieve will often be far less than ideal."

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