Today I want to talk about a topic that I get messages about pretty frequently- religion in the adoption community. I have shared pretty openly that we are not very religious and that we do not attend church. So keep that in mind as you hear my perspective. After our first adoption one of the things I wanted to advocate for is for non-religious people to enter the mostly-religious world of international adoption and today I get my chance!
Q: I’m not religious. How do I find an adoption agency that is not religious?
A: Something we realized right away is that liberal families tend to gravitate toward private domestic adoption and religious families tend to gravitate toward international adoption (I don’t mean to over-generalize and I realize there are exceptions but in our circle of friends, family and stories we have read this has been pretty consistent). So going into our first adoption we knew that if we decided to adopt from China we’d be in a minority among the other families.
We grew up in Missouri and in conservative churches, so being around religious people is nothing new to us. We knew going into our China adoption that most agencies (all of the agencies we looked at) were faith-based. We agreed from the beginning that we’d be open to working with an agency that was Christian as long as we never felt discriminated against, pressured to lie about our faith or be required to join a church.
I will be honest that one of the main reasons we initially chose Holt as our agency was that we were told that they were not “very religious” and we actually did not even realize they are a faith-based agency until we were already in the program.
As nerve wracking as it was, I always asked on the first phone call to agencies and social workers if it would be an issue that we did not attend church. I think that being able to be honest is important and that people of any faith (or no faith) should be able to find an agency that makes them feel respected and supported. In our experience we never felt discriminated against or pressured and it was a great experience!
That said, discrimination in the adoption world is very real. There are agencies that make families sign a statement of faith (basically requiring you to have very specific religious beliefs) and there are all kinds of things that can disqualify families from some (but not all) programs like being in a same sex marriage, being single or having a lower income. In the United States we’re pretty fortunate that there are so many programs to choose from that most families can find a fit for them- but the fact remains that the adoption world is not free of discrimination and it’s absolutely one of the places where people are still “allowed” to profile people based on their religion. I’m not defending that- in fact I’d love to be an advocate for change. But at the moment that’s where it is.
Note- I never recommend getting your information about qualifications to adopt from blog because the rules in each program change all the time. The best option is to call an agency who works with the program you are considering to ask all your questions.
Back to our story! We never felt discriminated against- which was great. We were able to be honest about our beliefs and that we have no intention of joining a church and we felt supported for who we are each step in our process.
That said, we 100% felt we did not fit in when we got into big groups of other adoptive families. We still have this experience when we go to China adoptee meet ups in our hometown from time to time. We feel like a minority a lot of time time- but it’s something that we have embraced and it’s been really healthy for us.
We started our adoption in 2016, right before the election. We definitely live in a liberal bubble besides an occasional conversation with our conservative family members. So our adoption helped us to step outside our bubble. We did meet other families who we share ideology with, but more often we met people who we honestly had not much in common with besides our love for adoption, and specifically special needs adoption. And to be honest- it was a bright spot for us in a very dark year. It was good to share something so deep and personal and beautiful with people who we probably never would have met otherwise. And I really think the people who met us felt the same way.
So to jump back to the initial question- “How do I find an adoption agency that is not religious.” I guess my advice is to be open to joining a program that is religious (obviously one that is still accepting of different religious and non-religious families). It was a good experience for us. I understand the tendency to want to find a place where you can fit in more, but we are so glad we opened up to joining a program where the majority of people have different beliefs than us. So that’s just my two cents.
To summarize- discrimination in the adoption community absolutely must end, but being a minority in a big crowd of religious people was a good experience for us. In a culture that is becoming increasingly divided, we all benefit from leaving our bubbles once in a while.
Considering adoption? Our agency, Holt International, is happy to talk you through different options for adoption (it’s free and there is zero commitment). Holt has adoption programs for China, Korea, Vietnam, Colombia, Thailand, the Philippines, Haiti and India. You can get in touch with them by clicking here.
Holt is also offering half price application fees in the month of November when you use the code Larson. Click here to apply. *I am not being paid to share these links for Holt. I want to support and recommend them because we’ve had a good experience and I think they are a helpful resource to answer specific and personal questions we can’t answer.