Is adoption more ethical?

Patrick and I have been married almost two years now, which means we’ve started getting the inevitable question “when are you going to have a baby?” As annoying as this is, we don’t mind so much. This ward knew Patrick when he first started his graduate work, while he was single and dating women not as cool as me, and then they watched as I starting investigating, then joined the church, as Patrick and I became friends, started dating, and finally got married. They’ve been with us the whole way, so it’s only natural that they’re waiting for the next step.

So a few weeks ago, we were talking about the next step and Patrick mentioned that he wondered if adoption would be more ethical than having a child. I was floored. Initially, I think I was insulted. I mean, come on. I am woman, I have the potential to create and bring forth life. Bow down to me!

His argument was that there are millions of children who have been orphaned, abandoned, abused, etc, who could benefit from good parents, shelter, security, and being raised in a Gospel oriented home. Kids who basically would have no chance otherwise. So say we want four kids, we’re looking at two basic options, assuming we’re able to have children: a) have our own kids, leaving four other kids out in the world who have little chance, or b) adopt four kids, which essentially lessens the number of orphaned, abandoned, etc, by four. Looking at it this way, it’s pretty clear that the more ethical thing to do would be to adopt those four kids.

But I want my own kids. Why? Well, some of the reasons I could think of made me feel a bit selfish on further examination. Of course, the Lord commands us to multiply and replenish the earth, and that by itself should be good enough for me (assuming it’s possible to have kids, obviously infertility would change things). But aside from that, I want to personally participate in the act of bringing life into the world. I want my child to be mine from the moment they are born. And yes, I want pasty little red-haired kids that look like my husband and me. But don’t these last few motivations sound selfish–it’s about me and wanting my kids to be and even look like me–don’t they almost seem like self-worship? On examining these initial reasons I thought of to having a (biological) child and realizing that they seem self-centered (or I’m self-centered), it would seem that adoption is a more selfless option (for me, in theory).

Let me insert some disclaimers, because I can just imagine people jumping all over me. I’m not saying everyone’s reasons for having children are selfish, nor am I’m saying parenting is selfish. On the contrary, I think parenthood is one of the most unselfish acts/roles we can perform on this earth. This is just a reflection of thought I had about my own involvement with the subject.

Also, I realize I’m looking at this from a non-theological point of view, because frankly while I’ve heard many things, I just don’t know which bits of doctrine are true or rumor. I don’t know if we’re “assigned” specific children, Saturday’s Warrior-like spirits waiting to be born into our families, or if we get extra points for bringing as many children into the world as we can, as I heard suggested in Relief Society. Any concrete church statements would be welcomed here.

So the things I don’t know aside, I have concluded that adoption would be more ethical than having biological children. Thoughts?


  1. As a father—and my wife can attest to this as the mother—I cannot express the joy I felt when I saw my daughter born, and the joy I keep experiencing every evening when I go home and get to play with her. There is just something there that I don’t think I could ever experience fully, or wholly, with someone else’s child.

    Adoption is a good and worthy thing, and most likely my wife and I will participate and adopt several children at some point in our lives.

    But I just have to say, I think I understand God, my Heavenly Father, a whole lot better when I see my own child.

  2. It’s one thing to talk about this topic in theory, it’s another in practice. Because you don’t always have control over how many kids you’ll have and when you’ll have them.

    We always planned on having two and adopting two. My whole life I’ve always wanted to adopt. We ended up having three (the last was a surprise, but so obviously meant for our family), and haven’t been able to adopt any, yet. I’m starting to accept that we may never be able to, and it’s really hard.

  3. rick jepson says:

    We’re also trying to mix it up. I think that there is an unparalleled joy that comes from mixing your own genes with the person you love. It’s just wonderful to create together.

    But we had a girl and then a boy….and then a vasectomy. Anyone else that enters our family will be through adoption. I just can’t see making 10 babies when there are millions of hungry, homeless kids all over the planet (and not just in exotic places, but even right here in my own backyard).

  4. You need a mix of option A and B. Have some of your own kids and adopt some. My wife and I talk about this every once in a while and our plan is to have some kids and then adopt or be foster parents to some more. We feel it’s the best of both worlds. We get to be co-creators with God and also help out the “lost children.” Talk about a mixture of the two options with your husband and offer your feelings (which are not selfish) of you wanting some genetic bond to your children.

  5. I would think that those who can’t have children and have to wait in a long line and pay lots of money to get them would perhaps appreciate those who can have children naturally to do so, so as to not clog the adoption lines.

  6. I will give you my viewpoint as an infertile woman who has researched adoption off and on for a few years now. Admittedly irrational and desperate at times, I am often angry at people who are able to have children and choose not to because they feel it would be better to help an orphan.

    If I choose to adopt from my husband’s country of origin (philippines), I am forced to wait for 2 years behind many well-meaning people who are adopting because they want to help an orphan, and the youngest child I can get is 3-4 years old.

    These orphans will be adopted! If they do not go to you, there are hundreds of other waiting families who are probably not able to have them on their own. Unfortunately the countries that seem to have the greatest need do not have adoption programs in place to help their children.

    I urge you to research adoption and you will understand how many thousands of families there are lined up wishing for children of many varieties.

    The primary need in the adoption world is for parents of US foster children, and international children who are 11-16 years old who are waiting for families. I know personally(call me selfish if you will) and with my husbands lack of enthusiasm for adoption, we could not handle a situation of this sort.

    We all need to understand what we can and cannot handle and I urge you to only consider adoption if you are truly helping a child who would otherwise probably not find a family.

  7. There are pitfalls to adoption also. Children put up for adoption have a chance of coming from chemically dependent parents, thus causing a greater chance of mental problems like ADHD etc. Babies put up for adoption eventual have to face the fact that their biological parents didn’t want to keep them or didn’t have the means and capacity to keep them. I don’t remember the exact statistic, but there is a lower probability of parent child bonding and a higher chance that the adoptive parents could get burned out and reject their children (It’s even higher in Foster Parents.) That last one was a major factor for me. I don’t want to destroy some kids lives because in 20 years I turn out to be lazy and unwilling to get the kid through college and work with them the rest of their life.

    That said, One of the families in my last ward had two of their own and then adopted 8-10 kids. I’ve always been very impressed with them. One of the guys I home Teach was adopted as a kid and attributes every thing of value in his life to that event. My wife’s grand parents adopted a son and though he went through a rebellious stage, he is definitely what I would call a good man.

    Then there are the other stories. One of my best buds growing up was adopted by really awesome Catholic Parents.(I was Catholic, so we went to private school together) and he was always in trouble, and he attributed it to not being their real son. One of my Mom’s friends is a Single Woman who adopted two black daughters and is now unable to deal with the cultural problems that come from that, which are many. Two of my buddies in college were products of foster care programs and both were so emotionally messed up that it brought me to tears.

    I think adopting a child is great, as long as you go in with eyes wide open to the reality that there are going to be genetically predetermined differences.

    I find the idea of adopting difficult because the question becomes who do you adopt out of the 4 million? Do you adopt the ones who are the hardest, knowing you might not make it, or the ones who you think will be the best (selfish?) I’d rather just procreate and let God decide.

  8. Another issue is in mixed families, adopted children almost always feel “loved less” per research I can not site at the moment. Come on, It’s been 8 years since i looked at this stuff…

  9. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    When typing up this post, I thought about the problem of crowding the line to adopt a child, because it seems the more ethical thing to do would be to step aside and let a parent who can’t naturally have children have the opportunity to adopt as quickly as possible.

    but having worked in the chid welfare sector, I also know that to adopt an American child in the state system is relatively quick, although not simple and not in all cases. I recall a social worker once telling me that if a person wanted to adopt AND was willing to adopt an African-American child, there would be no problem and no wait. Soley for the sake of argument and not as a judgement of anyone’s choices, why aren’t more people who want a child willing to go this route?

  10. In addition to older children in the American system, there are also children who have special needs and sibling groups who want to be placed together. There aren’t long lines of people who can’t have children waiting to adopt a group of four siblings, ages 7,9,11, and 13. Especially if the kids are black. Or one (or more) of the kids have behavioral problems. The long lines are usually for babies under three, especially if those babies are white.

  11. I’ve always wanted to adopt as well. I have wanted to adopt the children that were older because I felt that they were the least likely to ever get a home. I realize it would be hard and I have a husband that would have to agree to it, but if we are able to help these young children I will be so very pleased and willing to do so!
    I even had a dream that I told my husband about a while back. I was running a home for teenagers that never got adopted and it was hard but I was able to help most of them and they at least had a place that they could go to and feel safe. It was a wonderful dream!

  12. I think this argument works better for pets than it does for children. I’m familiar, through second-hand experience, of the difficulties facing parents who try to adopt. It’s a long, difficult and expensive process, regardless of the baby’s race. It does seem to be true that it’s easier to adopt an older child, but one should consider that a lot of behaviors are set at a fairly early age, so there are a host of other issues that go along with the decision to adopt a non-infant.

    Moreover, I think any selfishness that might result in wanting to procreate is quickly outweighed by the selflessness that parenting requires. Further, while I have the utmost respect for people that adopt, I don’t think that the bonding that genetics and anscestory provides can be dismissed out of hand.

  13. Last Lemming says:

    Taken to its logical extreme, your reasoning would lead to a world in which only unethical people have children, and leave them for the ethical ones to raise. This is not a formula for improving the world over the long term.

    Do you think the world is better for your own (or your husband’s) presence in it? (It’s OK to say yes!) If so, don’t you think the same would be true of your children? So give birth to them and let them make their contribution. Only you and your husband can produce those particular children, and who knows what they might accomplish.

  14. The other issue, as has been brought up by some, is that many childern, especially American, who are up for adoption tend to have special needs because their parents screwed up. You’ve gotta be ready for 24 hours a day of taking care of a child that has problems of one sort or another. There is a reason why many of these children go from foster home to foster home and then end up getting into criminal trouble. Their biological parents really need to be held accountable—and I know God will hold them accountable—which they are currently not, by our laws.

  15. I think both adoption and regular births are good. How is that for controversy?

    The sealing power works the same regardless if its a natural child or not.

    I guess I just like kids running around underfoot all the time.

  16. Rosalynde says:

    This conversation is going to hurt a lot of feelings.

    Having biological children is selfish, in a lot of ways, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Humans act most reliably in their own interest, so aligning a child’s well-being with an adult’s self-interest is probably the best way to protect children.

    I think there are serious ethical issues to be considered surrounding adoption. Will the child be separated from a beloved caretaker at a psychologically vulnerable time? Will the child be transplanted into a social environment in which he or she will feel racially or ethnically isolated? Will he or she be transplanted into a family environment in which he or she will share much less in common than all the other family members? Does the adoption feed an exploitive gender-geopolitical system?

    Even if the answer to one or several of these questions is yes, adoption can still be an ethical choice, I believe. But it’s not pristinely or universally so.

  17. In addendum to my previous comments, but more tangential.

    If you decide to adopt, I’d make sure you watch the movie “The Rescuers” by Disney, every so often, to keep reminding you why you are doing it. I watched it about amonth ago, and immediately started planning on building and buying an orphanage and then adopting all the kids in the world, but practicality won out, and I can barely pay the rent.

    And a last thought, the number of children that are able to be adopted, as I understand them, decline each year as abortion becomes more prevelant. Is that good or bad? That said, there are still over a million orphan children in Africa who’s parents have died of aids.

  18. MartyMoose says:

    My wife and I are in the adoption process through LDS social services. It doesn’t matter as much to use whether it is our biological child or not. The important thing is that it is our child. I have seen the miracle of birth (course, anyone who has seen “The Miracle of Life” has seen the miracle of birth), and I think it is a wonderful experience that can draw us closer to God. But if people can’t love and cherish the experience of an adopted child as much as a biological child, and I mean 100%, they should really take some time to consider their reasons for adopting. Charity to me just isn’t a good enough reason.

  19. “especially American, who are up for adoption tend to have special needs because their parents screwed up”

    There is nothing especially American about this. This is true of children world wide up for adoption. I don’t understand why Americans don’t understand that most often adopting a child from another county is adopting from their version of our foster care–

    I know this is tangential to the topic at hand… My family used to run a non-profit called SEBA. The organization works with orphanages in South America, particularly Honduras, to help them get the necessities of life, and build playgrounds for them. The children were not orphans in the sense of no parents, but what are commonly known as social orphans. These children’s parents send them to the orphanages out of desperation, simply hoping that they will be better fed. Some of the children were very ill. One little boy struggled there until his death after his weeping grandfather carried him down the mountains and into the town and had to leave him hoping he would get medical care. He never did. Some of the children were left their because they were light skinned, meaning they were the offspring of a Honduran woman and often the product of rape by and American soldier in the area. Sometimes Americans would visit the orphanage, anxious to adopt. They never could quite understand that the children really, were not at all up for adoption. It was always the hope of the families who placed them in the home that they would be able to reclaim their children, or at least visit, like— grandfather who came whenever he could.

    My sister and I were discussing Madonna and the whole adoption fiasco the last couple of days. What makes me sick, daily, is the way children are such a commodity.
    My sister, an anthropologist, reminds me that this is not new. I am well aware of this, but that doesn’t make it seem any better. Children are increasingly trafficked in the ever-expanding sex trade, or shall we say rape trade. They are used and abused in the most horrendous of ways. They are stricken by disease and poverty. And sometimes they are rescued–but maybe not in the way they should be.
    Madonna adopted a boy with the claimed hope to rescue him from a life of poverty. Surely the poverty that lies within the borders of sub-Saharan Africa is by far worse than most of us could imagine. And surely we should reach out and fill the need of the struggling and afflicted there through the best available means.
    Yet I am also amazed that so many people in rich countries do not help the poor, yet seem to think poverty is a fate worse than death. I think the poor boy who Madonna adopted ought to be rescued from a selfish life of excess.
    It broke my heart to hear his father relinquished him because he could not care for him because he was too poor, and he was barely getting by in the orphanage. Yes, lets leave the poor in Africa to rot but take all their children. How will providence look on us if we claim to stand for equality and justice but take children from their families and countries in the name of sanctomonious charity?
    Susan B Anthony said, “Sweeter than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things generally for mothers…so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”
    If we are really to bless families world wide–we should do everything in our power to help them maintain just that, a family. Adopting their children out so as to rescue them from poverty when they have a loving, but poor family endangers all that is noble and good about loving family relationships. Families become about wealth, rather than the close bonds that help us learn to relate to others throughout our lives.

    I think, as always, Rosalynde makes a very good case that both can be eithical and unethical.

  20. mami,

    Let me explain, I refer more specifically to American abandoned kids from parents who were on drugs. I just don’t see that as often internationally as I have here in America. Maybe that’s just because American news resources tends to focus on America more. If I’m wrong, that’s cool.

  21. Melissa, a wonderful post, and one that raises issues I’ve wrestled with myself from time to time. It would seem that there are conflicting circles of care and influence at play: the circle of your immediate family and the circle of society. For your genetics and your immediate family, adoption would seem to rob the opportunity to propogate your own DNA. At the same time, from the point of view of the group, it makes sense to take care of the needy and helpless already present before creating new ones. Rosalynde rightly points out some of the tricky issues surrounding adoption, but I think she’s being a tad myopic. That adoption is an overall good is unquestionable.

  22. p.s. Rosalynde, why would this conversation hurt a lot of feelings? Those most sensitive in this domain — persons who were adopted, persons considering adoption, persons who may not have children — have, via Melissa’s post, a chance to discuss the relative ethical issues in a pretty thoughtful way…

  23. The situation and events chronicled on this blog don’t answer the questions as posed, but maybe they do suggest an approach to an answer:

  24. Let me chime in again. Full disclosure 4 natural born kids.

    Adoption is of God and supported by the scriptures, the bretheren, and Jesus as far as I can tell.

    Adoption at its best brings together the child without a loving home into a loving home.

    Adoption can have issues of its own unique to adoption as oppossed to natural child birth. The potential of these types of complications do not negate the fact that Adoption is of God.

    In the end the individual LDS couple must follow where the spirit leads. Its possible that the Spirit could tell a couple to adopt right now rather than have a child the natural way.

  25. Kevin Barney says:

    If ever there were a decision where you’re entitled to be a little bit selfish, it is the decision whether and when to have children, by what means and how many. However one does it, the burden is absolutely huge, and you will wear out the rest of your lives caring for and worrying about them. So while it is fine to discuss this as an abstraction, for a lot of the reasons expressed above I think it is much too complex to conclude that adoption is necessarily in all events morally superior to having one’s own children.

  26. Kevin, of course we’re discussing abstractions! this is the BLOGGERNACLE, man!

  27. I think there are serious ethical issues to be considered surrounding adoption. Will the child be separated from a beloved caretaker at a psychologically vulnerable time? Will the child be transplanted into a social environment in which he or she will feel racially or ethnically isolated? Will he or she be transplanted into a family environment in which he or she will share much less in common than all the other family members? Does the adoption feed an exploitive gender-geopolitical system?

    These comments point to the very real differences among modes of adoption. Adoption of an infant into an otherwise childless or fully adoptive family raises fewer of these questions; adoption of a baby from within the U.S. doesn’t raise as many concerns about imperialism, etc. These concerns are quite real; some of the international adoption programs are sort of creepy.

    On the other hand, if we think about a sort of universal utilitarian good in making ethical decisions, the benefits associated with rescuing an orphan from starvation or a horrible orphanage may be substantial enough to weigh in the balance against the factors Rosalynde mentions.

    One final point Rosalynde didn’t bring up: the demand for certain kinds of adoptive children risks creating a market for babies — and sometimes has created such a market. That’s really creepy, slippery ethical territory.

  28. Dan,
    That is the case. Many of the children in foreign countries in orphanages are there because they were either abandoned or removed by the state for the same reasons that would happen here.

    “On the other hand, if we think about a sort of universal utilitarian good in making ethical decisions, the benefits associated with rescuing an orphan from starvation or a horrible orphanage may be substantial enough to weigh in the balance against the factors Rosalynde mentions.”

    I think the key here is maybe—but then why not rescue the parents so the child would not be starving? or fix the orphanage so it wouldn’t be so horrible?

  29. John Cline says:

    Sure, there are thousands of kids here who need a home. There are probably at least double that elsewhere still waiting for their physical bodies.

    Saying adoption is more ethical is speaking entirely from the perspective of mortality.

  30. Mami:

    then why not recue the parents..

    Because it’s a lot harder to rescue adults than children, because their are life long deterministic forces at play, and habits are ways of being are hard to break. Although I believe the church is true and has within it the fundamental way of life that if all people followed, they would be happy in life, that doesn’t mean I expect every person I come in contact with to jump on board. But that may be too much of a tangent for this post. To return from Mormonism to Foreign Aid, I do think the parents need to be rescued, but the difference is we can “rescue” children against their wills, because we don’t recognize their wills, and we can’t do that with adults. (Please don’t confuse me as saying I think the church should bring in children against their wills. I do not think this.)Anyway, this is morally pretty muddy ground to tread.

    As for fixing the orphanages, the LDS church, I am sad to say, owns no orphanages that I am aware of. (The Church may sponsor many through Church Welfare services and Fast offerings, but I am not privy to any such data.) Many are sponsored by the countries they are in, and we may as well say we need to fix their intire way of government before we can fix those. Many others are sponsored by other churches (Presbyterian, Catholic, etc.) and are constrained by financial need and by poor management(as statistics show that many non-profit organizers either burn out or are forced to quit due to financial or emotional pressures).

    Personally, I would love to rescue people and fix orphanages and if I knew a way to do that, I would.

  31. “Sure, there are thousands of kids here who need a home. There are probably at least double that elsewhere still waiting for their physical bodies.”

    I could see how this could easily detour into a discussion of the doctrinal implications of “Saturday’s Warrior” and “My Turn on Earth.” Frankly, I think those are much more sticky questions.

  32. Matt,
    I am not sure what the church humanitarian aid has to do with this conversation–or foriegn aid.
    As far as rescuing adults–You are right, it is very difficult. But then are we saying we should just not do it because it is difficult for us? Then we are saying adopting is the easy way out of a moral obligation.
    I just am saying as far as adoption goes, taking people’s children because they are poor is wrong. It is inherantly imperialistic to rescue children solely on this basis when they otherwise would have a loving family.

    Are you guys related to Matt and Stacy?

  33. John Cline’s comment will lead us to immensely inhuman acts. While knowledge of a premortal existence and postmortal life are of comfort and bolster our faith, we cannot minimize the importance of taking care of infants and children in the present.

  34. Matt, since you asked: you might be interested in this group, which works through membership channels and targets LDS kids (though not exclusively). It’s coordinated in part by Brad Walker, whose experiences are related in this article: Bradley Walker, “Spreading Zion Southward: Improving Efficiency and Equity in the Allocation of Church Welfare Resources,” Dialogue 35/4 (Winter 2002): 91-109. There’s also a follow-up article.

  35. BTD GReG–
    yes, I think Melissa’s post is inherently sticky. Doctrinally we are all supposed to come to earth and get a body. We are also all supposed to help others get a body by reproducing (when possible). We are also supposed to help others.
    So are we reproducing out of duty? Are we adopting out of duty? and are these two reasons both selfish if we are doing it to check off one of the above boxes?

    And if we don’t reproduce are we making it so other people can’t have bodies? frustrating the plan? and will make that make it so the second coming takes longer because not everyone who is supposed to be here has been born? Definately Saturday’s Warrior stuff–

  36. Matt,
    There is another site,–and a million more.
    We are currently restructuring our organization and branching out–will let you know if you really are interested.

  37. Mami, that’s folk doctrine you’re talking there. Nowhere in the scriptures or in the Canon is there a duty to “help others get a body by reproducing (when possible).”

  38. Yep, it’s folk doctrine alright. When I said it could get sticky, that’s the sort of thing I was talking about. For example, the concept that there are a finite number of spirit children up in heaven (presumably, just the right amount to support the population of the earth through the millenium) waiting to come down to earth and that we must procreate to facilitate that passage. I understand the concept well enough, but I don’t think it’s supported by scripture.

    Tangentially, one topic that I’d like to see some reasoned speculation about from an LDS thinker is the relationship between divine spiritual attributes and genetically inhereted personality traits.

  39. Some people are able to have their kids and adopt.

    My sister had two of her own, the two oldest of her children. Her three next kids are adopted, all three from the same mother. It’s an unusual story and the third one actually hasn’t been born yet. Any day now, we’re hearing.

  40. Steve,
    I agree, it is. That was my point–it is sticky.
    Although it things have been said,
    The Lord has told us that it is the duty of every husband and wife to obey the command given to Adam to multiply and replenish the earth, so that the legions of his choice spirits waiting for their tabernacles of flesh may com here and move forward under God’s great design….
    Statement by the First Presidency, President Heber J Grant, J. Reuben Clark, David O. McKay

    The Lord has spoken out very strongly in this matter, constantly and continuously. He said, as on of his important commandments, “Multiply and replenish the earth.” That wasn’t just a hoping so; it wasn’t just something that would be kind of nice to do….
    President Spencer W. Kimball

    The command which he gave in the beginning to multiply and replenish the earth is still in force upon the children of men. Possibly no greater sin could be committed by people who have embraced this gospel than to prevent or to destroy life…

  41. the last quote was from Joseph F Smith

  42. Thanks BBell.

    My Husband and I are the parents of 4 biological children. We are waiting parents-to-be to a two year old girl in Hunan, China. My daughter’s biological parent(s) made an adoption plan for her by leaving her in an elegant Hotel in the Changsha City that is frequented by foreigners. That act alone tells me that they had the desire for their precious child to be adopted by foreigners. I am very thankful to them for choosing life. According to China’s one-child policy she should have been aborted.

    Having gone thru 5 difficult pregnancies I would have to say that “paper pregnant” is by far the most fun. No weight gain, heck I have lost weight. I don’t spend my days wishing I could nest, instead of throwing up in the sink. I get to nest. I have the same emotional feelings as when I was pregnant with the other kids, plus I feel great.

    We started this process in May 2006. We were given our daughter’s file in July 2006. We got approval from China September 2006. We had our FBI clearance and completed our home study in July of 2006. We are now waiting on the INS (so far they are the biggest pain). We should go to get her early part of 2007. Not that much of a wait. It is expensive, but we would rather spend the money on her than a new car.

    There are so many children available. Most do not get adopted. Many are older, in a sibling group or have a handicap. We found our daughter on a waiting list with Hep B. We will be able to give her the medical care that she needs to live a full and productive life.

    We feel that God is leading us on this path. When people ask “why China?” We reply “because that is where our daughter is.” If you feel that God is calling you to adopt; follow the spirit to where you will find your child. Adoption is not ethical or unethical it is a way for God to create families and bring the Gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.

    For sites that can show you a few of the “waiting children” please see:

    For a really great international adoption agency:

    A video on the orphans of China:

  43. JA Benson Thanks for your insight. Obviously the spirit and our own righteous desires to adopt can guide us. I am so happy this is working for you.

  44. I’ve considered abortion, but I’m terrified of two things- I already have at least one of my own, and I don’t know how to adopt a kid (infant or not) and be sure that I won’t really love my own son more, or attribute anything bad about the adopted child to the fact that it is not my biological child. Even if I manage to really treat the kids like equals, how do I make sure they recognize it?
    Secondly, I’m afraid I’d always view adoption as a ‘project.’ I’m afraid I’d act towards the child like someone who was assigned to be friends with a less active person as a youth, (ie filled with self-reighteousness whenever I remember the situation). No one wants to be a project, and I imagine the resentment would be stronger when the person making you into a project is your mother.
    I’m sure there are ways to avoid these feelings, but I’m not certain enough (yet) that I would be successful to feel comfortable adopting.

  45. er, Starfoxy — ADOPTION.

  46. Um, typo I meant to say adoption not abortion.

  47. I know Steve, I know. Let’s just hope no one here believes in Fruedian slips.

  48. Speaking as someone who has no chance of children in this life, I don’t care HOW you have your children — birth, adoption (local or foreign), adopting your spouse’s children, raising your sister’s kids, whatever. Just be sure you’re decent parents, will you? Love and teach and provide for each of your children as well as you do for any of your others, regardless of how you got them. That’s ethical.

  49. Melissa De Leon Mason says:

    I’m still amazed by how quick comments are posted. Just to respond to a few:

    Last Lemming #13- I said nothing about ethical people, just ethical actions. And I don’t believe that choosing to give birth to children is unethical, I’m exploring whether adoption is more ethical. Wow, the word ethical doesn’t sound like a word anymore once I type it that many times.

    Rosalynde 16- I hope this conversation doesn’t hurt feelings and I debated whether to post it for that reason. But I really am interested in the abstract discussion that can be had about it and think there’s a lot to be gained by just having the conversation. I agree with Kevin (#25) that ultimately adoption is extremely complex and specific to the situation and personal revelation of the persons involved. However, if this post is hurting anyone, I apologize, it’s not my intention to make concrete judgments.

    J Nelson Seawright (#26) – I’m also unsettled by the baby market, as exemplified by news reports of Madonna shopping orphanages. International adoption seems to be the new Kabbalah bracelet of the Hollywood set and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.

    Matt (#30)- When I toured the Humanitarian Center a few months ago, they went into depth explaining their initiative to build up orphanages. They put together an “orphanage kit” which supplies an orphanage’s needs for a certain amount of time. These supplies range from medical supplies to baby items to colorful hangings that stimulate babies in their cribs. They’re constantly in need of donations for these items whether you send money, diapers, or make a quilt for a crib. It’s a fantastic and comprehensive project.

    Mami (#32)- Matt is my husband’s brother. They’re great people! And thank you for the Susan B. Anthony quote, I hadn’t heard that before but really like it.

    Starfoxy (#44) I was terrified of making that typo while writing this post.

    Sticky is a good word for this issue. In a way, I’m reminded of Adam in the garden trying to come to terms with conflicting commandments. We today are commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, but we are also commanded to care for our neighbor.

  50. Ardis- you are awesome.
    Melissa- Thanks for the humanitarian center info. I need to give them a call and ask how I can become involved. And comments don’t always stack up this fast, it’s just when you bring up something facinating.
    Rosylende- I will check out thst sight. I promise.
    Mami- I will also check out your sight. What I meant about Foreign Aid and Financial Aid is that I have a deep fear that when we throw money at problems, we are merely offering band aid solutions and not following that Susan B. Anthony Quote you quoted(Which I am going to take and write in my scriptures). I want to fix the difficult problems, and beleive that the Church’s message is the best way to do so. I just don’t know how to overcome some of the obstacles.

  51. Melissa,
    I love Matt and Stacy–old grad school friendsl

    Philosophically speaking–This all raises other philosophical issues. It is easy for us to say, perhaps especially as Mormons, that we found “our children” and were led to adopt “our children“. But then we are back to the silly Saturday’s Warrior and My Turn on Earth Thing. Then if we accept that at face value, we are saying God wanted the children born into bad homes with abusive parents, drug addicts, or impoverished countries, or to places like China where a female child is worth little to nothing. He then wanted us to go adopt that child. It leaves huge gaps for families who would like to keep their children but can’t because the child is the wrong gender, or they can’t afford to keep them. We can gloss it all over by saying that the birth parent relinquished the child and wanted a better life for the child. Sure, that is what love would require.
    It is like King Solomon deciding which woman to give the baby to. The woman would rather have her child go somewhere else than die. But in reality the parent would rather keep the child. We then, as the adoptive parents, are sealed to the child. But in the eternities don’t you think the birth parent who lived a dire mortal existence would like to be with their child they let go, for the child’s sake? They sacrifice the heartache of giving up a child because of circumstances mostly beyond their control, and we reap the benefits. It seems wholly unfair to say they we are destined to have these children. It is grossly arrogant and ethnocentric.
    In reality the adoptive parent is second best. But most of mortality is that way.
    I am not saying that it is second-best in specific families, but everyone, and by God’s own design, would have a family of natural biology. It is only because of the defects of mortality both physically and because of the inequitable designs of humanity–that it doesn’t work that way.
    Of course, we should do what we can.

  52. Matt,
    That wasn’t actually my site–just one I found . We are restructuring so our site is not up

  53. Mark Butler says:

    There are many complications, but it is certainly a mistake to consider that adoption is a less worthy enterprise than parenting one’s own biological offspring.

    Abraham was told in Abr 2:10 that “as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father”. That is not natural posterity alone, but adopted posterity.

    Abraham and Sarah are considered the adoptive parents of all who receive the gospel. And this promise is unto us (by faithfulness) as well, because we are of Abraham. Isaiah 54 is another great prophecy regarding the principle of adoption.

  54. cchrissyy says:

    thanks for this post, it is fascinating new food for thought on a topic I’ve pondered before.

  55. mullingandmusing (m&m) says:

    But I also think it’s a mistake to consider that having children biologically (if possible) is somehow a less worthy enterprise.

    I think in the end the key is to do what God commands and guides one to do. I firmly believe some people are meant to adopt. Supposed to. Guided to do so. And even guided to find “their” children. But most people don’t adopt, and I think it’s wrong to suggest that any such people are selfish or less ethical than those who do. I don’t think ethics should be on the table for this discussion at all. The right thing to do is simply what God guides one to do. It’s a personal thing, not something that can be labeled or analyzed at a general level, IMO.

  56. D. Fletcher says:

    Interesting idea. Not to sidetrack the thread, but I’ve said for years that one of the advantages of the legalization of same-sex marriage, it seems to me, is that more of these couples would adopt children, giving them safe and stable homes. Seems an ethical enough reason to me (versus what people might deem the “immorality” of such an arrangement).

  57. I just skimmed the comments quickly and am shocked that this point hasn’t been brought up yet. Shocked. If it was addressed and I missed it, I apologize. First – we have 1 bio son (2 yrs) and 1 who was adopted (8 months).

    “But I want my own kids.”

    My adopted son is absolutely my own child – just as much as my biological son. And after we were sealed in the temple to him last month, he was as naturally mine as my bio son. Yes, one may say they are “just” words, but to me, they hold more power in some instances, and this is very much one of those times.

    The child born from my womb is biological; the child born from my heart was adopted. They are both absolutely my own children.

    That said (and having been through both types of becoming a mother), it’s totally natural to want to be pregnant, carry a child that close, and go through the birthing process. I am *almost* willing to be that if you are physically able to have children, have a desire to be pregnant, and add children only through adoption, that you’ll one day not regret going through the pregnancy/deliver experience.

    I completely agree with this comment:
    “it is certainly a mistake to consider that adoption is a less worthy enterprise than parenting one’s own biological offspring.”

    This is an interesting way to present the question of adoption. It all depends on how God has planned for your children to join your family.

    Also want to add that we love adoption with our souls, but in no way is going through the process easy. But worth it? Absolutely.

  58. Julie P. Well said.

  59. Naturalism isn’t everything but it is worthwhile to consider ethics in the context of human nature.

    Questioning whether it is more ethical to adopt than to raise one’s progeny assumes that we have a choice. I am not sure that is the case.

    No species controls procreation. Humans may have gotten close but even the best birth control retains substantial error rates.

    Moreover, subconscious and unconconscious attitudes shape our relationship with our children. At some level, the desire to have children and our love for them is a drive.

    (That’s one of the reasons why the family values agenda is unsound. It exaggerates parental virtue by ignoring parents self-interest in the well being of their children. Jesus teaches that love for one’s enemies, rather than parental affection, is the ultimate manifestation of love).

    However noble it may appear, it would be foolish to ignore our nature and forego physical children in favor of adoption. People are not the masters of their drives. With luck (or the help of God) we can direct them but we cannot stop them.

    There is no way that people can predict their attitudes towards children. There’s too much in our psyche that we cannot control. We are not in charge of our bodies.

    That may be one reason why Christians are supposed to be humble.

    Patrick is asking a noble question. He must be a sweet man. Unfortunately, our bodies don’t work that way.

    The wise choice might be to acknowledge our limitations and go ahead with the red haired babies, which may turn out to be brunettes.

  60. Melissa —

    You are being very idealistic in asking this question, and I commend that idealism. However, you are also being incredibly naive. There is an entire other side to this which isn’t being discussed, which is the interests of the adoptive child.

    Raising a child requires an emotional, time, energy, physical, and financial investment that you simply can not understand as a non-parent (regardless of how many of your freinds, siblings and other people close to you have children). That cost escalates exponentially when the child suffers from a disability. Now there is no guarantee that your own biological children might not suffer from disabilities of some sort, but the hard facts are that you have a much much much better chance of assuring the best prenatal and early childhood conditions for your own biological children than for any adopted child. And the chances of suffering from traumatic prenatal or early childhood conditions are very high for children available for adoption.

    I know you will respond that those conditions make it all the more “ethical” to help those needy adoptive children. With all due respect, why do you assume that you have the ability to help such children when you haven’t gone through the experience of even raising one child with the optimum prenatal and early childhood benefits you could provide your own biological children?

    I also think that the discussion here is underplaying the difficulties of a child being raised in a family where they are from the start obviously different because of race. It’s easy for parents to be idealisitic about treating all of their different race children equally, but the emotional world of the child itself and its peer environment are not going to be nearly as mature and idealistic about such differences.

    If a couple is unable to have their own children, or already have their own children and are knowledgeably comfortable with their ability to handle the special needs of adoptive chidren (and there will ALWAYS be special emotional needs even if they are physically fit) then adoption is very praiseworthy. However, in your situation, assuming in fact you are able to bear your own children, I would want to know if you can handle the huge burdens of your own favorably situated biological offspring before determining that it is more “ethical” to impose yourself as a parent on someone else’s child.

  61. Jacobus and Hellmut–
    I agreee with you completely. I think far too often parents are unrealistic in thier expectations of themselves, but by and large they really do love and care for an adopted child and love an adopted child no differently than theri own. I think the biggest mistake is not that one, but expecting the child to reciprocate. I have seen way too many families adopt an older child, and then the child does not bond how they expect. This is a much more difficult problem.

    That all being said, I don’t think it matters. We should still adopt. No one is going to argue that adoption is not a good thing. What if a couple doesn’t feel the same? The moral dillemma is do they leave them in the orphangeor foster care? or do they take them home and do theri best?

    I know my BIL, who is adopted, also had many friends who were adopted–the ones who were in families with thier own bio children said they did not ever feel like they fit in like the rest of the children.
    My sister who works for a troubled you program at one time had 10-15 kids in treatment, and all had been adopted. It is common for the kids in treatment to have ben adoptreed. I am not blaming it on adoption, and I plan to adopt someday too, but it all things should be conseidered.

    So is it ok to adopt even if it won’t be exactly the same as having your own children? I think it is, as long as it is done morally and ethically with all things considered and with realisitc expectations of youself as a parent and of the child.

  62. 7: “Babies put up for adoption eventual have to face the fact that their biological parents didn’t want to keep them or didn’t have the means and capacity to keep them.”

    This is much less of an issue today, since the majority of infant adoptions performed in the U.S. are open. Most children adopted as infants know their birth mothers placed them for adoption out of a selfless desire to give them a better life–NOT because they “didn’t want them.”

    “There is a lower probability of parent child bonding and a higher chance that the adoptive parents could get burned out and reject their children.”

    This may apply to older-children adoptions, but it does not apply to infant adoptions.

    8: “Another issue is in mixed families, adopted children almost always feel “loved less” per research I can not site at the moment.”

    I have never seen any research supporting this.

  63. Rivkah:
    8: “Another issue is in mixed families, adopted children almost always feel “loved less” per research I can not site at the moment.”

    I have never seen any research supporting this.

    The National Association of Black Social Workers has many position papers on this issue, and has done a lot of research on it.
    You can read more at their website:

  64. When you choose someone, a husband or a wife, that choice continues to propagate into the next generations. Those things which were endearing reappear. If life is 50% nature and 50% nurture, with your children you get 100% your own, for better or for worse. They are your whole choice and the mirror of your cleaving.

    It is possible to love a stranger with ties stronger than death. I married one. Not all strangers bond, however. We had a friend who adopted a son, but their nature parts were absolutely crossed. For example, my friend brought his son over to play ping pong in our basement. J, our friend, was mostly useless. His son, C, however, having never played before, was brilliant. This was representative of their entire relationship. Their relationship was very difficult.

    Having raised a few I can attest that even with 100% it is sometimes difficult.

    To adopt or bear children… In the US and Europe, the birth rate is well below ZPG. Having children is not much of a burden on population. In the US we are growing more rapidly because of immigration, not birth. If we raise our children well, they become an asset to the world rather than a burden. They will solve more problems than they create.

    All-in-all, I am very pleased to see my wife’s maternal great grandmother when I look into the face of Sarah. I like seeing the Swedish great grandfather in Debora. I like the fact that they are like us, and we have seen this before and that, we know how to help. We know how to talk on a visceral level because of the 100%. I like seeing the mixture of me and my beloved in these children. I love my wife for her love of the children and honoring me by allowing me to be their father.

    Some are called to be adoptive parents, some are not. The ones who are called are blessed because they take responsibility for a stranger’s happiness. It is a sacrifice. All child-rearing is a sacrifice.

  65. Elephant Mayan says:

    i am adopted. my wife has 8 adopted siblings.

    i think there is a lot of wierd stuff going on in this thread. bizarre stuff. but oh well. some has been refuted and some not.

    adoption is tough. no. doubt. about. that. very tough. tough for everyone. but its also noble.

    some people adopt for the wrong reasons, they want to be pious and feel good about themselves for saving the world, so to speak. they have no clue what they are getting into.

    some folks are great at it. some arent. no different for parents with their own flesh and blood, i suppose.

    there is some irony to this whole discussion. many want to adopt to do right to a child and the world, but they are just too busy to volunteer in the trenches where kids are in great need. places like jails, bad schools, hospitals, mental institutions, dangerous neighborhoods and dark sides of the world. in mormonism, much of that is because we are too busy serving god to serve needy people, and then there are complaints when the missionaries bring the crazy ones to church. as if the church would help them, really. and dont pretend you dont know what i am talking about. you have all had the crazy convert experience, politically incorrect or not. you talked about it.

    now for my rotten story of the day. i know a guy that is retiring from his job as a defacto social worker. he has long hair. he rides a motorcycle, but not like those yahoos buying west coast chopper bikes. he is worn out. he has aged. but his face would intrigue you more than any other. he is gay. he volunteers at a clinic for men. he has been at that clinic, unpaid, for decades. his paid job is to find homeless people in his community, track them, learn about them, determine if they have aids, and keep them alive. he has done it for decades. he knows the underbelly of his environment. he has had doors kicked in by police while taking blood from an aids victim, and was poked by the needle. he has seen the good and the bad. he adopted two kids, they were orphaned by their aids stricken mother. he raised them up as a single parent. and they are great people. he loves them. and he served them. he taught them by serving in his community.

    he is an amazing dad.

    he will be missed by many. sadly, some folks will certainly live shorter lives when he leaves his job.

    so how is this relevant. good question. i am wondering that myself. but i think its relevant because you dont have to adopt to serve those kids. and its just plain goofy to me that parenting is considered to be some grand service when most of us just plain aint good at parenting. and even fewer of us are good at parenting a lot of kids. and some of us just plain screw up kids by compounding our commitments.

    [no snarky comments, i censored those]

    the end.

  66. I have read alot of the comments to you letter and I’ve got to say that I am shocked by some and saddened by others. My husband and I are infertile do to cancer. We have been married for 19 years and were married for 9 before we chose to create our family through adoption. We have adopted 5 children through our state foster care system. I just need to say. Children are children no matter where they come from and there is alot to say for nurture vs. nature. For those who claim that adopted kids are not their own. You are sadly wrong. the sealing powers envoked on you in the temple when you have an adopted child sealed to you makes that child literally yours as if they had been born to you. Listen to the sealing words the next time you are in the Temple. My children are my children not any more or less than if I had given birth to them myself and as for the person who said watch out for problems in adopted children; since when are you assured a healthy child with no problems just because you give birth to them. All my children were born with chemical dependancy of some type. But it’s amazing what the power of priesthood blessings and a little faith can do!!! I would tell you that you should not adopt a child just because it is nobel or ethical. the Lord has sent everyone down to this earth for specific trials to endure. If you are able to have children I would strongly encourage you to envoke those powers of procreation. I know many women who would give everything to be able to feel a life growing inside them. This is not however to say that you should not adopt. I think that it is a very personal and VERY spiritual process either way. You need to know for your sake as well as the child you adopt that this is what the Lord wants you to do. It must be the right child that is supposed to be with you. All I can say is you have a responsibility to find out from the Lord how you should bring your children into this earth. A very dear friend and man who sealed our children told me once that it does not matter to the Lord how his children come to this earth but what matters is that when they leave this life they are sealed into eternal families. I can’t agree more. Good luck with whatever you decide.

  67. Do your research. First you have to find ethical agencies/attornies. And that’s a task in itself. Then you need to ask yourself if removing a newborn from its biological mother is actually ethical. You’d be better adopting from foster care if you’re wanting to save the world.