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Enjoying their backyard treehouse are Robin Crawford, sons Miles (2) and Josiah (9), and her husband Victor. The Crawfords are in the process of adopting two brothers from Ethiopia.
Photo by Charles D. Perry
Enjoying their backyard treehouse are Robin Crawford, sons Miles (2) and Josiah (9), and her husband Victor. The Crawfords are in the process of adopting two brothers from Ethiopia.

Yours. Mine. His.

Amy Writing Awards | A story of faith, family and adoption. An award of outstanding merit winner

Charles D. Perry won an award of outstanding merit and $1,000 in the 2013 Amy Writing Awards, which recognizes Bible-based articles that appear in secular publications. (Read a selection of this year’s winning articles, which will be posted online through Tuesday, May 13.) For more information about entering this year’s competition, please visit the Amy Writing Awards section of the WORLD website.

The following article originally appeared in The Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Herald on Aug. 30, 2013.

Robin Crawford didn’t recognize the number on her iPhone.

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She’d lost her contact list a few months earlier during an upgrade, so caller ID often presented a mystery.

This was Tuesday, Aug. 20, and Robin was at peace. She and her husband Victor had recently been cleared to adopt two boys from Ethiopia.

After a year of lawyers, fundraisers and paperwork, the 30-year-old was teeming with excitement, ready to bring two more children into her Conway home.

The Crawford family already included Josiah, a 9-year-old from Guatemala, and Miles, the couple’s 2-year-old biological child.

Then came the call.

Robin knew the voice instantly.

It belonged to a friend, the former foster mother of a 4-year-old girl Robin and Victor had tried to adopt. Just before that adoption was about to be finalized, the girl’s grandmother said she wanted to raise the child.

Robin was crushed, but she accepted the decision. God has a plan, she said, this will eventually make sense.

But that painful episode happened over a year ago, before the Crawfords had committed to international adoption, to Africa and to the boys in Ethiopia.

Why was this person calling now?

The grandmother wants you to take the child, the foster parent said, and she can’t stop thinking about your family. Please call her.

Robin was floored. Her house has less than 1,400 square feet of space. She’s a loan assistant and her husband is a part-time minister who also sells telecom equipment. Money is scarce. How could they say yes?

Robin was moved. This girl needs a family. Her grandmother wants her to grow up with a father. The Bible compels Christians to care for orphans. How could they say no?

The crisis

Spin the globe.

Place a finger in the Caribbean, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia or Latin America. Although orphans abound worldwide—including thousands in the U.S.—most of them live in these areas.

UNICEF, the children’s outreach agency of the United Nations, estimates there are more than 132 million children who have lost at least one parent in these places and some 13 million are both fatherless and motherless.

Despite the numerous orphans living in developing countries, the number of international adoptions by U.S. families has plummeted by 62 percent since peaking in 2004.

One reason for the downturn is that countries such as China and South Korea have enacted stricter policies to limit the number of foreign adoptions and encourage domestic ones.

But American officials have also played a role in the decline. In 2008, the U.S. joined the Hague Convention, an international agreement that provides safeguards to prevent corruption in the intercountry adoption process.

Many of the Hague’s guidelines for adoption agencies promote sound management: requiring master’s degrees for social workers, a minimum amount of reserve funding and tougher record keeping policies.

However, increased regulation has created some challenges. For example, the U.S. State Department will not process adoptions involving countries that have joined the Hague but failed to meet all of its requirements.

“This is a big problem,” said James Fletcher Thompson, a Spartanburg lawyer who serves on the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys board. “The United States State Department is closing adoption programs when they see any kind of situation where they are out of Hague compliance instead of working with those nations to find appropriate homes for those children.

We don’t have a fewer number of people seeking to adopt and we don’t have a fewer number of children who need adoption. We are instead getting caught up in bureaucratic hijinks that is not child focused.”

Critics of international adoption often point to the scandals in recent years involving birth parents who were misinformed—or misled—about the adoption process. The American concept of adoption isn’t universally understood. In some cases, birth parents have thought they were simply sending their children to the U.S. for an education, not severing their rights permanently.

Although there have been cases of fraud abroad, Thompson said most international adoptions end the way stateside ones do—with a child united with a family.

“Just as in U.S. adoptions, you can find unseemly adoption providers and stories where people have been taken advantage of,” he said. “That also doesn’t define the bulk of what is domestic adoption, which is loving and unselfish decisions being made. … That’s the norm.”

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