First, let me offer four disclosures:
(1) I am a Christian.
(2) I am an adoptive mom.
(3) My Christian faith is part of why my husband and I chose to adopt.
(4) My Christian faith is also why I scrutinized the ethics of adoption in deciding our agency (only willing to work with non-profits with a track record of reunification for children with their family of origin whenever possible instead of pursuing adoption as a first path) and country (researching the diligence - or lack thereof - of officials in the country in documenting the circumstances of a child's availability for adoption).
The author fails to understand that my last two disclaimers can co-exist. While I am all for ethical adoption reform when needed and for shining light on places where it isn't present, this book groups shady and foolish traffickers (who ought to be called out, as they justify their lack of ethics as being God's will. ugh.) with legitimate Christian organizations who promote adoption and orphan care.
Imagine if someone wrote a book about Kermit Gosnell's clinic and compared all other abortion clinics with it? That wouldn't be fair. Well, that's what Joyce has done with extreme Christian adoption horror stories here.
Even the two of the best individuals, in Joyce's stated opinions, are either - in the case of Tom Benz - woefully naive and still wrong-minded (she writes that he's "not one of the bad guys in this book" but then says that his naivete is even more dangerous) or - in the case of Elizabeth Styffe - a rare exception who is unable to influence other people she works with. (For the record, I agree about Benz's naivete.) One other couple - the Jenkins - is portrayed favorably; however, they are described as "conservative" and "fussy" and unenlightened at first and later as relaxed and respectful. In this - and many other examples - Joyce sets up dichotomies that place "conservative" (or "evangelical" or "Christian" or "adoptive parent") on the bad side of the spectrum and her views on the good side.
Furthermore, as she describes heinous practices implemented by people who claim to be Christians doing God's will (ugh. they aren't, as their actions - reprehensible at worst and ill-advised at best - are deceitful and dishonest and otherwise inconsistent with the Bible), she groups others with them. After describing at length a terrible practice, for example, she follows up with a one-to-three sentence supporting anecdote about another visible Christian in the adoption community. To most readers, that would seem legit. To me, though, I personally know three of the visible Christians she mentions: one who she identifies by name, one who she identifies by the family's blog name, and one who she doesn't identify even though she quotes directly from the woman's blog twice, both times using the woman's adopted child's name. Somehow, it's exploitative for adoption groups to disclose information about children who might be available for adoption (which I agree is exploitative in many practices), but it's not exploitative to do the same for children who were adopted? Also, it's worth noting that the adopted child who is named was a double orphan - that is, both her mother and father were dead and documentation clearly supported that fact. I know this because I've done more than just taking quotes from that blog out of context. Joyce could have done a bit more research and found out that the adoptive child she identifies by name was not party to the other despicable actions she details. (I have confirmed that the blog writer was never contacted by the author or approached about her consent to be included in the book. Additionally, I'd like to point out that while Joyce quotes from the blog in question twice, she never gives credit to the blogger by name or cites where the quote came from, which prevents readers from being able to fact check and find out that she took the quotes out of context. Honestly, I was worried that I'd find my blog quoted somewhere in this book... but thankfully it's obscure enough that I escaped being misrepresented by Joyce.)
Knowing the information I've shared in the previous paragraph, I doubt the integrity and journalistic credibility of the author in general, calling into question other stories she tells without citations.
This is unfortunate, because I agree with the author on many points. I, too, am concerned about Christians using "it's God's will" or other dismissive statements to justify actions that clearly aren't God's will. I want people of all faiths, including my own, to be more invested in orphan care, seeking for families to remain intact instead of resorting to adoption as Plan A. I despise child trafficking and coercion of parents, including the practice of calling a pregnant mother a "birthmother," as if the adoption is a sure thing and implying that she is not allowed to change her mind, despite being the one who is carrying the child. I worry that many Christian circles romanticize adoption, leading to adoptive parents failing to do research or be adequately prepared as they consider adoption.
Other than my local church, the three ministries we financially support are a family sponsorship program (in which we financially provide for a family in Guatemala each month, allowing the family to stay intact so adoption isn't necessary) and a crisis pregnancy center in Taiwan that operates a food bank and child care center to support single women so that adoption isn't their only option and a ministry in Uganda that serves orphaned children who are on the streets and who will never be eligible for international adoption because they lack the documentation or family history necessary to classify them as orphans by the international criteria. In other words, I put my money where my mouth is - not just advocating for adoption but giving resources to prevent adoption from being a necessary outcome. As a Christian, I have many friends who are also Christians; I'm not an outlier among them. I cringe too when people say things like they were always meant to be their adoptive child's parent; no, while I love my daughter who was adopted, an ideal world would be one in which she was able to stay in her original family without death and disease and other tragedies rendering that impossible. While I do know and have heard of extreme examples like those Joyce uses, they aren't the norm among evangelical Christians in the adoption/orphan care arena.
One of the reasons I'm so saddened by this book is that Joyce does make some astute observations about pitfalls and naive spots in adoption practices and language choices of evangelicals. If only Joyce could have stayed in that place instead of painting all Christians as explicitly or implicitly involved in trafficking at worst and stupidity at best and coercion somewhere in between. I share some concerns with her and founds myself nodding in agreement as I read one page and then frustrated at sloppy journalism and dishonest portrayals on the next page. I am glad I read it, but I can't recommend it to anyone due to the author's glaring lack of integrity or credibility. I think there's a place for a critical discussion of how the evangelical adoption movement can be improved; this book, however, is so polarizing that it sadly won't be the discussion starter I hoped it would be.
In the real world, it's possible to be BOTH a Christian AND an advocate for holistic and ethical approaches to the kinds of crises that can result in adoption (but don't have to). Actually, it's more than merely possible - it's common too. The only place it's uncommon is in the pages of Joyce's book, which are far from the real world I know.