Adopting a child is a great work of love

Published: November 6, 2023

En Español

"To adopt a child is a great work of love. When it is done, much is given, but much is also received. It is a true exchange of gifts." — St. Pope John Paul II

Many in our culture have a negative view of adoption, but St. Pope John Paul II, in an address to adoptive families in the year 2000, made it clear that creating a family through adoption "is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection."

"Adopting children, regarding and treating them as one's own children, means recognizing that the relationship between parents and children is not measured only by genetic standards. Procreative love is first and foremost a gift of self. There is a form of 'procreation,' which occurs through acceptance, concern and devotion," he explained.

"The resulting relationship is so intimate and enduring that it is in no way inferior to one based on a biological connection. When this is also juridically protected, as it is in adoption, in a family united by the stable bond of marriage, it assures the child that peaceful atmosphere and that paternal and maternal love which he needs for his full human development."

Brenda Destro, DSW, adjunct professor at the John Paul II Institute, explained the Bible's portrayal of adoption as a covenant and how that differs from the focus on a legal contract in our society.

"Ancient Hebrews believed that contracts governed the exchange of property. The formation of personal relationships, however, was by a covenant, a sacred promise that is not only the foundation of kinship and family, but also the basis of God's relationship with his children. They believed that a family bound by covenant was stronger than one bound only by biology. The Old Testament demonstrates the Hebrew belief in the covenant of adoption. It stands in loving contrast to the utilitarian, contractual paradigm found in cultures that did not believe in God," she wrote in an article for the U.S bishops.

"The themes of faith, covenant, and sacrifice in adoption found in the Old Testament are precursors to our Christian understanding of family and adoption. The first model of a Christian family is one that is bound more by covenant than biology. With faith and sacrifice, Mary and Joseph overcame their fears and made a covenant with God and each other to raise Jesus. This is an important reminder to all Christians that we are, first and foremost, children of God. God entrusts parents with the duty to care for his children, just as Mary and Joseph cared for his Son," Destro wrote.

"Catholic families today make the same covenant that God asked of Mary and Joseph. In the sacrament of marriage, the couple makes solemn promises to give themselves to each other and accept each other, and of love, conjugal respect, and fidelity until death. Family grows from that covenant," she added. "The Church's teachings on marriage and family also apply in adoption. ... The creation of a Christian family is not a function of biology. It is grounded in the belief that God creates each of us in his image and likeness, to be fully human and to share in God's life."

November is National Adoption Month. The Children's Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, created this initiative through a partnership with AdoptUSKids and Child Welfare Information Gateway, to raise awareness of the need for adoption.

This awareness might happen by examining our understanding of adoption, learning about the ways to adopt or discerning if God is calling us or someone we know to adopt.

Adoption can be done in different ways: private, domestic or international, infant adoption through an adoption agency or attorney or the adoption of children of any age through the state foster care system. Have you ever considered adoption for your family? Is it possible God might be calling you to adopt?

"One of the highest forms of parenthood is to take on the responsibility of becoming adoptive parents, prepared to welcome an orphaned or abandoned child as part of one’s own family," said Pope Francis during a general audience in January 2022. "Let us pray that through Joseph’s intercession, fathers of families will be given the grace to respond to their noble vocation, and that the many children in our world who long for a secure and loving home will find a welcome on the part of good and generous families."

In the United States alone, there are more than 114,000 children and teens are in foster care waiting to be adopted. "The existence of so many children without families suggests adoption as a concrete way of love," St. Pope John Paul II said.

To learn more about adoption through foster care, read this FAQ from AdoptUSKids, or in Arkansas, visit Project Zero or Children of Arkansas Loved for a Lifetime (CALL), which reaches out to churches, including Catholic churches, statewide to help members become foster or adoptive parents. Project Zero has videos of kids in foster care waiting to be adopted.

National Adoption Day is normally the held the third Saturday in November. Cities nationwide participate in this event to finalize thousands of adoptions of youth previously in foster care. Organizers of this event work with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions to show children that one day can be life changing.

For 40 years, the Diocese of Little Rock has operated Catholic Adoption Services, a non-profit, Arkansas-licensed, child placement agency and ministry of Catholic Charities of Arkansas. For more information, contact Director Antje Harris, LSW, at (501) 664-0340.

Springs of Love is a resource website that offers Catholic foster and adoption support to families and aims to cultivate a culture of foster care and adoption in our parishes. Learn how your parish can help.

If you are not sure how you feel about adoption, check out BraveLove. This is an organization started by an adoptive mom that aims to erase the negative stereotypes and convey the love at the heart of adoption. Its mission is to: "change the perception of adoption through honest, informative and hopeful communication that conveys the heroism and bravery a birth mother displays when she places her child with a loving family through adoption." This is done through storytelling. Read or watch the honest and beautiful adoption stories told here.

For those being called, consider this Novena to St. Joseph for on the path of adoption. If God is not calling you to adopt there are still plenty of ways you and your family can support adoption. See these prayer resources and suggestions for how to accompany an expectant mother considering adoption.