Christian advocates of transnational adoption often claim some 150 million children need homes — even though that figure, derived from a UNICEF report, includes all non-Western children who have lost only one parent, and also any children who live with extended family.
Evangelicals from the Bible Belt to Southern California don wristbands or T-shirts reading “orphan addict” or “serial adopter.” Ministries have emerged to raise money and award grants to help Christians pay the fees (some $30,000 on average, plus travel) associated with transnational adoption.
However well intended, this enthusiasm has exacerbated what has become a boom-and-bust market for children that leaps from country to country. In many cases, the influx of money has created incentives to establish or expand orphanages — and identify children to fill them.
The potential for fraud and abuse is high. Of course, adoption problems aren’t limited to Christian agencies, and they don’t originate with them, but some movement insiders say that evangelicals — whether driven by zeal or naïveté — have had a disproportionate impact on the international adoption system.