What Role Does Religion Play in Parents’ Motivation to Adopt?

Earlier today, my friend Maureen wrote a post about Kristen and Douglas Barbour who adopted two unrelated Ethiopian children via Bethany Christian Services to add to their large family. They recently pled “no contest,” to the charge of assault and endangerment of their children. [Please read that piece!]


This awful case is remarkably similar to the Hana Williams case in which the parents were sentenced last year. Some of the more notable similarities are the heavy reliance upon isolation, emotional control, authoritarian discipline  and other methods ascribed to from books such as To Train Up A Child (I believe the Duggar family also uses this method). In both cases, the parents’ main motivation to adopt Ethiopian children was to support and uphold their religious beliefs that by adopting they were doing a charitable act.

It sure is hard to understand the role Christianity may have played while learning of a baby’s broken femur, malnourishment, or blindness due to a blow to the head. A quote from the article on The Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

 “The doctor advised the defendants to be more flexible and change their routing and accommodate [the boy],” she continued. But “Both defendants balked at this advice. ‘That’s not the way we do it. That’s not the rules in our house.'”

Is there a tie between far right fundamentalist christianity and excessive, harmful parenting of adopted children?


** Please know that I know not all Christian parents ascribe to these parenting styles  **

10 thoughts on “What Role Does Religion Play in Parents’ Motivation to Adopt?

  1. I agree they are not true Christians. I am a Christian and I could not even fathom doing this to my children even when things were darkest. I sought help and took advise and am by no means perfect but this is inexcusable.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have long struggled with the Christian narrative that runs through the mainstream adoption narrative, and I am pretty transparent about that. I have a really hard time believing that a true calling to adopt includes abusive treatment of the children. I don’t buy it at all actually. Not one bit.


  3. There is no way that is real Christianity. God is love http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20051225_deus-caritas-est_en.html
    and love does not hurt children. Rather, it calls children a most precious gift to be cherished and protected. This raise a child up movement is such a twisting of what LOVE is and adopting solely because of a sense of obligation to your religious sect is simplistic. We are all called to love but how we do that is not one size fits all. We are Catholic Christians and treating a child like this movement suggests would be considered sinful.


  4. Not just sinful, but criminal. And probation for one parent and nothing for the other is adding another abuse to these children. As they grow and understand what happened they will see what little value was placed on them by the judicial system thru the sentences.


  5. This is horrendous. It is not of Christ. God is a BIG part of our motivation to adopt. But this story has nothing to do with Him. In the same way all adoptees, or black people or any other group for that matter should not be painted with a broad brush, neither should Christians.


  6. By the way, I strongly recommend these parenting books:
    Healthy Love: Loving Without Overprotecting, Overindulging, or Overcontrolling http://theeducationcafe.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/healthy-love/;
    Parenting with Love and Logic http://theeducationcafe.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/parenting-with-love-and-logic/;
    No More Meltdowns http://theeducationcafe.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/tantrums-and-meltdowns/.
    And even with all these (and having been an experienced parent) I have had to learn that parenting an older adopted child (especially over 1 yr old) you often have to re-learn how to parent in “outside the box” ways. You need a good support group. You will likely need a good counselor or therapist to work with through the difficulties…like if you have a child that comes to you with malnutrition, PTSD, FASD, RAD or other challenges. During the first year, I had to learn how to protect my daughter from injuring herself (which is not an uncommon experience for kids who come out of traumatized backgrounds).


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