Christian Churches Redefine the Meaning of “Orphan” to Justify Participating in Child Trafficking
by Brian Shilhavy
Editor, Health Impact News
The recent arrest of Mormon Paul Petersen in Arizona, a politician and adoption attorney, has shown the public that religious institutions and churches are a big reason why child trafficking exists today.
Paul Petersen allegedly used his position in the Mormon Church to move to the Marshall Islands as a missionary, learn the local language and culture, and set up a very lucrative adoption business trafficking pregnant women and their babies to the U.S.
The child trafficking business today, which includes trafficking children from outside the U.S. into the U.S. through adoption agencies, as well as trafficking children within the U.S. through the government-funded foster care system, is quite possibly the most lucrative businesses in the U.S. today, if one includes “legal” ways of trafficking children, as well as illegal ways.
In the Petersen case, for example, his organization was illegally selling babies through adoption for $35,000.00 to $40,000.00 per child.
The biggest religious player in trafficking children today, is probably the Evangelical Church. If the Evangelical Church immediately stopped participating in overseas adoptions, and stopped participating in the government-funded foster care system, it would have a serious impact in stopping the flow of child trafficking today.
When one looks at the rationale used today by the Evangelical Church to participate in government-funded programs that are documented to be involved in child trafficking, we learn that the church is using the term “orphan” incorrectly, and instead of obeying scriptural principles to care for “orphans and widows,” they are actually doing the opposite, by completely denying parental rights and participating in the lucrative child trafficking business.
Church and Government Working Together: An Unholy Alliance
The first question we must raise is why are Christian Churches receiving taxpayer funds from government sources to adopt and foster children?
The U.S. Foster Care system is a multi-billion dollar taxpayer-funded child trafficking business which has been well documented. Very few children today are removed from their homes and parents because their parents are a threat to abuse them.
Most of the charges brought against parents today to justify the removal of their children is the charge of “neglect,” which includes medical kidnapping cases where a parent disagrees with a doctor, or for any other myriad of reasons that includes anything and everything other than true abuse, such as choosing to homeschool your child, choosing to refuse vaccines, letting your children walk home alone from the park across the street, and many other reasons.
Children from poor, minority families are removed at a much higher rate, so that one could accurately state that the #1 factor why most children are removed from their homes today is “poverty.”
And they most certainly are not “orphans.”
If this is your first exposure to this problem, please research it for yourself to verify every claim we are making. Here is a good start:
Redefining the Term “Orphan” to Justify Adoptions
The history of “orphan” care and religious institutions is a long one in America’s history, and we could go back as far as the mid-1800s and the “orphan trains.”
Between 1854 and 1929, as many as 250,000 children from New York and other Eastern cities were sent by train to towns in Midwestern and western states, as well as Canada and Mexico.
However, this was mainly a transportation of poor children who had families, and not true orphans. They were shipped out west as child laborers, mostly in agriculture. (Learn more in this article.)
It was the beginning of child trafficking in the U.S. under the guise of “orphans.”
The Holts and Korean Adoptions
In more recent times, a huge move in Christian Churches participating in adopting children from other countries started just after the Korean War in the 1950s, with Harry and Bertha Holt.
Based out of Oregon and with six children of their own, the Holts wanted to adopt Korean children from Korean Orphanages in South Korea.
U.S. law at the time only allowed a couple to adopt 2 children from outside of the U.S., so the Holts worked with the U.S. Congress to pass a new law allowing them to adopt 8 children from South Korea.
The Holt’s gained widespread media coverage, and they soon developed their own adoption agency to help Americans adopt Korean babies.
Being Evangelical Christians with support from many evangelical leaders, such as Billy Graham, the Holt’s tried to place the Korean children with Christian families.
Today, Holt International is a $28 million a year operation working in many countries besides Korea, and one of the largest adoption agencies in the world.
But from its inception in Korea in 1955, the majority of children adopted out to the U.S. are not orphans. The children adopted out of Korea after the Korean war were mostly children from unwed mothers, many of them babies conceived by U.S. military personnel who were there during the war.
Unwed mothers were stigmatized in Korean culture, so the Korean government was more than compliant at the time to make money off of these children by allowing them to be adopted to the U.S.
In recent years there have been some efforts in Korea to promote more local adoptions, but according to the Institute for Policy Studies, financial benefits to South Korea allow American adoptions to continue:
Despite promoting domestic adoption since 2005, South Korea remains a top five sending country to the United States accounting for almost 13 percent of all 2010 overseas adoptions. Adoptions from South Korea generate $35 million annually with a single overseas adoption today averaging $15,000. By contrast, the Korean government provided an unwed mother in 2009 with only 50,000 won (about $48) per month to care for her child. The money from one overseas adoption would pay an unwed mother’s family subsidy for 25 years of her child’s life.
Although the total revenue generated from an estimated 220,000 children is unknown, today’s prices suggest $3.3 billion as a rough sketch. A fuller picture would include unreported cash donations to strengthen inter-agency relationships leading to continuous child referrals, as well as the cost savings associated with exporting the children’s and their families’ social welfare needs. South Korea spends only 6.9 percent of its GDP on social welfare – the least among OECD nations. It allocated only 0.09 percent of its 2009 fiscal budget to support its children. (Source.)
What about the moms?
Labeling these children as “orphans” is a callous way of completely disregarding their mothers.
90% of these mothers reportedly do not want to give up their babies, but are pressured to do so. (Source.)
Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO)
Today, the driving force behind defining “orphans” and encouraging Christians to adopt and foster, is probably The Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) started by Jedd Medefind, apparently in 2004.
Prior to starting CAFO, Jedd Medefind served in the White House as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, leading the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.
Medefind’s work apparently involves not only educating churches on how to adopt, but securing federal funding for overseas adoption programs as well, as can been seen by this 2016 “Federal Action Plan on Children in Adversity” announcement with USAID:
Tomorrow the U.S. Government (USG) will roll out a new Federal “Action Plan on Children in Adversity.” The real value of any new government plan ultimately hinges not on the ideas it carries, but on whether or not those ideas ultimately impact future policies and actions. Even so, the Action Plan itself represents no small accomplishment. Orphan advocates can celebrate this well-thought blueprint for future priorities…while also recognizing that much effort is yet required if its vision is to truly shape the future of U.S. programs.
The Action Plan seeks to establish clear framing principles that will help guide all future USG investments related to orphans and vulnerable children. Its stated goal is succinct and compelling: “All children will grow up within protective family care and free from deprivation or danger.”
The CAFO 2007 Summit on Orphan Care was held at the headquarters of Focus On the Family in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and received significant media coverage in the Evangelical Community, with Evangelical heavyweights such as Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in attendance.
This event began a strong media campaign to promote Christian adoptions and foster care involvement, all based on the theology of “Orphan Care.”
By 2008 Pastor Rick Warren had made the global crisis of “orphan care” an Evangelical priority for churches, as he hosted President Barack Obama and GOP Presidential nominee John McCain at his Saddleback Church during a “Civil Forum” and got both candidates to commit to the idea that orphan care was a worldwide “crisis.”
Another national Evangelical heavyweight, Dr. Russell Moore, the current President of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission in the Southern Baptist Convention, became the main theologian to define “orphan care” in its modern context.
In 2009, Dr. Moore wrote a resolution on “Adoption and Orphan Care” that was passed by the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Evangelical Christian denomination in the U.S., numbering more than 47,000 churches with over 15 million church members.
Much of the rationale to get Christians and Christian churches involved in adopting comes out of the Pro-life movement. For years Evangelicals have been criticized for only being concerned about unborn babies, opposing abortion for ethical and moral reasons, but not participating in solving the social problems associated with factors that lead to abortions.
So the new scripted mantra of the Evangelical Church is that to be a “truly pro-life church,” one must not only oppose abortion, but one most also participate in Foster Care and adoption.
To justify this biblically, verses like James 1:27 are quoted:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Therefore, all of these “children in distress” are referred to as “orphans.”
Where are All These “Orphans?”
The most often quoted statistics regarding orphans seems to be based on a quote attributed to Christian singer and songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman.
The claim is that there are 163 million orphans worldwide that need adoptive parents.
However, this number comes from UNICEF, and UNICEF categorizes a child as an “orphan” if the child has lost just one parent.
The typical, historical definition of “orphan” has always been a child who has NO parents. Using this definition, the number drops significantly, and even then, the absence of both parents does not mean the child has no family.
The Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism explains:
UNICEF’s statement that there are 163 million orphans worldwide has been widely misinterpreted as meaning that 163 million children are in need of new adoptive families. Many Westerners imagine that a significant number of these adoptable children are healthy infants and toddlers.
But it’s not so. UNICEF’s statistic includes what it calls “single orphans”—children who have lost one parent. As of 2007, roughly 18.5 million of these “orphans” had lost both parents. That is, of course, still a heartbreakingly large number.
However, most of those are living with extended family, and are not in need of adoption, or are older than five, sick, or disabled in some way. As UNICEF’s statement puts it, “Evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of orphans are living with a surviving parent, grandparent, or other family member. 95 per cent of all orphans are over the age of five.”
According to the Adoption Network:
About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year. Of non-stepparent adoptions, about 59% are from the child welfare (or foster) system, 26% are from other countries, and 15% are voluntarily relinquished American babies.
So the true number of needy children who have actually been abandoned by their parents, is just over 20,000. The rest are taken away from their parents, either through the foster care system or overseas adoption agencies, mostly against the will of their parents.
According to the Adoption Network:
There are no national statistics on how many people are waiting to adopt, but experts estimate it is somewhere between one and two million couples. Every year there are about 1.3 million abortions. Only 4% of women with unwanted pregnancies place their children through adoption.
In other words, there is no orphan crisis today.
In fact, due to all-time highs in rates of infertility, and the increase of gay marriages, there are not enough available babies to meet the demand of childless couples.
What About the “Widows?” Parental Rights be Damned
When today’s Evangelical leaders use verses like James 1:27 to justify fostering or adopting children, even though we have clearly seen that almost all of these children being put into foster care or being adopted today are not true orphans, they conveniently leave out the term “widow” that is contained in this verse:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…
As we have established earlier this article regarding the beginning of the modern adoption movement in Korea just after the Korean War, these children were not orphans, but mostly children of unwed mothers.
If the concept of “orphan” was broadened to include these children who were not actually orphans, why wasn’t the concept of “widow” also broadened to care for these single moms?
While these pioneers in the adoption movement, such as the Holts, may have had good intentions to care for disadvantaged children, there is little evidence that they held in high esteem the concept of “parental rights,” and the needs of the mother.
As I mentioned above, 90% of these Korean mothers did not want to give up their babies, but were pressured to do so.
At first, the women do not want to give up their babies. According to the questionnaire that we distribute at the orientation interview, 90 percent want to keep the babies, says Kim Yong sook, the director of Ae Ran Won.
But after counseling, maybe 10 per cent will keep them.
We suggest that it’s not a good idea to keep the baby without the biological father, explains Kim Yong Sook, and if the unwed mother and biological father are too young or too weak financially, we suggest that they give the baby up for adoption. We can’t push, we can suggest. (From: Babies for sale. South Koreans make them, Americans buy them – by Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, January 1988)
The emotional trauma that this inflicts on the mother, mother’s who are convinced to give up their babies for adoption, is very severe. It causes more mental anguish and trauma than mothers who see their children die.
Origins Canada summarizes some of the studies that have analyzed this. In one study, (Logan, J. 1996. Birth mothers and their mental health: Uncharted territory. British Journal of Social Work, 26(5), 609-625.), they reported:
- 21% of mothers had made attempts on their lives
- 82% reported significant depression as a result of surrender
- 68% described themselves as having a significant mental health problem.
- 32% had been referred to specialized psychiatric treatment on an out-patient or in-patient basis and 18% had received treatment for a continuous period of 5 years or longer. This compares to a normative statistic of 3% of all women in the U.K. who were referred in 1993 to the same treatment service.
The primary reason that Christians wanted to adopt children from Korea after the Korean war seems to be to “save” that child from a difficult life of being stigmatized as a child born out of wedlock.
But who should make that decision? If the scriptures teach believers to take care of orphans and widows (single parent moms), how is the biblical mandate being met when the mother is coerced to give up her child for financial gain, and probably is never warned or counseled just how that will effect her for the rest of her life?
What are the rights of the parent in this situation?
And remember, these studies that analyze the trauma caused to mothers are looking at adoptions where the mother agreed, even if under coercion.
But today in the U.S., there are over 400,000 children in foster care, and almost ALL of them were placed there against the will of their parents by Child Protective Services. These children were not willingly surrendered by their parents.
I am not aware of any studies that have analyzed what kind of trauma this causes parents, and specifically mothers. But I have worked with many of them over the past 5 years since we started publishing their stories on MedicalKidnap.com.
Fortunately, most of the mothers I meet are fighters, and have not given up hope. That is why they contact us, and want their stories published.
But I’ve also met them living on the streets homeless.
I recently interviewed Beth Breen, who was the driver hired by social services in Arizona to transport a little 2-year old girl between her foster parents and biological parents. She knew something was wrong with the little girl based on how happy she was when being transported to meet her mother, and how terrified she was every time she had to be returned to her foster home.
Later, the foster father was arrested by federal agents for running a child pornography and child sex traffricking ring out of his state-approved foster home, where the little girl was allegedly raped repeatedly. Beth told me she hasn’t had a decent night sleep in the past couple of years since she learned this.
Her and another advocate were protesting against the abuses of CPS and foster care and arrested, where they spent 18 hours in a woman’s jail. As they talked to these women who were incarcerated, they learned that most of them were there for arrests or convictions on drug charges.
When they asked them why they turned to drugs, almost all of them reportedly said it was because they had their children taken away from them against their will.
So let’s call the American Foster Care and Adoption system what it is. It is a Child Trafficking system that enslaves children and destroys parents, because there is no orphan crisis in America today.
And this evil, ungodly system cannot survive without two things:
- Government Funding
- Foster and Adoptive Parents, most of whom come from Christian Churches.
When the American government and the American Christian Church decided to start adopting babies out of Korea in the 1950s, with the full blessings of the Korean government, for every success story of a child that was adopted, if you search deep enough, you will also find tragic stories in terms of the outcomes of these Korean adopted children.
But in terms of the mothers left behind, I doubt that you will find even one single success story, unless it is a story of how that mother was finally reunited with her child years later.
What gave the U.S. government and the Christian church the right to decide the fate of those children? The problem of raising a child by an unwed mother in Korea was a Korean problem, not an American one.
And it is not as if Christian parents and families are automatically a better environment for children taken away from their troubled families.
Long-term studies conducted at MIT on foster care children clearly show that children left with their parents, even in cases where it is a “troubled home,” fare much better than children who enter the foster care system, which contains the majority of children sexually trafficked in the U.S. today. See:
As we have documented here at Health Impact News, being labeled a “Christian” does not automatically make you a superior parent or caregiver of children. The sames evils and sins found outside the church are found inside the church as well. See:
Pedophilia Crimes Against Children Inside and Outside the Church – Time to Acknowledge the Child Sex Trafficking Problem
Former County Administrator, CPS Board Member, and Pastor’s Wife Sentenced to Prison for Child Sex Trafficking Involvement
Pastor Convicted of Repeatedly Raping Adopted Daughter Gets Light Sentence Because of “Longtime Ministry”
Family Reunification – A Better Way
There is a better way of dealing with disadvantaged children, and it does not involve adoption or foster care. It is called “Family Reunification.”
One such ministry that I have read about, but have no personal contact with, is Agape Children’s Ministry, based out of Kenya.
While I have no personal knowledge of this ministry, the concept they claim behind their ministry of family reconciliation, is the proper concept of dealing with disadvantaged children, as opposed to adoption, since these children are not orphans but all come from families.
From the Agape website:
Kids on the street need loving families. We reunite at-risk children with their families while equipping and empowering their parents to care for and love them.
Why Reunification? Family reunification gives vulnerable, at-risk children the best opportunity possible to find hope and belonging with their own families.
80% of the children reunified with their families remain with them and are equipped to reshape their lives and futures for the better.
Reporter Virginia Allen, writing for the Daily Signal, recently wrote an article about this ministry:
Agape was founded in 1993 as a children’s home in response to Kisumu’s massive number of street children. But in the late ’90s, Agape workers discovered that many of the children living in their orphanage had a home they could return to with at least one, if not many, living relatives.
Page explained in the June 6 interview that most children in Kenya attend boarding school, whether wealthy or poor, and travel home for the holidays:
As children that were going to the community school began going to their rural homes to spend time with their families during school breaks, the children that were in care at Agape began saying, ‘Hey, we want to go home too.’ Our staff and missionaries were really confused, because the stories that our staff had been hearing for so long was that all these children were orphans and they had nothing and they had no family.
Agape workers started to do a little digging and found that all of their children did have living relatives.
“You realize dealing with street kids or kids in crisis,” Page said, “that they adopt survival language and they don’t tell the truth about where they are from and why they are on the streets and why they are separated from their family. It really takes going and visiting that family to find out the true story.” (Full Article.)
In my research, I did find some Christian organizations now also promoting this concept of “Family Reunification,” but only overseas outside of the U.S.
However, some of the Christian leaders promoting Family Reunification also still participate in adoptions and foster care, and that still seems to be the primary emphasis of the Christian Church today.
And let’s face the facts here: helping families reunite is mainly just an expense that needs to be funded, unlike the adoption and foster care which brings in revenue from the trafficking of children, both revenue from taxpayer-funded government resources for adoption and foster care, as well as adoption fees charged to couples wanting to adopt.
Conclusion: Christians Need to Stop Trafficking Children
Prior to publishing this article, I made an effort to contact the three main Christian leaders I have identified in this article promoting “orphan care” and ask for their comments on this topic: Rick Warren, Russell Moore, and Jedd Medefind.
This is the response I received from Rick Warren’s office:
Thanks for your email about wanting Pastor Rick to answer some questions on orphan care.
In looking at Pastor Rick’s schedule, we can see he won’t be available to accept your invitation to respond to your questions for the article. Staying focused on what God is directing him to do has caused him to miss many opportunities that come his way.
We’re praying this for you today. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. 2 Peter 3:18 (NIV)
Office of the Pastor
This was the first response I received from Russell Moore’s office:
You’re more than welcome to send me your questions and deadline. Happy to
see what we can do.
After sending my questions for Dr. Moore to answer regarding Orphan Care, which obviously would reveal that this was probably not going to be a positive article about Orphan Care, this is the response I received back:
I’m afraid we missed your deadline. Dr. Moore is taking time off on writing
leave so my sincerest apologies that we weren’t able to get back to you.
Thanks for understanding and all best.
Jedd Medefind’s office did not respond at all.
Since covering the medical kidnapping issue for the past 5 years, I have received many criticisms and even threats for what we publish on this topic.
I suspect that this article will probably illicit more criticisms than anything else we have published so far on this topic. Since most of what is published that is critical of the Christian practice of “Orphan Care” comes from outside the Church, I am sure many will label me as a “liberal” or “unbeliever,” or whatever.
Many of you who read this will probably feel enraged for even suggesting that the child you are fostering or have adopted actually has a family left behind who truly cares for that child, and is not an orphan at all.
I am sure you will be tempted to email me a very negative response, explaining how your situation is different, and that you truly rescued your adopted or foster child from a very bad situation, and that the system needs good foster and adoptive parents like you.
Please don’t bother.
I am not denying that there are truly needy children that need to be rescued, and I am not denying that there are well-intentioned parents doing good things within this evil system.
But if you want to email me a critical response and present your case, please start by explaining how you deal with this passage in 2 Corinthians chapter 6:
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
Explain to me how you can justify taking taxpayer-funded government resources to supposedly care for “orphans” rather than just dealing with disadvantaged children entirely through your own non-profit church, working in your communities without government funding and all the strings attached to that funding, knowing that much of that funding goes to finance pedophilia networks that are licensed foster parents or group homes, where statistics show the majority of the nations child sex slaves are recruited.
How do you justify that??
Rick Warren and Russell Moore did not want to answer these kinds of questions, so if you contact me, start there.
And before you criticize me, you should know a little bit about me.
I came out of the Evangelical Church. I graduated from one of their top schools, Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, with a BA in Bible and Greek.
I have studied the Bible for over 40 years, and probably know more about what the Bible teaches than 99% of the pastors employed by churches today do. The office and role of the modern day “pastor” is not even a title for church leaders found in the New Testament. (See: Is “Pastor” A Biblical Title for Church Leaders?)
I have lived much of my adult life outside the U.S. I served with the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission board back in the early 1990s in Turkey and Northern Iraq, just after the first Gulf War, as a translator helping medical professionals repatriate Kurds back to their homes in northern Iraq after the U.S. military setup a no fly zone to allow them to return.
I have seen REAL poverty and REAL orphans, and I have worked with NGOs overseas.
When I began to read the rationale used today by Christian leaders to encourage Christians to participate in “orphan care” by using the Bible to try and justify child trafficking, I was prepared to write something about how the Bible was being misused on this topic.
But much like Elijah who in Old Testament times complained to God:
“I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
(1 Kings 19:14)
and God replied:
“I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him.”
(1 Kings 19:18)
so too I have found that others have gone before me and already exposed this false theology of “orphan care” which is just a nice term for “child trafficking,” saving me the time to have to write this myself.
So for any who wish to see how the Bible has been misinterpreted to endorse “orphan care,” I refer you to the work of David M. Smolin, who is a Professor of Constitutional Law and the Director of the Center for Biotechnology, Law, and Ethics, at Cumberland Law School, Samford University, and his published article: “OF ORPHANS AND ADOPTION, PARENTS AND THE POOR, EXPLOITATION AND RESCUE: A SCRIPTURAL AND THEOLOGICAL CRITIQUE OF THE EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN ADOPTION AND ORPHAN CARE MOVEMENT.”
Here is the Abstract:
The primary purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that the scriptural and theological analysis undergirding the evangelical adoption and orphan care movement is patently and seriously erroneous.
Thus, this essay will demonstrate that, based on the standards, methods, and presuppositions broadly shared by evangelical Christians in analyzing scripture and theology, the evangelical adoption movement’s specific analysis of concepts such as “adoption” and “orphans” has been seriously deficient and has produced conclusions that are demonstrably false.
The second purpose of this essay will be to indicate that these errors of scriptural and theological analysis have produced, and are producing, practices that in scriptural and Biblical terms would be called “sinful” and in more secular language can be called exploitative.
Yes, it is time for Evangelical Christians to stop participating in the sinful practice of trafficking of children.
It is time to renounce your unholy alliance with the U.S. government in this participation, and to heed the words of God recorded in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 6:
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.”