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Reflections from Rocky Top

Why Adopt Teenagers?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

One of the most common questions I get when people find out about my wife and I recently having adopted is, “How old is your baby?”  When I tell them “My baby is in high school and taller than me” I then get asked, “What made you decide to adopt a teenager?” among many other interesting questions and comments.

People say “That’s rough to have a teenager.  Wouldn’t you want a baby?”  The last time I checked all babies must go through teenage years to become adults. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with adopting a baby. Babies are cute and you can watch them grow. But there is also nothing wrong with adopting a teenager and in fact there are many good reasons to do so.  

Aside from the obvious that one can also watch teenagers grow up, it is important to remember that orphaned teenagers need homes too.  These orphaned teenagers are a particularly vulnerable population with only a few years left before they come upon what is called “aging out” and entering society without the forever family and social support system that the rest of us have.

Teenagers without forever families are very aware that their chances for being adopted are slim. Having a forever family is a redemptive lesson for a teenager.  They remember their adoption, and that example is paramount to them in their life experience, relationships, and view of God.

There is also a practical element in adopting a teenager.  In adopting a teenager, it is strongly likely that a prospective parent will have at least an idea of what they are going to get, unlike babies.  You can talk to the orphaned teenager beforehand, often hosting them in your home as we did with our son.  Using that time to find out their strengths and weaknesses, as well as dreams and hopes for the future is simply invaluable.  The intellectual conversation one can have with many adopted teenagers is also deeply satisfying.

One of the most ridiculous things I have had said to me is, “Could you love a teenager that is not yours?”  Our teenager is just that, our child.  We laugh with him, we sorrow with him, and we pray with him.  He also laughs at us because he is so far ahead technologically.

It is easy to love someone whom is not in your bloodline.  Marriage attests to this. So does the sacrifice that many, such as soldiers, police officers, and firefighters, make for those whom they do not even know.  When our not yet son arrived off the plane for a one-month hosting period, my wife and I knew he was our son by the end of the first day or two and we began the adoption process before he went back to his birth country. Sometimes you just know and sometimes the love grows on you. Often it is both.

The recent celebration of Easter attests that Jesus Christ is the best example of this kind of love.  Jesus’ earthly father was not his biological father but loved Him so because of the love of the Heavenly Father.  In fact, Jesus Christ is the best and clearest case for adoption for all ages.

The Biblical commandment in James 1:27, and countless other Biblical verses, to take care of orphans and widows is non-negotiable.  Adoption is not about filling a void for parents but rather pouring into a child.  And adoption does not make the parents better people than anyone else for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Through His sacrifice Jesus Christ adopts those who accept His message and repent of sins into His household and kingdom.  Jesus was never married and had no children.  Yet, He offers us the free chance to be in His bloodline forever.

Adoption is merely, and at the same time powerfully, our minimum Christian duty and love in action. With this knowledge, adopting a teenager is what should be done for those whom Jesus called “the least of these.”

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