Today, churches all over the country celebrated "Orphan Sunday". It is a day that was created to bring awareness to the call to "defend the fatherless" (Isaiah 1:17). In many churches it is used as a day to bring awareness to adoption in general. Now, I think that I am as passionate about adoption as anyone I know, but I don't understand why we have to call it "Orphan" Sunday. Even beyond its negative connotation, it is extremely limiting on a day that is meant to honor adoption.
Especially in the church setting, I have found that there is a lot of emphasis placed on the word orphan. Adoption ministries are often called "orphan care" ministries, despite the fact that they are created to minister to adoptive families in a variety of situations. The cynic in me might say the word is used because it provokes emotion and sympathy greater than adoption, but presumably it is because it is used in scripture. (Exodus 22:22; James 1:27). And at the risk of sounding like I am hypersensitive or getting on my soapbox...I don't understand why we (as the Church) continue to use this word.
I realize that, like most things, it is about perspective. In this instance, it is my perspective as a birthmother, more than my perspective as an adoptive mother that takes offense to the word. It conjures the negative image of a child that is unwanted and abandoned. This is the exact opposite sentiment of a woman that chooses to give life to a child and then make the agonizing decision to place him in another family that can provide for him in ways that she cannot.
Before we use the word so freely, I think that we should consider the definition:
Orphan [awr-fuh'n], noun
a. A child who has lost both parents through death or, less commonly, one parent
b. A child who has been deprived of parental care and has not been adopted.
c. One that lacks support, supervision, or care.
But more importantly, I believe, is the understanding of what the word does not mean.
Orphan is not a synonym for all adopted children.
The definitions of "orphan" do not apply to either of my sons.
In both cases:
a. His parents are not dead. In fact, he has TWO families that love him.
b. He has been adopted.
c. His birthmother made a painful choice to find a family that could always ensure he would be supported, supervised and well cared for, in ways that she could not.
I live with the grief and pain of my decision to place Holland for adoption every single minute of my life. I made a decision, as his mother, to provide him with the family that I could not. I went through more pain than I can describe to ensure that my son was not an orphan.
And as an adoptive mother, I don't want my son labeled "orphan." I think that many adoptees already struggle with abandonment issues in their life and I do not in any way want to contribute to that by giving him a label that has a connotation of abandonment.
I know that everyone does not feel the same way that I do about this word. And in many instances, some may feel that the word orphan is not a negative term and that is applicable to their family. So, please hear my heart when I say that I do not mean to offend anyone by my thoughts. I am in no way implying that you care any less about your child's sense of identity than I do. And I certainly do not want to seem as if I am attacking a ministry that uses these terms. I believe that many people that are serving in these ministries have a sincere and passionate desire to minister to adopted children and their families. I am simply saying that I do not feel like the term orphan applies to every adoption situation... specifically the two adoptions that I am a part of.