Kind-hearted people confronted with photographs of needy children in the world's poorest countries sometimes ask, “Is adoption the answer?”
Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and Madonna have, after all, adopted several children from developing countries. They are bringing these children up a world away from their poverty-stricken beginnings.
Adoption is a huge undertaking. Even when it involves children from within the United States, it means complete life changes for both the adopter and adoptee. The child becomes part of the family forever, with all the joys and responsibilities that brings. Children available for adoption overseas present more challenges, such as legal and financial obstacles. The new parents are aware that the adopted child is leaving his or her community, culture and heritage far behind. Sensitive adjustments are needed to make the transition a happy one.
Overseas adoption can certainly be worth the effort. But adopting a child, particularly one from a far-off country, is a serious and lifelong commitment. Would-be adopters are truly compassionate. They want to help children who are barely surviving in the poorest regions of Africa, Asia and Central and South America. So many of these children are malnourished and lack even the basics such as clean water or adequate shelter. They have never had medicines or health care and may never be educated.
There is, though, a simpler way to help a child in need. It is not as complex as adoption, but it will still transform a child's life forever. That way is through child sponsorship. So what's the difference between adopting a child and sponsoring a child?
By paying just a few dollars a month, a sponsor ensures that the sponsored child is supplied with:
• food and clean water
• safe shelter
• medical checkups including immunizations
• educational opportunities
• life-skills training
Many charities that offer sponsorship programs also provide Christian teaching and support as well as practical help. Children learn about God's love and see how it alters their existence for all time.
With the support of a sponsor, a child usually can stay within his or her community and country. The difference is that there is real hope for the future. A child who is properly nourished, educated and trained in different skills can grow up to lead a purposeful life. Instead of continuing in a downward spiral of poverty and ignorance, the sponsored child can be a force for good. He or she could even train to be a doctor or teacher, and help others in turn.
A sponsor is linked to one particular child from the start. The two get to know one another through exchanging letters and photographs. Care children treasure the fact that someone far away cares for them. They love to know about their sponsor, and to share information about their very different lives.
Over the months and years a real and rewarding closeness develops. Some sponsors even travel to meet their child and build even stronger links with them. Both adopting and sponsoring a child involves building a long-term loving relationship. The important aim is to bring the most effective help to a child in need.