Why is foster care and adoption a pro-life issue?

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Herbie Newell: We’re so grateful just to be together and have this conversation. And, Brittany and Chelsea, I know just like me, we’ve seen foster care and adoption for a long time as a life issue, but really, when you look at our culture and in our country, most people think of abortion when they think of life. 

Trying to overturn Roe v. Wade, trying to look at situations where abortion is unthinkable. But, even as the Dobbs decision came out, one of the things that pro-choice, the pro-abortion lobby said was, “If you reverse abortion, you’re going to have a lot more kids in foster care.” And I think this is a great time on the other side of Roe for us to really highlight what kind of issue this really is. 

And I’d love for Chelsea, you just to start. Introduce yourself and tell us why you do believe this is such a life issue.  

Chelsea Sobolik: Absolutely. I’m Chelsea Sobolik. I work for Lifeline Children’s Services doing policy and advocacy with my professional hat on, but I also come to this issue very personally. 

I was adopted internationally, and my husband and I are adopting internationally ourselves right now. But why it’s a life issue. All throughout Scripture, we see God’s care of the orphan and the widow. We see His care for vulnerable people. Certainly, included in that is the preborn. 

Certainly, we see God’s care and design for the preborn all throughout Scripture, but that doesn’t stop there. It continues to caring for children post-birth. And this is one of the greatest areas, I think the Church can show the heart of Christ. We offer a cup of cold water with the gospel. 

It’s not either/or. We must do both. It’s a both /and, I think, again our work at Lifeline, and my personal desire to work and engage in these issues is because the Bible says so. And we see again from womb to tomb, from Genesis to Revelation, God’s care for the least of these. 

And it really is an absolute privilege to get to work on child protection, making sure, children, both here in the United States and around the world, are cared for, are protected, have the chance to live, but also have the chance to flourish.  

Herbie Newell: Brittany, I know you have had such an opportunity to advocate for kids in foster care, for adoption. 

You’ve been such an encouragement, probably to people you don’t even know, in the words that you’ve spoken, in the words that you’ve written. You live it each and every day. Why, in your home, and in what you do, and in the way you advocate, are you as much a pro-life advocate as someone who’s looking to overturn abortion in their state? 

Brittany Salmon: I think one of the things that Chelsea mentioned, again, for me, it’s my faith. And so, from Genesis to Revelation, the grand narrative of Scripture, we see a God who redeems. He’s in the business of redeeming. There is no life too far gone. There’s no story too far broken. And so, for my husband and I and for our family, it’s okay, we serve a God who redeems. He has called us to take part in that work here and now.  

When Jesus prayed, He said, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” And that, He was talking right then and there. And for us, we are also participating in that in very unique and different ways. Every family is different. Not every family can be an adoptive family or a foster family. 

But we are. But for us, we felt called to this and say, all right, here and now, “Thy kingdom come” for us, is making sure that any woman with an unexpected pregnancy, she says, “Hey, I choose life for my child.” She has equal access to a family for her kid. It’s for any child who’s without a family that they will one day have a family. 

It’s not about us growing our family. It’s not about me looking a certain way or us doing anything, but it’s really, how do we be more like Jesus here on earth and make sure that every child has access to a family?  

Herbie Newell: Amen. And I think one of the things, even when we look at adoption, foster care, right? It’s very much pro-family and pro-woman and birth family and this woman that’s given birth and for, unfortunately, the pro-life movement, has gotten labeled as anti-woman, or they’re trying to hurt women or not give women access to choice, Brittany, starting with you, I’m confident that you’re praying for the women who gave birth to your children, and I know you even have relationships with some of them. Talk about why that’s such an important piece of being pro-life.  

Brittany Salmon: One of the things for us as a family was, okay, if we believe this redemptive narrative of Scripture, that no one is too far gone. And one thing that the Lord convicted me early on was I was praying for this child, and then all of a sudden, I was like, wait, but this child’s connected to a birth father, a birth mother, birth grandfather, birth grandmother, first family with siblings. 

And I was like, but redemption is not just for the child. Redemption needs to be for this entire network of family. And so one of the things that we started working for was if we believe in restorative God who can do this as okay, this is not just for us and our immediate family circle, we’ve got to work towards this healing, not just for this child, but for birth moms as well. 

And so, we are very passionate about making sure women, whether they choose to parent or they choose to place, have paths to healing, yes, with the gospel, but also physical needs, housing, education, jobs. Those are important, really aspects to their thriving, and it’s not either/or for us adoption- it’s all of us. We believe in the healing power of God. He can provide a restoration for every person and part of that option.  

Herbie Newell: Amen. Amen. Yet, Chelsea, obviously you’re on public policy professionally, but you’ve also written very personally about your struggle with infertility. And I think we would, just, could preach for hours about the image of God in man, in woman. And the part of the image of God that man distinctively gave to woman was the ability to give birth. The ability to have that protective, motherly instinct. Abortion robs women of their God-given image. How has that been used in public policy and even personally in your own life? 

Why is it so important that even in adoption and foster care, as we care for these birth parents, is it so important to help these women see that even by giving birth, even if it means they’re placing their child in the arms of another, that they’re actually doing what God created them to do?  

Chelsea Sobolik: Absolutely. So, I have been very intentional in sharing my personal story to use the term childless very intentionally because that certainly incorporates people who experience infertility or miscarriage, and those are the two kind of biggest categories people think of. It incorporates single women who want to be married and have families, women who have made adoption plans and are childless because of that choice that they’ve made to make an adoption plan for their children, and then women who have had abortions and don’t have their children because of choices that they’ve made. 

So, that longing and desire in very different ways, I think, I’ve tried to be very intentional with the language I’ve used to cast a wide net, but we’re living in a post Genesis 3 world, in a fallen world, where our bodies are broken, where we are in broken circumstances, where things aren’t as they ought to be, but in each one of us 

is innate dignity, worth, value, and we are gendered people. God created us to be men and women. And He declared that to be very good. And we’re the only thing in the world that He said was very good. We’re the only beings that bear His image and His mark.  

And even for people who don’t have a relationship with God, I think there’s something in us that knows that there’s more to life than a paycheck or all of these things. There’s something in us that longs for that. And so, I think one of the lies that the abortion lobby tells women is to have a successful career or to chase your dreams or to have a flourishing life, children can’t be part of that, or you need to delay bringing children into the world so that you can do you and you can have this life. 

But it’s a lie, and so many women, they will sit down and tell you, so many women, that doesn’t fulfill them. Again, as Christians, we know ultimate fulfillment, but that is a lie that I think is straight from the pit of hell. This lie that women believe, but then on the flip side of that women, are in circumstances that we need to meet them in like Brittany said, housing, food insecurity, access to paid family leave, or things like that. 

They need these wraparound support systems where man is not meant to be lived alone. And one of the things I love about how Lifeline approaches this is, government absolutely has a role. We know that. I’ve worked in government. Government has a role. But the Church can be where government can’t be. The Church can be in every community, in every, everywhere where government can’t and shouldn’t do those things. And the Church also offers relationship, and the government can’t do that.  

And so while my day job is to advocate for public policy that helps people flourish, at the end of the day, the Church really is the one who can and should be wrapping around a child, the mom, and the family. Long answer to a short question. 

Herbie Newell: I know even as we talk about these issues, adoption, and foster care, for many that might be listening, they may not be in a place like your family, Brittany, and they’re like, “Hey, that’s great. Beautiful. But I don’t feel like I’ve got the bandwidth or the ability to do this.” They may not be in a place where they know how to engage in the foster care system, but we would want every believer in every church to know that there’s something that we can do. There’s something, the way that we can minister, even to adoptive and foster families.  

Brittany, I’d be interested to know how your church has specifically ministered to your family and helped you guys and come alongside of you guys.  

Brittany Salmon: Absolutely. So, we just moved and we were at a church in Texas that was wonderful. And I think they did this in Texas beautifully. They had these things called wraparound teams and whenever a foster or adoptive family got a placement, the church would wrap around them. They provided education, they provided respite care. They were constantly saying, “Hey church, we need, you don’t have to be an adoptive family. You don’t have to be a foster family, but can you babysit? Can you go through the training to become a respite, provide respite care? Can you make a meal?”  

And we even started brainstorming and discussing, okay, not just about the adoptive family, but we have a very strong foster care ministry. What can we do to the families in our community who just had their rights terminated? What can our church do? We need some holy imagination.  

So maybe some empty nesters who could say, “You know what? I’m not going to adopt or foster right now. I can make a meal, but you know what else I can do? I can contact a local foster care agency and say, ‘Hey, do you know any parents who’ve had their rights terminated or separated? Who would love to be loved on? Who would love to be ministered to or mentored? Can we bring them into our churches and can we love on them as well and be all in for a family restoration and walk through this beautiful, messy journey with them?'”  

I think it’s a lie that Satan has told the Church you have to adopt or you have to foster, or basically you can’t do anything. And so I think it’s so important for our churches to get creative and go, ” What would be helpful here? Or I feel called to this, but I don’t know what, so I’m going to ask and reach out and ask this adoptive family or ask this foster family,” and just get creative in how we wrap around people and then expand our vision to not just the families in our church, but our birth moms in our community, our single moms in our community, our parents who had their rights terminated permanently or temporarily. 

Herbie Newell: Yeah, I think that’s beautiful as we step in and look for creative things. I think one of the things you said there is. We have to step into the messy. We have to step into the hard. And I think that’s even something confessionally, a lot of times as pro-life people, we miss, right? We like the short term, easy on-roads to advocating for life. 

Yes, we need to march for life, but it’s so much more than marching. It’s so much more than rhetoric. We’re inviting, actually, the trauma, the pain, and the hurt of another into our lives. We’re modeling our Savior, right? Because Jesus, when He was on earth, He invested in people. He brought their messy into His life. He had relationship with them and He loved them.  

Chelsea, you mentioned your adoption journey and we talk a lot even about here in the United States, but there are 153 million orphans around the world. And as believers who are pro-life, we understand that even most of those children are orphaned because of maybe a health need, or a special need that they may have, or maybe even an orthopedic need that they have. But yet, as pro-life people, we look at them and we see the image of God.  

What led you and Michael to say, “Hey, we want to adopt internationally?”  

Chelsea Sobolik: Part of it’s personal. I was adopted internationally, so I had that bent there already. But when Michael and I started the adoption process, we really prayed through all three options: international adoption, domestic adoption, and then adopting from foster care. 

We talked to very good friends of ours who had done all different routes, but like you said, Herbie, there are, and one of the shifts in inter-country adoption that I’m very thankful for is a lot of countries are open to domestic adoption and fostering in-country, and that is a beautiful and a wonderful thing. And we are so thankful for that.  

But there are some children for whom their only opportunity at having a safe, permanent, loving family is international adoption. And so, we prayed about it and ultimately felt the Lord leading us in that direction.  

But to what you were saying, there’s, we throw around this millions and millions of orphans globally. And that number is insane. And one of the things I think Lifeline does really well and I think other ministries are doing really well is orphan care. And we know less than 1% of those children will ever be adopted internationally. And so, we partner with them. Churches in-country, NGOs in-country, and really build local support systems and care for those kiddos as they’re aging out, and help them to have flourishing and successful lives. 

But I think both pieces matter in the conversation and yeah, we are excited. It’s a long road. It’s a beautiful road, but there’s some personal sway there. But we really did pray through it and talk to a lot of people. And I think we could all sit here and attest to, in our work, we can’t do this work alone, and we can’t go through an adoption process, or we can’t foster, or be involved, we can’t do it alone. We cannot do it alone.  

It’s lonely, and we’re not meant to be alone, and I think yeah. I hope and pray anyone who’s prayerfully considering stepping into those processes had at her church are just surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who will hold their arms up when they are tired. 

Herbie Newell: I know that as we even want to support our states, especially those states that have already taken a move like Mississippi or Texas, Georgia or Alabama or Tennessee or others that have already put restrictions or maybe have stopped abortion in their states, we know that real pro-life advocacy now is going to come on the other side of the postpartum ward when there’s a born child and a mom in crisis. 

And so I hope that people will come in the church and say, “Hey, now’s the time to do something.” And I know we would all agree, like I said at the beginning, that this has always been a pro-life issue, but now it’s highlighted and I pray and I hope it’ll be become a part of our advocacy and become a part of our churches, that it will be a part of what we do. 

And I want to touch real quick on something you said too, Brittany, is, it is true that foster care will grow as abortion goes away. But we can do something aggressively good in foster care by family reconciliation. That is a beautiful thing to see families reconciled. People don’t think about that as part of foster care, but that’s a huge part of foster care. 

Reunification, reconciliation, and as pro-life people and people of the Word, even more should we believe in that restoration, that redemption, and that reconciliation. But also we need to be helping kids that are aging out of foster care that might not receive adoption. And I hope that the Church and the pro-life people will know that adoption and foster care isn’t just pro-life, but I believe it’s a central point of our advocacy for the Church.  

And I guess I just would want to end, Brittany, with you first and then, Chelsea, with you. You’re talking to the Church now. Why do they need to get engaged now? Why is now the time to get engaged in this moment that we’re living in?  

Brittany Salmon: That’s a great question. I would, I want to answer it a little bit differently, if that’s okay. I know that I think there could be a little bit of shame brought where it’s, ” Wait, I’m just showing up to this.” And there can also be some shaming of people being, going, “You should have been here before it was overturned.” And what I want to say is anytime the Lord opened our eyes to an issue, praise God. 

So, for those who are going, “Wait, I’ve never thought of that,” I want to say, “Welcome.” You are welcome to this conversation and prayerfully consider what your next step will be. It might not be adoption. It might not be foster care, but there is plenty to do here. There’s plenty of work to be shared.  

And I would just say, welcome and jump right in. Whatever your local church has, whether it’s you might have just one adoptive family at your local church. I can’t tell you how many times we were the only one. And someone would come up to us and say, “Hey, we’ve been thinking about this.” And they’d take us in, or they’d come to our house, and we’d sit down and be able to say, “Hey, here’s our story. Here’s the good, the bad, the ugly. But God is so faithful.”  

If the Lord is opening your eyes to this now, He’s going to be faithful to see this through. And so I just say welcome and jump on in.  

Chelsea Sobolik: Brittany said it all. I’m just kidding. No, that was wonderful. I think we have had these big theoretical conversations on the foster care system’s broken. We need to fix it. We need to do, we need to do so much, all of this. But you can’t. You can’t solve a problem you don’t understand, and you can’t understand it at a distance, and so I completely echo Brittany, come in, join. 

A couple quick, I would say, pray. So many of us have a tendency to just rush right in. Spend time in prayer to see how God is inviting you and your family into the work of caring for people. Children and families seek His, truly seek His face on that. Instead of maybe doing what you, just walking into it, really spend time prayerfully considering, and then get to work. There are people in every single community around our country who need who need presence, who need people to come walk beside them, to be present in their life and to care for them as holistic people. So pray, and then get to work. Get to work.  

Herbie Newell: Yeah, I think just we would all agree to, especially in this area, people need to know that this is not a project This is about relationship, and we are modeling Jesus in the way that we care for these women and children because Jesus didn’t see us as a project. He didn’t just send a 10 step plan down to earth and say this is how you can get reunified. He came Himself.  

And so I love the way that even adoption and foster care models the relationship, the love of God, that we go ourselves, we enter into the messy, we enter into the broken, and ultimately, in all these things, we’re promoting life.