The XX Factor

Focus on the Family Does a GOOD Thing

Last week, in celebrating a win for gay adoption in Florida, I wrote that there were still 19,000 kids in foster care in that state seeking permanent homes. (Nationally, about one-quarter of the kids in foster care are legal orphans in need of adoption; for the rest, states still seek a return to parents or family members.) Another ruling striking down a ban on gay adoptions was a victory, I said, but a real victory will come when we stop arguing over who can and can’t adopt those kids, and just start finding adoptive homes for them instead.

Damn if Focus on the Family hasn’t managed the latter. According to the Wall Street Journal , its efforts in Colorado have ” moved about 500 of the 800 kids in foster care into permanent homes over the course of less than two years. ” It’s an effort they’ve expanded into six other states and that covers, at least in an informative and encouraging sense, the entire country. It’s also an initiative (“Wait No More”) into which they’ve sunk considerable funds. But foster adoption isn’t presented as a religious mandate or an easy road, and there’s no pretending that God is going to make it any easier. This is a practical, honest, and laudable effort to encourage people who are in a position to open their lives to a child to do so, and to support them in that endeavor. And it’s working. The same WSJ article notes that “as more and more evangelical churches take up the cause of adoption on a large scale, their congregations have begun to look like the multiracial sea of faces that Christian leaders often talk about wanting.” Yet foster adoption isn’t handled lightly by the leaders of Focus or on its Web site.

It’s hard not to have a little moment of seeing the organization as importing the seeds of its own destruction. With most foster kids coming from different races and backgrounds than those evangelical adoptive parents, how can the movement as a whole not begin to lose its fear of the “other”? And how many of those adoptive parents, after years of learning to raise children who are generally older and often troubled by specific issues in their past or just from the plain fact of having been moved from at least one family to another, will continue to accept Focus’ opposition to adoption by gay and lesbian prospective parents willing to take on that same challenge?

But in spite of their good (and possibly subversive and eventually destructive) work in this area, Focus continues its bigoted advocacy, pushing for yet another appeal in support of the gay adoption ban in Florida and continuing lobbying efforts (often conducted by a separate legal organization, Focus on the Family Action) in opposition to gay marriage. In welcoming its efforts in helping foster children find homes, I’m doing something Focus itself refuses to manage: accepting that it’s far, far better for a child in foster care to have a permanent family whose views I may find abhorrent than no permanent family at all.