Inalienable Rights and a Call to Action
Jacqui Jackson, M.Ed
The founders and the framers—I think we can all agree—were intelligent, passionate, and bold individuals who sacrificed and poured into our country, community, and into the citizens they represented. Everytime I think about how God has allowed our country to be formed, I feel pumped up and excited. I seriously still cry every single time I hear, “God Bless the USA.” Yes, I am high on the emotional scale, but even if I wasn’t, being able to call America home is deeply ensconced in my heart.
At 2 months old, after having been born in an orphanage, placed in foster care, and then put up for adoption from a third world country, I was first brought onto American soil. At 3 years old, I distinctly remember my momma drilling me on the order of the presidents of the USA…all of them. I knew them—not backwards and forwards—but at least forwards!
I remember learning how to pledge to the flag. I learned how to stand up straight and look at that textile symbol of freedom, hope, and possibility. I recall standing in front of a judge and raising my tiny hand as I became “nationalized.” Even now I have my naturalization papers right next to my degrees.
That’s the thing about possibility and hope, they make you feel as though you can do anything. From where my life began to where I am now, I can only thank God, country, and family. I am the first woman in my family to have received a Masters degree; however, had I never been adopted, the likelihood of any education for me was thin on the ground.
Colombia, mi tierra, is a beautiful country with truly beautiful people. I have had the privilege of going back to serve in the orphanage where my life began. There I loved on children too young to know that their life trajectory would be decided by judges, attorneys, social workers and such. While working in the newborn nursery with close to a dozen infants (3 months and younger) either lying, playing, or waiting to be fed, I felt the burden of doing all I can to allow them to have the opportunities I have had. Not necessarily the opportunity to be American, but rather the right to be placed in a stable and safe family.
Not every child at risk is available for adoption—nor should they be. If a child is placed up for adoption that means EVERY SINGLE THING in his or her life has been attacked. They need a mama bear defending and a paper bear protecting them just like many other kids have. Family is crazy and it’s precious; it’s formative and it can be dysfunctional. However, family is NOT is a luxury.
No matter what country you are born into or what circumstances your family of origin is facing, God’s answer to orphanhood has always been family. Social science proves over and over again that neurological and physical development are impacted by attachment, trust, and the meeting of basic needs. Spiritually we know it’s true and scientifically it is confirmed.
Lo those many years ago when the founders and framers chose to write down those immortal words, “We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” they did NOT include that we have an inalienable right to a family because it was simply understood.
I applaud the needed effort to preserve families and provide resources to help families in crisis. The best case scenario is that kids stay in the family they are born into because babies, children, teens, and heck, middle aged mommies in ministry need family!
However, when everything in a child’s life collapses and the biological family is unable to provide a safe home and the ability to thrive, we need to think with our mama and papa bear hearts. With one collective voice we must say, “If it’s not ok for my kids, it’s not ok for any kids.”
Church, I’m calling out to you. What does the orphan crisis need domestically, in foster care, and in global institutions? Families! Great news, the church has families! We already have our marching orders in James 1:27. It is a clear call and commission, “Care for the widows and the orphans.” Man’s answer to the orphan crisis has been orphanages, but God’s answer has always been family. He created family, and God creates good things. He calls Himself our Father, so in a deep way He understands this messy place of families, children, and adoption. After all, He adopted each one of us.
Last year, as part of a delegation with other advocates from all over the country, I was blessed to take part in Adoption Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. It hit me then that here I was—what many could have labelled unwanted, unimportant, and unseen in my infancy—now walking onto Capitol Hill speaking to the decision makers and powers that be about the importance of making vulnerable children here and abroad a part of our national conversation. As I walked into the Senate Building by myself that morning, I felt the same burden that I had felt holding babies in Suba, Colombia. It was a sense of rightness, of calling, and of destiny.
I am raising my voice on behalf of the voiceless and I am calling on each of you to do the same. There are kids being raised apart from family, apart from a mother’s arms to comfort the nightmares, and a daddy’s hand to help them up to the next level. There are children crying tears no parent wipes away, and teens aging out of a broken system who are expected to handle all the intricacies of adulting while never having been poured into, directed, guided or encouraged by a parental voice. Imagine these were your own kiddos. If this makes you angry I say, “Me too!” It’s not right for your kids to not have family. It’s unfair to you if you didn’t have family. It wasn’t right for me as I began and could have continued my life in an orphanage, and it is NOT right for them. I said, them—not statistics, or unnamed, unknown strangers—real children. They are without families right now, on our watch.
Claim that righteous indignation and get ready to move! I ask you to pray hard about what you can do. Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, but EVERY SINGLE ONE of us is called to do something. This is not a circumstance that we can afford to ignore. When these kids grow up without the basic influences of family, consistency, safety and love it impacts all of us. These kids, just like yours have a calling on their lives. Within the safety net of family—not a perfect family, just a family—their potential to reach that calling increases exponentially.
Right now I invite you to join Ignite Hope and others in this fight for children. Join me in signing this petition, created by the Child Advocacy program at Harvard Law School, supporting the child’s right to a family.
You have a voice, these kids do not. Use your voice now to change their world today for tomorrow!