What Pat Robertson should have said…

Well-known Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson made some widely publicized comments on the 700 Club earlier this week that have received much attention in the adoption ministry and disability ministry communities. His remarks were in response to a question from a single mother with three children, each adopted from a different country…

Our friend and colleague Shannon Dingle wrote a marvelous response to Mr. Robertson’s remarks on her personal blog last week that I strongly encourage you to check out and share with other adoptive families. I hope Shannon’s blog post circulates to everyone who needs to hear her message. I wonder how many adoptive parents have experienced statements similar to Mr. Robertson’s from people in positions of leadership or influence within their churches.  As a physician with a fair amount of experience in treating adopted children with emotional, behavioral and developmental disorders and a working knowledge of the Bible, allow me to suggest an alternate response to Mr. Robertson or any other Christ follower if a similar question comes up again.

Susan…you don’t just talk the talk, you walk the walk. I’m sure Jesus is pleased with your worship as expressed through the love and care you give to your children.  After all, the Bible says caring for orphans is a reflection of true religion.

Your children are your ministry…and your ministry has the potential to be very demanding. Children available for adoption are more likely to have been exposed to significant trauma, neglect or abuse, the effects of which may not become fully evident for many years. They may require medical treatments that are either unavailable or prohibitively expensive in their countries of origin. They are more likely than biological children to require treatment for mental health disorders.

Consider this…How many men would be interested in committing to a relationship with you if your ministry were overseas mission work? Life could be pretty good if you’re called to a place that’s temperate and peaceful with lots of modern conveniences. But what if the future were unclear? What if you were called to a place of isolation or hardship where the threat of poverty, danger and persecution is ever present? Would that limit your potential dating pool?

In some ways, your ministry could be viewed by others as more challenging than the overseas missionary. If their assignment becomes too demanding or unpleasant or destructive to family life, missionaries generally have the option to go home or request a reassignment from their sponsoring organization. But you’ve made a lifetime commitment to your ministry with your children…a commitment you can’t walk away from in the event life becomes too hard.

You have an extraordinary faith. While my wife and I haven’t felt called to pursue adoption as you have, I’m not sure I’d have sufficient faith to follow such a call if we received one. I don’t know that I have the spiritual maturity to commit to the sacrifices that might be involved. I suspect that the men who lose interest after they learn of your children are doing you a service in considering the possible cost before making a commitment. You and your children deserve someone who would consider serving as your husband and their father as an honor as opposed to a burden. You also deserve a church family who would consider it an honor to come beside you as you raise your children with the knowledge of Jesus and His love for them.

Mr. Robertson was clearly unprepared for the question he was asked earlier this week. We can learn from his experience and be better prepared to respond as Jesus would have us respond to the adoptive families who cross our paths.

Note…Shannon Dingle’s personal blog richly chronicles her family’s experience during their recent adoption of Zoe Amanda. It’s a pretty impressive living testimony of God at work through the lives of Shannon, her husband Lee and their three children and an inspiring read.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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7 Responses to What Pat Robertson should have said…

  1. Ann Holmes says:

    Amen! There is NO guarantee any child – biological or adopted – will grow up to be all he or see can be in relation to God and this world! ANY parenting that is “successful” is by grace alone!!!


  2. Karen W says:

    I just want to as today is our adoption day so this really affected me. We are adopting 2 awesome children they are bio siblings, their mother did drugs, both bio mom and bio dad have bio polar disorders. Isn’t this really being the hands and feet of Christ. Loving these children as our own. They both have autism and some other health issues. Through the gift of our children, God has led me and my husband to start a support group / ministry in our own church in Waukesha and help in giving other families hope when they are struggling with their child’s special needs. Everyday even the hard days I praise God for our opportunity and the heart for these children.


    • drgrcevich says:

      Hi Karen,

      It sounds like God’s found an awesome home for your two kids!

      Our team would be honored to help you guys if you need resources to help launch your ministry. Just e-mail Rebecca Hamilton at rebecca@keyministry.org if we can help. Barb Dittrich with SNAPPIN’ Ministries in your area is also an outstanding resource for you and your new ministry.


  3. Max says:

    Steve, I can only speak from the “biological” single parent perspective… but I agree. The parent…any parent, that takes it on “for life” SHOULD be supported by their mate if they have one, their community, if they have one…and MOST CERTAINLY, their church. Sadly, that is not always the case. The alternative is isolation, in the long term…And I know a little about this topic, having lived it.
    In my experience, I can tell you that “the spouse” left about fifteen years ago and “the church” where I helped you to start “special needs ministry” seems only to be about recruiting young families. Families such as mine, who have been active for 20 or so years, often get left in the “ministry dust”. The reason for this? Our society is all about “infantilizing” people with special needs. When they become a real adult, and can no longer be viewed as an overgrown child, most supports start to fall away whether it be spousal, community or family. Caring for these individuals IS long term.
    And while it is LONELY to singlehandedly care for a person with special needs into adulthood, that path is FAR preferable to that of being both a long-term caregiver AND trying to meet the needs of a spouse (or church or community) who gets none of the “day to day” of this caregivers life. Better to “marry than to burn”? I say, at least in this circumstance,”Better to burn and just see what happens…”, no matter who one is discussing. But if, as a parent, you are CHOOSING to adopt this lifestyle, KNOW that long-term you will face MANY decisions for your kid ALONE. I say that not to discourage anyone, but to speak as one who is now the parent of a young adult with autism. YES, it CAN be done…but it takes conviction. Cuddly, accepted babies grow up. But our children will still need care as adults. And my advice if you are considering adopting? Don’t take it on if you can’t see yourself STILL taking care of that child thirty or forty years down the road. You, as an adopted parent have a choice. I did not.
    Finally if a parent of of kid with special needs actually finds a mate that wants to be involved is one thing. IF that person can actually “man up” is another matter altogether…because caring for these individuals IS LONG-TERM. IT IS LIFETIME. Not that that is a horrible thing,it has many blessings, but it does mostly fall on one parent or the other…Usually the one who has the “intestinal fortitude” to deal with the adult stuff of a child with special needs. Choosing to marry under these conditions could be a recipe for disaster. But so could adopting a kid from a foreign county with special needs.One goes where one is led by God. Just look before you leap!
    In any case, whether one chooses this life or it is cast upon them, the question of involving any outside party takes on monumental proportions…Just my opinion, based on my experiences….
    And I actually LIKE Pat Roberson. But I would say to him what I would say to the rest of the world that long-term “doesn’t get it”. Walk a mile in my shoes, dude…THEN open your mouth.


  4. I have some friends, who are doing what Susan has done. Pat Robertson’s comment is an insult to these wonderful family. Sadly, the damage isn’t limited to adoptive parents and special needs children. How about the orphanages?
    This is a man of influence and I’m afraid that Pat’s word could have a chilling effect on many of the issues relating to those kids’ situation. Because raising adoptive children is challenging, the church need to rise up and support such family and the orphanages seeking to place these kids.


  5. Pingback: Pat Robertson?? Here We Go, Again | Inspiration Point

  6. Pingback: Pat Robertson?? Here We Go, Again | Inspiration Point

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