Would You Part with Your Child?
“PART with my child?” Most parents would be horrified and recoil at the thought. However, there is a situation in which parents in many lands, particularly African lands, voluntarily part with their children. It is the giving or “loaning” of children to friends or relatives.
Does that seem like a heartless practice to you? Would you conclude that parents who do such a thing must have no parental feeling, no real love for their own flesh and blood?
REASONS FOR THE PRACTICE
Before you roundly condemn this practice, consider some of the reasons motivating the parents. And, even if you live in a land where such “loaning” is not carried on, getting the balanced Scriptural view of this practice may well help you to fix in mind Bible principles that apply to the way parents in your part of the world deal with their children.
Missionaries in some parts of Africa have reported being offered a young child by sincere parents. Far from being heartless, those parents have very strong affection for their children, but feel that if some material advantage will accrue to the child under someone else’s care, then it is worth while for them to make the sacrifice.
Relatives or acquaintances who are better off financially, or those whose homes are more conveniently located for school opportunities, are often asked by parents who are poor and perhaps illiterate to accept responsibility for the rearing of one or more children. Economy and schooling are thus seen to be at the back of this custom. And is it not true that, in these respects, such parents are taking a long-range view of matters? Self-sacrifice on their part now, so they reason, may pave the way for easier times later when educated children will have sufficient earning power to support themselves and their parents.
It is true that foster parents in these circumstances have to accept some additional financial burden. However, there is also some material advantage, because quite likely the “loaned” child will pay part of his way by becoming a house servant to the members of the household. And a child may accept this quite willingly as the price of better living conditions and schooling opportunities.
Parents who look merely at the materialistic side of life may be able eventually to point with pride to a son or daughter educated in one of the higher schools, and who has become the breadwinner for the family.
DISADVANTAGES AND DANGERS
But not all cases work out to the advantage either of parents or of children who have been “loaned.” Deprived of the love of a mother and the discipline of a father, these children are often like uprooted plants, suffering from frustration and a feeling that nobody cares. Add to that the possibility that in the foster home the newcomer may not be fully accepted as a member of the household, may be discriminated against, with favoritism shown toward the other children in the home.
Too, not all children may be mentally or emotionally equipped to achieve the goals set for them by ambitious parents. They may not be able to benefit sufficiently from educational opportunities made available to them. And then what about the possibility of inadequate discipline in the foster home? More than a few parents have had the unhappy experience of having their children return to them with no respect for truth or goodness or even for their own mother or father.
Being away from the watchful eye of their own parents, those foster children often develop thinking and habits contrary to those the parents consider right. It may be that, after it is too late, it is finally discovered that the children have become delinquents. They may have been exposed to bad associates while having no one to whom they could turn for good counsel. Foster parents cannot usually be expected to offer the same degree of care to “loaned” children as they would give to their very own.
THE VITAL CONSIDERATION
What is much more important than all of these foregoing considerations is having God’s viewpoint on this matter of “loaning” out children. The Great Father of all his earthly children knows best. His advice on such a question is certain to be the very best, and it may be found in the pages of the Holy Scriptures.
Parents who profess to serve the true God need to bear in mind that Jehovah holds them responsible for the welfare of their children until such time as they reach the age of personal responsibility. Fathers and mothers who fail to make proper material provision for dependent children, just like adults who fail to make provision for needy parents, might rightly be described as being “worse than a person without faith.” (1 Tim. 5:8) But this is not all. A parent who truly loves God will also be anxious to put into practice the excellent counsel that is found at Deuteronomy 6:6, 7:
“These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.”
Yes, the spiritual needs of children are as important as their physical welfare. In fact, they are more so. That is why God’s word of direction to parents is: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph. 6:4) If, during their most impressionable years, children are “loaned” out to others so that they are voluntarily separated from their fathers and mothers for months or years at a time, how can parents conscientiously carry out these requirements of God?
And God’s instruction to children is important too. His Word says: “You children, be obedient to your parents in everything.” (Col. 3:20) “Observe, O my son, the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (Prov. 6:20) How can they do as God’s Word says if their own parents are not even around? And how can they honor and respect fathers and mothers who, by their course, apparently sidestep a sizable portion of their proper parental obligations, saddling them upon someone else?
THE BALANCED VIEW
To get a balanced view of this whole matter of “loaning” out young children, one might ask, Is any worldly education or economic advantage worth the sacrifice involved here? It may be the sacrifice of a child’s peace of mind, of a child’s orderly development under close supervision of loving parents. Even if it would seem on the surface that a child would fare better physically and materially in a foster home, what about the Scriptural counsel, at 1 Timothy 6:17-19, not to rest one’s hope “on uncertain riches, but on God,” and to “get a firm hold on the real life”? There is no guarantee that the child’s bettered economic position will result in his gaining God’s approval.
When parents are faced with the question as to whether to “loan” out their children or not for a month or two or longer, let them carefully examine their motives and ask themselves, Is this what God would have me do? Granted the child may be willing, yes, eager to leave his parents for a time, but is that any valid reason to agree to such an arrangement? It is not unusual for children to want things that are not beneficial.
Fathers and mothers may feel that they are fully justified in parting with their children when the opportunities for elementary education are far removed from their home. But would it not be better to consider moving the whole family closer to school rather than yield up to someone else the God-given privilege and responsibility to supervise the development of one’s own children?
Also, in countries where literacy classes are regularly conducted in the congregations of Jehovah’s witnesses, many parents have availed themselves of these, and have there learned without charge how to read and write and how to inculcate in their children the valuable truths of God’s Word, the Bible, the finest source of education there is. Thus fathers, mothers and children, having been drawn closer by Bible truth, are enjoying a richer, happier family life. And now such parents just would not want to part with their children for anything!
If you live in Europe, North America or some other location where “loaning” is not carried on, do you recognize practices to which the same principles should be applied? Some parents send their children off to boarding schools or summer camps for many months at a time, even though the children may thus be deprived of the love, protection and spiritual and moral guidance they so vitally need. The dangers and disadvantages of these practices may often be just as great as those involved in “loaning” out one’s child. Hence, there is good reason for loving parents in every part of the earth to exercise great care when faced with any custom or arrangement that would mean parting with their child. The reward of caution and the making of a decision based on God’s Word can be lasting happiness for all, since “the orders from Jehovah are upright, causing the heart to rejoice.”—Ps. 19:8.