Open adoption: An interview with Karyn Johnson of The House of Ruth

What is The House of Ruth?

The House of Ruth is a non-profit ministry associated with Calvary Chapel in Downey, CA. Our outreach is to women who, for whatever reasons, are faced with problem pregnancies. It is our belief that every unborn baby has the right to life, and we encourage girls to continue with their pregnancies rather than opt for abortion.

We provide an open or independent adoption. The natural mother must choose for herself the family with whom her baby will be placed. In many cases, a natural mother doesn't know of a family who would take her baby. That is where the House of Ruth can assist her.

You mentioned "open" adoption. What is it?

An open adoption is where the birth mother and couple interact fully regarding the adoption of the child.

The House of Ruth started in 1979 with open adoptions, but we hit a lot of closed doors. Since then we've been privileged to facilitate hundreds of adoptions. Now open adoption is the norm. Thousands of agencies currently use open adoption rather than closed, in which there is no - or very little - contact between birth mother and couple, and no future interaction between birth mother and adopted child.

It sounds as if The House of Ruth is different from an adoption agency.

It is; we are not a licensed adoption agency. Here's a big difference: we are an outreach to help girls find homes for their babies. We are not a service to help find babies for adoptive families.

Essentially, we let the girls decide.

The other key difference is that we are a ministry. We have the opportunity to share the gospel, and each girl gets a Bible. Of course, that's a major distinction between secular and Christian agencies... the counseling.

So your focus in on the girl and the child, not the prospective parents.

Correct. Our primary client is the birth mother. Ideally, we feel adoption should be the last alternative for a mother. Every possible attempt will be exhausted to keep a child within its birth family. If adoption is selected, then our prayer is that we can assist the child into a loving Christian home. I am convinced every adoption is a work of God.

Wow... 25 years with The House of Ruth. How did you get started?

Well, I was a teen birth mother, and it was a terrible experience.

One of the defining moments for me was later while I was in Jerusalem. I came upon a lady who was sobbing. Being pregnant and distraught over giving the baby up for adoption, she yearned for her child to go to a Christian family. It really moved me.

I went to the scriptures for wisdom regarding adoption. I discovered that at least six major biblical characters were adopted, such as Moses. The interesting thing is that they all knew who their original parents were; they knew their heritage!

I wondered if there was a way to better orchestrate the process for the betterment of the child. I thought "wouldn't it be nice if a mother can know/see how well their child is being taken care of?" Adoption doesn't have to be a separation from a child.

Although your focus is on the birth mother, what efforts are made with the prospective parents?

When we work with couples, our main requirement is that both husband and wife are born-again and actively involved in a Protestant, Bible-teaching church.

Do you only serve your surrounding community?

Even though we are located in Southern California, we sometimes work with mothers and couples in other states. For instance, a girl in Texas recently called, and she selected a couple in Kentucky.

If someone wishes to find out more about your ministry, where can they go?

Our headquarters are located in Downey, CA, with other offices in Honolulu, Bangor, Idaho Falls and San Diego. All of these locations are associated with a Calvary Chapel facility. Our headquarters telephone number is 562.803.1477.

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