On Thanksgiving, here’s one thing I’m especially grateful for: seeing more and more people step up to support foster and adoptive families.
The Bible’s call to care for vulnerable children is sometimes thought to be about individuals or particular families – those who foster, those who adopt, those who mentor.
At best, that view is deeply incomplete. Of course, not all Christians are called to foster, adopt or mentor. But every Christian community is called to live out the “pure religion” James describes as looking after orphans and widows in distress.
Caring for hurt children is not merely about one family wrapping around one child. It is about a church community wrapping around a family that’s wrapping around a child.
Every follower of Jesus can play a part in that, from babysitting and errand running to financial support and yard care. It’s surrogate grandparents…Sunday School teachers willing to be especially patient with the child who is acting out…orthodontists and hair stylists and mechanics and lawyers that share their skills to help families and the children they’ve embraced.
And as much as there’s still great need for much more of this, I’m so thankful for how this vision is taking root in many churches.
On Orphan Sunday, I had the privilege of being part of the church services at Calvary Church in southern California. For some time, they’ve had a church ministry called the “Orphan Care Task Force.” This is essentially a group of “on call” volunteers, ready to respond to needs that arise in foster families, adoptive families and Safe Families families in the church — from clothing or diapers to meals to babysitting. They’ve had 40 volunteers serving faithfully, and had hoped and prayed to double that number to 80. But on that one day, more than 100 people signed up to be “on call” – bringing the number to 140 church members standing by to help whenever needed!
The day prior, I’d also been part of the “Welcoming Children Home” foster and adoption conference in San Luis Obispo, CA. This past week, one of the organizers shared with me that – alongside the ongoing and new ways that many attendees were serving children directly – some of the people who’d attended were starting up a similar effort to support foster and adoptive families. Here’s a little sampling of what the first wave of offers looks like:
1) College gal who works in our nursery and attended the WCH conference who would love to serve on Fridays. She can watch your children or help in a number of ways. She is eager to start.
2) Free Horsemanship and Riding Lessons with a focus on Trust for Foster and Adopted kids. Christian Woman from Grace trained at a Therapeutic Youth Ranch.
3) Post College Christian gal willing to grocery shop for your family or do very light housekeeping chores.
4) Adoptive mom willing to drive your teen to and from Wednesday night youth group at GraceSLO.
5) Two young married couples licensed by DSS willing to provide overnight, weekend, or longer respite for your foster child while you take vacation or get some mental health time. Possible childcare if needed as well.
Yes, that’s a glimpse of what it can look like for Christians to walk this road together: orphan care not as an individual act, but as a church culture.
As most any foster or adoptive parents will tell you, embracing children who’ve known great hurt is rarely easy. At times, it is downright exhausting, from the headaches of dealing with broken government systems to the patience and perseverance required in any healing journey. (Little wonder nearly half of foster parents quit within a year of their first placement.)
Thankfully, God designed the local church to meet this very need. The local church is not merely a recruiting site for foster families, adoptive parents or mentors. It can and must be the hub for it all: inspiring and encouraging, supporting and aiding, mourning and celebrating…together.
Yes, the need for this support still stands larger than the supply. But on this Thanksgiving week, I’m so grateful for how it is undeniably growing. And I know many other foster and adoptive families are very thankful for it as well.