Caring for vulnerable children is complex.

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Information & Resources for Adoption, Foster Care and Orphan Care Ministry

How do I engage my church for orphan, foster and/or adoption ministry?

Many who’ve been captured by God’s deep love for orphans and vulnerable children can feel disappointed that their church doesn’t “catch on” faster. It’s important to remember that pastors and others often feel overwhelmed by all the needs and opportunities knocking at their door daily.

But gracious, persistent effort pays off. We’d especially encourage you to start small and slow, building with resources mentioned below. A solid foundation is far more important than speed.

We also believe it is vital that orphan ministry not be presented as yet “one more need” that a church “ought to” address. Rather, the core of adoption and orphan care ministry is discipleship – helping believers grow to reflect the character of Jesus Christ more and more. It’s about coming to see that God’s deep love for the orphan reveals His deep love for each of us.   Grasping this and the service that rises as a response can truly transform both individuals and church communities. Ultimately, all this becomes a small reflection to the world of how God first loved us, the Gospel made visible.

We’d encourage you to use Orphan Sunday as a “catalyst” to begin growing hearts for orphans and/or foster youth in your church. Orphan Sunday events, whether large or small, can help people see what you see. (The very first Orphan Sunday, held by a local pastor in a hard-pressed church in Zambia, ignited many hearts for the orphans around them!)

The new CAFO Church Engagement Initiative is designed to help churches develop effective, sustainable ministry to orphans and foster youth. In addition, we’d recommend the quick-to-read book Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care and Mentoring—Living Out God’s Heart for the Orphan as a great overview of the key issues involved in orphan ministry. There are also many other great volumes in the CAFO Resource Library. In addition, many great CAFO members have developed rich resources and other supports for churches seeking to develop effective ministry, including Hope for Orphans, Patch Our PlanetALL IN Orphan Care and Tapestry.

I would like to start a ministry at my church. Where do I start?

Some of our CAFO member organizations also have great resources for church ministries: check out Patch Our Planet, ALL IN Orphan Care, and Tapestry Ministry.

I would like to start a non-profit (adoption/foster care/orphan care ministry). What guidance can you provide?

As a first thought, we’d first encourage you to prayerfully weigh whether starting a new organization is definitely where God’s leading you. You may indeed be called to start a new ministry to meets a need that is not being met today. But the process of starting a new organization from scratch demands an immense amount of work that – in itself – may not accomplish a lot for children. So it’s always wise to ask if your strengths and passions could be used most effectively with an existing ministry so that you don’t have to expend extensive resources and energy just to get started.   Do research and also talk with others who’ve served for many years in the field to see if they know of similar organizations. Ask if there might be a way that your vision could be accomplished through or in partnership with an existing organization.

That said, if you still have a clear sense that a new organization is needed, CAFO Member Organizations have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that could prove invaluable along the road ahead. (See Membership Categories for more information about each.) We’d especially invite you to experience the unparalleled blend of experts, workshops, resources, ideas and more at the annual CAFO Summit.   We’d also invite you to join us for free webinars once a month and spend time researching in the CAFO Resource Library.

Once your organization is up-and-running, we’d encourage you to make full use of all of the learning opportunities open to CAFO members, from the private “Leadership Strategy Roundtables” at Summit to other gatherings of leaders to address together pressing issues they face.

(Note: you may also want to read the FAQ answer under the question, “I feel called to start an orphanage. What advice can you offer? What resources do you recommend?”)

I would like to educate myself in order to effectively advocate for orphan care, adoption and/or foster care. Where should I start?

There is so much information out there, not all of it entirely dependable. So it can be overwhelming to sift through it all. Here are some ideas for getting started.

An excellent easy-to-read primer is the book, Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care and Mentoring—Living Out God’s Heart for the Orphan. It provides a great overview of the key issues involved in orphan ministry.

Another important resource is the CAFO white paper, “On Understanding Orphan Statistics” that provides explanation of some of the most important global orphan statistics and how to use them accurately.

To go further, we’d definitely encourage you to attend the annual CAFO Summit. It is a tremendously rich and substantive learning environment for both newcomers and veterans, covering issues from attachment and trauma to mentoring models to church-based ministry to global partnerships.

If you are particularly interested in serving orphans overseas, we’d commend to you the resources noted in the FAQ question that begins, “I feel called to start an orphanage…”

Beyond all this, we’d also invite you to join future CAFO Webinars and also watch past webinars that reside in the webinar archives. The CAFO Resource Library is also rich with books, videos and other resources. Finally, many of CAFO’s member organizations provide additional content to inspire and help guide effective advocacy.

I feel called to start an orphanage or other kind of service to orphans. What advice can you offer? What resources do you recommend?

We’re so glad that you sense God leading you to step forward for orphans! We’re keenly aware the unique journey God has for each person is very different. So we’d want to provide advice as gentle suggestions, especially without a deeper understanding of your personal story. But here are a few initial thoughts:

Encouragement. It’s clear in Scripture that God cares deeply and personally for every orphan. So we’d very much guess that your sense that He is leading you to reflect that love in action is indeed from Him. We’re excited with you and encourage you to be persistent in following through on this sense of God’s leading.

Caution. In orphan care and many other areas of deep human need, there are “good,” “better” and “best” ways to respond to complex needs. There can also be ways that are not-so-good, and even harmful. So we’d very much encourage you to make deep learning a core part of this investigation stage – seeking not just to love, but to love wisely and well.

One important question for you to address early-on is whether programs could be developed that enable children to grow up in families – such as local adoption or quality foster care in local church families. There are certainly some parts of the world today where high-quality residential facilities (usually small and family-like in nature) offer a vital alternative to life on the streets or in abusive homes. But overall, both Scripture and social science affirm that the very best place for a child to grow up is in a family. So we’d strongly encourage that any model of care you pursue absolutely be as close to family as possible.

It’s also important to know that many children cared for in orphanages have living parents or other family members. Certainly, not all of these children can be safely returned to those families. But many can. So we’d very much encourage that any approach to orphan care include programs and/or partners that 1) Work to prevent family separation whenever possible; and 2) Work to facilitate reunification and support of families whenever this can be safely done.

Some resources that could useful to your research include:

  1. a) The free downloadable booklet, Journeys of Faith and other resources from the Faith to Action Initiative, including, “Children, Orphanages and Families.”
  2. b) The book, Becoming Home: Adoption, Foster Care and Mentoring—Living Out God’s Heart for the Orphan
  3. c) The CAFO Report, “Replicable Models for Family Based Care” and webinar by the same name.
  4. d) The book, In Pursuit of Orphan Excellence.
  5. e) Any of the downloadable sessions from the CAFO Summit HERE.
  6. f) Joining us at a CAFO Summit.

Finally, we believe it is especially wise to learn in a more direct, in-depth fashion from veterans of orphan care before you shape your future plans, start an organization, or begin to raise money. The CAFO Summit would provide many chances to meet these kinds of veterans and interact directly with them. But if you desire to make this mission a major part of the rest of your life, you may want to investigate additional options (depending on what is feasible for your financial situation, flexibility, etc) — such as living and working alongside one or more excellent leaders/organizations in the field for a season.

We hope this doesn’t feel too overwhelming. The truth is that all of us on the CAFO team would have felt overwhelmed if we’d seen from the start where God was ultimately going to lead us. But what has made it not just do-able, but truly a joyful journey, has been simply taking one little step at a time.

We’d encourage you to start there — identifying just one or two things you can act upon at this point. Alongside much prayer, take that step. We trust that one little step will follow another as God faithfully leads you to the place where your passion, vision and unique gifts can be fully used for precious children.

We run a great program that serves orphans. Can we submit a proposal for funding?

CAFO invests in orphan-serve organizations only in non-financial ways. We do not provide grants or other funding.   Rather, all CAFO initiatives work to equip ministries, churches and individuals for effective service – from the CAFO Summit, to monthly Webinars, to the Applied Research & Best Practice Initiative.

For international leaders working to motivate fellow Christians in their nation to care for orphans, the CAFO Global Movements Initiative is designed especially for you. This includes the annual Collaborate Forum, regional training events, strategic coaching and consulting, monthly newsletter and other services.

What kind of support and/or services do you offer adoptive parents, birthmothers, foster parents, youth in foster care, and adopted individuals?

Many CAFO educational resources are highly-relevant to each of these groups. The annual CAFO Summit includes workshops and a huge array for all of these groups. (You can see and download workshops from prior years here.) You can also search the CAFO Resource Library by topic for high-quality books, videos, websites and more.   Free CAFO Webinars each month cover a wide range of related topics as well.

We’d especially invite you to join us at the next CAFO Summit. Alongside the resources mentioned above, Summit is a great opportunity to network and learn from people around the world who are passionate about effective foster care, adoption, family preservation and global orphan ministry.

Do you have support groups for foster or adoptive parents?

This is a growing area of need, keep following CAFO and as opportunities present themselves we will share them!

I want to do more to help birthmothers. Do you have resources?

We’re so glad you want to put focus on caring for birthmothers.   These women made a brave and often painful choice to give their child the gift of life. It’s so important that the church give these women both the honor their choice deserves and – when needed – the support they need. Along with resources in the CAFO Resource Library on open adoption and related themes, we’d also commend to you a workshop from the last Summit, “Honoring and Loving Birthmothers”

I am looking for long-term (Christian) respite care for difficult adoptions or advice as I wrestle with the prospect of relinquishing parental responsibilities. Can you connect me with someone who can help me?

Please contact us on the form below and we will do our best to point you in the right direction. CAFO does not provide respite care but member organizations may be able to help you.

Do you have resources on how to help older orphans transition from orphanages?

We do! The CAFO Aging Out Initiative is designed to help identify and share promising models and resources for serving aging out youth, both in the US and globally.   See more here! If you’re interested in getting more directly involved, you can also email the Director of the Aging-Out Initiative, Scott Brown.

I have an event or resource I would like to share with other orphan care and foster care advocates. Can I promote my book/film/event through the CAFO’s website and/or on CAFO’s social media outlets?

As an Alliance that includes so many organizations and churches, CAFO generally must restrict the space on our website and social media to the resources and events of our member organizations. (And, in truth, even not all of these can be shared given space constraints.) If you would like to become a CAFO member, you can find more info here. We would note that resources of the highest quality can be recommended for inclusion in the CAFO Resource Library.  You may make a recommendation through our contact form below.

Where can I find devotional resources?

There are a number of devotional resources in the CAFO Resource Library as well as in the Orphan Sunday Prayer Guides and Bible Studies.

How do I join the resource swap?

The CAFO Resource Swap is currently only available to member organizations, which make available to each other at no cost the best of their policy documents, manuals and other proprietary resources. If you would like to become a CAFO member, please learn more here.

I’m a writer and/or blogger, how can I be involved with CAFO?

We’re rallying together advocates, moms, attorneys, students, authors, musicians and anyone who has a heart that beats for the orphan. This is a growing movement and we want to tell the stories, encourage those on the front lines, give names to faces, call to action, and inspire audiences with perspective and truth.

Join as a Blogger for Orphans Here!

What is CAFO doing in (country/state)?

CAFO is made up of many trusted organizations that collectively serve in more than 120 countries. You can see which CAFO members are serving in which countries on the new CAFO Member Map. In addition, the 2015 Next Steps booklet provides listings of all CAFO organizations serving in each country as well as an overview of the types of programs and services offered by each.

In addition to this, some CAFO initiatives partner directly with local leaders in a growing number of countries. This especially includes Orphan Sunday (click here for a list of Orphan Sunday coordinators by country) and the Global Movements Initiative (click here for more information.)

I checked your Global Map and/or Next Steps Booklet, and I don’t see any CAFO member organizations working in (country). There are many orphans and much need in this country. What can I or CAFO do?

We’d first urge you to begin praying regularly for this country and it vulnerable children.

Second, we’d note that it is likely that there are Christian organizations serving in the country – which just have not officially joined CAFO yet. Many such ministries may indeed be trustworthy. However, scams and scandals involving groups claiming to “serve orphans” (including many that claim to be “Christian”) are not uncommon. So it is vital to exercise special cautious in forming partnership with any organization that does not have the affirmation of CAFO membership, especially if any money is involved.

Whether you are simply seeking an organization to support or are considering creating a new program/ministry, we’d encourage you to consider the questions and resources suggested under the FAQ question, “I feel called to start an orphanage or other kind of service…”

Are there CAFO organizations working in (country)?

You can see which CAFO members are serving in which countries on the new CAFO Member Map. In addition, the 2015 Next Steps booklet provides listings of all CAFO organizations serving in each country as well as an overview of the types of programs and services offered by each.

Volunteering

Can I volunteer at an orphanage in the US?

Although traditional orphanages no longer exist in the US, group homes serve a portion of the children in US foster care.   This percentage varies significantly by region, but is roughly 15% nationwide. Children are generally placed in group homes when it has been difficult to find them a foster family due to a lack of available families or a dynamic that makes placement more challenging, such as a sibling group, older age, or intensive special needs.

Not all group homes permit volunteer involvement. However, many do allow (and some actively seek) volunteers for roles ranging from mentoring and tutoring to transportation to/from religious services that youth express interest in attending.

Whether or not there are group homes in your region that allow volunteer involvement, there very likely are other volunteer opportunities to help foster youth and other vulnerable children. We’d encourage you to reach out to any CAFO foster organization involved in the foster system in your area.   In addition, mentoring and other opportunities may also exist through respected organizations like CASA.

Of course, you can also consider working within your church to raise awareness of local needs (possibly using Orphan Sunday as a catalyst!) and/or to provide practical support for foster and adoptive families.

How do I volunteer with CAFO?

We’d love to connect with you and see if there is a place for you on our team or with one of our member organizations. View our current Volunteer Opportunities.

What organizations serve in (country) where we can visit or volunteer?

You can see which CAFO members are serving in which countries on the  CAFO Member Map. In addition, the 2015 Next Steps booklet provides listings of all CAFO organizations serving in each country as well as an overview of the types of programs and services offered by each.

We’d note that missions trips and other short-term missions (STM) can be truly transformative experiences, but should only be engaged with great thoughtfulness and care. Well-intended visits with little prior knowledge of local culture or needs have the potential to do as much harm as good. CAFO is currently developing resources for engaging STM wisely, and we’d also recommend the general principles promoted by the “Standards of Excellence in Short-Term Missions.”

CAFO Summit

When is the next CAFO Summit date?

The CAFO2017 Summit will be held in Nashville on May 4-5, 2017. You can visit the CAFO Summit page. For updates and news on CAFO Summit, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Can I still receive Hague & CEUs for CAFO2016?

Where can I find audio and video recordings from the CAFO Summit?

Audio Recordings and General Session videos are available here!

How do I purchase and redeem an Audio Download Card?

Audio download cards are available for purchase through (1) CAFO Summit registration website  (2) On-site the CAFO Summit.  If you didn’t purchase a card, no worries! You can browse and purchase audio recordings below.

Visit CAFO.SONACART.COM to redeem audio download cards or purchase individual recordings

What CAFO Summit sessions are available for purchase?

Audio recorded sessions include: General Sessions, Workshops and Intensives

Video recorded sessions include: General Sessions

Visit CAFO Audio Recordings Store

Orphan Sunday

When is the next Orphan Sunday date?

Orphan Sunday is the second Sunday each November. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on latest happenings and resources.

November 8, 2015  |  November 13, 2016  |  November 12, 2017

How can I become an Orphan Sunday coordinator?

To get involved with Orphan Sunday, contact your Regional Coordinator on the list of Coordinators here.

If there is no Coordinator yet for your region write us at [email protected].

If you are considering becoming a coordinator in your region take a look at the Coordinator FAQs.

Donations to CAFO

I want to invest in the work of CAFO financially. How do I do that?

We’re grateful you want to join us in this work! The CAFO donations page includes options for giving online or by mail. If you would like to discuss giving opportunities further, please explain that in a short note on the contact form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

I have not received my giving statement for the tax year.

We apologize for any inconvenience! Please request your giving statement on the contact form below, selecting “Partnership” in the drop down menu.

Can I speak to someone about a problem with my donation(s)?

We apologize for any inconvenience! Please let us know how we can help on the contact form below, selecting “Partnership” in the drop down menu.

I would like to directly support orphans, foster youth and/or adoptive or foster parents financially. Where should I go?

The first step is to check our 2015 Next Steps booklet. There are countless agencies and ministries worldwide that work with orphans and vulnerable children directly, and by supporting them, you will be supporting those they serve. Reach out directly to agencies and ministries you are interested in supporting.

CAFO Membership

How can I learn more about CAFO membership as an organization/church/individual/business? How do I join?

Our organization or church information has changed. How do we change the information on your website?

Please use the contact form below to update us on any changes.

I need to update my membership information.

Please use the contact form below to update us on any changes.

Webinars

When are CAFO Webinars?

CAFO Webinars are normally on the last Wednesday of the month. You can check our Webinar Page for the latest information on upcoming webinars and also an archive of previous webinars. Webinars are announced in advance via the CAFO listserv – which you can sign up for here.

How much does it cost to join a CAFO Webinar?

CAFO webinars are FREE!

I’m unable to attend Webinars during the day, are webinars available online to watch later?

Yes! You can view past webinars in the CAFO Webinar Archive.

I'm having trouble joining today's webinar...

We’re so sorry to hear you’re having troubles logging onto the webinar.  Have no fear! Webinars are recorded and you can view them here: Watch Webinar Videos Here!

How can we help you?