November is National Adoption Month. Hopefully, your social media timelines will be flooded with posts promoting adoption and urging you to consider adopting yourself. For some, this may be the push you need to consider opening your heart and your home to a child or children in need. For others, however, you may be wondering what else can be done if you aren't the one lead to adopt.
First, educate yourself. When faced with the orphan crisis, most people get so overwhelmed by the sheer number of children waiting to be adopted (over 100,000 in the US alone, millions globally) that they believe they can never help. But, when those statistics are broken down, they become much more manageable. In Arkansas, there are around 5000 children currently in foster care. Around 500 are currently legally available for adoption. Those numbers may seem high for a state as small as Arkansas, but consider this fact. There are close to 6000 churches in Arkansas. So, if just one family in every church in Arkansas would agree to become a foster family and that family's church would support them, there would be no more waiting children. And what about adoption? If just one family in one church would adopt and TEN churches would rally around them, there would be families waiting for children instead of children waiting for families.
The question then becomes, how do we support these families?
1. In your church
Consider using your church building and resources to provide a parents' night out for foster and adoptive parents. For parents caring for foster children, this is a particularly valuable resource. In order to babysit a foster child, people must have valid background checks. A church has already met these qualifications and is therefore considered a safe space to take these kids. But, for adoptive families, this is also a huge treat.
Churches can also assist by providing education and spiritual counsel for adoptive families. Frequently these families have challenges that other families don't have. Education in how to deal with these issues from a Christian perspective is needed and appreciated.
Churches that can provide accommodations for children with special needs are also a huge need for these families. Often children that come from traumatic backgrounds or have other needs aren't able to handle traditional church services. Providing a safe space for families to bring these children allows families to continue attending worship services and is a tremendous blessing for these families.
2. In your home
Think about things people did for you when you first brought your babies home from the hospital. Remember how you received home cooked meals and people couldn't wait for their turn to babysit the baby? Adoptive families would love the same care. When people adopt newborns, this is usually done. However, when someone brings older children into their home, they are often dealing with the same issues other families endure with a newborn--disrupted schedules, stress, lack of sleep, etc. For parents adopting older children this need may actually be greater because they often don't take any time off work and instead immediately transition to a brand new routine.
Babysitting is, as mentioned above, another huge need. However, many adoptive families are also large families, which makes dropping the kids at a friend's house for the night virtually impossible. Even grandparents are sometimes unable to handle large numbers of children or children who come from traumatic backgrounds and may be more challenging. For these families, perhaps you can consider teaming up with several friends to provided a much needed night out. It might mean splitting the kids up for the night (you take 2, I'll take 1, our friends can take another), but this is a small price for these families to pay to have a night of respite. You might also find out if the family already has a trusted babysitter and you can use your resources to help pay this person for the night.
Have even more time to donate? Consider becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). Those people advocate for the children in foster care as they go through the court system. And what child doesn't need one more advocate on his side?
3. With your resources
Perhaps you have resources, but not time. Donate to a group that is already supporting these families. The CALL and Project Zero are both Arkansas-based. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is another organization that does work throughout the country, and you can support them simply by buying a Frosty during certain times of the year. Can't cook a meal? Celebrate National Adoption Month by dropping off a gift card to the home of a foster or adoptive family. Have a little extra money at Christmas? Find a large adoptive family and drop off a Target or Wal Mart gift card. Or consider giving to CASA which helps supply foster children with Christmas presents every year.
Finally, prayerfully consider whether YOU just might be the family in your church that is being called to foster or adopt. Many people have already been called; they are just ignoring that call. Lately I have been struck by the story of the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea in Exodus 14. Moses is seen crying out to God and telling the Israelites to be still because the Lord himself will fight for them. Great advice, but that is not the end. In the very next verse, this was God's response,
Then the said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! (Exodus 14:15 NLT).
Perhaps, you've been waiting until you more clearly hear God speaking to make the decision to expand your family. Consider this your call, "Get moving!"