The statistics are sobering. 75% of foster parents no longer foster after their first placement, and as many as 1 out of 4 adoptions dissolve or disrupt.
Fostering and adopting is hard work, plain and simply. But our relational God made us to be relational, and created a way for families to be encouraged while doing the hard, daily work of loving the fatherless and vulnerable. His solution?–the Church. When a church family wholeheartedly commits to its fostering and adoptive families for the long haul, children are best positioned to succeed. But it often begins with an organized, committed adoption/foster care ministry within the church.
Here are 3 specific guidelines for creating a culture of commitment in your adoption/foster care ministry–
Foster and adoptive parents cannot thrive in isolation. Goal: Create an environment where families feel connected–connected to the adoption/foster care ministry, yes, but more importantly, connected to each other.
The only thing that grows well in the dark is mold. –Ryan North, TAPESTRY Adoption & Foster Care Ministry
Just as adoptive and foster families cannot do it alone, you can’t easily run a sustainable adoption/foster care ministry alone. Do not undervalue making connections and seeking advice. Look for people who share your passion. Find ministry friends who will be honest with you. (Hint: These people are easy to spot at orphan care conferences such as CAFO.) Invest in a core group of faithful volunteers who can do tasks (babysitting, photocopying, setting up/tearing down). Volunteers keep the ministry moving forward.
Families don’t always need crisis intervention. Sometimes they just need to be told that they are not alone. That they are capable of doing the work God called them to do. At the end of the day, God has equipped parents to be the primary change agents for their children. Fortifying parents, then, leads to positive change in children. (And unfortunately the same can be true of the opposite.)
We chase bigger/better/faster/more in our culture, but if you’re going to support families, then you need to figure out how to support families–not figure out how to do the next cool thing. It’s not the fact that you look good; it’s the fact that you DO good that makes you appealing to families. –Ryan North, TAPESTRY Adoption & Foster Care Ministry
One way we equip adoptive and foster families is by discipling people in the church to better understand and advocate for foster care and adoption. Sometimes behaviors in the church actually (unwittingly) enable disruption and dissolution. Instead of assuming malice, let’s assume ignorance and teach people how to love and reach the adoption/foster care community more effectively. This effort can begin by starting a church adoption fund.
The church has a long history of waving banners and calling people to service and then not equipping them. –Bruce Kendrick, foster parent/adoptive dad, and Director of Outreach at Embrace Texas
Bottom line: God cares about the fatherless and the families who are committed to loving and caring for them. He cares, too, about the way our ministries are run and has promised to equip us with everything we need to minister well. Let’s commit to it for the good of the children and the glory of God!
From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
*The ideas in this post were gleaned at the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit 2016. To learn more–and to join us next month for CAFO2017–click here.
Encourage families in your church. Start a church adoption fund.
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