According to research data, of the tens of millions of families who have considered adoption, only 5% have walked the process through to completion. Certainly, there are a number of reasons for this. Psychology Today notes financial burden, obstacles, legal red tape, and emotional turmoil as the leading deterrents in completing the process. If you’ve ever walked this road, you are intimately familiar with each of these issues. This is why arguably, the most essential asset available to adoptive families is support.
As a staff pastor and adoptive father of a beautiful little girl with Down syndrome from China, I know the church has a tremendous responsibility to care for orphans. Sometimes we knock it out of the park and sometimes we don’t. In the world of orphanology, I’m grateful for organizations like Compassion, Samaritan’s Purse, and Bridge of Hopewho work to bring aid to the orphaned, widowed, and oppressed across the world. We do well to support these organizations, but I think we struggle when it comes to knowing how to walk hand-in-hand with adoptive families who take on the daunting, redemptive work inside the walls of their own homes.
I get it. It’s tough to do. These bigger organizations largely are simply asking for assistance with funding. It’s not too much of a stretch for most of us to reach into our pockets, give them $30, and pray for them as they head into remote villages to feed these children and help find or create a path to healthcare and education for them. But what happens when this work is being done by a family who stands beside you on Sunday mornings? The reality of the need is flipped on its head.
These families are often playing catch up on medical evaluations, meeting with social workers to craft IEPs, scurrying to therapy appointments, and still working to maintain a “normal” schedule at home. There’s still laundry to do, bathrooms to clean, meals to prepare, dishes to wash, and kids to bathe. These families aren’t looking for a monthly financial contribution. They’re looking for support. And having known many of these families, I know most of them are not asking for it. At least not with words. But look at their faces and you might see it. They’re desperate for their village to blow wind into their sails. They need your support.
So let’s talk about that – support. I’m mostly offering encouragement to pastors and church leaders. But I think there’s something we can all take away from this. In the arena of adoption, here are three ways the Church can best offer our support.
Empower people to adopt.
Church Leaders, if you want a culture of caring for orphans then you’ve got to talk about it. And not just once a year. That’s not how you create culture. You’ve got to promote it. It’s got to be a continual conversation. And you don’t have to create another program either. Lord knows our churches don’t need more programs and committees. So here’s some nearly effortless ideas…
Highlight a family who’s in the process of adopting or an organization that’s doing good work to support orphans care. If you’ve got a newsletter or a weekly email, you’ve already got a great platform for this.
There’s a wealth of tools at your fingertips. You don’t have to talk about it every Sunday from the stage. Use social media or your website, blog, or podcast. Invite adoptive families to share their stories. I guarantee you, they’ll be eager to help.
Find organizations on Twitter that are supporting orphans and re-tweet them.
It’s not as hard as it may seem. Just talk about it. Then talk about it again. Create a culture for orphan care.
Encourage others to support adoption.
Pastor, you are a great person with great influence. Not only in your congregation, but hopefully in your community as well as within your professional circles. You’ve been given influence for a reason. You can help generate the resources to support adoption.
Talk with business owners to provide grant funding.
Or what if you create a fund yourself and start dumping money into it? It wouldn’t take any time at all to make a huge impact. Even if you don’t have a family in your congregation currently going through the adoption process, in a short little while you could have $5000 saved up in a matching grant fund ready to distribute when these families need it. How awesome would that be?
I talked with a pastor the other day who’s vision is to fully fund one adoption every year. They’re not currently in a position to be able to fulfill that vision yet but they’re making strides in the right direction. Can you imagine? Makes me giddy!
Engage the community to care for adoptive families.
It’s like an iceberg. So much of what goes into adoption is under the surface. Most people see the fundraising, the travel, and the big fanfare welcomes in the airport. But after these beautiful, adopted children come home to new families, these kiddos and their parents are gonna need a safety net; a place where they can fall apart and know that things are gonna be okay. They need to be reminded of why adoption is so important.
So much focus is on cocooning and attachment for months and months. This means our houses aren’t cleaned as often as they used to be. We don’t shower every day. Might not even put on real clothes for days. But adoptive parents still need a date night. Siblings still need to get out of the house and go play at the park or the beach. Meals are good, too, but please don’t forget about the emotional and spiritual needs of an adoptive family as well. You are the pillars our new life will lean on. Please don’t forget about us when we get home.
Adoption is not a singular, isolated thing. A family doesn’t just decide one day to adopt and the next day it’s done. It’s not at all like walking into a pet store and signing an application and taking a cute puppy home. A family simply does not walk through the adoption process without support.
In fact, to put it bluntly, a family who attempts the adoption process without support will not likely complete the adoption. Period. It’s just too hard. There are too many roadblocks. For this thing to succeed, they need your help. Funding is only the beginning. What they need from you is your guidance, your friendship, your care.
Adoptive Families, take heart! You are loved and cared for, I just know it. There are people out there who are passionate about adoption and are eager to jump in. Sometimes, they just need you to be invited. You may feel alone, but you are not alone.
Pastors, adoptive families need you to regularly touch base with them. To pray with them. They need you to tap into your resources and help them connect to other families and organizations that are passionate about adoption who can offer support.
Adoption is a spiritual thing. It’s redemption. A reflection of what God did for you and for us and what he continues to do for many each and every day.
If you want to create a culture of orphan care, treat it like it’s special.
Because it is.