November is National Adoption Awareness Month!
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Isaiah 1:17
The church has become more and more aware that as Christians we are all called to have a heart for orphans. The individuals at FAM ministries would like to challenge the church that not only is it to be a place to help raise the banner of awareness (of the orphan crisis) or assist others in answering the call to foster and adopt, but to help these children and families once they are home. Kids often come from hard places and/or are impacted by their history and they face unique challenges and issues. While foster and adoptive families have counted the cost that this journey may bring, it can’t be traveled alone. We want to have churches that foster healing for children and parents. The journey of fostering/adoption isn’t over once a child is placed. It is just the beginning. Below you will find out a few simple ways that the church can come alongside these families.
1) Educate your families
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
1 Thessalonians 5:11
One way the church can encourage families is for individuals to take time to educate themselves and their children about foster care and adoption. Reading the book, “Adopted for Life” by Russell Moore, is a great place to start. There are many resources available online on a wide variety of subjects pertaining to adoption and fostering, including Mom Life Today, Family Life, Focus on the Family, Lifesong for Orphans, The Forgotten Initiative, Loving Shepherd Ministries, Empowered to Connect, and Tapestry Ministry, along with personal blogs of adoptive or foster families.
Another way to educate your family is simply to explain to your children that families that don’t look like your own are still real families. This doesn't only apply to foster or adoption families; expand it to other families you know who have unique situations as well. When talking with your family about children who are in foster care or who are adopted don’t use stereotypes to describe them. An orphan is so much more than the images we see; each one of these children is created by God just like any other. Put your child in the shoes of an adopted or foster care child. How would you want them treated? What sort of conversations would you like people to have about your adopted or foster child? Don’t say hurtful or negative things about the child’s biological family or birth country. Many of us lack understanding of what it would feel like to be in these situations (what the birth family and child face), but it doesn’t mean that we should lack in empathy and compassion.
2) In regards to families that have children with different skin colors
For God shows no partiality. Romans 2:11
In the white community, skin color isn’t something we often think about so it’s easy to pretend prejudice doesn’t exist. We are tempted to think not talking about it or trying to get our kids not to notice it will make them less prejudiced. This is untrue. Take inventory of your own racial beliefs and stereotypes and see if you have areas in your heart where work needs done, remembering that God created us all in His image. And keep in mind, it’s okay to talk about skin color! Your kids will notice it and should be encouraged to talk about it honestly. Be intentional in showing children positive examples of individuals of different skin tones/ethnicities and do not project racial insecurities on them. In regards to foster and adoption, explain that sometimes kids have different skin colors from their parents, but they are still a real family.
3) Watch what you say
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. James 3:5
Families that are involved in foster care and adoption know that part of the journey is being asked many questions, which can be overbearing at times. The church can provide a haven a rest for those families by being more conscious of how we are communicating. Here are some tips.
*It is helpful to foster and adoptive families when you DON’T ask about a child’s history. A child’s story is personal, and parents vary on how much they want to share, if at all. Due to confidentiality in foster care, they may not be allowed to share. Be respectful of this decision. Be the hands and feet of Jesus and love them regardless of knowing.
*If you would like to compliment an adoptive/foster family that you don’t know well or are complete strangers say something like “You have a beautiful family,” instead of asking personal questions.
*Do not ask parents if their kids are adopted, or where they are from in front of them.
Avoid saying, especially in front of the adopted or foster child:
-“He/She is so lucky. “ or “What a charitable thing to do”
-“What’s wrong with the birth mom?” or “Why didn’t the birth mom keep the child?” or “How could the mother give away this beautiful child?”
-“Aren’t you scared of the inherited traits your child could get?” or “Aren’t you worried about how bringing a foster child in your home will affect your family?”
-“You had your baby the easy way.”
-Talk about the biological family as the “real” family insinuating that the adoptive family is not. (Examples: "Are you going to have any of your “own” children?" "Is that his “real” brother?")
-“Adopted children don’t turn out” or “I’m so glad you got your baby young. I’ve heard lots of bad stories about adopting older kids.”
-"Once you get your child, I bet you will get pregnant."
REMEMBER satisfying a curiosity is not worth hurting someone's feelings or making a child feel uncomfortable. Most families are happy to share and educate, but at appropriate times.
The call to foster and adopt is very personal, and families often feel that God has called them specifically to what they are pursuing. Sometimes families find that comments they hear are not always completely inappropriate, but they are often brought up at bad times, such as when a family is at the grocery store. Some of the most frequently asked questions include what the process entails, what makes up the cost, the need, how families are approaching fostering and adoption, and the joys and challenges of fostering and adoption. We encourage those who are interested in learning more about foster care and adoption to be intentional in scheduling an appropriate time to learn more about these families’ convictions and the care that is involved. It gives the families a better chance to be open and share and the interested individuals a better opportunity to learn.
4) Simple ways to encourage foster and adoptive families
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
-Bring food or help organize meals for the family that is bringing in the child, no matter the age.
-Clean or pay for a cleaning service for the family.
-Ask the families for ways that you can help to reduce their exterior responsibilities while they focus on bonding and family adjustment. Pay attention to the whole family.
- Send gift cards
-If unexpected challenges arise, encourage these families by being supportive in your comments, offering prayers, sending cards, etc. A foster or adoptive family should be able to be open with the body of Christ about their challenges without fearing that gossip and negative stereotypes may ensue if they share. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
-Pray! “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16
He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. Ephesians 1:5
To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:5-7
For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15