Adoption forever changed my future even before I was born and continues to shape me in wonderful ways even today. Besides what I read in a book or saw in movies or on television shows, my first real introduction to adoption was as a teenager.
My father and mother called my sister and me for an emergency meeting to share some important news. It seemed my grandparents had adopted my father and my aunt—my father at 19 months, and my aunt as a newborn. Their biological parents and brother had vanished, and no one had any idea where to look. My grandparents took them in and eventually adopted them. Before that, no one in the family had discussed it openly for decades—which is how my father and aunt wanted it! My dad was only sharing with us because a cousin had learned this family secret, and he wanted us to hear the news from him rather than the family grapevine.
My sister and I reacted nonchalantly to my father’s revelation. At the time, we couldn’t see a significant impact on us or understand why he found this information embarrassing. I don’t think we discussed it again in any real depth until after I started working as an adoption caseworker for a Christian adoption ministry. Then, again, we discussed it after I had married, when we met my father’s biological siblings. It was wonderful watching my father come to terms with his adoption story. His feelings about being adopted changed as he supported me in my career in adoption and developed relationships with his biological siblings. And he enthusiastically supported us when my wife and I adopted a son, who was the same age and in nearly identical circumstances as my father experienced in his own adoption.
My Calling in Foster Care and Adoption
So, adoption is in my DNA. Adoption identifies who I am as a father and a Christian. It has been my calling for almost 35 years. In that time, I’ve served as an adoption caseworker and as the executive director of a full-service adoption agency. I have been a foster parent, adopted more than once, and have run a small foster care program.
For the past 19 years, I have worked for the National Council For Adoption. We advocate for children in the U.S. and around the world to have a loving, nurturing family through adoption, including more than 123,000 children in U.S. foster care waiting to be adopted. My views on the correct policy positions to take and my passion for adoption are informed by research; through listening to thousands of adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families tell their stories; and in my own personal experiences with adoption.
The Importance of Engaging with Foster Care
Many Christians are familiar with the instruction in James 1:27 that believers should engage in caring for orphans. I love to hear the testimonies of other Christians who have stepped up to fulfill this call. They live out James 1:27 by adopting children, serving as foster or respite foster parents, or supporting organizations committed to these children.
It’s great for me to know that the organization that I work for has been a strong voice for children. For over 41 years, we have advocated for all children to have families, including those waiting to be adopted from foster care. I’m also pleased that I’ve been able to champion public and private partnerships. Wait No More is one such program that calls the Church to step up. With the resources Wait No More provides, anyone can learn more and do something. That might be becoming a licensed foster home, adopting children who are waiting in foster care, or providing support.
The Need for Christian Foster Families
Most states desperately need more foster families. Our research has shown that people of faith are a rich resource for state agencies. Our research also shows that at a time where public agencies struggle to retain most foster families for longer than two years, foster families that cite a faith-based reason for fostering are among the longest-serving. These families foster for longer, particularly when faith, strong community support, and access to the right resources are all combined.
There is a debate in our country about the role of faith-based agencies, foster families, and adoptive families. But these public-private partnerships have successfully increased resources and the number of families for children in need. It would hurt children if we lost the faith-based community, reducing available homes and resources for waiting and wounded children.
How You Can Make a Difference
Besides the obvious opportunity to volunteer your time or financially support foster programs and foster families, you can always consider becoming a foster or adoptive family. I commend to you Focus on the Family’s resources to learn more. However, I will note every family is not called to serve at this level. There are opportunities such as providing respite care that may better fit your talents and capacities.
If something like this interests you, there are programs all around the country—both public and private, Christian and secular—which have foster programs. I know there is a tendency for Christians to want to work and support like-minded ministries. While this is a great start, don’t forget the call to be salt and light in your world. Secular agencies are in desperate need of families. Prayerfully consider how you can best serve the needs of children in foster care.
Other ways you can make an impact:
- Connect with a foster family in your community. Regularly pray for them and the children in their care. Consider bringing over a meal every week or ask how you can meet a need of theirs.
- Make your views known to your local, state, and federal lawmakers—and be kind as you do it. Tell them that you care about children in foster care and would appreciate them making this issue their focus. Offer solutions or refer them to pending legislation that you think will make a difference. (Nation Council For Adoption’s website is a great resource on policy and legislation.)
- Encourage your church to train their staff and volunteers in caring for children coming from hard places. There are great resources available on providing trauma-informed care. Texas Christian University’s Karen Purvis Institute offers resources and programming for families and professionals.
What’s Your Calling?
I know that the Lord has called me to care about children who need loving families, either through adoption or foster care. So is every Christian. All of us can do something. I have heard it said that if the Church would fulfill its obligation to children who need families, we could solve the foster care crisis in America. I believe there is a lot of truth to this idea. There is much work to be done. I pray that you will consider what your role might be in caring for children in need of a loving home.