November is National Adoption Month. This topic is deeply personal to me for a number of reasons. I’m an adoptee from Romania and grew up with five internationally adopted siblings. Currently, my husband and I are in the process of an international adoption from India. Additionally, I’ve spent almost a decade of my career working on child welfare policy, and I’ve volunteered as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate for children and youth in foster care).
I know firsthand how deeply complex and nuanced adoption and child welfare can be. While adoption is a beautiful and life-giving option, it is born from brokenness and trauma. For an adoption to occur, there must be a break in the natural family. When a birth mother makes a courageous adoption plan for her child, there’s a deep loss involved. Loss occurs in other ways too; when parents struggle with crippling addiction and cannot parent their children, when children experience physical or sexual abuse at the hands of a loved one and must be removed from the home for safety, or when a biological parent dies.
As many churches pause to remember Orphan Sunday this weekend, may we do so in a way that honors and understands the complexities that often exist in this space while we also acknowledge the beautiful reality of the gospel.
The Gospel and Adoption
Adoption is at the very core of the gospel. John Piper said it well when he taught, “The gospel is not a picture of adoption, adoption is a picture of the gospel.” As Christians, our stories also begin with brokenness. Because of sin, we are separated from relationship and fellowship with God, and “dead in our trespasses” (Ephesians 2:1, ESV). The good news of the gospel is that because of the finished work of Christ on the cross, paying the debt for our sins, we now have a new identity and are adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15). While this glorious reality completely reshapes every area of our lives, we still live in a broken world filled with sorrow and pain. And we must grapple with trauma and the devastating impacts of sin. We grieve the deep losses that many experience. As we point to the hope and healing that’s found in God’s presence, we acknowledge that some pain and hurt will not be fully redeemed on this side of eternity.
God promises He will one day make all things new, wipe away every tear, and that death and pain shall be no more. As we await that day, we can work toward a world when every child around the globe is able to grow up in a safe, permanent, and loving home.
How Can You Get Involved?
Christians are called to love their neighbors and care for the least of these. The Lord’s specific call on each of our lives will look different, but our primary calling is to glorify the Lord and love our neighbor, which we should endeavor to do. Russell Moore, author of Adopted for Life, stated that, “when we adopt—and when we encourage a culture of adoption in our churches and communities—we’re picturing something that’s true about our God. We, like Jesus, see what our Father is doing and do likewise (John 5:19). And what our Father is doing, it turns out, is fighting for orphans, making them sons and daughters.”
James 1:27 instructs us to care for orphans and widows in their affliction. Not everyone is called to adopt or foster, but everyone is called to be involved in caring for the most vulnerable among us. There are countless ways the church can practically care for vulnerable children. If you are called to adopt or foster, have honest conversations with those who’ve adopted or fostered, and spend time in prayer, seeking the Lord’s wisdom and guidance. Here are a few other ways to get involved.
As a CASA volunteer, my job is to represent the needs and desires of the child or youth in foster care before the judge in court. To be able to accurately convey their wishes, I spend time getting to know the child/youth I’m representing. This can look many different ways, from play dates at the park, to Zoom calls, to visits to the local library. Becoming a CASA is a great way to build personal relationships and serve those in your local community.
You could consider volunteering for a program called Safe Families for Children. The goal of this program is to “host vulnerable children and create extended family-like support for families facing a crisis through a community of compassionate volunteers to keep children safe and families together.” Those volunteering with Safe Families provide support on the front end, to help prevent a child from entering into the foster care system. Typically, you’ll host a child or children for a short period of time so the birth parents can have some additional support as they navigate their circumstances.
Care for those involved in child welfare
One of the biggest ways my husband and I have been cared for during our adoption process is financial support. Anytime we’ve received a donation, we’ve been deeply touched by the generosity of others and their willingness to partner with us in our adoption. Most families who adopt or foster will likely have some sort of financial or practical needs you can help meet.
Perhaps there are families in your church who’ve adopted or fostered. Consider ways you can serve those families—bring them a hot meal, give a gift card for a date night, or donate gently used clothing items for their children. Don’t overlook the social workers serving in your community. Oftentimes they are underpaid, overworked, and interact with traumatic situations almost every day. Take time to intentionally care for them by helping provide for their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.
Children who’ve been adopted will most likely experience some level of trauma. Even if an adoption occurred when a child was quite young, there’s still trauma involved because of the break in the natural family.
I highly recommend reading trauma-informed books and resources. An excellent starting point are the Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) resources like Dr. Karyn Purvis’ “research-based philosophy for healing harmed children centered on earning trust and building deep emotional connections to anchor and empower them.” Trauma impacts the brain development of children and youth.
Reading and studying trauma-informed resources will help you be better equipped to have positive interactions with children and youth who have come from hard places. These resources will also help you to interact well with people who’ve experienced trauma in different ways, whether sexual abuse survivors, people who’ve experienced physical abuse, or those who have lived through other traumatic experiences.
We all ought to regularly pray for vulnerable children, their families, and communities. Below are some ways to pray:
- Pray for children in the U.S. foster care system, that the best interest of the child would be accurately represented and they’d either be able to be reunified with their families or adopted.
- Pray for the children and youth who’ve lost a parent because of COVID.
- Pray for orphans and vulnerable children around the world, that they’d be well cared for and would find safe, permanent, and loving homes.
- Pray for those serving vulnerable children, that they would not grow weary in doing good, but would faithfully care for children and youth.
- Pray that the Lord would give us eyes to see the need around us and that we would respond well to that need.
May we joyfully endeavor to care for vulnerable people around us and around the world, and may our words and actions tell the world about our glorious Savior.