November is National Adoption Month. Since 1995, our country has been honoring this month as an opportunity to bring awareness to the importance of adoption and foster care. This year, the Children’s Bureau announced the focus of National Adoption Month will be on a particularly underserved group of children: teens in the foster care system.
Teens are much less likely to be adopted, meaning many of them spend the majority of their childhood in foster care only to age out of the system at age 18, parent-less. The odds are against these teens.
According to the National Foster Youth Institute, more than 23,000 children age out of the foster care system each year. Twenty percent of these children will become instantly homeless. They have less than a three percent chance of receiving a college degree, and twenty-five percent of them will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. These are the some of the most forgotten children in our nation and they are suffering because of it.
Fortunately, organizations and groups of people are helping bring awareness to teens aging out of the system and how communities can help. For example, the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) has an Aging Out Initiative dedicated to showing churches how they can help support youth coming out of foster care.
I recently got to sit down with the president of CAFO, Jedd Medefind. Jedd made some excellent points about the principles and big picture of foster care and adoption we should all consider this month.
It’s more than a nice thing to do.
“We as Christians need to be God’s presence in these kids’ lives,” says Jedd. Adoption and foster care is more than a nice thing some people do. The Bible is very clear about whether or not we are supposed to care for the orphans: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
However you decide to take part in caring for orphans, whether it is adoption, foster care or a ministry that supports these, know that you’re following a clear Biblical mandate.
While guilt and idealism can open our eyes to the needs of this world, they are not long-lasting motivators. As Jedd says, “If those are the primary things motivating us, we will be overwhelmed by the world’s need. It will outlast our enthusiasm to address it.”
For those who are considering adoption or foster care, your primary motivator must be love, rather than guilt or a desire to take on all of the world’s pain. We are loved; therefore, we are to love as we have been loved. This is what will ultimately keep you going as you care for the orphans in your world.
For those who are considering adoption or foster care, your primary motivator must be love, rather than guilt or a desire to take on all of the world’s pain.
Everybody can help.
“We often say at CAFO that not every Christian is called to adopt, not every Christian is called to foster… but every Christian community is called to live out the pure religion that James describes as caring for orphans and widows in their distress,” says Jedd. Everyone in the church community can and should play a vital role. You can financially support friends and family going through the adoption process. You can be a surrogate grandparent to a friend’s foster child. You can babysit or do yard work.
When Jedd’s family adopted their daughter, a friend of theirs who was retired did all of their grocery shopping for a year. “It said to us, we’re not alone in this. And that meant the world to us.”
We are all called to help the orphans. And remember orphans are more than just newborn babies and toddlers; they are 12, 13 and 14 years old. They are teens looking at their future with a big question mark about where they will live and what they will do. As Christians with resources, we can help. As Jedd said, maybe not everyone is called to adopt or to foster, but we are called to care for the widows and the orphans. Start by visiting some of the resources I mentioned in this post. Educate yourself, pray and faithfully go where God is calling you.
To learn more about CAFO’s Aging Out Initiative, visit their website here: CAFO.org/aging-out.
To learn more about teens and foster care in the U.S., visit the National Foster Youth Institute here: NYFI.org.
To learn more about how you can get involved with National Adoption Month, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services here: ChildWelfare.gov.