Editor’s Note: This is the first of a series of articles on how the church is responding to the foster care and adoption crisis in this country.
One of the most scathing criticisms of pro-lifers is that they care more about “fetuses in the body that people in the world.”
But is it true? Not if you examine the number of churches and pro-life organizations that have thrown themselves into the foster care and adoption problem in this country.
The United States has more than 440,000 children in foster care. According to Naomi Schaefer Riley of the American Enterprise Institute, “Most foster-care agencies are faith-based. If we shut down faith-based foster agencies, those children will have a much harder time finding homes.”
Make no mistake: The estimated 300,000 churches in this country can do more. If every church in the country saw to it that just one child was adopted out of the foster care system, the foster care crisis in the country would mostly disappear, and hundreds of thousands of kids would be placed in permanent, Christian homes. That would be a powerful witness to the world and would have a multi-generational impact on the children adopted.
But, again, the church is not AWOL – absent without leave – on this issue. I placed a simple query on Facebook: “If you know of a church actively involved in foster care, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.” I got dozens of replies within a few hours, far more than I could follow-up with immediately, or include in a column of just a few hundred words.
However, in the months ahead, we will feature some of the churches, ministries, and individuals doing effective work in foster care. In the meantime, here are a few who should encourage us to “go and do likewise.”
- Bennett Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, a small rural church in the community of Possum Trot, Tex., (pop. 700) has adopted at least 80 children out of the foster care system in Texas. The process began when a member of the church, Diann Sparks, adopted two boys in 1997. Since then, 28 families in the small church have adopted a total of more than 80 children. You can read more about this “rural miracle of adoption” here.
- Biltmore Church, in Asheville, N.C., offers six-week classes to prepare members for becoming licensed foster parents. The church also hosts a twice-monthly support group for foster parents in the church.
- Watermark Church, in Dallas, recently hired Bruce Hendrick to be its Director of Life Initiatives, a ministry dedicated to pro-life initiatives, and adoption and foster care in particular. In 2007, Hendrick founded Embrace Texas, a ministry that equipped churches throughout the state to care for orphans in the spirit of James 1:27. Hendrick and his wife Denise have put their lifestyle where their mouths are: they are the parents of nine children, five of them adopted.
- Cedar Park Church, in the suburbs of secular Seattle, provides a wide range of pro-life ministries, including foster care and embryo adoption for infertile couples. Recently the took its pro-life activism a step further: it sued the State of Washington over a state law requiring mandatory abortion coverage for employees.
In the months ahead, we’ll dig deeper into these stories and many more, and attempt to extract lessons that all churches and Christians can apply. Until then, though, here are a few lessons that these stories suggest:
It Takes Both Doers and Donors. Not everyone is at a stage in life to adopt or become a foster parent. But many of us can become donors to those who are doers. Adopting a child can cost $30,000. Organizations such as Adopt-A-Love-Story provide effective crowd-funding platforms for families who want to finance adoptions.
You Can Be a Cheerleader. Adoption and foster care are exciting and joy-filled adventures, but the process has seasons of frustration and discouragement. Become a cheerleader and encourager for those in the process, especially if you are a pastor or have some other “bully pulpit.” It is an encouragement to them, and telling the stories of these families often encourage others to “go and do likewise.”
Take a Small Step. Becoming a licensed foster parent is a big step, but finding out which Christian agencies offer foster care classes is a small step. Take that step. Publish the list on your Facebook page or in your church’s newsletter. Small steps lead to next steps, and they might encourage others to take bigger steps. Zechariah 4:10 reminds us to “despise not small beginnings.” In no arena is this biblical admonition more helpful than in the pro-life arena. The fact that babies start so small should be our constant reminder that small beginnings are beautiful, and can lead to great things.
Warren Cole Smith is the Vice-President of Mission Advancement for the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.