Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you’re going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: ‘He started something he couldn’t finish.’
Luke 14:28-30 (MSG)
The movement among churches to embrace adoption as an important ministry initiative has clearly gone mainstream, as evidenced by the cover story and feature articles in July’s Christianity Today. It’s good that the church is stepping up to address the need. The church was designed to be the original “safety net” for the most vulnerable in society. We’re called to “look after widows and orphans in their distress.” The church is best positioned to help break the multigenerational patterns of dysfunctional behavior that contribute to unintended pregnancies, trauma and abuse that result in kids without families to care for them. Families from the church provide an ongoing witness to the love of Jesus Christ that meets an immediate need while challenging stereotypes about Christians and Christianity in the larger society. Children who have been adopted are more likely to attend church on a weekly basis than non-adopted children.
Here’s the question on the table…Serving the needs of children available for adoption and kids in the foster care system because of abandonment, neglect or abuse are areas in which the church is called. Is the church prepared to provide the resources and supports families called to this ministry will need to maintain their current level of church involvement and effectively shepherd their kids in the Christian faith?
One of my priorities for Key Ministry as we move forward is to expand the scope of resources available to share with churches seeking to respond to the need for adoptive homes. Key Ministry developed as an extension of a large church’s attempts to meet the needs of a highly committed group of church families who were struggling in the aftermath of adopting kids from Eastern European orphanages. Some of the realities churches need to consider when planning adoption initiatives include:
- Children adopted in infancy are twice as likely to experience encounters with mental health professionals compared to non-adopted children
According to a paper in the journal Pediatrics, adopted children are more likely than biological children to:
- Have difficulties with emotions, concentration, behavior, or getting along with others.
- Have a learning disability, developmental delay, or physical impairment
- More than twice as likely as biological children to have special health care needs
- More likely to have repeated a school grade
- Less likely to have a very close relationship with the parent
- Parents of adopted children are more likely than parents of biological children to have felt that the child is harder to care for than most children
We’re going to be networking with church staff and lay professionals in search of the best possible resources for churches looking to meet the needs of families who adopt. If you’re a leader in children’s ministry or youth ministry, how would your church respond if 10% of your families adopted children with the issues described above? How would that change your programming? What other resources (respite, counseling, financial assistance) would you need to develop just to meet the needs of families you’re already serving?
We also need to consider among “orphans” those children and teens in the foster care system. Here’s a link to statistics on kids in the custody of Cuyahoga County (includes Cleveland, Ohio and inner suburbs).
Kids in foster care often have histories of exposure to abuse and neglect. They often have very complex mental health needs. Dr. Julie Zito from the University of Maryland presented the following data about kids in foster care in Texas in 2004…keep in mind that use of medication has likely increased significantly (corresponding to national trends) since that time. In 2004:
- 37.9% of kids in foster care in Texas were on psychotropic medication, compared to 7.4% of the general population
- 41% of kids in foster care receiving medication were on three or more classes of medication
- 72.5% of foster kids on medication were on at least two different medications.
In the next 12-24 months, I’d like to find a church (or network of churches) willing to develop ministry targeting the needs of families serving in the foster care system in their immediate area.
Families who are called to adopt or serve in the foster care system desperately need to maintain an active participation in the local church. A big part of our job at Key Ministry in the years ahead will be to resource churches to respond to the challenges of Christian families who are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable children among us.
Last revised April 29, 2012