Orphan Care: Calling and Creativity

Last week, I announced a new series on supporting foster and adoptive families. You can find the first post here.

For this series to be helpful to you, we’re going to need to be on the same page about something: orphan care is for everyone. Extra bedrooms or not, disposable income or not, specific spiritual gifting/love for children/heart for the marginalized or not, orphan care is for you, both in terms of calling and creativity. Let’s explore that a bit.

Calling
Scripture is explicit that, for the Christian, caring for widows and orphans is a mandate. At the time those words were written, widows and orphans were some of the most vulnerable members of society, and in many ways, this remains true. In America, the orphans who are often the nearest to us are children in foster care.

According to Children’s Rights, “on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.

Hundreds of thousands of children, right here at home, are undergoing the traumatic event of being removed from their families of origin and are in need of love and safety. For many people, the best way to respond to this reality is to become a licensed foster parent. If you are maybe-a-little-tiny-itty-bitty-Abby-I-kind-of-want-to-slap-you-because-you’re-making-me think-about-this level of interested in pursuing a foster care license, I highly commend my friend, and author, speaker, and foster/adoption advocate, Jason Johnson, to you. His blog will be a gift as you pray through God’s call on your life as it pertains to orphan care.

For those who cannot pursue a foster care license right now, or who are praying through it but want to begin moving toward the foster/adopt world in the meantime, I want to help us answer this question: for those of us who believe that we are both called to care for orphans and that we cannot bring foster children into our homes today, what can we do?

Creativity
Here’s a truth about God that I can’t get over: He never leaves us ill-equipped for that which He has called us to fulfill. Since God has called us to care for orphans, there must be ways in our lives right now that we can do so.

It may very well be the case that our lives will need to adjust or be reprioritized so that we can follow God’s call. Oftentimes, what’s required of us will include sacrifice. But, we are not locked into lives incapable of accommodating some form of orphan care. The God of the universe has placed this calling on our lives, and He has set His Spirit, with great creativity and passion, within us as we seek to obey.

As you begin to think creatively about engaging orphan care, keep the imagery of the body of Christ in mind. Everyone plays a part, right? No part more valuable than the other? So, consider what body part, building block or concentric circle you may be a part of.

In the case of foster care, the center of the circle is the foster child (or the child being adopted, or the family at risk for losing their children to foster care, etc.). The circle just outside of him or her is the foster family. Just outside of them are case workers, CASA advocates, etc. Then extended family and close friends, then their church community, then the community at large, and so on.

Consider where you fit right at this moment. Do you know anyone who is fostering or adopting? Do you know anyone whose financial or family circumstances may be putting their children at risk for being taken into care? Think about your workplace, child’s school, church, neighborhood, city buildings you drive past, and community’s services.

You do have a place to start. It may be a call to your church to ask if anyone in the congregation fosters, adopts, works with families at risk for removal, or is involved with those who do/are. It may be an appointment with the local CPS office to see what the pressing needs are. Send an email or make a phone call. Move toward one person, just to get to know their story. 

So, about the next post: One way that God’s call to care for the orphan intersected with my life at an unexpected time was through our community’s foster pantry. Next week, I’ll write about what it is, how it was started, and the logistical details in a way that will help you figure out if something similar may be doable in your community. Please comment with any questions about how the pantry works and I’ll make sure to address them!

With joy,

Abby

P.S. Want to do some further research in the meantime?

And Then There Were Five by Emily Attaway for Respite Redefined
Wrapping around Foster and Adoptive Families by Jason Johnson
Three Things Foster Parents Don’t Have to Be by Jason Johnson
Pure and Undefiled Religion by Jared Perry (a sermon my husband gave last year)

on serving foster & adoptive families. 

When Jared was in seminary and we were just beginning our journey into parenthood, I was overwhelmed with a desire to foster and/or adopt. We met with friends who were licensed, who were welcoming children and filling out paperwork and attending classes, and we decided to work toward our fostering certification once Jared graduated. In May 2014, we became licensed, and over the summer we cared for two sets of siblings for a long weekend each (known as respite care).

After Gabriel was born and the unknowns of his medical needs stacked high, it became clear that our plans for foster care needed to shift. Nothing, not one thing, about our passion for the orphan shifted, but our circumstances required that passion to manifest differently.

By God’s grace, our church and community made possible creative ways for us to engage. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing a series of blog posts with ideas for supporting foster, adoptive, and kinship placement families. If you’ve ever felt like there’s only a binary between fostering/adopting or not actively engaging orphan care, if you’ve never thought about orphan care before, or if you’re itching to rally your community around supporting children (and their immediate caregivers), this series is for you.

I plan to explain the ins and outs of:

  • The concentric circles of care for children and families
  • Our community’s “foster pantry”
  • The Facebook group where we share needs
  • Programs for providing meals when families welcome new children
  • How we help families at risk for Child Protective Services intervention stay together
  • Ways we support teens aging out of care

I would love to know if there are other topics related to supporting foster, adoptive, kinship, or otherwise CPS-adjacent families you’d like for me to address. You can on this post, send me an email, or come find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. This series exists entirely to illustrate what has worked in our community so that you are informed and inspired to try similar things right where you are.

So, what are the barriers you perceive in your community when it comes to effective orphan care?

What feels unknown or scary or intimidating?

Most simply, what can I share that may help you take a step forward?

I’m delighted to start this conversation with each of you!

With joy,

Abby

Am I My Sista’s Keeper?

A few months ago, I shared that I now have the honor of being a co-host of Shalom in the City. 

In my monthly conversations with Osheta Moore, the podcast’s creator and host, we will talk about our personal experiences with racial reconciliation efforts, discuss news/current events, and break down buzzwords that seem to polarize conversations before they even get started. These episodes are called My Sista’s Keeper: Shalom in the City’s Monthly Conversation on Race & Unity, and I dare say they’re going to pair quite nicely with the other monthly episodes, including Osheta & Jerusalem Greer’s episodes on Shalom in the Home, and the Shalom Book Club with Osheta & Cara Meredith.

Last week, Osheta, Jerusalem, Cara, and I shared our first group episode in which we introduce ourselves, get a little silly, and discuss the theme for this season of the podcast.

And today, Osheta and I are sharing our first My Sista’s Keeper episode with you. We talk about how each of us came to care deeply about issues of race, justice, and reconciliation, and what it is to approach these often awkward, difficult conversations with a spirit of Hopeful Resistance.

The My Sista’s Keeper episodes exist to help YOU begin to bring about Shalom in your own community by modeling a conversation between a black woman and a white woman talking about race. In this first episode, we make promises to each other that will guide our discussions, ask probing questions, and press deep into some uncomfortable places to see if there’s some unity to be found (spoiler: there is).

We also may break out in hives, or at least a sweat, a few times. But it’s that good sweat, ya know? Like when you’re exercising and it’s hard and it hurts but you know that means it’s working. We hope you’ll benefit from listening to a bit of heavy lifting (and plenty of laughter, too).

Subscribe to the podcast via the Podcasts App, iTunes, Stitcher, or listen here.

You can join the Shalom in the City conversation over in our Shalom Sista’s Hangout, as well as on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Hope to see you in some of these Shalom Spaces!