QUESTION: Several families in our congregation are hoping to adopt children. Is there any way our congregation can help them?
ANSWER: Adoption is a wonderful route to a family, and it is one that is fraught with both joyous anticipation, and serious worry. It should be applauded as a wonderful choice, not a “second best” option, and fully supported by the congregation. Here are a few suggestions for how a congregation can help.
First of all, good information is key to a successful adoption. A number of churches have developed strong adoption support groups in their congregations. These groups provide education to those who are adopting all along the path to the creation of their new family configuration. Topics that should be discussed include information about the various types of adoption and what to expect along the way, such as international adoptions, domestic adoption of infants, and adoption from Social Service agencies within one’s home state (or another state). Additional sessions should cover topics such as attachment disorder, strengthening adoptive relationships, transracial and multicultural adoptions, foster care to adoption process, and post-adoption services. Most children who are adopted are considered typically developing, but in fairness to the child, the trauma they have experienced puts most into the category of special needs, at least emotionally and psychologically. Like all children, adopted children will need plenty of tender loving care. Some will need additional counseling and developmental therapies, such as speech and occupational therapy.
Few people are experts in all areas of adoption, so here is where you will need to call upon expert resources in the community. You might invite parents who have already adopted, representatives from reputable adoption agencies with strong track records of support for adoptive families beyond placement, representatives from the appropriate state social service agency that handles adoption. There are also wonderful groups of adoptive parents who may have speakers available, such as the Colorado Coalition of Adoptive Families (most states have one or more of these organizations), as well as special interest groups, such as Families for Russian, and Ukrainian Adoption (FRUA).
You might even get lucky enough to run across someone in your community like Melanie Sheetz, who is the amazing Executive Director of the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition in Missouri (and an adoptive parent herself). Melanie and her staff put together a group of “Extreme Recruiters” who look for relatives who are willing and able to adopt children in foster care. Here is one of their recent success stories:
For three years, sisters Jada, Jasmine, and Jayla lived in three separate foster homes. They desperately wanted to live together. When Gayle Flavin, Extreme Recruiter, began this case, there were just six known relatives. Determined to find a forever family for these girls, Gayle and the Extreme Recruiter team got busy. Normally, it can take up to 24 months to find an adoptive family for a child, especially those considered hard-to-place: older youth, sibling groups, and youth with emotional, developmental, or behavioral concerns. The goal of Extreme Recruitment is to do this work in just 12–20 weeks!
Within weeks, Gayle found 146 relatives of these sisters! The next challenge was identifying the perfect forever family. Who of these relatives would have the space and the ability to care for these girls—together? The Extreme Recruitment team began reconnecting the girls with grandparents and cousins. Soon, a cousin was found who was eager to adopt the girls. “If I had known they were in foster care, I would have given them a home immediately! I’m so happy and know that the girls will be too!”
After getting to know their cousin, the girls moved into their new home. The adoption should be finalized in the spring. Jada marvels at the resemblance between herself and a close cousin. Not only did she find a family with her two sisters, she also has a new best friend.
Should this be a mission of the Church? Just refer to James 1:27a. “Religion that is pure and undefiled is this: to look after orphans and widows in their need….” We do fairly well with the widows; what about the orphans?
P.S. For more about the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, visit their website.