The biggest encouragement for adoptive parents is the feeling that their church “gets it”: That church leadership thinks adoption is awesome; that they love and want to help foster kids; and that they are cognizant and supportive of couples who struggle with infertility. Sunday morning messages on adoption-friendly topics are a start, but there are a variety of ways you can create an adoption-friendly church.
Establish a Mentorship Program
The adoption/foster process is a unique and often overwhelming journey. Having an experienced family to walk alongside you provides valuable spiritual and emotional support. They help navigate the confusing paperwork process and provide unique insight into ways to pray for and care for the adoptive family.
Enlist a Support Team for Every Adoptive & Foster Family
A wraparound team is made up of eight to twelve people who become the primary support system for the adoptive/foster family. They are their prayer warriors, meal organizers . . . the ones who show up to clean the house, or throw an adoption shower without even being asked. They can provide childcare when appropriate or take other children in the family out so that they receive some one-on-one attention when mom and dad may be busy with the new child.
Educate Lay Leaders in Adoption and Attachment Issues
No matter the age of the foster or adoptive child—newborn to teen—adoptive parents have one goal at the forefront of their mind: attachment. In short, attachment is the ability of a person to connect with other people. Children coming into an adoption or foster situation have to overcome many obstacles to bond with their new parents. The attachment parenting techniques adoptive and foster parents use may seem unusual or extreme to other parents.
For example, most attachment experts advise adoptive families to “cocoon” for weeks, even months, keeping visitors and outings to a minimum. When they do start to widen their social circle again, it will be in gradual steps. They may want to keep their child with them during church services or, as they transition them into nursery or Sunday School, they may need to spend several weeks attending class with their child. Having children’s ministry workers who understand and support these efforts by making accommodations is invaluable to families. There are great resources available from organizations like Empowered to Connect.
Extend Financial Support
While adoption through the foster care system is generally free or inexpensive, domestic and international adoption generally costs between $20,000–40,000. Without support, those figures often completely deter families from adoption. Other times it just makes an already-complicated process more overwhelming.
There are several ways the church can get involved in helping families afford adoption:
- Provide direct financial support, either through a love offering or from a church benevolence fund.
- Allow families to use your facilities and to publicize any fundraising events they put together. More adoptive families are turning to creative fundraising ideas like pancake breakfasts, chili cook-offs, and silent auctions to raise the needed funds.
- Establish a church adoption fund through Lifesong for Orphans (grants) or Abba Fund (interest-free adoption loans). Both organizations will handle all the administration of the programs based on your guidelines and make it as simple as possible.
Embrace a Culture of Adoption and Orphan Care
The truth is that a large portion of your church will never adopt, but the important message to convey is that the church believes in helping kids without families. Provide a variety of service opportunities to help everyone find a way to get involved:
- Host a school supply backpack drive for foster kids.
- Support an international orphan project.
- Offer your facilities to host state foster care training classes.
- Encourage adults to mentor foster kids.
Odds are that if you have adoptive/foster families in your church, they’d be glad to spearhead some of these projects given the support and room to go.
Studies have shown that hundreds of thousands of families in the church have considered adoption but less than two percent ever follow through. With the support of the rest of the body of Christ, how many more would boldly step forward and follow their hearts?
Julie Gumm, author of You Can Adopt Without Debt: Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption, and teaches debt-free strategies for adoption in workshops she offers to adoption agencies, church ministries, and non-profit organizations. She is married to her high school sweetheart and is the mother of four children from two continents. She blogs about adoptive family life and affording adoption at juliegumm.com.