Caring for the Orphans
- Janet Thompson Founder of Woman to Woman Mentoring
- 2013 18 Nov
“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you” (James 1:27 NLT).
A baby—precious, fragile, helpless, dependent, sweet, needy, and full of potential—without a family is destitute, institutionalized, alone...heartbreaking.
Any child at any age without a home, without a family, without love is heartbreaking.
James 1:27 tells the church and every Christian that it isn’t enough to feel sad or compassionate about an orphan. The very foundation of our faith says we will take care of them. I have to think that when God uses the term “caring for orphans,” he means more than putting them in orphanages and the foster care system—he means they are the personal responsibility of the church.
National Adoption Awareness Month
November has been designated National Adoption Awareness Month, and specifically this year, November 23 is National Adoption Day. Eight years ago, my family became a “forever family” to my precious grandson, Brandon, and he became legally ours in a courtroom on National Adoption Day. We can’t imagine our family without Brandon, and I try not to focus on what his life would have been like had his teenage mother not put him up for adoption—or even worse—had she availed herself to a morning after pill or aborted her baby or left him on a doorstep. I’m still in awe and wonder that God bestowed such a precious gift to our family— baby Brandon.
God’s Plan A
Today 1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility, but with advances in infertility treatment, adoption is not always considered a viable option, or maybe considered as a Plan B when all else fails. My daughter Kim and her husband Toby, Brandon’s “forever parents,” struggled for years with infertility and, then, felt God calling them to a “ministry of adoption.” Many of you may have felt that same call to adopt a child into your family and have experienced the joys and blessings of “caring for the orphans.” It was never meant to be Plan B, it’s always been God’s Plan A. But my daughter stresses that a couple shouldn’t consider adoption until they can look at it as God’s plan for them becoming a family or adding to their family.
Adoption blesses the adopted family, the adopted child, and the birth mom.
God’s Plan for Orphans Is Not Just for the Infertile
In the Bible, God talked openly, and often, about orphans and the responsibility of the church to take care of them. Many churches today focus on caring for other nation's orphans, which is admirable. But what about the orphans in their own communities and in the overflowing foster care system?
It is an awesome thing to have your family sponsor a child through Compassion International or one of the other Christian organizations that help indigent children in foreign countries, but it’s also our calling to do something up close and personal for a child without a family in our country.
One of my son-in-laws regularly visited the local county orphanage to play with the children. Sadly, the foster care programs today are overflowing with children who need a loving, Christian home and parents. What is your church doing to help? What are you doing? What is your family doing?
In the U.S. 400,540 children are living without permanent families in the foster care system. 115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 19
Around the world, there are an estimated 153 million orphans who have lost one parent. There are 17,900,000 orphans who have lost both parents and are living in orphanages or on the streets and lack the care and attention required for healthy development. These children are at risk for disease, malnutrition, and death. Source: UNICEF and Childinfo
According to the U.S. State Department, U.S. families adopted more than 9,000 children in 2011. Last year, Americans adopted the highest number of children from China followed by Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, and Ukraine. Source: United States State Department
No child under three years of age should be placed in institutional care without a parent or primary caregiver. This is based on results from 32 European countries, including nine in-depth country studies, which considered the “risk of harm in terms of attachment disorder, developmental delay and neural atrophy in the developing brain." Source: Mapping the Number and Characteristics of Children Under Three in Institutions Across Europe at Risk of Harm: Executive Summary
Children raised in orphanages have an IQ 20 points lower than their peers in foster care, according to a meta-analysis of 75 studies (more than 3,800 children in 19 countries). This shows the need for children to be raised in families, not in institutions. Source: IQ of Children Growing Up in Children's Homes A Meta-Analysis on IQ Delays in Orphanages
Each year, over 27,000 youth “age out” of foster care without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed. This number has steadily risen over the past decade. Nearly 40% had been homeless or couch surfed, nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, and only 48% were employed. 75% of women and 33% of men receive government benefits to meet basic needs. 50% of all youth who aged out were involved in substance use and 17% of the females were pregnant. Source: Fostering Connections
Nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED, and a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care. One study shows 70% of all youth in foster care have the desire to attend college. Source: Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth
As of 2011, nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. are placed in institutions or group homes, not in traditional foster homes. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 19
States spent a mere 1.2-1.3% of available federal funds on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal. Source: Adoption Advocate No. 6: Parent Recruitment and Training: A Crucial, Neglected Child
Over three years is the average length of time a child waits to be adopted in foster care. Roughly 55% of these children have had three or more placements. An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally. Source: AFCARS Report, No. 19
What is Our Responsibility as a Church?
As Christians, we should understand the concept of adoption since we’re all adopted into the family of God.
As you give thanks around your tables this Thanksgiving for the blessings and the families God has given you, who do you need to reach out to who longs for a family of their own— the orphans, the empty-arms parents, the pregnant women trying to decide what to do with her baby?
Learn to do good.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans (Isaiah 1:17 NLT).
Janet Thompson is an award-winning author and speaker, and the author of Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby? A Companion Guide for Couples on the Infertility Journey in which Janet and her daughter, Kim Mancini, share the story of Janet’s grandson Brandon’s adoption.
Please visit Janet at:
Publication date: November 18, 2013