Widow and Orphan Care and the Church Part Two – Caring for Orphans through Adoption by Alison Ballou
In part one of this series, we discussed God’s call to His people to care for widows and orphans and various ways we can offer care and support to these vulnerable populations within their environments.
Sometimes, however, that type of support is not enough, and children, in particular, suffer the consequences. A conservative estimate is that there are over 13 million children worldwide who have lost both of their parents. Little children – each created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) – are not meant to be warehoused in orphanages. God designed us to grow up in families, and when biological families cannot take care of their children, God establishes the pattern of adoption for us. He, in fact, has adopted each one of us who are believers into His family.
Galatians 4:4-7 explains, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
God’s rescue of us through adoption sets the precedent for our seeking to serve children without families through adoption – and there is a great need. Within the United States alone, on one date in 2011, there were over 400,000 children in foster care. Of those children, over 104,000 were waiting to be adopted (over 1,900 were waiting to be adopted in Missouri alone), but during 2011, there were only about 50,500 adoptions from foster care. For those children not adopted, the outlook is not good - in 2008, approximately 29,000 children aged out of the US foster care system (about 10%). Over half of those children experienced at least one episode of homelessness, and nearly 30% were incarcerated at some point.
Many birth parents within the United States also choose to place their children for adoption and seek adoptive families to raise them. The National Council for Adoption estimates that there are approximately 22,000 infants adopted domestically each year.
Internationally, there are also millions of children living without families today. Estimates in 2003 were that 8 million children were living in institutional care – an often bleak existence in which basic needs are met only minimally with very little time or resources left for hugs, encouragement, or any type of human touch at all.
In the face of those millions of children, virtually alone in the world, there were only about 9,000 international adoptions to the United States in 2011.
It is easy to read statistics, to see them as large numbers representative of insurmountable problems in a fallen world, and to simply move on – on to the next hilarious tweet, the next Xbox game, the next Pinterest project, or even the next book about the history of the Reformed tradition within the Church.
But these statistics represent people – real people with real hearts and real needs and huge, gaping holes in their lives where parents ought to be. I have a daughter in China who has spent most of her young life in an orphanage, and she is no less deserving of love and hugs and warmth and snuggles than the daughter who came from my body. I cannot wait for the days to pass until I can get on a plane and run to her and hold her close to me and tell her how very loved and precious she is – and then spend the rest of my life being her mommy.
Could you be missing out on a blessing like that?
Church, the God we claim to serve today is the very same God who said this to His people thousands of years ago:
“Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.” (Isaiah 1:13-17)
God has called us as His people to care for widows and for orphans. Could He be calling you to research and move toward foster care or adoption? Or perhaps to support others who are doing so? Or to get involved with the foster care system by becoming a respite care provider or a court-appointed special advocate? Please pray about it.
If you have questions or comments or would like more information about how to move toward adoption or anything else discussed in this article, please contact Alison Ballou.