Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Foster-Care’

In James 1:27 the believer is instructed to visit widows and orphans in their distress.

As American Christians, I think many of us have not considered the implications of what distress really means for kids in foster care and many other orphans throughout the world.

Many North American believers have awakened to God’s love for fatherless children. In some circles, unfortunately, and sometimes dangerously, it is even becoming a badge of spirituality to adopt.

Still, God has given thousands of children the joy of a forever family. The growing adoption movement is a visible illustration of God’s plan to overcome sin and brokenness through His adoption of us, made possible by the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. As for the Christian families adopting these children, the blessings for both them and their children have been nothing short of a demonstration of the reality of God.

However, what many people have not always understood is the magnitude of pain, hurt, fear, need, affliction, or “distress” as it were, that many children bring with them. When we love these children with special needs or who are coming from dark places, that means that this distress becomes a part of us…our marriages and our families. Some, maybe most, who are adopting have no idea of how to prepare themselves, much less their children and spouses.

This includes not really grasping the level of sacrifice that God is sometimes calling families to in adoption. In Hebrews 11, we all remember the recounting of the victories and miracles that God performed through people of faith, but what we forget are those lives talked about in verses 35 through 38. These are equally lives of faith; believers who endured mockery, scourging, chains, stoning, death by the sword and affliction. They, like those who experienced victory, also gained approval through their faith for something better.

Sometimes adoption is full of victory, miracles and joys unimaginable. But sometimes it brings with it the sufferings, confusion, doubts and struggles that can only be faced through faith and with the power of the Holy Spirit. When families are called to such adoptions, they often need help. The Church should be a place where they can turn and get that help.

There is a crisis brewing and spreading almost as fast as God is mobilizing the Church to serve orphans. The crisis is coming about as a result of the rapid increase in believers who are adopting older, special needs and at-risk children, but are not fully equipped to do so. The crisis is manifesting itself in an increase in the number of families struggling to cope with some of the issues their new children bring to their homes, and in an increase of post-placement risk of disrupted adoptions as well.

Next year, some experts estimate that 60% of all children adopted from China to American families will be special needs kids. In Ukraine, like many other parts of the world, it appears that future adoptions will be skewed greatly to older kids and sibling groups, in addition to those with severe emotional and medical needs. In America, we understand more instinctively that children from foster care are often coming from hard places.

At Hope for Orphans, we believe that God’s solution for meeting this crisis (and the whole orphan crisis for that matter) is THE CHURCH. The Church was designed by God to be that safe community where members of the body serve one another when the wheels come off in life. The Church should be a place where families can be honestly prepared, maybe even helped through self-assessment in advance of entering the process to adopt older, special needs, or at-risk children.

This September 16th and 17th, we will be hosting the Hope for Orphans Institute at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas. The purpose of this two-day conference is to equip orphan ministry leaders, pastors, counselors, social workers and others with biblically-based skills and tools to serve families called to adopt older, special needs and at-risk kids. We will have nationally-renowned experts providing insights to help families and leaders to meet this growing need. This event will be hosted and moderated by Ryan Dobson, who is himself an adult adoptee.

We believe that the Church is the key place that the needs of struggling adoptive families can be met in-depth and in sustainable ways. For social workers and professionals partnering with the Church in serving families in acute need, the principles from this conference will give new power to help make a difference. To learn more about this event and how God can use you to help others in your church and community, go to www.HFOInstitute.org.

 

Paul Pennington is the founder of Hope for Orphans. He and his wife, Robin, have six children. They live in Dallas, Texas.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

In just 4 days, on Saturday, November 13th, hundreds of believers will gather at Watermark Community Church in Dallas for Wait No More, an adoption conference put on by our good friends at Focus on the Family’s Adoption & Orphan Care Initiative.

Wait No More is designed to share God’s heart for adoption, as well as the need for adoptive homes for waiting children, with Christians through speakers, video, music, and opportunities to connect with local foster care agencies.

To date there have been Wait No More Conferences in Colorado, Missouri, California, Florida, and Ohio. The results have been staggering. More than 1000 families have signed up to start the foster adopt process as a result of attending these conferences. God is clearly using the team at Focus to bring many kids forever families.

We at Hope for Orphans are honored to participate at these events. After the speaker portion of the conference, we will have a booth with some of our materials and staff present to share more about how we can serve you in your church’s orphans ministry.

If you are near the Dallas area this weekend, and are willing to take a few hours out of your Saturday to hear more about God’s desire for families for Texas’ waiting children, please go to the website and register. Or, if you have friends or family in the area, please pass this on to them.

Even if you’re not able to attend, please pray that God would use this event for His glory and that He would touch many hearts on behalf of the more than 3,500 children waiting for families in Texas’ foster care system.

Oh, and for those of you near Atlanta, GA, Wait No More is coming to your area, on February 26, 2011, at Victory World Church in Norcross.

Read Full Post »

…They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Acts 2:45

“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

From the beginning of the church, there has been a connection between the Good News and loving those in need. That connection usually means sacrifice. North American Christians as a bunch are not quite as keen for sacrifice as those in the early church, perhaps because there has been a drift in teaching away from Biblical truth and grace. The new direction has been towards more motivational and frankly “me-centered” teaching. However, as we approach the annual Cry of the Orphan Campaign and Orphan Sunday, we are seeing churches all over America who are launching lay-led, people-to-people orphan ministries, in which there is not only sacrifice but a laying out of lives for the fatherless. The impact, not only on orphans, but on churches, has been amazing.

At the beginning of Hope for Orphans, we worked with a small church in South Texas — a fledgling orphan ministry started by two adoptive moms who had a vision and conviction that loving the fatherless was not optional. This led in fairly short order to 29 kids coming for a summer hosting program. The Russian-speaking kids who came had an impact that reached much further than a handful of kids getting families. This church had a revival of sorts through the love of these orphans that introduced the entire congregation to a country most had probably never heard of. The Lord used orphan ministry to give this church a new passion for missions, evangelism, reconciliation and the Gospel that was truly supernatural. 29 kids became 41 and from there this church and its orphan ministry has helped mentor churches in many places to similar results. The compounded impact for children in foster care and around the world is wonderful. The transformation brought about by seeing the visible gospel by the whole congregation has been priceless.

The point is…One Church Can Make a Difference…a difference that impacts generations for God’s glory. Will you be an orphan ministry leader in your church? One way to give a vision to your church in these next few weeks is through the Cry of the Orphan Partners’ one-hour content-on-demand video special Answer the Cry. This free resource can be used in Sunday schools, small groups, youth groups and even in a special worship service to introduce your church to God’s heart for orphans. This and other resources will be available at www.cryoftheorphan.org. This special program will also be available on DVD in limited supplies at Family Christian Stores locations across the country.

We even have a promo video that you can show leadership in your church or maybe use to promote your own event. You may watch the preview now by clicking here.

Also, at Hope for Orphans, we have a new video that speaks to how God is using the church. You may see that video by clicking here.

So this Orphan Sunday week, consider a sacrifice of your time to give voice to those kids who have none. Consider how God wants to use your Church for loving orphans and waiting children.

Blessings
Paul

Read Full Post »

When “Jenny” was placed in our home as a nine-year-old in foster care, it was clear to us almost right away that she had some very deep fears…fears that would not easily be overcome.  Those fears were most apparent whenever we would awaken her from sleep.  Her eyes would shoot open…she would almost look petrified until she could get her bearings and see that she was safe.

It took three weeks before we learned why Jenny was so afraid. For years, she and her younger brother had been sexually abused by their mother’s boyfriend, “Mark”.  Their mother had known about it, yet had failed to protect them.  Now, she was scared to death that Mark was going to find her and kill her.  We reported what she told us and eventually, Mark was arrested, and based primarily on Jenny’s testimony, he was sentenced to nearly twenty years in prison.   Still, it took a long time before Jenny felt safe in our home.

Children need to feel safe.  They thrive when they feel safe.  But what happens when they don’t feel safe?  They don’t thrive.  According to Created to Connect: A Christian’s Guide to the Connected Child, by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Michael Monroe, fear cripples children.  It not only cripples them…it can manifest itself in all kinds of negative behaviors.

Could it be that so many children in foster care exhibit negative behaviors due, in part at least, to the fact that they know deep down that there is not a single person on the face of the earth who has their backs?  Could it be that they live in constant fear because they feel threatened and they know there is no one who will step in to protect them from real harm?

Contrary to what the world says, God has made men and women different.  And while moms would certainly do anything to protect their children, it is men whom God has given the role of protector (of their wives as well as their children).

Right now, there are about 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting for forever families.  These kids have a lot in common.  Fear is one of them.  Each of these kids goes to bed at night lacking the security your and my kids enjoy every day.  As Christians, and as men, we can’t allow this to happen.

What about it, men?  Let’s not wait for our wives to drag us into caring for the waiting children of the United States Foster Care System.  Let’s take seriously our God-given role of child-protector and let’s help 125,000 children sleep better at night.  Not only will they sleep better at night, but their behaviors are bound to change as they begin to believe you have their backs.  The waiting children in foster care deserve to enjoy the same security your kids and mine enjoy.  Are we going to give it to them?

Read Full Post »

Last fall, we were part of a life group through our church that looked at God’s heart for orphans, and His desire for His people to care for them through adoption, foster care, and orphan care.

One Sunday afternoon, we invited three adult adoptees from our church to come and share a little about their experiences growing up.  As we listened, it was fascinating to me to see to the contrast, especially between the two young women who shared.  Both women were adopted as babies.  One had a family that seldom talked about adoption.   One had a family that talked about and celebrated adoption.

One of the young women was in three homes by the time she was seven months old.  Her family didn’t discuss adoption very much while she was growing up.  She said it is hard to explain, but she still struggles in some ways as a result of being in three homes and she has a hard time talking about her experience growing up as a child who had been adopted.  She is pro-adoption, but it just isn’t something that she talks about easily.  Interestingly, her job now entails counseling kids in foster care.

The other young woman was placed for adoption at birth.  Her family talked about adoption all of the time and were very positive about it.  She is, in turn, very positive and open and comfortable talking about her experiences.  After working several years as a child abuse investigator for L.A. County DCFS, she is now working for an adoption law firm, counseling birth parents and working with adoptive parents through the birth and placement of the children.

The contrast made me think of my own family and the way we talk about adoption.  With six children, all of whom came to us through foster adoption, and five of whom were already adopted , we want to make sure our children view adoption in as positive a light as possible.  We don’t want them to ever feel like adoption is something to be ashamed of or something to hide.  Because of this, we shout it from the rooftops.  We make it a point to talk to people about the joys and blessings of adoption wherever we go, and we make it a point to do so in front of our kids.

I’m sure there are some that would disagree with our approach, but if we see adoption for what it really is…part of God’s redemptive plan to bring restoration to His creation as He places hurting and lonely children into families, then how can we be anything but positive about it?  How can we not tell everyone we see?  It’s a glorious thing God does when He places a child into a home and gives that child a mom and a dad to love and care for them.

Last night we repeated a ritual that we’ve been doing for years.  We celebrated the fourth anniversary of the date our daughter Aruna moved into our home.  My mom made Aruna a three-layer coconut cake.  We all went around the room and named things we appreciate about her.  We told her “Happy Anniversary” repeatedly throughout the day.  In our family, we celebrate our children’s homecoming days as much as we celebrate the anniversaries of their adoptions.  I think it has something to do with the way we view Psalm 68:4-6, which says: Sing to God, sing praise to his name, extol him who rides on the clouds — his name is the LORD— and rejoice before him.  A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

The psalmist is singing to God and praising Him, declaring Him to be Father to the fatherless.  And then, he tells of God’s great works, with the first example being how God sets the lonely in families.  If the psalmist is praising God for setting the lonely in families, should we not praise Him for placing our children in our home?  Of course we should…to do otherwise would be to discredit God’s plan for our children, our family, and His creation.

Celebrate your children’s adoptions…celebrate adoption for what it really is.  Praise God for placing your children in your home.  And while you’re at it, shout it from the rooftops.  Your children are watching.

Read Full Post »

Terri and I have observed a lot in our ten years in foster care.  We’ve certainly seen the best and worst of the system, and we’ve experienced heartache and blessing alike.  One of the biggest concerns we continue to have is that there are many foster parents that are involved in the system for what certainly appears to be selfish motivations.  It is our prayer that foster parents such as these will move on, and be replaced by foster parents motivated by the Gospel to not only care for the kids, but to love them unconditionally.  So many of these kids have suffered a great deal of trauma…they need parents who will stick with them when things get difficult, rather than keep them at arm’s length, or have them replaced at the first sign of trouble.

Thankfully, in our ten years of involvement, we have seen the Holy Spirit move among His people to become engaged in the system like never before…to become what the church was intended to be (and used to be) to the orphans and waiting children among us.

One recent Wednesday night, we were part of an informal gathering of people (mostly from our church) in which families interested in foster care and adoption could ask questions of families that are already a part of the system.  It was a very non-threatening forum in which these families could explore some of the issues, concerns and questions they have.

I was so encouraged as I listened to the conversation as it was very apparent that not only were the prospective foster/adopt families interested in getting involved, but they were interested in getting involved for all the right reasons.  Their concerns and questions reflected a real desire to do this the right way – God’s way, and to do it out of a motivation rooted in the Gospel, and to do it regardless of the personal cost.

I also loved hearing the perspectives of the other families that are already involved.  Both couples have experienced the heartaches and the blessings that come with being a foster parent.  Both have experienced real pain in loving these children so near to God’s heart.  Yet, as I listened to them, it was so evident that in spite of the personal cost, they have been obedient to God’s call on their lives, and that they have put their trust in Him through the trials and joy alike.  As one of the foster dads put it so succinctly, “This isn’t about us.”

He’s right, and it’s a reminder we often need.  It’s not about us, as much as we want it to be.  It’s not even about the kids, as much as we want to make it at times.  It’s about God.  It always has been about God, and it always will be.  And as long as God wants to work to redeem orphans, His children must join Him in that work.

No matter what it costs us.

Read Full Post »

By now, you’ve likely either seen the movie “The Blind Side”, or you at least have it on your must-watch list.  Released in Fall 2009, the movie tells the story of the Tuohy family, a well-to-do Christian family in Memphis, Tennessee, who took in and adopted a homeless, traumatized teenage boy named Michael Oher.  With the love of his new family and the help of others, Michael went on to football stardom at the University of Mississippi and eventually the NFL.

On today’s FamilyLife Today broadcast, hosts Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine interview Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy in the first of a three part series airing through Friday.

In part one, called Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving, Sean and Leigh Anne talk about their childhoods and their early marriage and discuss how God has used their experiences to make them the people they are today.  They talk about how God wants to use us to bless others, which is simply what they did with their son, Michael, in giving him an opportunity to blossom into the person that God created him to be.

To listen to the broadcast, and to read the entire transcript, click here.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »