November is National Adoption Month. While we appreciate observances like National Pickle Day or National Ice Cream Month—yes, they both are real—National Adoption Month has a depth of meaning and calling very dear to God to which novelty foods simply can’t measure up.
National Adoption Month is an initiative of the Children’s Bureau to increase national awareness of the need for permanent families for children and youth in the United States foster care system.
Two important and powerful days are included in this month. Stand Sunday, Nov. 8, is a single day when Christian churches around the world stand for orphans and children in foster care and take action.
On Nov. 21, the Saturday before Thanksgiving—National Adoption Day—courts in cities around the United States open their doors specifically to finalize legally and celebrate adoptions through the foster system.
Why these calendar dates matter
Here’s why this month and these two days matter. Since numbers can be numbing, I will use numbers only from Denton County—where I live—leaving out the staggering state, national and global statistics.
At this time, 322 children from Denton County are in foster care. More than 67 percent of these children are placed in homes outside of Denton County, leaving behind the familiarity and stability of their homes, neighborhoods, friends, schools, teachers and relationships. They are forced to leave for other counties, because there aren’t enough foster homes in Denton.
As of this writing, 115 children from Denton County are waiting to be adopted. Parental rights have been terminated, extended family is not an option, and they face worsening odds of ever being grafted into a family.
We all know the Scriptures: “He defends the cause of the fatherless;” “God sets the lonely in families;” “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress;” “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless.” The verses are many, and the command is clear.
As Christians, we are all called to do something. But what? And how?
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As churches, how do we take action? How can we stand for orphans and children in foster care?
Practical ways churches can help
One small church—mine—has done the following.
Step 1. Start simple, and be consistent with it. Draw a circle around Stand Sunday each November. Devote your entire service to adoption and foster care. Preach on it.
Invite organizations to discuss their services and hand out information. Have someone impacted by adoption or foster care give a testimony. Do a “further discussion” meeting after service for anyone who wants to continue the conversation.
Do a “take your next step” event, and help people get started serving in a way that works for them.
Or do all of these things. Change it up. Scale it up or down to your resources. But do something on Stand Sunday.
Announce it in advance, talk about it, plant your flag on that hill, and watch it flap in the wind.
The Christian Alliance for Orphans has toolkits, resources and media to help make Stand Sunday simple and effective.
Step 2. Keep momentum going.
Begin connecting people in your church to the needs of foster children and hurting families in their own neighborhoods by using CarePortal.
There are families in crisis all over your area who need help, and there are churches all over your area that want to help. Rarely, however, do they know of each other.
CarePortal bridges that gap by bringing needs of children and families experiencing foster care or on the brink of it—vetted by caseworkers—directly to your church.
Individuals or groups can serve these families by meeting specific needs, such as providing beds, car seats, desks, meal delivery, mentorship and transportation.
Be the hands and feet of Jesus by stabilizing or preventing foster placements. Tell the stories to your church, and celebrate when needs are met.
Adoption and foster care are issues in our own backyards, not just “out there.” This is a great way to make an impact, create relationships and heal brokenness.
Step 3. Make Christmas special for local children in foster care or teens and young adults who have aged out of the foster system.
These young ones have been through so much, have lost so much, and live with constant fear and pain. Receiving gifts they ask for specifically on their wish lists helps them feel seen, valued and loved. I believe they genuinely feel the love of the Father through receiving these special gifts at this special time.
Get wish lists from local foster organizations, and post them in your church lobby, or make an “angel tree.” Have your small groups, Sunday school groups or service teams commit to fulfilling one or several wish lists per group.
Make a big deal of the day people drop off the gifts at the church. Tie part of the announcements or sermon to orphan care, and celebrate how God is using you to defend the fatherless.
Christmas wish lists can be found each year through your local or regional CASA organization website, such as CASA of Denton County, and on the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services website.
Other ways churches can be involved
Churches and individuals can also donate to a Rainbow Room, participate in Blue Sunday, provide respite care and “parent’s night out” events, recruit court appointed special advocates, complement what other churches are doing, recruit families to foster and adopt, and so much more.
Until the list of kids waiting for families is shorter than the list of families waiting for kids, we have work to do and action to take. Start now, take your first step, and find others to support and encourage you.
When there’s a home for every child, we’ll sing out, “Hallelujah,” and turn our attention to the wonder of wonders, National Ice Cream Month.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Churches and individuals can learn more about foster care by visiting Faith Fosters Texas.
Cody McCommas is the executive pastor of Christ Community Church of Denton. He is married to Karen and is lead fort-builder to their young daughters Eliza and Veronica, who have joined their family through domestic adoption and adoption through foster care. Their lives have been changed for the better by four additional foster children over the last four years. The views expressed are those solely of the author.