GARLAND (BP)—Russell Rogers is a pastor with a passion for encouraging church families to adopt or provide foster care for displaced children.
Rogers’ congregation, Trinity Life Baptist Church in Garland, hosts an annual celebration of foster and adoptive families, and Rogers serves as a spokesman for a faith-based program called CHILD—Congregations Helping in Love and Dedication.
Even before they were married, Rogers and his wife, Shelly, planned to adopt children. After marriage, news that they could not have children of their own prompted the couple to seek licensing by the state in 1996 as foster parents. Over the course of 11 years, they fostered nearly 20 children and adopted three. Also during that time, the couple was surprised with two biological children.
“We got to the point where our quiver was full,” Rogers said, adding although there was no more physical room for additional children in their home, there was plenty of room in their hearts.
“The burden didn’t go away,” he said.
That was when Rogers and the families of Trinity Life Baptist began celebrating adoptive and foster families. After all, Rogers said, it was a family from his own church who introduced him to the idea of foster care and adoption from the state.
State vs. private foster care and adoption
Before then, the Rogerses inquired about adoption through private agencies. The $26,000 price tag—on a pastor’s salary—put adoption out of reach. That was until they began speaking with a couple at their church who arrived one Sunday with a baby placed in their care by the state of Texas.
Rogers now hopes he can be “that person from church” who introduces others to the idea of state foster care and adoption. His goal is to present the need and allow the Holy Spirit to lead.
Some people have a calling to this ministry but do not know where or how to begin the process, Rogers said. From the 23 informational meetings he hosted last year, more than 35 families indicated an interest in becoming foster families.
Felicia Mason-Edwards, a program specialist for CHILD, said religious people serve as the majority of foster families in Texas, and the state draws heavily from churches to meet the needs of displaced children.
While not everyone can be foster parents, everybody can do something, Mason-Edwards said. Congregations can act to support adoptive and foster care parents in a variety of ways.
She applauded the efforts of churches to minister to people in foreign lands but added: “Those children are in your community. Here, in Texas, you have your own mission field.”
Churches should lead
Rogers said the church should be the first to step up and take on the ministry of foster care and adoption. According to the Texas Child Protective Services overview for last year, there were 71,344 confirmed cases of child abuse and/or neglect, and 33,615 children under 17 years old were placed in foster care. About one-third of those eventually were reunited with their families, but the others remained in state supervision in homes with foster families, group homes, the homes of relatives, treatment facilities or other care facilities, and 4,158 children were adopted.
Because the children have been removed from their homes due to neglect and/or abuse, they need the love and care that a Christian home can offer, Rogers said.
“Imagine how awesome it would be if the church would rise up, and Christian homes could be a place of healing,” he said. “There are kids who will go to bed tonight in Texas thinking no one wants them.”
True religion, Rogers said, is defined in James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
“I believe God calls and equips specific people, in strategic places, for significant purposes,” Rogers said.
The state has asked him to speak to congregations throughout a large swath of Texas, and he hopes to hold 70 informational meetings at churches by the end of the summer.
“Children were important to Christ and therefore should be a priority to us,” Rogers said.