Since being a teenager, I've always had a heart for children. When I was in college, I spent afternoons at the local community center helping children with homework and playing in the daily Juice Bowl. The Juice Bowl was the daily sports game—football or basketball—where all the kids who went the after-school program could compete for juice. I loved these children. I can think of one of the little boys now, showing me his new crossover move. The more time I spent time there, the more time I worked with other college students to come up with ideas to meet all the needs of the children. We led school supply drives, food drives, and I even convinced my friend Calvin to be a positive male mentor to the boys. It didn't take much convincing. He was hooked from the start.
Over the years, I have worked in many capacities as an attorney to advocate for the rights and protection of children. I have also served in ministry in the local community and traveled as far as Ghana, West Africa to reach out to the most vulnerable children. I now serve in a role where I advocate every day for children who have been abused or neglected. Although I have worked with children who have come from these backgrounds before, being a mommy has caused these cases to pierce my heart in a way that touches the pit of my soul.
The more I think about these precious gifts from God who have been victimized, the more I try to meditate about how God feels about the children. While I have no doubt that it breaks the heart of God, I question what obligation I have as a believer to care for them. I contemplate, what can the Church do to address this national crisis.
Many times when we think of orphans we think of Orphan Annie, with curly red hair in an orphanage, or a child from a developing country who has lost their parents to an untimely death. While there are many children around the world who have no parents to care for them, there are many more in the United States who don't have a place to call home. I believe that this is becoming a national crisis and the Church is in a unique position to step up and answer the call.
When I close my eyes at night I think of 3 types of children. I think of the child who was born addicted to drugs. I think of him shaking uncontrollably and crying non-stop. I think of him not being able to breathe on his own.
I also consider the child who loves her parents very much. The child who can't concentrate at school because she's so tired. I picture her hiding in the closet all night because her mother and father are physically fighting. I see her face. A face that displays fear—fear that she may lose one or both of her parents at the hands of violence.
Finally, I think of the little boy is full of life. A boy who wants to spend his days playing outside and exploring the world. I think of the reality that many boys like him are brutally beaten or burned by their parents. At the end of each work day, I can't wait to jump in my car and pick up my son from daycare. I hold him. I kiss him. I probably smother him with my affection. Maybe subconsciously I'm trying to hold, kiss, love, and heal all the children who are being hurt in the world.
James 1:27 states, "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans…in their distress…" You may say we don't have many orphans in the United States. I would implore you to view foster children as the modern day orphan. A modern day orphan that we are called to care for. When I read the scripture in James, I see it as a beckoning call for Christians to care for orphans. In fact, I believe the word of God is explaining to us that an outward display of our Christian faith is how we care for the orphans. While we don't have large scale orphanages like we had in the past, we have many children who do not have homes. They are the orphans in front of you who are in need of a home.
Children services agencies across the country are facing a shortage of foster homes. Unfortunately, more than 400,000 children are in foster care. The age range for children in foster care is from infants to 21 year olds. The average time a child spends in foster care is a little over a year. After that time, more than half of the children return to their biological parents and one-quarter of them will be adopted. Many of the children are adopted by their foster parents.
The children in foster care are in need of love, assurance, healing, and grace. Foster parents can help children cope with the pain of being separated from their biological parents. They can also advocate for their children by helping them obtain the services they need in order to be successful. It is the hope of many children service agencies that foster parents will provide children with a loving and healthy familial setting. Who better to provide this service than followers of Jesus?
We all know that Jesus has a heart for children. "Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, 'Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.'" If Jesus was walking the streets today, I know his heart would bleed for the many children who are displaced and have no place to call home. I imagine him weeping and urging us to care for these vulnerable ones.
What can you do to help?
My friend Celine spends her days, evenings, and sometimes weekends trying to recruit new foster parents. After having lunch with her one day, my brain went into overdrive trying to think of ways that I could help foster children. We all can be a part of God's great plan to care for abused and neglected children.
You can help care for the modern day orphans by becoming a foster parent. Children are in need of people like you. People who can love and nurture them. People who can help them rebuild their self-esteem. People who can help pick up the pieces and mend them back together again.
In some cases, parents fail to remedy the problems that led to their child being placed into foster care. In these cases, the children may be placed into the permanent custody of the government. When this happens the children are eligible for adoption; more than 100,000 children are available to be adopted.
You can also make a long term commitment to vulnerable children by fostering to adopt. Many children need a stable place to call home. Many times we look overseas to adopt children and I'm a huge supporter of international adoptions; however, I see so many children right here in the United States who really need a home. They are waiting. Will you take them in?
You can also help by giving donations to your local children service agency. Many times children leave their homes with just the clothes on their backs; even clothing that may be ill-fitting. You can donate shoes, clothes, toys, baby formula or baby food. Whatever you decide, it is my prayer that we all work together to love, heal, and care for this modern day orphan.
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