Christian Adoption & Foster Care: Motivated By Faith; Empowered by Communities

Caring for orphans is essential part of Christianity; it is as integral as worship and giving to the poor.  According to the Bible, we are all adopted into God’s family[1]. He is our Heavenly Father[2], and He commands us to love others with the same love he bestows upon us[3].  As James 1:27 unambiguously declares: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”. Living this mission is critical part of the free exercise of religious conscience guaranteed under the First Amendment.

The Exercise of Faith

Christians, motivated by faith and compassion, have taken responsibility for the fatherless since the Church’s inception. The average lifespan in the days of the early church was only 30 years. Mothers frequently died in childbirth, and since antibiotics had not been invented, it was tragically common for children to lose both parents before they were grown. Each child baptized into the Church had a godparent, a trusted friend or relative from the congregation that promised to adopt them if they became orphans. [4]

The early church also opened its door to children cast aside by the outside world. In those days, it was common practice for the Romans to abandon unwanted infants. Christians found and adopted thousands of these babies. People brought the church many more children after Christianity became legal. To meet the overwhelming need, Christians established charities called Brephotrophia for orphaned infants, Orphanotrophia for orphaned children, and Ptochotrophia for children whose parents were alive but unable to care for them.[5]

The prerogative to care for vulnerable children is a critical part of the exercise of religious conscience to this day. Those carrying out the precepts in James 1:27 continue to meet a diverse array of needs for children all over the world. They are saving lives, confronting the poverty cycle, fighting human trafficking, and coming to the aid of struggling families.[6] For children who do not have families, couples wait to adopt.

Christian couples are twice as likely to adopt as the general population, and just 2% of American couples, disproportionately made up of Christians, provide 50% of the homes for children adopted worldwide[7]. Since American Christians care for more children than any other demographic in the world, it should come as no surprise that many adoption and foster care agencies are faith-based [8]

Moving Mountains

For these organizations and associated charities, Faith is a powerful catalyst. As Jesus said in Matthew 17:20.

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

When it comes to foster care and adoption, this becomes apparent time and time again. Focus on the Family’s “Wait No More” initiative succeeds in finding homes for half of the children awaiting adoption in Colorado. [9] The CALL, recruits, trains and supports half of the foster care families in Arkansas changing the lives of over 18,000 children [10]. 4Kids, is a leading provider in Florida.  Promise686 effectively mobilizes Christian communities in Georgia.  The Orphan Care Alliance does so in Kentucky and Southern Indiana[11]Arizona 1:27, named for James 1:27, is the largest recruiter and supporter in Arizona for foster care and adoptive families as of 2018.  The 1:27 network has since then spread to other states. [12]  Bridge networks also reach across nations.  The Christian Alliance for Orphans has over 20,000 churches and over 180 Christian organizations from all over the world that work together to help children in need.  Their network involves a myriad of experts, dedicated volunteers, and local ministries, that work together to accomplish what none could do alone.  Faith really does move mountains.  It prepares Christian’s hearts for action and empowers them though communities that make it possible to bring good intentions to fruition.

Faith-Based Agencies

The services of Christian adoption agencies are as important for birth parents as for the adoptive families.  Birth moms who want the best for their children need the freedom to choose an adoption agency that is compatible with them.  When Anna became pregnant at the age of 16, she turned to a Christian Adoption agency[13], because she wanted her baby to have “a mom and a dad who were married and who believed in Jesus” .[14] The agency brought her together with a loving Christian family whose faith was a great comfort to her.

 “I remember being in the hospital with my parents and my sisters and the adoptive family and their son. And the adoptive father, Mike, he prayed for all of us. I just remember holding her [the baby] in my arms and hugging her so tight, and I told her I love you as I was crying, and I handed her over to her mom, and she [the adoptive mom] hugged me and she said, I just want you to know that you will always be a part of her life and our lives. And I knew she wasn’t just telling me a story. I knew we would always be together.” [15]

Today, the little girl is thriving with a mom and dad who love her, as well as a birth mom who will always be there for her.  Stories like this would not be possible if Christian Adoption agencies were shut down or forced to become secular.

Conclusion

Taking away Christian’s Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion in faith-based adoption / foster care agencies would therefore, provide great cost and no benefit. Christian adoption and foster care agencies fill an important niche. They are in the perfect position to give social and spiritual support to their birthmothers and adopted parents, they serve, and the agencies themselves access powerful support from Christian communities. These communities in turn, benefit from agencies that they know and trust, so that when they live out their faith. Most importantly, Christian adoption and foster care agencies benefit children. They find homes for an overwhelming proportion of children who need them. To threaten to shut down these agencies based on a disagreement with the faith of the owners, would be to forget what the agencies are ultimately for. It is to put children in families.

Our Justice Center is fighting right now in the U.S. Supreme Court to preserve the free exercise of religious conscience for Christian foster care and adoption agencies. Click HERE to learn more.

 

[1] John 14:18-20; Romans 8-9; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5; 1 John 3:1-2.

[2] Mathew 5-6.

[3] John 13:34-35 and 15:12. See also, Luke 6:35; Ephesians 4:21 Peter 4:8; 1 Corinthians 16:14; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21; Galatians 5:13-,14;1 John 4:7-8; Romans 12:9-10.

[4] Schmidt, A. (2004). How Christianity Changed the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Including Compassion International, World Vision, the Christian Relief Fund, Not for Sale, Agape International Missions, and many others.

[7] Barna Research Group. (2013, November 4). 5 things you need to know about adoption. Retrieved from https://www.barna.com/research/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-adoption/#.UnvPco2E7Tw

[8] Including American World Adoption, Nightlight Christian Adoption, International Christian Adoption, Hope’s Promise, Catholic Christian Community Services, and Bethany Christian Services. 

 

[9] Draper, E. (2010, March 4). Adoption initiative halves numbers of kids needing families. The Denver Post. Retrieved from https://www.denverpost.com/2010/03/04/adoption-initiative-halves-numbers-of-kids-needing-families/

Locy, J. (2011, June 16). My Take: On adoption, Christians should put up or shut up. CNN Retrieved from https://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/06/16/my-take-on-adoption-christians-should-put-up-or-shut-up/

[10] Hardy, B. (2017, November 28). In Arkansas, one faith-based group recruits almost half of foster homes. The Chronicles of Social Change Retrieved from https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/featured/arkansas-one-faith-based-group-recruits-almost-half-foster-homes/28821  

[11] Great Nonprofits. https://greatnonprofits.org/org/orphan-care-alliance?gclid=Cj0KCQjw7qn1BRDqARIsAKMbHDa6u2ZC5_dVyw7pxJotF1X_nYs2N1U8k6fdIfGBbKDvsxI8SMo0iWQaAjuZEALw_wcB

 

[12] Zylstra, S. (2018, September 24). How foster care became a Christian priority—just in time. The Gospel Coalition. Retrieved fromhttps://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-foster-care-became-christian-priority-just-time/

[13] Family Policy Alliance. (2018, June 27). Why do Christian adoption agencies matter? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZ3rlxDI7Qs

[14] Timestamp 0.50-1.0.

[15] Timestamp 2.39- 3.11.

[16] LGBT map (June 2012). LGBT foster and adoptive families. Retrieved from https://www.lgbtmap.org/file/finding-children-forever-homes.pdf