November—just a few shorts weeks away—is recognized as National Adoption Awareness Month. If your church plans to acknowledge the plight of orphans and children in foster care next month, consider the following ways to prepare:
Pray. The instruction of James 1:27—to care for widows and orphans—implies that we should each do what we can to alleviate their distress. Yet adopting is just one of many ways to do that. If the church plans to make a public appeal for families to adopt, take care to diligently ask God to grant those in the congregation discernment, as the decision to do so is lifechanging and cannot be undertaken lightly.
Poll. Ask adoptive families in your congregation and surrounding community how they made their decision to adopt and what they might wish they’d known before doing so. Incorporate their input into your plans to account for the breadth and depth of needs that many adoptees have.
Plot a course. Don’t limit your campaign to a single Sunday, which, too often, simply stirs the emotional pot of those in attendance. Create a planned arc of multiple conversations to help families conduct the research and have the conversations necessary to making such an important decision with wisdom. Facilitate a small group or panel discussion with other adoptive parents and, perhaps, local social workers.
Present an accurate view. While many adoptive families have tremendously joyful and smooth transitions to their new family dynamics, a reported 14% of families experience attachment issues and a host of other challenges. As part of the planned art to facilitate discernment for those considering adoption, be sure to include stories from adoptive families whose children have struggled. Only by presenting a full picture, including potential risks and hardships, can parents make an educated decision and be equipped to handle the needs of the child—which is vital to his or her long-term health.
Be poised for action. Learn the language of adoption, and try to understand the grief each part of the adoption triad experiences. Recognize the ways the church will need to adapt to include adoptees and accommodate their needs and those of their families. Cultivate resources to help foster attachment and plan to walk the adoption journey for as long as the family is part of your community.
If the church champions the plight of the orphan and calls one another to adopt—whether during National Adoption Awareness month or at any time during the year—we must also diligently facilitate the discernment process. Similarly, we must also be prepared to answer their distress, should they have it, once they’re united as a family. In this we best embody what it means to care for orphans.
Kirsten Holmberg is a writer and speaker based in the Pacific Northwest. Her TEDx talk, “Your adopted child experienced trauma, now what?” chronicles the impact of trauma and Reactive Attachment Disorder on her family. Find her online at www.kirstenholmberg.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@kirholmberg).