Orphan Care: You Can’t Do Everything, But You Can Do Something
A blog from Jason Johnson
No one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something. This is what it means to be part of the Body of Christ.
The imagery of a human body is consistently used throughout Scripture to illustrate the identity and activity of the Church – how the people of God relate to one another and function together. Some are hands and some are feet. Some are fingers and some are toes. Some eyes and some ears. In essence, different roles all serving the same purpose (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).
UNIQUE GIFTS FOR UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS
In the Body of Christ, no one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something. Unique gifts are given to unique individuals, not for their own good but for the good of the whole body (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). These roles are established not on the basis of rank, as if one person’s position was more important than another, but on the premise that when each member fulfills their responsibility the whole body will function better together for it.
The proper functioning of the people of God to fulfill the purposes of God are always portrayed in communal terms, not individualistic ones. While one role may be more visible and another more subtle, both operate on a cooperative level of equal codependence, to the extent that if even one seemingly “small” part suffers, like stubbing a toe, it effects the larger whole, like bringing a grown man to his knees in pain. Likewise, when one part fulfills its role, like a hand holding a fork, the larger whole benefits, like a mouth chewing and a stomach being satisfied (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Ultimately, the proper functioning of the body of Christ in fulfilling the mission of God is dependent upon each individual member being aware of and obedient to the designated role God has assigned them. When it comes to those whom God has called us to love and serve together – when we fulfill our role, they benefit; when we don’t, they don’t.
THE BODY OF CHRIST CARING FOR ORPHANS
Specifically, as we look at how the cooperative efforts of the Body of Christ work themselves out through the care of the marginalized, abused and orphaned, we find the same premise to hold true – no one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something. We all have a role to play – some more visible, some more subtle – all of equal importance in serving the cause of children and families in need.
If we’re not careful, we may unintentionally define “orphan care” too narrowly – to simply mean permanent adoption or some other form of bringing a child into your home long term, like foster care. While these are of course crucial and essential places for the Church to engage, they represent only two of the items on the buffet of limitless opportunities available to people to get involved in child and family welfare.
At the end of the day we could perhaps boil it down to this: In the noble and God-honoring task of caring for the marginalized, abused and orphaned, you’re either called to bring a child into your home or you’re called to serve and support those who do. I would go so far as to say this – If God is not calling you to bring a child into your home through foster care or adoption, then please don’t. You’ll end up doing more harm in your life and theirs if you do. There’s other ways to serve.
No one is called to do everything, but everyone is called to do something. Unique functions. Same purpose. All equally important. The question then shifts from “Am I supposed to get involved?” to “How am I supposed to get involved?”. A slightly different question with drastically different implications.
OPPORTUNITIES TO GET INVOLVED
Here’s some common ways to care for vulnerable children and their families, or to simply provide practical support and encouragement for those who are. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it does represent the array of opportunities available to effectively engage in child and family welfare in a holistic way. The Body of Christ, embracing the unique roles we all play in serving one greater common good in the lives of children and families, should on some level be involved in all of these – and more.
Foster care is a temporary living arrangement for abused, neglected, and dependent children who need a safe place to live when their parents or another relative cannot take care of them. Foster families are recruited, trained, and licensed to care for abused and neglected children temporarily, while their parents work with social work professionals to resolve their family issues. In cases where the child becomes free for adoption, foster parents may be considered as adoptive parents.
Adoption is a legal process which permanently gives parental rights to adoptive parents. Adoption means taking a child into your home as a permanent family member. There are opportunities to adopt through the foster care system, private domestic agencies and international agencies. Adoption finalizes a child’s permanent placement into his/her new family.
Respite care is basically short-term foster care. It is primarily used to provide aid to other foster families needing childcare for more than 24 hours and less than 14 days. This is extremely helpful as situations often come up in which the family must travel and can’t take the child due to state regulations. Respite care gives foster parents and children the chance to have short, regular periods of time apart in which they can rest and recharge. It also provides crisis care for the times in which the trauma of the child is seriously impacting other members of the family.
In the world of foster care, getting a babysitter isn’t the easiest thing. In fact, it’s somewhat of a process. Again, there are state regulations governing who can even babysit a foster child for just a few hours. You can support foster families by becoming a certified babysitter. This allows you to provide child care for foster families so parents can have an occasional time to “get away”. This is an invaluable gift to a foster family and is always much appreciated. Generally, a background check and CPR/First Aid certification are required.
Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get overlooked by the legal and social system. In many ways, CASA advocates help speak for the child. They are of tremendous value in seeing that the child’s best interests are protected throughout the legal proceedings.
Safe Families for Children provides a temporary safe environment for children while giving the biological parents a chance to get back on their feet in order to prevent abuse or neglect from occurring. Parents who are experiencing a temporary crisis can arrange for their children to stay with families of faith so they can manage the issues that led to their crisis situation. The goal of Safe Families is family rehabilitation and reunification. It moves beyond just serving children and into serving the families children come from.
Whether you’re able to write a $500 check or organize fundraisers online to help raise money, donating to a family who wants to adopt is a much needed and very fulfilling way to answer the call to care for orphans. Some people will be called to adopt while other people will be called to pay for it. That’s how the body of Christ works.
Many foster care and adoption placements happen with little to no advance notice. This usually means that needs can come up quickly. Donations of gift cards, diapers, and new supplies such as strollers, mattresses, car seats, and other necessities are invaluable for those who are bringing children into their homes.
Think “Outside the Box”
Get creative! Mow foster families yards for them. Host a parents’ night out for foster and adoptive couples at church. Organize back-to-school drives to collect supplies for local foster children. Throw a big Christmas party for foster families and children. The opportunities to serve, support and show appreciation are endless. Get creative!