So many people are in situations or circumstances that make it impossible or difficult for them to pursue adoption. While I campaign and advocate openly for MORE FAMILIES TO ADOPT I certainly realize some families are not able to pursue adoption for a variety of reasons…and shouldn’t.
So what can you do if you are not able to adopt?
How can you obey the biblical command to care for the orphan? (Psalm 82:3, James 1:27, Isaiah 58:6-10)
Old, young, middle aged…even children can get involved in this way! Through this season we’ve committed to praying with our children for waiting children needing families. I’ve seen such a space open in their hearts just in a few short prayers as they connect with these children. Prayer changes hearts and it changes lives!
- Pray for the waiting children, waiting families, newly adoptive families, and tired adoptive families in the trenches.
- Pray for more families!
- Pray for wisdom and perseverance for families wading through the trauma adoption brings.
- Pray for courage for families facing difficult adoption realities.
- Pray for healing for the children.
- Pray that through the next month the church would rise up and meet the challenge of thousands of children needing homes!
2. BECOME A RESPITE HOME.
To become a respite home you will go through the typical foster care training and assessment, but as a respite home you will only commit to the time you have available. It may be one weekend a month, every weekend, one day a week or one weekend a year! Whatever time you have can benefit a foster child and family.
Children in care are dealing with big emotions and big life changes which often shows itself through big actions! It can be a huge relief to have a weekend off for a foster family to regroup, catch up on sleep, visit family or just relax and rejuvenate for the work God has called them to.
Likewise, respite homes are encouraged to act more like a ‘grandparent’ in the child’s life. Relax a bit on the structure of the child’s life and just have fun. My girls have very fond memories of some respite homes they spent time in on weekends during their years in foster care. These people, though only in their lives for brief periods of time, built fond memories with them and helped them to feel like they had a larger, extended family outside of their foster families. They still talk about them today. One couple in particular advocated strongly for our girls to be placed together instead of separately for adoption when they cared for them on weekends. We are very grateful to them!
This role is perfect for an older couple who may not be prepared to take on a child full time anymore, a family busy raising their own children or a single person who may not have the resources or time to commit to full time parenting. Also, if you’re considering foster care and would like to ‘ease in’ a bit…this will give you a taste and some experience before forging ahead full time. Many times the agency will set you up with the same child or children so that you can form a relationship and become a safe haven in the child’s life. Most children in care look forward to these sleepovers.
3. SUPPORT A FOSTER OR ADOPTIVE FAMILY IN YOUR CHURCH OR COMMUNITY.
There are so many ways you can bless a foster or adoptive family in your church or community. Take a look at the time, skills and resources you have to offer and then just ask the question, “How can I use these to support a family on the front lines of this ministry?” We are so grateful for our extended family, friends and church community who have supported, loved and prayed for us through our adoption journey. It is so important to feel like you have a village behind you! These are some of the ways that people have blessed us:
- Hand me down clothes, toys, etc.
- Babysitting – so thankful for people who have volunteered to babysit…even when our children were not easy to care for – so that we could have a date night! When we were foster parents this meant our babysitters also needed Criminal Record Checks. It meant a lot to us when people would do this for us so we could leave the children for an hour or two!
- Meals – freezer meals, leftovers, take out or gift cards…we were thankful for them all! 🙂
- Gifts – When our daughters first joined our family one couple blessed us by giving us Canadian Tire gift cards specifically to buy the girls each a new bike and helmet. Not only did it mean the world to us it was special for the girls to realize so many people they’d never even met cared for them and wanted to bless them.
- Accompaniment travelling to appointments. In those first months we had to travel over 3 hours just to see the girls’paediatrician. It was a huge blessing to have a friend come with me so that Kirby wouldn’t need to take off work. 6 hours on the road, 2 very active girls and a stuffy doctor’s office were a less than appealing prospect until my friend added in her company, some fun toys and snacks.
- Taking an interest in the children’s lives. Like any other parent, we want our children to have a broader world than just us. It’s a huge blessing to know someone else is investing in our children’s lives alongside us. It’s also really important for the child to build as many healthy relationships as possible.
- Ask how it’s going. Acknowledge the extra layer in their family dynamics and give space for them to talk about that. You might be surprised at what their normal looks like.
- Point out the progress or positive things you notice in the child’s life. It is so reassuring and comforting as the parent to hear something good about your child. It can help affirm progress, encourage during a difficult season or just remind you that you are not alone in this when others notice your child growing and maturing.
- If none of these ideas fit…just ask! Ask how you can help, and observe their family to see if you can spot a need. They may feel vulnerable at first accepting your help but if you prove to be a safe and nonjudgmental support they will gladly welcome your assistance!
4. EDUCATE YOURSELF.
I cannot stress this one enough! So many adoptive parents and children who have been adopted have been hurt by the ignorant words of someone around them. Words cut deep, and for many adoptive families every conversation about adoption is full of landmines. As an adoptive parent, I know that sometimes we read into things too deeply, and we apologize for that. We certainly want to understand when comments are made out of ignorance…however…you must understand that the stakes are often a lot higher than you think! An off hand comment overheard by a child can plant deep seeds of fear, shame or inadequacy. So be aware! Listen to the adoptive families around you and follow their lead in how they discuss their child’s history and challenges related to adoption. Don’t ask for more information than they are willing to give, as it may be sensitive, but at the same time take an interest in the child’s life. If there are diagnoses or behavioral challenges, don’t jump to conclusions! There is very likely a huge part of the story you are missing. They need your encouragement, understanding and support…not your criticism.
Similar to providing respite care, public child protection agencies are always in need of volunteers. With thousands of children in care and not nearly enough foster homes to accommodate them all well, agencies are often scrambling to meet the needs of the children. As a volunteer you will need to complete a short screening process and be approved. There are many opportunities to serve.
- Driving to appointments, visits with birth family, school, etc.
- Holding babies in the NICU who have been apprehended but not yet placed in a foster home. After spending 2 days and 2 nights in the NICU with one tiny baby I know first hand how big a need this is! Many of these babies are withdrawing from drugs they were exposed to in utero and in severe pain. They desperately need the one to one care a nurse does not have time for. They need eyes that will see the dirty onesies, hands to cream the raging diaper rashes, arms to hold them firm and walk the halls for hours as they cry and cry. They need someone to go out and buy them sleepers. They need someone to hold them and feed them and make sure they are getting enough nourishment. Our particular little baby spent most of his hours at the nurse’s station as he had no one to care for him before we showed up. No infant should be that alone in the world.
- Completing paperwork for childcare workers
- Organizing events
In the foster and adoptive community we often hear, “It takes a village to raise a child.” This is very true. While it may be possible to do it on your own, it is so much easier and so much better with support from your friends, family and community. Ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to foster and adoptive families. You will be richly rewarded for any time, money or resources you pour into this ministry!