National Adoption month calls Christians to aid orphans

by Dawn Wilson |

Johnston and Terri Moore adopted Chris and Anthony, their "Ant," in 2003, Ashley in 2006, and baby Hallie in August. They'll adopt a fifth next spring.

Johnston insists that he is not a Johnny one-note—focusing only on adoption—but is passionate when he calls adoption "God's ultimate provision for both the spiritual orphans and the physical orphans of the world."

While checking Ant's homework, he mulled over the reason why more Christians haven't adopted in the United States.

"The church in America is full of people who have bought into what our culture tells us is important," he said. "We have to get back to basics and align our priorities with God's. When we finally wake up to those things that are important to God's heart, we will not only see a rise in adoptions, but a decrease in all of society's ills and injustices."

In "Orphans vs. American Dream," an article on theresurgence.com, Anthony Bradley asked, "Why does America have orphans if it has Christian churches?" Resurgence, a ministry of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is described as a generational movement that focuses on living for Jesus in a way that effectively ministers the gospel by staying culturally accessible and biblically faithful.

Bradley referred to one of the biblical imperatives for true religion: "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans." (James 1:27).

In preparation for November's National Adoption month, three major Christian ministries—FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family and Steven Curtis Chapman's outreach, Shaohannah's Hope—formed an alliance to speak out for orphans and to challenge churches to reach out to them in a variety of support ministries.

According to Voice of the Orphan, an outreach of FamilyLife Today, 143 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents, and at least 16.2 million children worldwide have lost both parents. Closer to home, more than 800,000 children pass through America's foster care system each year. On average, children waiting for adoption have been in foster care for 43.8 months, almost four years. More than one-third of Americans have seriously considered adopting, but no more than 2 percent have followed through.


'Multiple entry points'
A number of Christian agencies operate throughout United States and Southern California.

Jeff Carlson, director of the La Mirada branch of Bethany Christian Services, said there are "multiple entry points" for Christians to become involved with adoption ministry such as financial gifts, orphan care, short-term mission trips to orphanages, and actual adoption of children in foster care. His office often works with agencies like Olive Crest, which operates homes and services for abused children.

Besides typical adoption services, Nightlight Christian Adoptions specializes in a unique option, the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. Kathryn Deiters, Nightlight's director of development, said the agency is "very pro-life, even pre-birth, because embryos are there, and we would like them to have the opportunity to be born."

Nightlight also wants Christians to understand the blessing of adoption for the birth mothers.

"Sadly, abortion is just as prevalent for Christian girls facing an unplanned pregnancy as it is for non-Christians because of peer pressure and misinformation," Deiters said. "We want people to know what a blessing adoption can be for everyone concerned, including the girl who is placing her child for adoption. Adoption gives her the opportunity to choose life for her child, and to have the comfort of knowing that her child is safe and happy with adoptive parents."


Expense issues
Family Connections Christian Adoptions has six offices in California. Janet Noll, Oceanside's branch director, said some people have stereotypes about adoptive children or interfering birth parents. Others don't realize how many children are available, or are fearful about adoption's expense.

"When you adopt from foster care," Noll said, "parents' rights are terminated. And it doesn't cost thousands of dollars; it only costs a simple fee. Plus you get a monthly stipend as Aid to Adoptive Parents until the child is 19 or finishes high school—and that's not taxable—and the children get Medi-Cal."

Some prospective adoptive parents might be concerned about "problem" children in the foster care system, but Noll said most of the children they have placed from their office are under age 5.


Mobilizing churches
Carlson's Bethany Christian Services (BCS) office sponsored training sessions at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa, Calif. and Mariner's Church in Irvine, Calif., educating Christians about adoption options. BCS also affiliates with His Children, a ministry focusing on mobilizing California churches concerning orphan care.

Paula Bogenrief, executive director of His Children, said they currently work with 14 churches as a consulting and resource agency, helping them set up orphan-related ministries within their congregations.

"We conducted a Family Life workshop on September 15 at Mariner's and an additional 30 churches were involved," she said. Bogenrief's office will follow up on these Southern California churches.

John Lorenz, overseer of ministries at Mariner's, said their adoption support ministry, Welcome Home, is volunteer-led and provides support for people involved or simply interested in adoptions.

"Sometimes people see it as too hard, so they don't want to get involved," Lorenz said. "Pastors may say, 'It's a great idea, but not for my church.' In my opinion, we need to allow the congregations to decide that … we might be surprised."

Allison Dear, who created Welcome Home with her husband and another couple, said their ministry focuses on helping people plug into the adoption process, then helps adoptive families connect. They also teach parenting classes, deal with issues of attachment, and pair up couples who are beginning the adoption process with mentoring couples. Dear points to statistics that one-third of Americans consider adoption, but only 2 percent go forward in the process, often because of fear.

"We want to dispel the myths and fears about adoption so people won't feel intimidated," she said. "We want to equip people with confidence and instruct them about financial aid—such as grants and non-interest loans."

Welcome Home will host a "how to" meeting, Nov. 10, offering sessions on financing an adoption, hosting older orphans from oversees and parenting an adopted child.

Although Mariners is a large church—12,000 people—Dear said there is sometimes a problem identifying adoptive families in a larger setting.

"But in smaller churches," she said, "adoption is contagious. I know of small churches with 80 adopted children! They caught the vision and heart for adoption."


The greatest obstacle
"The greatest obstacle to adoption is the lack of awareness," Bogenrief said. "There are 3,000 kids in foster care in Orange County alone, and we show churches the statistics of what happens to those children if they are not taken into a home."

His Children helps churches get involved at different levels.

"Not everyone is called by God to be a foster or adoptive parent," Bogenrief said, "but every believer is called to help orphans."

Voice of the Orphan notes that Christians can become advocates for orphans. With photos of orphans in hand, believers can ask friends and family if they, or someone they know, would be willing to give the child a home. Christians might also consider financial gifts to a family going through the adoption process. Adopting families would also appreciate a baby shower, an offer of baby-sitting or a few days of prepared meals.

"To be aware of the fact that there are over 143 million children who go to bed each night without parents is the first step," said Ron Stoddart, executive director of Nightlight Christian Adoptions in Fullerton.

"As Christians, we know that God loves us and is always there for us. We need to pray that these orphans will feel God's love and that we, by being God's hands and feet, will never stop looking for ways to demonstrate His love for us."


Contact Information for Christian Adoptions
Bethany Christian Services — www.bethany.org

CALIFORNIA
14125 Telephone Ave Suite 12, Chino, CA 91710-5771 • (909) 465-0057
726 W. Barstow, Ste. 116, Fresno, CA 93704 • (559) 432-9696
16700 Valley View Ave., Suite 210, La Mirada, CA 90638 • (714) 994-0500
3048 Hahn Drive, Modesto, CA 95350 • (209) 522-5121
WASHINGTON
19936 Ballinger Way NE Suite D, Seattle, WA 98155-1223 • (206) 367-4604
4204 Meridian St., Ste. 105, Bellingham, WA 98226-5545 • (360) 733-6042


Nightlight Christian Adoptions — www.nightlight.org
Domestic Adoptions, International Adoptions and Snowflakes Embryo Adoptions — (714) 278-1020


Family Connections Christian Adoptions — www.fcadoptions.org
CALIFORNIA
1120 Tully Road, Modesto, CA 95350 • (209) 524-8844
1111 Howe Ave, #395, Sacramento, CA 95825 • (916) 568-5966
7257 No. Maple, #101, Fresno, CA 93720 • (559) 325-9388
2191 El Camino Real, Ste 202, Oceanside, CA 92054 • (760) 966-0531
2421 Portola Rd, Suite A, Ventura, CA 93003 • (805) 477-7400
4420 Broad Street, Suite F2, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401 • (805) 542-9084


Voice of the Orphan — www.voiceoftheorphan.org


Olive Crest — www.olivecrest.org
Offices in California, Nevada and in Washington
1-800-550-CHILD