Americans nationwide will gather throughout this week to pray for the needs of the children, workers and families of the foster care system as pro-adoption ministries ban together to raise awareness of the orphan crisis.
"If we want to be God's hands and feet extended outside of the four walls of the church, it is critical to reach those on the inside of the four walls and make the unaware, aware," says Scott Hasenbalg, executive director of Show Hope, which has led the annual Cry of the Orphan campaign for the past three years together with Hope for Orphans and Focus on the Family.
"With 127,000 waiting kids in U.S. foster care and 300,000 churches, we believe every waiting child should be able to have the loving home and family they deserve," adds Kelly Rosati, senior director of Focus on the Family's Sanctity of Human Life Division.
According to the latest report by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), more than 500,000 children are in the U.S. foster care system on any given day. And according to the organizers of National Foster Care Month, approximately 20,000 foster care children "age out" of the U.S. foster care system each year without an adoptive family.
"After 18 they're no longer allowed back into the foster care system," Southern California megachurch pastor Rick Warren highlighted during the recent Saddleback Civil Forum on Orphans and Adoption.
In light of this and other little known problems that orphans today face, the Cry of the Orphan campaign is on a mission this week to raise awareness and show Christians and churches across the United States how they can take action right now to be involved in caring for the world's 140 million-plus orphans.
In particular, the campaign is working to provide families with resources and tools to help them take the "next step" in their adoption journey as research indicates that some 30 percent of American families have considered adopting, but no more than two percent of Americans have actually adopted.
"We want foster care kids to know that they are loved and valued," says Paul Pennington, executive director of Hope for Orphans, a ministry of FamilyLife.
Throughout this week, as part of the campaign, several organizations are devoting their daily broadcasts and combining their resources to raise interest and excitement about caring for orphans and to help people navigate through the orphan care, adoption and foster care process.
For the third year, Focus on the Family, Hope for Orphans, and Show Hope are also partnering to sponsor the 2010 National Foster Care Prayer Vigil, which will be held throughout America.
Though people are encouraged to visit FosterCarePrayerVigil.org for information and resources to help them organize, promote and facilitate their own prayer events, vigil coordinator John Moore points out that the format of the prayer gathering is not important.
"It can be an informal time with your family at home-or it can be much more elaborate," says Moore. "What's important is that Christians are praying for these kids and the adults who impact their lives."
In 2009, more than 220 prayer vigils were held in 47 states as part of the effort.
This year's Cry for the Orphan campaign, which kicked off Sunday, will run through May 23.