Protestant churches seeing drop in foster care, adoption among churchgoers: Lifeway


Protestant churchgoers are less likely to report seeing people in the pews engaged in adoption and foster care compared to a few years ago, according to a recent report by Lifeway Research.

In the report released on May 11, Lifeway found that, among Protestant churchgoers in the United States, 16% saw a member provide foster care, 13% saw a member adopt a child from the U.S., and 11% saw a member adopt a child from another country.

These numbers are below those reported in 2017, when 25% saw a member provide foster care, 17% saw a member adopt a child from the U.S., and 15% saw a member adopt a child from another country.

Among subsections of churchgoers, nondenominational churchgoers were the most likely to have seen a member provide foster care (22%), while Methodist churchgoers were among the most likely to report a fellow church member has adopted a child either from abroad (18%) or from the U.S. (31%).

“It is likely the pandemic limited some families in considering foster care or adoption,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, as quoted in the report. “But the need is still great in the U.S. and could grow larger in states with abortion restrictions.”

Data for the survey came from an online study of 1,002 American Protestant churchgoers that was conducted by Lifeway on Sept. 19-29, 2022, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3%.

While there was an apparent drop in personal involvement in adoption and foster care, Lifeway also found that the amount of support coming from church leaders for adoption and foster care had largely increased compared to 2017.

Eighteen percent of churchgoers reported their church leaders raised funds for families who were adopting, which is considerably higher than the 8% reported back in 2017. Additionally, 10% of churchgoers reported their church leaders providing foster parent training, versus 6% of churchgoers reporting the same in 2017.

Overall, 44% of Protestant churchgoers reported seeing active support for adoption and foster care in their congregation, while 45% have not seen such support, and 11% were unsure.

The decline in adoption and foster care has been a years-long trend in the U.S., in general, according to a 2022 report from the National Council for Adoption, which noted that Fiscal Year 2021 saw the lowest number of public sector adoptions since Fiscal Year 2015.

The NCA cited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families’ annual Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) data.

“For the fourth year in a row, there was a decrease in the number of children in foster care, with 391,098 in care. The number of children in foster care awaiting adoption also decreased, to 113,589, the lowest point since FY 2015,” the NCA report from last November explained.

“The number of exits from foster care (any exit type) was 214,971, constituting the fewest number of exits from foster care since AFCARS began reporting began.”

The NCA warned that “an increase or decrease in the number of children entering foster care should not be our measure of success.”

“Rather, our goal should be to reduce child maltreatment rates, reduce time spent outside permanent family care, and reduce timeframes and numbers of children awaiting adoption,” stated the group.

“This report shows that over 113,000 children and youth are without a permanent, nurturing family to help them thrive during their most formative years. NCFA applauds all the families who together welcomed a total of 54,200 children into their homes during this fiscal year.”

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