One-third of all Americans surveyed stated that they had no desire to adopt, and when asked why, a higher percentage of Christians said they’d “never thought about” adoption, versus non-Christians, according to a 2019 poll conducted by Barna in partnership with Bethany Christian Services.
This is troubling when you realize that in 2018, more than 437,000 children were in the foster care system, with over 125,000 waiting to be adopted – the highest number in over ten years. As Christians, we’re called to serve orphans and widows in our communities, and this is an area that we must not forget. While not everyone is called to adopt, Christians can play a variety of roles caring for “the overlooked or ignored” (Matthew 25:45 MSG).
A 2018 survey showed that 51% of Americans under the age of 30 believe their generation can change the world; if that sounds low it’s countered by the 38% who believe they’re already changing it. An amazing, passionate, thoughtful, and motivated generation is rising up in our country. In fact, 80% of Millennials (generally, those who are currently in their 20s and 30s) said they might be open to adoption, yet only 5% of all Americans surveyed had either adopted or were in the process of adopting.
Sometimes, even as Christians, when we think about changing the world, we think big, grandiose, abstract thoughts — and that’s not wrong. But I want to challenge Christ followers to start changing their world by taking one small but powerful step to change a child’s world. If you’re wondering how to get started, here are six ideas that make a difference:
1. Think About Adoption
Simply by reading this article, and maybe doing a quick Google search afterwards, you can bring down the statistic of Americans who have never thought about adoption. Then take it one step further: start a dinner table conversation with family or friends by asking, “Would you ever adopt? Why or why not?” The answer doesn’t have to be yes, because it shouldn’t be a yes for everyone. However, it’s an important conversation that can get us all thinking about children in our community who need a family.
2. Support an Adoptive Family
Through your church, professional, or social networks, you may be able to identify someone in your community who has recently adopted. Introducing a child, no matter their age, to a new home and a new family is a challenging – though rewarding – life change. A meal, financial support, toys, clothes, or school supplies might all be a massive help to a family going through the adoption process. Check with the family to ask what kind of support would be most helpful in this time of transition.
3. Advocate for or Mentor a Child in Your Local Welfare System
Programs like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Children allow you to quite literally become an advocate for vulnerable children in your community. Volunteers are paired with children who have experienced abuse or neglect and walk alongside them through the court process. They help judges fully understand the child’s situation so they can make the best decisions for a child’s future well-being.
4. Provide Temporary Care for a Child or Family in Need
At Bethany, we offer a number of short-term programs where we need individuals or families to care for a child in their home for anywhere from 30 days to one year. Two examples include transitional foster care, a program for unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. at the southern border, and Safe Families for Children, a ministry that finds families to voluntarily care for children when their parents are going through a temporary crisis.
5. Adopt a Child
There’s no such thing as an “ideal” adoptive parent. Empty-nesters, big families, singles, and first-time parents — all with a variety of economic backgrounds and ethnicities — can adopt a child. We’re looking for parents who will give a child a loving home where they can feel safe and know their needs will be met.
6. Partner with Bethany’s Work in Your Community. Our goal is to demonstrate the love and compassion of Jesus Christ to kids in the U.S. and around the world, and we could use your help. We’re working in more than 100 locations in in 35 states; see if there’s a branch near you by visiting Bethany.org. While you’re there, check out four ways you can change lives today.
In an open-ended question, 69% of Americans mentioned “family” when asked what makes life meaningful. Adoption and foster care change a child’s life; they also change the lives of parents who open their homes to children who need one.
If Christians don’t raise the next generation of children to understand that God loves them and is present in their lives, who will? Kids in the child welfare system are among the most vulnerable in our country. They’re the ones who most need to know unconditional love. Adoption is a picture of the foundational, redemptive message of Jesus Christ. I believe adoption can change the world because family changes everything.
Chris Palusky is president and CEO at Bethany Christian Services.