By / Oct 6

By the end of September 2020, there were over 407,000 children in foster care. And it’s possible that with the overturning of Roe, even more children might need care in the future. Vulnerable women, children, and families in the United States will need help in a variety of ways, and Christians should continue to lead the way in making that possible. One of the organizations that’s doing incredible work in this area is Hands of Hope, an adoption and foster care ministry serving Indiana. Amy Jo Fox, the Communications and Care Community Director, answers questions below that shed light on practical ways we can join in their type of work wherever we are. 

Eli Pattat: What is Hands of Hope, and how did it begin?

Amy Jo Fox: In 2003, our Executive Director and her husband adopted their son internationally. God first planted the dream for Hands of Hope in Suzy’s heart just as they were pulling away to bring their son home. She turned to see the rest of the children that were staying there—with no toys, no playground, nothing to do, and she knew at that moment that she was being called to do more. In 2010, Hands of Hope became a 501(c)3.

Simply put, we believe the very best place for any child is in a family. Oftentimes, fear and finances are the two things that keep families from moving forward. So, the first thing we did as an organization was adoption and foster care informational meetings. Then, we began providing adoption matching grants and interest-free loans to help financially. The mission has always been the same: to uniquely and deeply love orphans at home and around the world. We educate on God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children, motivate individuals to get involved, and support those who do.

We place a high value on going deep to change the trajectory of a child’s life. We do this by how we relationally engage with the families, churches, and partners we serve. We try to listen well and understand where they’ve been and where they currently are. We build relational equity and lean into opportunities to develop trust, moving at the pace of relationship instead of outcome.

EP: Your three areas of focus are adoption, foster care, and children’s homes. What does it look like practically for your organization to serve in these three areas? 

AJF: We partner with and support five Children’s Homes in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ukraine, India and Brown County, Indiana. Each partner is carefully vetted. Through our Children’s Homes sponsorships, over 150 children are provided with safe and loving environments in which they receive necessities like food, education, and medical care. The children we support are victims of poverty, abuse, and/or disease.

As mentioned above, we hold monthly adoption informational meetings for those wanting to know more about or considering adoption. We also provide financial support to hopeful adoptive parents through our matching grant program.

Lastly, our largest area of focus is foster care. We act as a bridge organization, linking the various needs of Indiana foster care with those that want to help. This includes support and providing county Department of Children’s Services offices with basic necessities like diapers or belonging bags for children when they first enter care, real-time needs for at-risk biological families, and community wraparound for foster and adoptive families among other things.

EP: In what specific ways does Hands of Hope educate the church on God’s heart for orphans and vulnerable children?

AJF: Multiple times a year, we offer a virtual clinic to train and equip church leaders and advocates on how to implement Family Advocacy Ministries (FAM). Churches are often full of people that want to impact the lives of vulnerable children, but don’t know where to begin. FAMs provide practical and concise onboarding in order to recruit and equip families to care for children in their homes, serve families in crisis, and advocate for and minister to these families by meeting physical, emotional, and spiritual needs.

We work to mobilize and resource the Church to teach on what Scripture says about caring for orphans and vulnerable children as well as organize and/or host other awareness events to empower people to understand the need. Nationally, 50% of foster families quit fostering after the first year because they do not feel they have the support they need. However, when these families are surrounded by a FAM’s wraparound support model called Care Communities, we see that statistic drastically improve. With Care Communities, we’re able to retain 90% of foster families, helping them foster longer and stronger. 

EP: What are some of the greatest needs you see in families that you serve through Hands of Hope? 

AJF: The greatest needs for the families we serve is summed up in one word: support. They need the support of the Church and their community. Whether it’s a hurting biological family in need of tangible assistance in order to preserve their home or a weary foster family in need of a mentor for their child who is struggling, families in crisis need to know they’re not alone. It’s sometimes easy for us to get stuck in the “they signed up for it” mentality and assume we’re not responsible if we aren’t able to actually bring children into our home through foster care or adoption. These kids are OUR kids, this is OUR problem, these families are OUR responsibility. 

EP: Are there misconceptions about adoption, foster care, and children’s homes that hinder Christians from serving well in these areas? 

AJF: One misconception we often see is around foster care. Many times, people care about child welfare but since they aren’t able to physically take children into their home, they assume there’s nothing they can really do to help. That’s simply not true! Every single one of us can do something.

EP: What are some practical ways that the church can get more involved with organizations like Hands of Hope in serving vulnerable children? And if there aren’t organizations like yours in our states, how can Christians meet the needs of those in foster care? 

AJF: CarePortal or Care Communities are two nationwide programs that give churches practical ways to serve vulnerable children and families. There are also many other next steps like hosting a support group, organizing a foster supply closet, blessing foster children at Christmas, etc.

EP: How can Christians around our country be praying for those involved in or thinking about being involved in caring for this vulnerable population?  

AJF: Pray for everyone to find their specific purpose in how they can help vulnerable children and at-risk families so that every child has a family and those families have support.

By / Oct 3

Southern Baptists have a long history of following in the footsteps of the faith and serving those in need. When Jesus was on Earth, he did not bypass physical needs but met them and used them as a way to share how he was meeting the greatest need of all—the salvation of our souls. Likewise, Send Relief, a collaboration between NAMB and the IMB, seeks to address needs that arise from various circumstances while also sharing the hope of Jesus. One focus of the work at Send Relief is foster care and adoption, which is all the more important in a country without Roe. Josh Benton, vice president of North American ministry at Send Relief, answered a few of our questions about this aspect of their ministry and how churches can be involved. 

Lindsay Nicolet: How does foster care and adoption ministry fit within the mission of Send Relief? 

Josh Benton: Send Relief is the Southern Baptist compassion ministry which seeks to meet physical and spiritual needs in Jesus’ name. Working alongside churches, we care for the vulnerable and strengthen communities around the world. Caring for families and children is one of our five ministry focus areas. Our work in this area includes developing and supporting ministries focused on crisis pregnancy, serving at-risk families, and helping churches develop or support ministries to vulnerable families within their communities. 

LN: What projects is Send Relief involved in as you seek to engage in the foster care and adoption space? 

JB: Send Relief engages foster care and adoption in two specific ways. First, is through our ministry centers. We have 20 Send Relief ministry centers across North America. Two of them, Valdosta, Georgia, and Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, are child placement agencies for foster care and adoption. In addition to child placement, these locations provide training for foster and adoptive families. We also work with churches to help support vulnerable families in their communities with resources, counseling, and respite care, along with providing an opportunity for churches to go on mission trips to learn more about and get hands-on experience with foster care and adoption ministry.  

Second, Send Relief helps churches start a Family Advocacy Ministry, which we call a FAM. FAM is a step-by-step ministry strategy that helps churches serve and advocate for vulnerable children and families as well as those called to foster and adopt. Send Relief helps churches implement FAMs so they can have a gospel-centered impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families.

LN: How does God’s Word drive your work in this key area? 

JB: Scripture is clear about the call to care for vulnerable families. Genesis 1:26-27 establishes that all people are created and designed by God, in the image of God, and are therefore valued by God. Genesis 2 describes God’s intentional design for the family. Then, Genesis 3-4 shows the damaging impact of sin on all creation but, specifically, how sin creates brokenness in families. 

From Deuteronomy 10 to James 1 and several references in between, God not only calls his people to remain committed to his design for the family but to also care for the those without stable, intact families. Romans 8 also beautifully portrays adoption as a picture of our redemption through Christ.

With this in mind, we can sum up how Scripture provides the truths that cultivate Send Relief’s perspective on serving in foster care and adoption ministry with a few statements:

  • Every person is created in the image of God, therefore, all people have value.
  • God designed the family and desires all to be in a family.
  • Christ calls us to reflect his compassion and care for the vulnerable.
  • Foster care and adoption portray how God redeems through a personal faith in Christ. 

LN: What challenges arise with serving children in need and families in today’s culture? And how have/will these change in a post-Roe era?

JB: The challenges for serving vulnerable children and families are significant. Here are a few key statistics from Adoptuskids.org and the Administration for Children and Families

  • Each year more than 250,000 children enter the foster care system in the United States.
  • At any given time, there are on average over 400,000 children in the foster care system.
  • Each year more than 23,000 children age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, depending on a state’s laws.
  • Currently, more than 115,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted.
  • The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years old.
  • Troubling statistics for children who age out of the system:
    • Likely to experience job loss and homelessness
    • 70% of human trafficking victims spent time in foster care
    • 71% of women who age out experience pregnancy within one year 
    • 65% of individuals who are incarcerated aged out of the foster care system

These challenges will likely intensify in our post-Roe world. These are all harrowing statistics, but one of the most significant issues is that there are more children in need provides an opportunity for churches to fill the gap. With more than 115,000 children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted each year, churches can play a role by recruiting families to foster and adopt, mentoring vulnerable families, and providing communities of care for those who are fostering and/or adopting.

LN: How can pastors and ministry leaders create a culture of equipping families to care for children?

JB: No matter what community, city, or state you are in, vulnerable families are present. This isn’t a ministry opportunity that is somewhere else; it’s everywhere. Pastors and church leaders have an important role of recognizing the need that exists, articulating the biblical call to meet the need, and blessing those in their congregation who are led to pursue the ministry opportunity. Send Relief has resources on our FAM page to help pastors and churches pursue ministry to vulnerable families and children.

LN: What are some practical things that local churches can do to come alongside this mission to serve families and those involved in foster care and adoption?

JB: There are several ways churches join Send Relief to serve vulnerable families. One of the most important things is to recognize that there are many ways to serve. There is a great need for families to foster and adopt. Encourage those who are called but also understand not everyone feels that call, and there are multiple ways to serve outside of adopting and fostering. Here are specific ways churches can serve:

  • Praying diligently and consistently for vulnerable children and families
  • Developing a relationship with a local child welfare office
  • Raising awareness about the needs of vulnerable children and families
  • Recruiting families to consider adopting or fostering
  • Providing resources, as well as emotional and spiritual support, to biological families experiencing crisis
  • Helping to meet physical and financial needs of foster and adoptive families
  • Mentoring single mothers
  • Supporting and encouraging local child welfare workers
  • Providing meals or respite care to foster and adoptive families
  • Going on a mission trip at a Send Relief ministry center that serves vulnerable families

For more information on the Dobbs decision and its effects, visit erlc.com/dobbs

By / Aug 16

Adoption is a concept deeply enmeshed in the Christian worldview, and the good news of the gospel is at its center. Christians believe that upon receiving Christ through faith, we are then adopted into the family of God by the Father. One of the outworkings of our being adopted by God is that we are often called to “go and do likewise,” demonstrating the kindness we’ve received from God to children who need a family, both here and abroad. In the United States, “practicing Christians are more than twice as likely to adopt than the general population.” And yet, according to a recently published survey, there is still a great deal of work left to do.

The National Council for Adoption (NCFA) recently released what they’ve called “the largest survey ever conducted on adoptive parents.” The survey “provides useful data to [people] interested in adoption,” and it aims to “equip adoption professionals, adoptive families, and prospective adoptive parents with information to help them in their role as part of the larger adoption community”—it is part one of a three-part study called “Profiles in Adoption.” And while there are many findings from the survey we could highlight, we will underscore three takeaways here below. 

Three takeaways from the NCFA survey

In an article summarizing the survey’s findings, the NCFA headlined their impression of the results this way: “Adoption really has changed, a lot.” And, as the report shows, they’re right; over the last 20 years adoption has changed dramatically. Along with those changes (some of which will be reflected below), there are also significant challenges with adoption, like its cost and the length of the adoption process. These challenges make adoption difficult for prospective adoptive parents and difficult on prospective adoptive children. Here are three takeaways from the survey. 

1. Adopting children with special needs.

Children with special needs are often the target of mistreatment even before they leave the womb. In the context of adoption, children with special needs—from those in the foster care system to those in other countries—regularly find themselves awaiting forever families for long periods of time. As of early 2021, there were an estimated “134,000 children with special needs awaiting permanent homes” in the United States, according to the National Adoption Center. And while, domestically, only about 13% of adoptions involve children with special needs, a number that is virtually unchanged since prior to 2010, the percentage of intercountry adoptions of children with special needs has risen exponentially over the last 20 years. “Intercountry special needs adoptions” stood at a mere 7.3% in 2000. In 2020, 61% of intercountry adoptions involved children with special needs (a number that has actually decreased from its high in 2018 of 79%). 

When mothers who are in unplanned pregnancies, carrying a child with special needs, choose to carry that child to term and place him or her for adoption, Christians ought to be among the first who’ll volunteer to give them a permanent home. Let’s pray that the 134,000 children with special needs awaiting homes in this country will soon find loving, forever families. And let’s rejoice that children with special needs from other countries are being given the chance to grow up in permanent homes. 

2. Cost of adoption.

According to the survey, the cost of a private domestic adoption has nearly doubled over the last 20 years, rising from an average of $17,017.96 to $33,141.83 in 2020. Likewise, intercountry adoptions in the same span of time have risen in cost from an average of $22,245.67 to $36,776.21. Unsurprisingly, data shows that because of these prohibitively high costs adoption is a near-unrealistic option for many families that desire to grow their family by adopting children who are awaiting homes. The overwhelming majority of families that secured either a private domestic adoption (72.4%) or an intercountry adoption (62.4%) earn in excess of $75,000-$150,000 annually. “More than half of families adopting privately or internationally viewed the cost of the adoption process as a barrier, even after completing the process.”

If Christians hope to prevail in our work of providing stable, loving homes for children who need them through the process of adoption, then it seems that the financial cost is something that must be addressed. Policy makers should think creatively on ways to address this staggeringly high barrier for families that wish to adopt children in desperate need of homes.

3. Length of the adoption process

On average, the length of time the intercountry adoption process took for survey respondents was a little more than 22 months—almost two years. Other organizations estimate the process takes as long as five years, depending, in large part, on the country the child is being adopted from. As for the process of adopting a child in foster care, the length of time varies based on one’s family structure. The process tends to move quickest for married couples (335 days, on average), followed by single females (373.6 days), unmarried couples (376.3 days), and single men (429.8 days). The process of adoption, whether domestic, intercountry, or from the foster system, is an investment not only of money but of time as well. 

Adoption, the heart of God, and the heart of his people

The motivations for adopting a child are wide-ranging, spanning (on this survey) from infertility to adopting a family member to a religious calling, all of which are good and honorable. For God, his motivation is singular, and clearly stated in the book of Ephesians: he adopts us because he loves us (Eph. 1:5). And “because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5), we ought to be driven to the ministry of adoption by this same love.

As long as children are in need of permanent homes and loving families, the people of God are called to care about adoption no matter the barriers, whether the financial cost or the process length or the challenges we’ll inevitably face in adding to our families. While the NCFA survey equips families with the information they need to determine what part they’ll play in the adoption community, it also reminds us that there’s work yet to be done. As the people of God continue our work in adoption ministry, tools like the NCFA’s Profiles in Adoption study can be just the boon we need. May we use all the resources at our disposal to carry out this ministry that is so near to the heart of our Father.

The NCFA survey is part one of a three-part study called “Profiles in Adoption.” Parts two and three will focus on the “experiences and characteristics of birthmothers” and the “lived experiences of adopted individuals,” respectively, and will be published at a later date.

By / Aug 4

A common critique of the pro-life movement has been that it only cares about preborn lives up until birth, not after, nor does it care about their mothers and families. Although this criticism is largely unfounded, as evidenced by the number of pregnancy resource centers operating around the country, adoptions by people of faith, and disproportionate support for foster care, detractors of the pro-life movement have often focused in on a seeming lack of support for public policy solutions that actively aid families, resource low-income individuals, and provide help to mothers in crisis. However, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, a growing coalition of legislators and pro-life supporters have taken an increased interest in these very types of policies. 

Financial insecurity is cited by 73% of women who choose to have an abortion as the primary driver of their choice. For Christians, that statistic should represent a sobering challenge. While we will continue to work relentlessly through policy and law to make abortion illegal across the country, that simply is not enough. We must also redouble our efforts to make abortion unthinkable to a woman in crisis because of the abundance of support and resources available to her. 

In light of that, this surge of policy proposals working to address this very issue is worth celebrating as we seek to establish a culture of life that wraps around women and families and provides the resources and support needed for them to flourish.

A biblical foundation for supporting families

God has spoken clearly throughout Scripture to the value and dignity of every human being as created in the image of God and to the goodness of his design for every aspect of human life in accordance with his will (Gen. 1:26-30; Matt. 19:4; Luke 12:22–31; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Pet. 1:13-16). Early on in Scripture, we see the foundation of the institution of marriage—one man and one woman for life—as something that God creates for our good (Gen. 2). The married couple is then instructed to bear fruit and multiply as part of God’s plan for their flourishing (Gen 1:28; Ps. 127:3). 

The biblical framework for the nuclear family is a desirable end and moral imperative, and the good work of protecting and celebrating the family in all its biblical forms is central to the ethic, life, and mission of the church. The work of local churches, parents, teachers, counselors, and foster care and adoptive families who walk alongside couples through difficult times, disciple their children in the way of Christ, and help bring healing to broken families and hope to forgotten children is invaluable and an essential part of our calling individually and collectively. Southern Baptists are committed to advancing a distinctly Christian vision for the family in the public square and safeguarding the integrity of this crucial biblical institution for the good of our neighbor.

For decades, Southern Baptists have evidenced that commitment through resolutions declaring their dedication to the family and their desire to see policies that promote its formation and flourishing. In 1978, Southern Baptists affirmed that “the nation and church are only as strong as the family” and resolved to consider “carefully the impact on families of proposed federal legislation” and “give attention to the importance of economic security to all families.” In 1982, amidst concern for the state of families across the United States, the convention resolved to “through local church congregations, be especially sensitive and responsive to the needs of each ‘church family’ member and attempt to provide, and if necessary, be a substitute for needed family relationships often missing among members.” In 1987 while discussing the crisis of children on the streets, the SBC acknowledged that it “has long had special concern for the needs of American children and their families.” Countless other resolutions have been passed outlining the commitment to families  and children in crisis and even “encouraging and empowering Southern Baptists to adopt unwanted children, by providing spiritual, emotional, and financial support for women in crisis pregnancies, and by calling on our government officials to take action to protect the lives of women and children.”

In addition to these declarations of support and calls for action from churches, other resolutions have laid out a role for government to play in meeting these needs. In 1991, the SBC agreed that families are “one of only three institutions which God established,” that “strong families are a vital part of a moral society,” and that “Government policies which have neglected and punished the institution of the family are a significant factor in the moral decay of American society.” In light of this, the resolution went on to reason that “Public policy should provide incentives which promote stable marriages and parental child-rearing, recognizing that these policies will contribute to a better society” and called for the adoption of “policies which encourage the establishment and development of strong families.” And most recently in 2022, in anticipation of the Dobbs ruling, the SBC once again voiced support for abortion-vulnerable women and committed to “partnering with local, state, and federal governments to enact pro-life and pro-family policies that serve and support vulnerable women, children, and families” in hopes of eliminating “any perceived need for the horror of abortion.”

Recent proposals to consider

Though our nation has an extensive web of programs that explicitly exist to alleviate poverty, it is important to note that many of these recent proposals are not primarily focused on that goal but rather are specifically pro-family plans that also hope to have a poverty-reducing impact. A consistent theme of reasoning in these proposals is that much of our current government assistance and tax structure can often actually disincentivize marriage and having children. Governments often use the economic tools at their disposal to incentivize what they want to encourage and penalize what they want to discourage.

These proposals, in differing capacities, work to reverse that trend and economically incentivize marriage, ensure families—with an emphasis on abortion-vulnerable women—have the resources to keep their children, and promote full participation of both parents in the raising of children. In pursuit of this goal, advocates have for many years called for actions such as expanding paid family leave or expanding the child tax credit. While the ERLC has not formally taken a position on these specific policy options or the more recent proposals, we affirm efforts to think creatively about helping those in need, supporting families, and resourcing abortion-vulnerable women and families to raise their children.

Some of these recent legislative efforts have been more narrowly focused. In response to the Department of Health and Human Services launching of reproductiverights.gov, which outlines where women may receive abortion services, nine Senate Republicans recently introduced the “Standing with Moms Act” that would create an alternative Life.gov, a federal clearinghouse of pro-life resources, services, and information for pregnant and parenting mothers. Another bill, the “Unborn Child Support Act,” would permit courts, at the request of the mother, to require child support payments from the father while the child is still in the womb, retroactively from the time of conception. Similarly focused on supporting parents directly around the time of the birth of their child, the “New Parents Act” would allow parents to use some of their social security benefits for up to three months of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child, with the choice of either increasing their retirement age or temporarily receiving a reduction in social security benefits upon retirement.

Other proposals are seeking to take a more comprehensive approach to pro-family policy. Sen. Mitt Romney’s Family Security Act 2.0 would reform the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to provide a fully paid-for, monthly, cash benefit for working families, beginning while the child is still in the womb. Another comprehensive policy framework is Senator Marco Rubio’s Providing for Life Act. This package would seek to expand the Child Tax Credit, create fiscally responsible options for paid parental leave, bolster child support enforcement, increase WIC funding, make the Adoption Tax Credit fully refundable, fund mentoring services for low-income mothers, post online resources for new mothers, direct federal funding to pro-life pregnancy resources centers, and enforce rights for pregnant college students.

Though there is much to still be debated on which of these policies are best and which can find bipartisan support to become law, it is encouraging that many members of Congress are beginning to recognize a need for programs that support families and are beginning to think creatively on how best to do that. The ERLC will actively engage in these debates and advocate for policies that promote life, marriage, family, and the flourishing of all of our neighbors.

ERLC intern Daniel Hostetter contributed to this article.

By / Jun 29

June 24, 2022, was a momentous day in the life of our nation. After almost 50 years, the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the two cases that set the precedent for legal abortion in the U.S. Millions of preborn lives have been lost because of these two cases, and now because of Dobbs, lives will be saved. I find it difficult to believe there will be a person alive today who will not be able to recall years from now off every detail about where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt—me included. But, by all accounts, I should not have been alive to celebrate this historic moment. That is, except by the grace of God.

A story of God’s grace 

While loved well at home, my mom often made poor choices when it came to friends or succumbing to temptation. She eventually decided she wanted freedom to do her own thing, her own way, and ran away from home as a teen. She hitchhiked her way to another state and ran into the arms of a man who would lead her into the throes of alcohol and drug abuse. And she would soon discover she was pregnant with me. 

By God’s grace, my grandparents found her after exhausting every source they could, only to find out she was with child. Strung up on drugs, alcohol, and only pennies to her name, my grandparents vowed to do something, which was reflective of who they were. Many years before, my grandparents adopted my mom and her sister from an orphanage. But that wouldn’t be their last adoption.

My grandparents adopted me and brought me back to safety in Texas while still doing whatever they could to help my biological mom, heartbroken over what had become of her. She was merely a shell of her former, happy-go-lucky self. My biological mom eventually cut off all communication and ties with her parents and dove deeper into every drug or drink known to man. 

I, however, by the grace of God, was given a chance––a chance to live, to thrive, and to be raised by godly grandparents. Interestingly, the day I arrived was the day before my grandparents second daughter moved away to college. No chance to enjoy even one day as empty-nesters, they became my parents. “Old as dirt, but young at heart,” they’d say. 

A little over seven years ago, another mom was in a similar situation. She was abusing drugs and alcohol while raising four girls in a traumatic home filled with tragic abuse. But by God’s grace, my wife and I were able to adopt them. We call these four beautiful girls princesses and are able to give them a chance to live, thrive, and be raised in a godly home. 

Keep up the work we’ve been doing 

I believe the Supreme Court decision on June 24, 2022, was by God’s grace. It’s a monumental victory for preborn lives, but it’s not the finish line. Christians should celebrate this decision, yes, but we also need to recognize there is still a lot of work to do. We need to link arms together in order to help every man and woman, preborn baby and those outside of the womb, enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

As Christians continue moving forward in a post-Roe world, we need to remember we can’t do everything, but each of us can do something. For our family, that has meant volunteering at or fundraising for crisis pregnancy centers connected to our church and becoming licensed foster parents. My mom (grandmother) became certified to offer respite care, too. 

Many towns or churches have or are partnered with crisis pregnancy centers. Many states have reputable or Christian adoption and foster care agencies. Take the time to reach out to them and see how you can serve them. Some may need volunteers, others may need resources; the agency we used to adopt our girls seeks Christmas gift donations each November and gives them to foster care families in December.

You might not be in a place where you can adopt a child or even serve as a foster parent, but you may have the ability to provide resources or even respite care for those that do. Whatever you do, open your hearts, your pocketbooks, and your homes––there’s some way all of us can respond to the influx of scared, vulnerable mothers and fathers and babies who need care. Above all, let’s commit to pray that the God who intervened to end Roe and Casey would raise up his people to pour ourselves out for the lives and souls of those who desperately need Jesus. 

By / May 3

Adoption is a beautiful picture of the gospel, but in this world, it’s fraught with a mixture of grief and gladness. In addition, particular joys and challenges can enter the picture when a family grows by cross-cultural adoption. In light of this, Brittany Salmon’s new book, It Takes More than Love: A Christian Guide to Navigating the Complexities of Cross-Cultural Adoption, is a welcome encouragement and guide for adoptive families or those who are seeking to support those who have adopted. Below, Salmon answers questions about the unique and practical aspects of cross-cultural adoption. 

Alex Ward: You start your book by saying you have a love/hate relationship with adoption because it’s “joy and suffering and loss and gain and hope and disappointment all in one.” How did your adoption story shape how you see adoption in this way? 

Brittany Salmon: It’s an odd thing for an adoptive parent to say they have a love/hate relationship with adoption, isn’t it? However, it’s true. I love parenting my children. It is such a gift! But I hate that in order for me to get to be their mom, they had to walk through the trauma of being separated from their first families. 

Adoption happens because brokenness exists in our world, and I felt that acutely the first time we were in the hospital meeting our son. I remember the heaviness of watching his first mom say goodbye, and my heart broke into a million pieces as she left the hospital without him in her arms. “It’s just not supposed to be this way,” I cried. I remember the heaviness of rocking him at night, singing to him, knowing that mine wasn’t the voice and the body he was used to hearing those months in utero. And yet, as our family grew and another one seemingly shrank, I learned to hold both joy and sorrow at the same time. Our joy and love for our son didn’t have to erase the sorrow that came along with it; both could coexist together.

AW: Recently, there has been considerable discussion about how much race and culture on the part of prospective adoptive parents should be considered. Bethany Child Services made news when they recommended acknowledging that a purely colorblind approach does a disservice to the child. At the same time, others criticized the move as capitulating to an ideology that sees white parents acting as “saviors.” How should parents think about their own race and culture when adopting transracially and how that may shape or affect a child?

BS: Well first off, I think we all need to acknowledge how complex of an issue this is, and in our current political climate it is easy to make this issue a polarized one. It requires a lot of nuance to fully understand the many complexities of cross-cultural families and the identity development of cross-cultural adoptees. 

However, as we’ve now listened and learned from adult adoptees, we can openly say that in adoption there is no room for a savior mentality or colorblindness. These are two separate ideologies that are indeed harmful to adoption communities. I’m not here to debate that, as the Bible affirms that we have only one savior, and his name is Jesus, and our God is a gloriously creative God who made all mankind in his image. 

So in answering your last question — how should parents think about their own race and culture when adopting? — the great part is that we all come from a culture and ethnicity that we can celebrate! Because every person who walked the Earth was made in the image of God, we can celebrate how each of us uniquely reflects the goodness of a creative God! For example, I’m Hungarian American, and one of the Hungarian dishes I grew up eating is called Turos Csusza. It’s one of my kids favorite dishes, and I tell them about my grandpa who was Hungarian American. One of our sons is half Puerto Rican, so I’ve been doing my best to master a delicious Arroz con Pollo. It’s more than just meals, but we’ve learned that if we’re going to be a multicultural family, we can’t live a monocultural life. And so we make space in our families to embrace all of our unique and God-given cultures. 

AW: How would you encourage parents who adopt transculturally to immerse their children in the culture of their birth? What does that look like practically, and why is it necessary? 

BS: Like I said above, if you’re called to be a crosscultural adoptive family, you’re called to live a multicultural life. And the great thing about this is that we get to choose where we spend our most valuable resource: time. We get to choose where our children attend schools and where our families attend church. We get to choose which sports and extracurricular organizations our families are a part of. We get to choose who we invite over for dinner and who we do life with.

For the multicultural family, I believe you must be intentional about doing life in spaces where your children can build genuine relationships with people who share their same ethnicity. In my book, I break down representation into three specific tiers, but the most important tier is ensuring that your child has racial representation in their real life and everyday community. 

AW: I doubt that when people are thinking through the adoption process, the question of haircuts comes up often. But you devote an entire chapter to the question of hair, beauty, and affirmation. What about these seemingly mundane tasks is part of the larger challenge of transcultural adoption? 

BS: I think one of the things that has stood out the most when talking with and learning from adult adoptees is how ill-equipped some of them felt to care for their hair. Many of them had stories about how they didn’t know how to take care of their hair or skin, or how their parents shamed them when they started exploring beauty practices outside of their parents’ Eurocentric beauty standards. Or worse, they had memories of their parents bemoaning how hard or horrible it was learning how to take care of their hair. 

I devoted an entire chapter to this topic because it is so much more than just hair care; it’s learning how to affirm your child’s beauty and giving them the tools to take care of themselves. Doing this is another way we can honor our children’s ethnic heritages rather than erase them. And from a biblical perspective, taking care of our bodies can be seen as a form of worship. For the adoptee, honoring their culture’s beauty standards can be a part of embracing their God-given racial identity.

AW: In the book you urge potential adoptive parents to consider the cost of adoption, and one literal cost that you bring up is the need for a specialized adoption counselor. Why do you think that counseling may be needed for the entire family, not just the child who experienced trauma? And is the fact that everyone needs counseling a reason to think we aren’t qualified to adopt? Should people have it all together perfectly before starting this process?

BS: Well first off, you should know that I think all parents should consider counseling. Every single person who walks this Earth has suffered and experienced heartache, many have experienced trauma, and I think it’s incredibly wise and healthy to pursue godly counsel. There is a stigma with counseling that it’s only for a certain type of person, and I would argue that it’s for all of us. I’ve used counseling for a number of different seasons in my life, not just the traumatic ones.

However, I do think when you’re walking through trauma or wrestling with past traumas, it’s wise and helpful for everyone involved to seek godly counsel from licensed professionals. And since adoption is birthed from trauma, it can be helpful for the whole family to get the tools they need in various seasons. 

For example, if a child joins a family and they have regular tantrums, issues with food, outbursts, etc., it is not only helpful for parents to receive counseling and learn how to parent in a trauma-informed way, but it’s helpful for the siblings in the home to also have a counselor to walk with them through witnessing angry outbursts they might not be used to. Also, some siblings of adoptees express frustration or the feeling of being left out because their parents’ attention is hyper-focused on helping a child transition into their home. Having a trauma-informed and adoption-informed counselor can be greatly beneficial for the whole family to process the changes needed to welcome a child. 

AW: I think that for most parents, they know that they won’t be perfect. They hope and plan, but seem to know that there are going to be days when they drop the ball. For parents who are honestly just struggling to know what they don’t know when it comes to transracial adoption, I think that fear of doing something wrong is probably even higher. So how did you handle it when you got something wrong?

BS: Every adoptive parent I know has gotten something wrong at some point. So if there was time, I would take every parent wrestling with shame out to coffee and would tell them this: Shame is a dirty liar, and conviction is a tool that God uses to prompt us to change. Which one are you feeling? 

You see, shame can keep us focused on our failures, whereas conviction pushes us toward repentance and change. It pushes us to do better, for our kids’ sake and the glory of God. So we don’t give a lot of time and mental space to shame. Instead, since we know that all people have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we repent of our sins and then we use conviction as a catalyst for righting our wrongs. We’re going to make mistakes as parents. We know that going into parenthood, so we can be free from the fear or shame that Satan might use to paralyze us. And we can rest in the freedom of serving a God who calls us to live lives of repentance. 

AW: Is there anything else you would recommend people do as they are either considering transcultural adoption or are trying to serve those who are? What other resources would be helpful, and what practical steps can our churches and families take?

BS: I love the phrase, “You can’t know what you don’t know.” And I think it applies to this question. One of the greatest things people who are considering cross-cultural adoption or supporting those who are adopting can do is to start their educational journey now. That’s why I wrote one chapter specifically for families and friends supporting adoptive families. If communities and prospective adoptive families start learning and listening well before a child is placed into their home, they will be better equipped to handle some of the hard aspects of adoption that their family and community will experience at some point in their journey. 

As for some practical steps our churches can take? My biggest piece of advice for churches would be if you’re going to encourage your families to step into foster care and adoption, let’s make sure our churches are equipped to serve them! Two great steps would be: (1) to make sure your Sunday school curriculum and resources for children represent and support all the children in your congregation, and (2) consider partnering with local child welfare agencies and have trauma-informed training for your volunteers that work with children. 

By / Mar 29

As the horrific war in Ukraine continues to unfold, the United States and the world are faced with a litany of challenges and concerns to address amidst the conflict. In addition to the geopolitical concerns, there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis that demands the attention of our world leaders. President Biden and allies of the U.S. have already taken a number of steps to hold President Putin accountable for his actions and to prevent the spread of this aggression. 

The United States has banned the importing of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal imports. Billions of dollars in humanitarian aid have already been sent to assist the war-torn region and support the brave Ukrainians defending their homeland. Additionally, the administration granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Ukranians who are currently in the U.S.. This was an important way for the U.S. to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine by ensuring that our Ukrainian neighbors do not have to fear deportation but can stay and work here, at least until the end of the conflict. 

On March 24, Biden announced that “the United States will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression,” and went on to state that “we’re focused on reuniting families and providing refuge to those in harm’s way.” The ERLC was grateful to see the U.S. and our allies take these important steps, and we recently sent a letter thanking the administration for these actions. In that letter, we also laid out three areas of particular concern for Southern Baptists that the Biden administration should consider and take proactive actions to address.

1. Supporting Ukrainian refugees in Europe and at home

Over 3.5 million people have already fled Ukraine and another 6.5 million are currently internally displaced within the country. It’s estimated that as many as 5 million refugees may eventually seek refuge outside of the country. Throughout Scripture, we are specifically commanded to care for refugees. While we commend Poland and other neighboring countries who have welcomed these vulnerable people in the face of this immediate crisis, we know that Western Europe and the U.S. will have a role to play as well. 

Many resettlement organizations in the U.S. are still struggling to fully rebuild after several challenging years and have been further stretched thin by the heroic work of resettling Afghan parolees. It is vital that we support these nations that have taken in refugees and invest in rebuilding our refugee resettlement program to allow many to find refuge in the U.S. in a timely fashion.

2. Protecting religious freedom for religious minorities

The belief that religious freedom is essential for all people to be able to live out their faiths fully is central for Southern Baptists. We are deeply concerned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be detrimental to the religious freedom enjoyed by Christians and other religious groups in the country. The Ukrainian church is among the most vibrant in Europe and is the primary missionary-sending country for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. 

While many of these believers have fled, many others have made the difficult decision to stay and minister to their neighbors in these difficult times. Reports of a Russian “kill list” include religious minorities, and there is strong reason to believe that those spared will face intense persecution and will be forced to practice their faith in secret. It is essential the the religious freedom of Christians and other religious minorities be kept at the forefront of any negotiations or strategies that might be considered.

3. Ensuring that intercountry adoption remains viable in Ukraine

These times of war and disruption often most severely harm those who are already vulnerable. Certainly, orphans in Ukraine fall into this category as they face imminent danger and diminishing resources. As Christians, we are specifically called to care for orphans around the world and view intercountry adoption as an important way of doing that. 

It is essential that intercountry adoption remain open and viable for these vulnerable children and for families who have already begun this process and are awaiting to be united with their children. When Russia invaded Crimea in 2014, they suspended foreign adoptions, and there’s grave concern that they could do the same if this illegal invasion of Ukraine is successful.

In these tragic times, we diligently raise these concerns to those in power and advocate on behalf of the most vulnerable in Ukraine. We also bolster this advocacy with fervent prayer. Christians must continue to seek God and pray for peace in our world, wisdom for our leaders, and protection for the vulnerable.

By / Mar 24

Chelsea Sobolik welcomes Dr. Rick Morton, the Vice President of Engagement for Lifeline Children’s Services to discuss how the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacts orphans, vulnerable children, and families in the process of adopting. They discuss how the war harms vulnerable children, and ways the church can get involved in caring for vulnerable children. 

Guest Biography

As Vice President of Engagement, Rick Morton shepherds the Lifeline Children’s Services outreach to individual, church, and organizational ministry partners as well as the ministry’s commitment to publishing resources that aid families and churches in discipling orphans and vulnerable children. Holding both the Doctor of Philosophy and Master of Arts degrees in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Rick taught on the faculty of his alma mater as well as the faculties of Bryan College and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also served local churches in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. He is an accomplished writer and sought after speaker. Most notably, Rick is the co-author of the popular Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-centered Adoption and Orphan Care and the author of KnowOrphans: Mobilizing the Church for Global Orphanology. Rick and his lovely wife Denise have been married for over 26 years, and they have 3 children, all of whom joined their family through international adoption from Ukraine. 

Resources from the Conversation

Sponsors

  • Dobbs Resource Page Prayer Guide | Right now, the Supreme Court is considering a major Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in this case urging the Supreme Court to overturn the disatrous Roe v. Wade decision. Members of our team also joined pro-life advocates on the steps of the Supreme Court when oral arguments were heard last December. As we approach the Supreme Court’s final decision in June of this year, it’s important for Christians to pray for this landmark case and begin preparing our churches to serve vulnerable women and children in a potential post-Roe world. Download our free prayer guide at ERLC.com/Dobbs. That’s ERLC.com/Dobbs.
  • Dobbs Resource Page | Many Christians are aware that an important case about abortion is being decided at the Supreme Court this June. But for many, this case is confusing and wrapped in a lot of legal jargon. The ERLC wants to help with that, so we’ve created a resource page that will help you and your church understand what this case means, what could happen if Roe v. Wade is overturned, and how your church can prepare to serve vulnerable women and children in the aftermath. To learn more about the Dobbs case and how you can pray, visit ERLC.com/Dobbs. That’s ERLC.com/Dobbs.
By / Jan 26

As I listened to one of my favorite Bible teachers speak about the doctrine of adoption, my stomach began to twist with concern. Eventually, I found the words for the unsettled feeling: “This could build a wall between my child and the gospel.” As a mom, it’s my utmost desire for my children to know and love the Lord. When we became an adoptive family, I began to notice the gospel barriers we Christians inadvertently create for adoptees.

Consider this powerful truth of the Christian faith: Spiritually, children of God gain everything and lose nothing when we are adopted into God’s family. And yet, children adopted by earthly parents, though they may experience gain, endure unspeakable losses which often include parents, family, culture, connection, and medical history. They lose, “He has your eyes!” and, “You remind me of your grandmother!” Many lose the ability to blend in with their family and may combat feeling like they are different. Some lose their original name and birth certificate. 

While those adopted into the family of God have the joy of knowing they were chosen at their worst, those adopted into earthly families may worry they were abandoned when they were most vulnerable. (Perhaps these losses give insight into a 2013 study that reported adolescent adoptees have a suicide attempt rate four times higher than their non-adopted counterparts.)

The gospel is overwhelmingly good news for these precious ones, and yet, through the way Christians teach and talk about adoption, we may be building barriers for adoptees to know and love the Lord.

Take care when teaching the doctrine of adoption

The doctrine of adoption is beautiful and stunning: We are enemies made children, forever reconciled to God through the work of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of adoption is always, always good news. But the practice of adoption is fraught. In addition to the losses adoptees face, the adoption industry itself can be a breeding ground for corruption. Because of this, we honor those who have been adopted by earthly parents when we are careful not to sloppily conflate the doctrine with the modern practice. 

Consider the way we use marriage illustrations to enhance our understanding of Christ, the groom, and the church, his bride. We understand that though husbands should love their wives as Christ loves the church, the earthly practice of marriage doesn’t offer gospel fullness. We understand the limits of this metaphor, and our teaching reflects it. After all, even the best marriage is simply a glimmer of a greater thing! And on days when marriage feels particularly lacking or difficult, we have the joy of hungering for the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. 

Adoption is often not handled with such care in the church. Imagine an adoptee, who longs for his or her birth family, hearing the gospel inextricably and fully linked with the practice of adoption. How does he or she process that natural longing for a birth family? How does he or she cope with the deep loss he or she rightly feels? Will it seem ungrateful or anti-gospel to express longing and loss?

Imagine a birth parent hearing the gospel inextricably and fully linked with the earthly practice of adoption. Will he or she feel erased from the narrative? How will he or she process who the Savior is and who the savior isn’t? What kinds of connections might he or she make and potentially internalize?

Then, think of adoptive parents. Will it feel as if their church has skipped over the loss woven into their families? Will it feel impossible for their church family to meaningfully come alongside them? Or, if they haven’t grappled with their theology, will they feel the pressure to play a savior rather than feel the freedom to cling to the Savior? If their theology is not gloriously enhanced, what kind of additional burdens will they carry themselves and place on their children?

The ones who are living the metaphor experience its limitations, and they may make connections we do not intend because we have not considered the associations. Perhaps you can talk to an adoptee, birth parent, or an adoptive parent in your church and begin a thoughtful conversation about the impact the practice of adoption has had on them and offer support that honors the glorious truth of the doctrine of adoption — we are brothers and sisters in Christ forever.

Take care when talking about adoption

Similarly, when we talk about adoption thoughtlessly, we can create barriers to the gospel if we’re not careful with both our celebration and our storytelling.

When we offer unexamined celebration — about the 6-year-old adopted from overseas, the infant adopted domestically, or the teen given a new last name, for example — without considering the nuance and complexity of such events, we are in danger of distorting the beauty of the gospel. Though our default posture should be to celebrate when a family grows, we should do this with sober-minded wisdom, thoughtful gentleness, and a desire to honor everyone involved. After all, what had to be cut short before this family grew? 

God calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn (Rom. 12:15) But what if we have overlooked mourners? And what if our actions have unintentionally communicated to mourners that they should be rejoicing instead?

In the same way, when we aren’t thoughtful with our storytelling, adoptive parents can be viewed with extra sparkle while birth parents are deleted from the narrative or treated like misunderstood background characters. Understandably, the adoptee in the middle may feel profoundly confused about how to react, worry his or her reactions are not welcomed, and feel overwhelmed or exposed to have his or her story broadcast. 

Instead, we should let adoptees take the lead in the storytelling. If they are young, we should honor them by protecting the details of their story as best we can and by telling them God’s story as often as we can, with humility and compassion.

How can we take care?

Rather than shiny illustrations, we can offer a carefully-told gospel of hope, one that considers the loss and longings an adoptee may experience and seeks to point to the One who is crafting a forever family no one can take, in a home no one can break.

Rather than the unexamined celebration we may have inadvertently offered in the past, we can rejoice with those who rejoice without failing to mourn with those who mourn.

We can embody the gospel to adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families, offering them eyes that seek to truly see, a heart that carefully considers, a mouth that is slow to speak their stories, and ears that are willing to hear their story as it is, even if it’s uncomfortable.

In a perfect world, a parent would never have to place his or her child for adoption, and a child would never have to wonder what his or her parents look like. As we encounter those involved in an adoption story, may we be tender to the range of emotions they may be experiencing. May the family of faith see and honor them by welcoming their weeping, rejoicing, and questioning. And may we hold out the promise that one day, our Father will wipe away every tear, pain will be no more, and togetherness will be everywhere those in Christ look (Rev. 22). 

By / Nov 18

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve begun a conversation around adoption with, “Adoption is complex.” And to be honest, the further we have progressed in our journey as an adoptive family, I’ve come to realize how much we still must learn. And yet, although I’ve studied and read many books on adoption, I keep coming back to this question: How does Scripture influence the adoption practices within our family?

So today, I want to share three verses I’ve been meditating on that I believe correlate with good adoption practices.

Stay away from “savior” mentality and language

Philippians 2:3-4 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

It is no secret that Christians are called to serve their communities, those in the margins, and those without families (specifically orphans and widows). These practices and loving our neighbor are nonnegotiables for the Christian life. However, our service should not center us as the heroes in our stories, nor should our own interests be disguised as “service” to others. Rather, in humility, we value others and their needs above ourselves.

The same can be said for adoptive families. There are many families who are motivated to adopt because of their faith, and yet we should never allow a savior mentality to seep in. Adoptive parents and social workers are not heroes. We are not our children’s saviors. Our world only needs one savior, and his name is Jesus. And so we actively fight against the savior narrative not only in adoption, but in any ministry where we’re serving others. And in adoption, we always remember that the goal is to find a safe and loving family for every child. Adoption doesn’t exist to serve families; it exists to meet the needs of children. 

Embrace a both/and life

Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

One of the most helpful things you can do as an adoptive family is to not sugarcoat or ignore the hard parts of your family’s or child’s story. The truth is, as many have stated, adoption is birthed from brokenness. It simply would not exist without it. So naively saying that “adoption is beautiful” without acknowledging that heartache and trauma that caused it, isn’t looking at the whole picture. 

As believers, we don’t have to sugarcoat the brokenness in our world because we know that sin, heartache, and brokenness exist; this is why our world so desperately needs a Savior. We can make space for the pain and heartache in our stories because we trust and know the One who will one day right every wrong. 

For the adoptive family, this means we must embrace the both/and nature of our families. We grieve with those who grieve, and we rejoice with those who rejoice. Sure, we celebrate that a child, who otherwise wouldn’t, now has a family. But we also grieve the circumstances that led up to their removal from their first families. I regularly grieve for our children’s birth mothers and how they miss out on the daily joys of seeing just how awesome these kids are. At the same time, I am unbelievably grateful that I get to be the one who kisses our kids boo-boo’s and tucks them in bed at night. One truth doesn’t negate or ignore the other. They both exist in every adoptive family, and it’s a tension that shouldn’t be ignored. Instead, we should hold it with great care and reliance on God.

Honor all people in the adoption triad

1 Peter 2:17: “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”

One way you can ensure that you’re making room for both the hard and good in adoption is to honor and respect all members of the adoption triad. We do this by seeing every person with kingdom eyes. Regardless of how or why our children were removed from their first families, we can honor them by only speaking truthfully and with honor and respect. We love them because God loves them. We pray and believe and hope redemption over them, because we are a people who have tasted and seen the goodness of God.

Another way we honor them is by listening to a wide variety of voices from the adoption triad. This means that regardless of your placement in the adoption triad, you should be respectfully listening to and learning from other members. For adoptive parents, this means we’re learning from both adoptees and first families. And rather than criticizing their perspectives for being different from ours, we welcome their stories as opportunities to look at adoption from a different perspective. 

Like I said above, adoption is complex. And yet, it is one of many ways that God provides families for children. So, we allow his Word to guide us. And for those of us who are called to it, we take the time to learn and grow so we can better love and serve our children for the glory of God. May these verses bless your family this National Adoption Awareness Month.