By / Nov 18

My wife, Alli, and I found our seats in a dimly lit conference room, awaiting the presentation to begin. We were giddy with excitement. This training was our first big step toward becoming foster parents. We had talked and prayed about it, but this was our moment to go public with our intent.

The trainer entered the room, connected her laptop to a projector and launched into her presentation. Over the next three long hours, the trainer lamented the challenges with the foster care system, expounded on the worst-case scenarios for families, and crassly described the average costs incurred by adoptive and foster families. Our energy sunk with each passing minute. What had felt monumental now felt lifeless.

Our foster care journey hit a major detour that night. We came into that training with fervor to serve our city’s most vulnerable children. We left uncertain about ourselves and about the system we hoped to work within.

The adoption organization hosting the training has noble ideals. It’s focused on helping vulnerable children find safe homes. But, this organization and its staff were not immersed and enlivened by these ideals. The result was a sterile, negative and patronizing culture that was passed on to those of us in the room.

This organization is a failing institution. It is an institution lacking a coherent vision. As a result, potential foster and adoptive families—and ultimately, our city’s vulnerable children, are suffering.

Philosopher Jamie Smith describes institutions simply as “spheres of action.” Author Andy Crouch suggests the Christian failure to understand the importance of institutions has hurt the church “more than most groups.” American Christians, Crouch says, are often more smitten by big personalities that lead short-lasting movements, rather than doing the often unglamorous work of building institutions that last.

What’s clear is the health of our society is built on the health of our institutions. Institutions shape us; from the God-given institutions like the church and the family to the institutions all around us—our schools, government agencies, recreation centers, businesses and nonprofits.

A few months after our deflating training experience, we signed up for an introductory training with Project 1:27. We walked into a church meeting room nervous about what we might hear. We held onto hope that foster care might be part of our story, but our confidence waned.

As soon as the trainer opened her mouth, though, we knew this session would be different. She shared vulnerably about her own calling to foster care. She described the joys and challenges of being an adoptive mom. She shared how God’s heart for children explodes off the pages of our Scriptures. And she prayed with us.

Just minutes into the training, Alli and I looked at one another, tears glistening in both of our eyes. This was what we were about. These were the reasons we wanted to open our hearts and home to vulnerable children.

Project 1:27 is an institution having a huge impact on families and children in Colorado and now across the country. It’s an organization that understands the magnitude of work to be done and accomplishes this work with passion and grace. Today, Project 1:27 is part of a network of churches, families and nonprofits that have helped to dramatically decrease the number of children awaiting loving homes in Colorado.

“Our God is a God to the fatherless by placing the lonely in families,” said Robert Gelinas, founder of Project 1:27. “The way God cares for the orphans of the world is by placing them in the empty room in our house, the extra seat in our minivans, the extra chair at our dinner table.”

When Gelinas, pastor at Colorado Community Church, began sharing the story of his story of adoption with his church, a movement began to grow. But he knew the movement would stop with sermons, and only with the people in his church, if he did not build an organization to sustain and grow the mission he cared so deeply about.

And so he planted an institution, a “sphere of action,” that would inspire and train families from churches across the country on how to navigate the complex foster care system of government agencies, social workers and legal systems. To do the important work of finding safe homes for vulnerable children, Gelinas looked longterm. He built an institution.

That night with Project 1:27—a remarkable institution—accelerated and enlivened our foster care journey. That journey took another significant step forward just this month, when we welcomed two sweet sisters into our home for a short-term foster care placement.

Institutions reinforce or repudiate our values. They develop or diminish the dignity of people living in our society. They can impair or allow us to accomplish more together than we could ever do alone. The sickness of one adoption agency almost stifled us, while the health of another led us to inviting two scared little girls into our home. And, because of Project 1:27, we’re confident we’re only just getting started.

By / Jun 18

As the apostle Paul noted in Ephesians, the command to honor your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise. Children are called to obey their parents so “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

Unfortunately, we now live in a land where half of parents—fathers—are rarely shown the honor due their role. While mothers are still rightly considered essential, fathers are viewed by our society as optional. The result of this demotion of fatherhood has lead not only to the destruction of our individual but to the weakening of our cultural foundations.

Christians, of course, should not need to be told the importance of fatherhood. The Bible is filled with dozens of passages on the significance of fathers and the responsibilities of fatherhood. But when making that case to a secular culture it can be helpful to be armed with empirical evidence of the reasons why fathers are essential to the well being of their children.

Here are 25 reasons based on social science studies that reveal the effects fathers—or their absence—have on children:

1. Fathers’ engagement in their children’s activities is linked to higher academic performance. (Source)

2. Among adolescent boys, those who receive more parenting from their fathers are less likely to exhibit anti-social and delinquent behaviors. (Source)

3. Among adolescent girls, those who have a strong relationship with their fathers are less likely to report experiencing depression. (Source)

4. Close father-adolescent bonds protect against the negative influence of peer drug use. (Source)

5. Adolescent girls who have a close relationship with their fathers are more likely to delay sexual activity. (Source)

6. Adolescent girls whose fathers were present during their childhood are less likely to become pregnant. (Source)

7. Adolescent males who report a close relationship with their fathers are more likely to anticipate having a stable marriage in the future. (Source)

8. On average, adolescents who spent time with fathers doing leisure activities, such as playing games, talking, visiting friends, and engaging in outdoor or athletic activities, reported being more engaged in and enjoying the activities. (Source)

9. Adolescents who spend more mealtimes with fathers together reported, on average, feeling more cheerful, happy, and good about themselves; less angry, irritated, frustrated; and less stressed. (Source)

10. Teens who experienced changes in their fathers’ presence in the home during early childhood reported, on average, lower grades. (Source)

11. Compared with peers who did not live in intact families, adults who had lived their childhood with both biological parents were more likely to agree that it is better to marry, that marriage is for a lifetime, and that children are better off with their biological parents. They are also more likely to disapprove of divorce and less likely to have children outside marriage. (Source)

12. Individuals who experienced parental absence in their childhood were more likely to have never married, less likely to be in an intact marriage, and more likely to be divorced. (Source)

13. For male adolescents, each change in parental marital status (e.g., divorce, remarriage, separation, etc.) between age six and 11 increased the males’ odds of engaging in sexual intercourse by 37 percent. (Source)

14. For female adolescents, the percentage of time from birth to age 11 spent in a single-parent home was related to age at first sexual intercourse. For each additional year spent in a single parent household, the likelihood that females would engage in sexual intercourse during adolescence increased by roughly 8 percent. (Source)

15. When compared to adolescent males that lived with both biological parents at age 14, those living with a single mother at age 14 had almost twice the odds of ever having impregnated a girl. (Source)

16. African-American boys who grow up in an intact home headed by their biological parents are less likely to end up delinquent than their peers growing up in a home without a father (Source)

17. Young African American men and women are significantly more likely to graduate from college if they hail from an intact biological family, compared to single-mother homes. (Source)

18. College-age women who did not have good relationships with their fathers have been found to have lower than normal cortisol levels, which are associated with be overly sensitive and overly reactive when confronted with stress. The low cortisol daughters were more likely than the higher cortisol daughters (who had the better relationships with their dads) to describe their relationships with men in stressful terms of rejection, unpredictability or coercion. (Source)

19. Although father absence does not seem to have consistent effects on children’s cognitive test scores, there is consistent evidence that father absence lowers children’s educational attainment and decreases the likelihood that they will graduate from high school. (Source)

20. Studies on substance abuse have found that father absence affects their children’s likelihood of smoking cigarettes and using drugs and alcohol. (Source)

21. Adolescents who reported having closer relationships with their fathers tended to report lower levels of psychological distress (e.g., how often they feel sad, tense, lonely, excited, happy) compared to peers who reported being less close with their fathers, controlling for family structure, adolescents’ age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income, and relationships with their mothers. (Source)

22. Adolescents who reported having more positive relationships with their fathers were less likely to be arrested, sell drugs, attack another individual, carry a handgun, belong to a gang, damage or destroy property, steal, run away, or receive/ possess/sell stolen property compared to peers who reported having less positive relationships with their fathers.  (Source)

23. Children whose fathers who showed more involvement with them at age seven (that is, more outings with fathers, more frequently read to by fathers, more interest shown by fathers in their education) tended to have higher levels of educational attainment as young adults than peers whose fathers showed less involvement early on. (Source)

24. Throughout childhood (from birth, infancy to age four, age five to nine, age 10 to 14, and age 15 to 17), growing up without a father was associated with higher odds of incarceration later in life, even after controlling for mother’s education, whether or not mother gave birth as a teen, race, urban and regional residence, neighborhood socioeconomic status, family income, family size, and age. Individuals who grew up in households without ever experiencing the presence of a father tended to have the highest odds of incarceration. (Source)

25. Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44 percent of children in mother-only families. (Source)

Image source: Wikipedia