Although adoption is very near and dear to my heart, I know that not everyone is called to adopt. I do believe though, that all Christians are called to love the fatherless. God describes Himself as a “Father to the fatherless” and a has a lot to say about how we should treat orphans and vulnerable children among us. We are told to care for, seek justice for, or defend the cause of the orphan. That includes kids in foster care.
I knew that verses like James 1:27 tell us to look after orphans, so out of curiosity I looked up the word translated “orphan” to see what it meant. My handy concordance gave the definition “bereaved- comfortless, fatherless”. So this list is not specifically limited to kids that have lost both parents, but includes ideas for loving kids in foster care or similar situations.
I would be the first to tell you that adoption is not for everyone. Paul describes the church as a “body” having “many parts” and different gifts and responsibilities. I think this is definitely the case with caring for the fatherless. If you feel a burden for caring for the orphan or the fatherless but know you are not called to adopt, don’t be discouraged.
Wherever there is a great need, there is great opportunity to make a difference!
So without further ado, here is a non-exhaustive list to get your creative juices flowing:
1. Host an orphan.
There are programs such as Project 143 that give families the opportunity to host an orphan from another country for a few weeks during the summer or Christmas holiday. I was skeptical about it, until we jumped in with both feet and did it ourselves. It was an emotional summer, but we met a young lady who will forever have a special place in our hearts. (She now also has a special place in a family of her own here in the states!)
2. Hold a school supply drive for foster kids in your community.
3. Become a respite family for a foster family.
Maybe you aren’t ready or able to handle the 24/7 commitment of being a foster parent, but can you handle one weekend a month? Babysitting for one weekend could make the difference for a family trying to stand in the gap for foster kids. Even if you are done raising your own kids- you could make a difference here. Do you have fond memories of spending the night at your grandparents’ house? Maybe you could provide that memory for a foster kid.
4. Volunteer as a tutor.
Imagine going home every day to conditions so bad that you were eventually taken out the home. How well do you think you would be doing on your homework? Maybe you aren’t ready for parenting but you are pretty good at math. Being a tutor is a great way to invest in a child. You can contact your local DFACS (Department of Family and Children’s Services) or DHR (Department of Human Resources). They are usually always looking for volunteers.
5. Like to sew?
Link up with a group that makes tote bags for foster kids. I’ve heard so many stories about kids being moved from house to house with only a black trash bags to hold their things. Not acceptable. Other ideas include weighted blankets for young children who have experienced trauma or “lovey” blankets for toddlers.
6. Sponsor a child.
Since we are lucky enough to live in America, our dollars can make a huge impact in other areas where there is extreme poverty (financially and spiritually). You can sponsor a child through programs that are not only provide them with an education, medical care, and other basic needs; but also teach them the Gospel. Hope and Help International is one doing incredible work.
7. Love on a foster parent.
Offer to drive the kids to an appointment or babysit so they can have a date night. Whatever. They are carrying a lot of weight on their shoulders (and marriages). These are the people standing in the gap, and they aren’t babysitting- they are engaged in spiritual warfare. So cook them a casserole. At least, that is what they do here in the south to show love. You do it however you want. Just love on them!
8. Donate items to your local children’s homes.
Most publish a needs list on their websites.
9. Support someone’s adoption.
While adopting from foster care is basically free, adopting internationally is very expensive! Private domestic adoption can also be expensive. Many couples hold fundraisers, sell t-shirts, or do other fundraisers.
10. Throw a birthday party.
Are you a Pinterest kind of gal who loves to decorate and plan fun things? Some children’s homes are looking for people willing to come throw birthday parties. Or Valentine’s parties. Or Christmas parties. I can’t really think of a party kids don’t like.
11. Buy Christmas gifts.
Some children’s homes will have lists available with names and ages so you can buy gifts for specific children.
12. Donate practical needs.
Foster parents often get calls and have no time to plan. While the state does provide money for necessities, they may not have things they immediately need and might need an infant seat, diapers, a certain size clothing, etc.
13. Start a Foster Care ministry in your church (or support an existing one).
If your church isn’t involved in any way, pray and talk to your leaders about what you might be called to do. If there is already a ministry locally, why reinvent the wheel? Organizations like Promise 686 can help. There are similar ministries in other parts of the country.
Some of you reading this having a burden for these children because you are supposed to plug in another way, but others are probably just supposed to stop letting fear hold you back and actually foster. I don’t know which is which. You probably already do.
15. Pray for them.
Ok, this one should probably be #1-20 and the rest should probably be somewhere after that. No one is exempt from this one.
16. Bring them to VBS.
17. Become a mentor and invest your time.
Just spend time with them. Whatever you do well, let them do it with you. Plant a garden, play basketball, read books, whatever. Help them apply for FAFSA, write a resume, or invest in their future after high school in some way.
18. Organize an adoption fundraiser (for international adoption).
While adopting from foster care is free, adopting internationally is usually very expensive (as is private domestic adoption).
19. Support your local Pregnancy Resource Center.
Ok, I know what you are thinking. This doesn’t sound like orphan care. Oh, contraire, my friend. If ever there was a time “the fatherless” needed someone to stand in the gap for them, it is when a vulnerable young mother is considering ending that child’s life because she is overwhelmed by XYZ. These centers are busy being the hands and feet of Jesus to vulnerable young children AND their mother.
20. Look around you.
At the risk of sounding vague, statistically speaking I think it is safe to assume there are hurting children all around you. They are probably in your neighborhood, your kids’ schools, your churches, and certainly in your communities. With eyes wide open and a prayerful heart, I would be willing to bet God will show you exactly what you can do to make a difference. I think everyone should jump in and start somewhere, but nothing will ever replace those Divine encounters God puts in our path when we are truly open to what He wants us to see. Hence, why #15 could have really been #1-20.
What about you? What ways have you found to plug in to this great need? Are you a foster parent with more ideas? Leave me a comment- I would love to hear them!