What is Orphan Sunday?
Orphan Sunday is the second Sunday of November. It's a day that the church is supposed to stand for the orphan and remember that God commanded us to care for those in need. Now, before you stop reading because I said "the church," please know that I have very mixed feelings about that. The church clearly is not doing enough to care for orphans and I hate the implication that only Christians care about orphans and foster children. That certainly is not true. Plenty of people are involved in orphan care and foster care without believing in God and plenty of Christians are not involved at all. This blog post is not about Christians or the church. It's about helping kids in need of families!!!
What is the Orphan Crisis?
Here are some stats that I took from The Orphan Foundation. Statistics can be twisted and there is a lot of discussion about how many orphans there really are. How many of those are true orphans and how many are social orphans? However, no matter how you look at it, the stats aren't good and the futures of children without families are bleak.
*There are 143,000,000 orphans in the world.
*There are an additional 20,000,000 “displaced children” in the world.
*The combined count of these categories makes the orphan
population the 7th largest nation on the planet – slightly larger than
the population of Russia.
*In Eastern Europe, less than 50% of the orphan population will live
to see their 20th birthdays.
*In Eastern Europe, of the orphans that survive their 20th birthdays,
50% will end up in organized crime, drugs, or prostitution.
*In Africa, homeless children are armed and used for war.
*In Africa, there is a concerted effort to extend children’s lives
beyond 5 years of age.
*In the US, 25,000 children will leave the foster care system without
*25% of these foster children become homeless.
*56% of these emancipated foster care children enter the
*27% of the emancipated male children in foster care end up in jail.
*30% of the emancipated females in foster care experience early
*30,000 children in foster care are simply dropped from state care
because they have run away.
*In the US, most young adults ages 18 – 24 still live at home with
their parents, while approximately 25,000 children are annually
released at age 18 from the foster care system without families to
Can we agree that there is a crisis both domestically and internationally? If you still need some visual proof, check out my friend's facebook page. She just brought home a 10 pound, 7 year old! 10 pounds!! At 7!!! We have a problem!
I'm just not in a position to adopt or foster. What can I do to help?
Help foster children/families:
*Call your local agency and ask what you can do to help. They may need someone to help with paperwork. (Most caseworkers are overworked and underpaid. They'd probably love to have someone help them out with office tasks.) They may need Christmas gifts or clothes. They might need someone to go into a group home and give the kids good hair cuts. You'll never know what they need if you don't ask.
*Check in with a foster family if you know one. See what you can do to help them out. Offer to bring them dinner when a new child moves in. Offer to take their other kids out for a day/evening so they can spend some time with the new child. Offer to collect clothes or supplies for their new child.
*Offer to teach an older foster child a skill or trade. The fate of foster children who age out of the system are not good. Give them a leg up and maybe a job!
*Donate. The Dave Thomas Foundation is probably the most well know organization that helps foster children become part of a permanent family. Together We Rise provides duffle bags to children in foster care so they don't have to move their meager possessions in garbage bags. I'm sure there are many others as well.
Help orphanages: (Most of my examples come from Foundation For His Ministry in Mexico since I used to work for them and know that they are reputable. I'm sure you can google and find similar programs in orphanages all over the world.)
*Helping orphanages can be tricky. There are lots of mixed feelings about the benefits/harm that comes from outsiders visiting orphanages. While we all want to help and "love on" children, that may not be the best way to help. (That's another whole post for another day.) If you do decide to visit an orphanage, please make sure you do so with a reputable organization that works in the area and knows the culture. There are also lots of opportunities to use the skills you possess to support those who are permanently working in an orphanage. Teams of skilled laborers, medical professionals and other skills are often accepted for specific projects.
*You can also help orphanages financially.
*Sponsor a child.
*Sponsor a permanent staff member.
*Support a specific project.
*Consider finding an Alternative Giving program that allows you to make donations to charities instead of purchasing Christmas presents.
*Consider having a contest at your child's school, children's church program, or club to raise funds for an orphanage.
*Through Reece's Rainbow, it's possible to help specific orphans. RR raises grants for waiting children who are seeking their families. The cost of adoption is huge. Sometimes, knowing that some of the money has already been raised will help a family step forward and take the leap of faith to adopt. Right now I'm working to raise Andre's adoption grant to lighten the financial burden for his future family. Some adoption agencies have similar programs.
Help adopting families:
*Adoption is incredibly expensive. You can make tax-deductible donations to individual adopting families through Reece's Rainbow, AdoptTogether and several other organizations.There are also a lot of adoption fundraisers on sites like GoFundMe but those families aren't verified and donations aren't tax deductible.
*Support family fund raisers. If you can't afford to support them, share them. You never know who might be looking to buy some hand knit scarves or Avon.
*If you want to make sure that your money is going to carefully vetted families, donate to a reputable grant organization like Show Hope.
*Call an adopting family and check in. The process is hard and exhausting and sometimes isolating. Call and let them know you were thinking about them and their child.
Help prevent children from becoming social orphans: (Social orphans are those that have one or more living parents who are not involved in their care. Usually this is due to extreme poverty, disability or addiction.) Adoption is a plan B for children. It is born of loss and should be a last resort. Above all, we should be working to keep children with their biological families and their culture if at all possible. Here are some organizations that are working to do that. I'm sure there are many more.
Eternal Anchor - Working in Baja California Mexico. They have established a day care/school for children with disabilities. This gives their families training and allows the children to continue to live with their biological families instead of being placed in a children's home or orphanage.
Mission to Ukraine - Working in Ukraine. They work with families of children with disabilities. They provide training and education to help families raise their children with disabilities. They also provide summer camp experiences to kids.
Compassion International - Compassion works all over the world. They work through a sponsorship model but it's so much more. They work with the entire family and community to affect long term change. Their goal is to develop leaders in their own community and culture,
What can you do to help? Everyone should consider opening their home to a child in need. If you can't open your home, at least consider opening your heart and helping somehow. This problem isn't going away. It's in our backyards and it's around the world. What will you do to help?
If you are interested in adoption, foster care, or Safe Families, please let me know and I will hook you up with resources, families, and agencies. I love to talk about adoption. Encouraging and helping families in their journey is one of my favorite things to do.