September 6, 2014
Most likely it is not any of the children at the birthday party. She wasn’t invited. How can a child learn how to make friends when she doesn’t stay in one place long enough?1
It’s probably not the kid on the soccer team. How can a child learn how to play a sport when he doesn’t have a dad who will kick a ball with him? A mom who will drive him to practice every week?
But maybe it’s the young girl who sits next to your daughter at school. The girl with the slumped shoulders who never makes eye contact. The one who shuffles her feet a little bit when she walks, a result of growing up with shoes that never fit quite right. Or the one who, when the teacher asks her to read out loud and she stumbles over the words, gets teased and laughed at by the other students.2
Perhaps it’s the little boy you see when you go to the store. The boy who keeps touching everything within his reach, and who has a tantrum when he hears the word “no.” Or the one who bats his eyelashes at everyone he meets, knowing that they will inevitably say, “Ah, he is so cute!”
It could be the kid on the swings at the park. Or the one in the Sunday School class that you teach every week. Or the one who visited Vacation Bible School last summer.
They are all around you, and yet they remain invisible. They are foster children in our own community – in our schools and neighborhoods and playgrounds - who are waiting to be adopted. They are our country’s invisible orphans.
You may not recognize them when you see them, but there are more than 100,000 foster children in the United States who, after years of facing the uncertainty of the foster care system, are finally free for adoption.3 All parental rights have been terminated, and they are legally eligible to become a permanent part of a family who will love them. And yet they wait. For years they wait, wondering why there is no one who will love them.4 And with each passing year they lose a little more hope. Their hearts, after being broken so many times, become hardened. They become closer and closer to becoming an adult, aging out of the system, and facing a frightening future. Alone.5
How will they ever know about the love of God unless you tell them? How will they ever experience true hope, lasting peace, and overflowing joy, unless you show them? How will they ever have an opportunity to find eternal life unless you pray with them?6
It’s tempting to think, We already have enough children of our own. We’ve decided that we don’t want to have any more. Our family is big enough, thank you very much. Instead, perhaps you could begin to think, Thank you Lord for blessing us with a strong and vibrant family. How can we use our home to reach out to a child who is all alone? How can the love in our family extend to a hurting child who needs to experience Your healing?
Or maybe you think, Adoption is for rich people who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars. Who have weeks and weeks to spend in a country far away. We’re not like that. Our income is limited and we live humbly, sometimes trusting God to meet our next need. True – international adoption can be outrageously expensive. But adopting a child from the foster care system in your own state is . . . wait for it . . . free! There may be small court fee and some attorney fees, as well as a minimal fee for a homestudy. But in most cases, if you use a state social services agency, those fees will be reimbursed once the adoption is final. Don’t let the fear of enormous expenses prevent you from sharing your love with a child. Your lack of finances should never be the reason for a child to remain an orphan.
You’ve probably heard the horror stories. You may have seen the news. You say, Those foster kids have so many behavioral problems! So many difficult issues that we might not be able to handle! It’s possible. Even likely. It’s likely that a child who has been abandoned is reluctant to trust. It's likely that a child who has been neglected has health problems, learning disabilities, and developmental delays. It’s likely that a child who has been abused does not like to be touched, or has learned how to touch in inappropriate ways. It’s likely that a child who has grown up without a loving parent has never learned how to respect an adult. Is any of that his fault? Was he the one who chose the circumstances into which he was born? In which he was raised? Of course not.
It may not be easy to welcome such a child into your family. There may be slammed doors, tears and curse-filled outbursts. There may be days and long nights that the only prayer you can cry out to the Lord is, Please help me! But you are not alone. There are other adoptive families who can be a source of wisdom and encouragement. There are many skilled professionals and reputable agencies available to offer post-adoption resources and support. And ultimately, most importantly, the Lord is always a whisper away, working in ways you cannot see, transforming lives in miraculous ways.
Perhaps it is time to look past the familiar life that you have, and ask, instead, what God is asking you to do.7 To look past the fear. To look past a child’s external behavior, the exhausting work that will be required in correcting and training, and see, instead, his wounded heart that only God’s love, shining through you, can heal. To look past who he is today, and can envision his God-given potential.
Could you be the one?
Maybe you will be the one whose love breaks the generational cycle of absent fathers, broken families, and unhealthy relationships. The one who will support and encourage, counsel and guide. The one who will restore the hope that this child had forgotten existed. The only one who will ever pray for this child. The one who will have the great privilege of witnessing God’s miraculous work of restoring this child’s life.
It could be that you will be the one who attends his college graduation, his eyes searching for you in the crowd. He knows that you are his biggest fan, and that he never could have achieved this important accomplishment without your unwavering support.8 It could be that you are the one who helps him move into his first apartment, wondering how long it will be before he calls you to ask how to repair a broken appliance. The one whose home is the only place he wants to visit for the holidays. To visit now that he has a family of his own - his wife and children – your sweet grandchildren.
Perhaps you will be the one to walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. The first one she calls when she becomes a mother herself. The one who calls her after hearing your doctor’s grim diagnosis, knowing that she will drop everything to be with you. To cry with you. You know that she is your biggest fan. Perhaps she will be the one to hold your hand when you take your last breath.
And then you will thank God again and again for opening your eyes.
For allowing you to see the plight of the little ones all around you.
For leading you to the one who is now called My Child.
For giving you the vision to see, not who he is now, but who he could one day become.
For choosing you, of all the people in the world, to be his family.
For realizing, with deep gratitude, that never again will he be an invisible orphan.
Explore the Adopt US Kids database, which shows children in foster care who are available for adoption. Who, even today, are waiting for permanent, loving homes.
All statistics below are from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption. www.caainstitute.org
1. Roughly 55% of foster children have had three or more placements.
2. About 33% of foster children have changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally.
3. There are 101,666 foster children in the United States who are eligible for adoption.
4. Foster children who are legally free for adoption will wait an average of 3 years in the foster care system before being adopted.
5. In 2012, over 23,000 youth aged out of the U.S. foster care system without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed. Nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED. Nearly 40% had been homeless, nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, and only 48% were employed.
6. “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” - Romans 10:14 (NLT)
7. There are over 50 verses in the Bible that let us know how important fatherless children are to our Heavenly Father! Here is one: “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” – Psalm 82:3-4. See more at: http://orphancareresources.org/resource/resource/orphans-bible
8. A mere 6% of foster children finish a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care.