Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.
Church and State Working Together for Orphans
There are an estimated 163 million orphans worldwide. In the United States alone there are over 500,000 children currently in foster care. More than 120,000 of these children are “permanent wards of the state” that do not have the hope of ever returning to their biological families due to severe abuse or neglect. These children are legal orphans. They are waiting for families to adopt them. But the reality is that most of these children will turn eighteen and “age out” of the system, living life alone rather than be adopted.
One source of hope for these children is a new movement of churches that is starting orphan/adoption ministries. In these ministries a small group of volunteers raises awareness in their local church congregation for the needs of orphans, and brings children in their own local areas that need parents to the attention of other members of their churches. In this way, churches are calling on families and equipping them to respond to the needs of these most vulnerable of all children by taking the significant risks involved in an adoption.
One noticeable leader in this movement is Focus on the Family, under the leadership of their new President, Jim Daly. Focus calls its campaign “Wait No More.” Daly himself became an orphan in California before the age of 12 and lived in the foster care system. He has become a vocal advocate for today’s orphans. Daly’s leadership, along with that of Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church and the Catalyst leadership training organization, lies at the root of this new movement of church-inspired adoptions.
The promise of this new movement can be seen in what has happened in the state of Colorado in recent years. Churches, para-church organizations, adoption agencies, Focus on the Family and the Colorado Department of Human Services have collaborated to raise up hundreds of new adoptive families. The result has been to reduce the number of children waiting for adoption from nearly 800 in late 2008 to only 365 in early 2010. The dream—and it looks like a dream that can be practically realized—is for Colorado to become the first state in US history to reach “virtual zero,” with no children waiting to be adopted.
While strife, conflict and lawsuits often grab the headlines when it comes to the relationship between church and state, Colorado offers a great example of church, state, and families working together well in the best interest of children.
The CPJ Guideline on Political Community suggests that “a sound and healthy republic is one in which government recognizes and protects by law the independent, non-political responsibilities that belong to the people – rather than trying to direct the exercise of all responsibilities and to satisfy all needs.” The State of Colorado is giving public legal recognition to the proper roles of churches and families in addressing adoption wait times for the common good.
Churches, religious charities and families in Colorado are heeding the biblical call to care for orphans—a call mentioned more than fifty times throughout the Christian Scriptures. Consider the possibilities this example allows us to imagine: with approximately 350,000 evangelical churches in the United States and approximately 120,000 children in need of adoption, if just one out of every three of these churches could find just one family to adopt just one child this year, the list of children waiting for adoption in America now could be reduced to zero.
Will churches across America proclaim the biblical call to care for orphans with fresh vigor? Will families respond on a scale similar to what we are seeing in Colorado? Will other state governments open up room for churches and families to take on this challenge, without prejudice against their religious motivations? Let us pray they do!
Vice-President, Marketing & Communications
Bethany Christian Services
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Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”