In our family we have “Gotcha Day” celebrations for our two adopted children. It’s a special day each year when we celebrate and relive the story of bringing home a baby from Russia to become a part of our family. We have fun with cake and a special meal then sit together and go through the photo album. We remember all the special events surrounding the adoption and becoming a new family.
I believe our Gotcha Day celebrations are a chance for our children to begin to frame their adoption stories in the light of our love and God’s grace. All too often adoption is framed by the sadness of a child being unwanted, not adequately cared for, or tragically orphaned. However, I see adoption as an opportunity to celebrate family, belonging and love, to even celebrate my own adoption into God’s family.
In the international context fostering and in-country adoption is growing, replacing institutional care and group homes as the go-to strategy. But people often ask me, can a poor family in a developing country take good care of orphaned child? Are they able to give a child a stable and loving environment?
The answer is absolutely ‘YES’. With the rightly framed basis for adoption and some practical support even the poorest families can foster, become guardians or even adopt a child successfully.
Pastor Daniel Kaggwa is from Kampala, Uganda. His church had 15 orphans in a group home when Pastor Daniel began preaching a sermon series on God’s adoption of His followers into the family of God. Pastor Daniel was so struck by the biblical basis for adoption he took a huge risk. After several weeks of studying and preaching through the scriptures he told his congregation there were 15 orphans from their church who needed to feel a part of God’s family. He asked families who felt called by God to foster or adopt a child to take them into their homes. With support and supervision from professional caregivers at the church, all those children are thriving and have successfully finished school.
While certainly not a model of child placement, the pastor saw a better way, and took steps to do what was harder. Helping orphans find local families went against the conventional model of starting an orphanage in Africa. Now, Pastor Daniel is applying best practices of placement and continuing care for adopted children.
In Zambia, 26 of Bright Hope’s partner churches in one of the poorest parts of Africa taught the Biblical basis for adoption. As a result 700 guardian families embraced over 1000 AIDS orphans. Teaching the scriptural basis of adoption caused the truth of every Christian’s adoption into God’s family to became a reality, which in turn fostered a love and outreach to children in need of a caring human family.
But for the poorest regions of a world fostering or adopting a child brings extra burdens on the guardian or adoptive family. Can a family survive or even thrive while taking care of additional children?
I sat in a hut in Zambian village visiting a very poor family who had decided to become the guardians of one needy child from their village. Because they made that decision, each day the orphaned child would go to the church and be given eggs to bring home for the family. The church was assisting the fostering families with additional food so all the family was blessed by the orphaned child’s presence. The church also covered school fees and uniform costs for the orphaned child.
Soon a micro-loan program, provided by Bright Hope offered the parents of that fostering family a chance to receive a micro-loan and training on how to use that loan to increase their income.
Over the next two years, the average family who fostered a child in that village doubled their income because of the micro-loan program. Education rates went up, health rates increased, school absences due to illness decreased. Not just the foster child was rewarded, but all the children in the family were blessed. Blessings came to the entire family because they chose, in faith, to care for the “least of these” in their village.
Families throughout the world whether rich or poor are being blessed because they dared to believe God and fostered a child in need. Churches are helping whole families out of poverty, and they are no longer building orphanages or institutionalizing children unnecessarily. We need to encourage the poorest churches and poorest families so they can care for orphans and vulnerable children because every orphan needs a Gotcha Day!
For more information regarding best practice in family care see Children, Orphanages, and Families: A Summary of Research to Help Guide Faith-Based Action and additional resources.
The Faith to Action Initiative serves as a resource for Christian groups, churches, and individuals seeking to respond to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children. Through our publications, website, and workshops, we offer practical tools and resources and up-to-date information on key strategies and research to help guide action.