In Acts Chapter 1, just before Christ ascends into heaven he instructs his disciples to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” As an international adoption agency, America World has gone, literally, to the ends of the earth to share God’s love for children. We have not yet, however, served the children in our own backyard – our Jerusalem and Judea. Jesus’ instruction to be his witnesses in our local community as well as throughout the world inspired all of us here at America World to explore the idea of providing domestic adoption and foster care services.
I am happy to report that it has not even been a month since America World formally launched its Foster Care and Domestic Adoption program, and we are already making inroads toward our ultimate goal of serving the children of Virginia. Our current efforts for domestic adoption and foster care range from a short-term project to provide Christmas gifts for children in foster care, to the greater, long-term goals of placing American children in permanent, loving families.
I’m sure many of you have already read about our Foster Christmas Wish List program on this blog, and I know that many of you have already contacted our office about how you and your local church can help. For those of you who are still unfamiliar with the program, our office has started an effort to collect items that children in foster care in Fairfax County, Virginia have expressed a need or desire for this Christmas. We are currently accepting donations of gifts for children of all ages, and are also equipped to accept monetary donations through our website that we will use to purchase gifts for the children. This effort has already started to generate a great deal of interest and we are currently working with churches in our local area as well as families from across the nation who want to join us in this simple way to share God’s love at Christmas. If you would like to make an online contribution to this program, you can do so by clicking here and selecting “Christmas Wish List” from the dropdown menu.
Last week, members of our domestic and program staff met with local child welfare officials to discuss current needs and what role America World can play in serving the children of our community. This was a fruitful meeting and represents the beginning of what will hopefully be a long-term partnership with state and county officials. The greatest need that was expressed during the meeting was for the recruitment of families who are willing to foster and, in many cases, adopt children in their own communities so that the children can remain in the same school and with their current group of friends while going through a difficult time of separation from their birth families.
Another pressing need that has been expressed, and an area where I believe America World can truly make a difference, is prevention. Under the law, children can only come into state care and protection where an immediate danger to the child’s health or well-being has been proven. This standard is important because it is designed to minimize the government’s involvement in the lives of families and promote the nuclear family. However, the standard also creates uncertainty for families that are having difficulties that do not yet rise to a level that would require state involvement. Often these families are isolated and unable to get the help that they need to address problems that could eventually result in the breakup of the family. If families who are struggling are able to get the help that they need before state involvement becomes necessary, we would be able to reduce the number of children who end up permanently separated from their birth families.
To this end, America World has begun partnering with a national organization called Safe Families for Children. The Safe Families movement is one of compassion that provides families with the help that they need to address issues such as temporary job loss, homelessness, and drug or alcohol dependence before these issues snowball to the point where the family is in jeopardy of losing their children. The beauty of the Safe Families model is that it is a grassroots movement that echoes the early church’s “fellowship of believers” who lived and worked together to support those amongst them who were in need. The Safe Families model utilizes churches to identify families who are willing to take in children on a short term basis, usually for little more than a month at a time, while their parents work to address the issues that are affecting their ability to care for their children. The benefit for the parents is that the program is completely voluntary on their part, so they are never in danger of losing the legal right to their children and can solve whatever problems may exist without the added stress of court dates, lawyers, and random CPS visits.