Hey there my fair trade loving friends – November is National Adoption Month and the first Sunday (today) is internationally recognized as “Orphan Sunday.” It’s a relatively new movement founded through the Christian Alliance for Orphans. The point is to increase awareness of the ongoing orphan crisis worldwide and equip churches and others to play a part in orphan care and prevention.
I haven’t conducted any scientific polls, but I think some people hear about this crisis and (depending on the decade you were born) think of this:
The point is this: there is a crisis where children (some estimates are as high as 153+ MILLION) are growing up in institutions. They are abandoned, neglected, sometimes never form appropriate attachments to other humans and are in an environment where Darwinistic thoughts like “survival of the fittest” reign. They are languishing there due to politics, corruption and greed, and even our own first world problems.
I’m sorry to say that for 33 years, I hadn’t really found my niche in orphan care and prevention. It wasn’t until I became a Noonday Ambassador that I realized we ALL have a role to play. As a fair trade advocate, my goal is to educate and empower consumers to use their purchasing power to alleviate poverty around the world. Why does that matter? One of the biggest attributors to the orphan crisis is extreme poverty. Many impoverished people are forced to at least consider relinquishing their children to orphanages as a better alternative to watching their children starve or suffer the effects of malnourishment. (And for many it moves past consideration to implementation.)
But I believe there is hope! Because there is an increasing awareness, education and social responsibility. Even mainstream companies like Wendy’s are stepping up and coming alongside families who do choose to grow their families through adoption and fostering children who are not safe with their biological families. Consumers like YOU are choosing to shop ethically via fair trade/direct trade principles and use their purchasing power for good. Reputable organizations are going in to places where there are no social welfare programs to help keep families together. And longstanding ministries are continuing to reach out and sponsor children around the world to put/keep them in families, in school, and forging relationships with sponsors who learn a lot just by caring for children in impoverished conditions.
Three years in to this and I meet people all the time who want to learn more about what THEY can do to be a part of the solution. It’s my hope that you are now asking “What can I do?” too. Here are some ideas that I’ve listed in order of personal sacrifice/investment required.
1. PRAY. The easiest way to start is to pray. Pray for opportunities to come your way. Pray for direction and insight into how you can use your talents, money, influence to help orphans in your immediate area, around our country, and around the world. You never know what your answer will be, but whatever is presented, I hope you say “YES!” I firmly believe that children belong in families.
2. SHOP FAIR/DIRECT TRADE. You probably figured I’d mention that one, but it’s really the most practical and convenient way to “be the change.” Fair trade practices ensure that workers are earning a LIVING wage (which is determined differently wherever they live. A fair wage in Kampala Uganda wouldn’t translate as “fair” in New York City or Mumbai or Lima). When workers earn a living wage, they can care for their families beyond meeting basic needs.
3. SUPPORT ORPHAN CARE/PREVENTION ORGANIZATIONS. The list of these would get pretty exhaustive if I made one. There are many reputable groups you can come alongside to care for children in orphanages. The list of those who strive for biological family preservation or in-country fostering/adoption is also ever increasing, praise be to God. I won’t endorse any directly here, but strongly encourage you to thoroughly investigate any group to which you send money. You can check some sponsorship orgs at www.charitywatch.org but there are many that are not listed who are doing amazing things.
4. BECOME A BIG BROTHER/BIG SISTER/MENTOR to help underprivileged children in your own community. This requires a little more personal investment. It’s one that will tire you out, but can also be the most rewarding experience of your life. Again, there are a number of organizations who offer this type of volunteer opportunity. Most require training, background and reference checks, etc.
5. VOLUNTEER to be a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) or Guardian Ad Litem for children in your own city who are victims of abuse or neglect. Every day in this country, 1,900 children become victims of abuse or neglect, and four of them will die. Every day. Volunteer advocates—empowered directly by the courts—offer judges the critical information they need to ensure that each child’s rights and needs are being attended to while in foster care. Volunteers stay with children until they are placed in loving permanent homes. You’ll be entering someone else’s pain and open yourself up to heartbreak as you become possibly the only trusted adult in some kids’ lives, but I know people who do this amazing work and consider it a privilege to be a voice for children who desperately need one.
6. OPEN YOUR HOME to one of the 420,000 children in our foster system in America or provide respite care to a family already fostering. It probably differs state-to-state, but this an involved process that requires opening your life and home to a social worker for a home study to determine your capacity and suitability to handle and serve children who are not your biological offspring. Most states also require licensure/certification through training programs that require a significant time commitment. This can be a very cost effective way to grow your family as many states allow approved families to adopt out of foster care FOR FREE!
7. ADOPT. This is a long term, forever family kind of commitment that will definitely cause a ripple effect through your immediate and extended family and throughout your community. Whether you adopt domestically or internationally, I strongly encourage adoptive families to build a STRONG COMMUNITY FOR SUPPORT. Reach out to area churches that offer ministry to adoptive families, and find other families who are in-process of adopting, or who have recently adopted, through whatever adoption agency you use. RESEARCH the heck out of adoption agencies before you choose and begin the monetary commitment; the country you’re adopting from; and attorneys who work on your behalf and those who are in-country if you are adopting internationally. BE BRAVE AND BE INFORMED. Also, please consider older child adoption.
There you have it. This isn’t an all-inclusive list. There are so many other things you can do if you get educated and advocate to help increase awareness. This is a topic I am so passionate about because I do believe that all children belong in families, biological if possible or adoptive if necessary. I believe that every life is intentionally given and with purpose to attain. I believe there are too many ways to alleviate poverty and the orphan crisis to opt out of of feeling some personal responsibility. I hope this post is both informative and convicting and motivates you to get involved in whatever way you can!