May 24, 2012

Ten Ways That You Can Help Orphans

This post is my 600th post!  Sometimes that seems hard to believe!  Lots of people blog for lots of different reasons.  For me, it started as a way to chronicle how I was feeling about our adoption process.  For some crazy reason (that I still haven't figured out) other people actually wanted to read about it. Then I realized that through this outlet, I could be a voice for orphans and vulnerable children.  Aside from raising my children, it is what makes me feel like I have purpose.  It's more than telling the funny, embarrassing stories that happen to me as a mother.  It's more than a public baby book.  It's more than living our lives out loud.  It's a way to show every mother sitting in her kitchen at her computer, that she has the power to do SOMETHING about the orphan crisis.

We hear it so many times that it's almost cliche: "Not everyone is called to adopt, but we can all do something for orphans!"  And while that is true- it seems that the story almost always ends there.  If this world of orphan care isn't something in which you are daily entrenched, you may not know what is supposed to come after that cliche sentence.  You may be screaming at your computer, "Yeah, adoption is not right for me, but I still want to help!  What am I supposed to do?"

I'm glad you asked! I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate 600 posts than to share a list of several things that we can all do to rally around vulnerable children and families.  They vary in how involved they are.  Some are easy.  Some are hard.  Some take 3 minutes- others are a major time commitment. They aren't all going to be the right fit for you.  That's okay!  We all have different gifts and talents.  Use what you're given, with the heart that you've been given and find the right thing for you.

1. Sponsor a child:  I can't stress this enough.  NOT ALL CHILDREN IN ORPHANAGES NEED TO BE ADOPTED.  As people, especially as Westerners, we see kids languishing in orphanages and our first inclination is to want to put them in our suitcases and bring them all home with us.  But the fact is that MOST children who are currently in orphanages have parents who are ALIVE who LOVE them and just don't have the means to care for them.  Sponsoring a child is one of the best ways to help children remain with their parents and get out of orphanages. Child sponsorships vary from organization to organization but most include things like food, medical care, shelter, and school fees.  Sponsorships typically range from $25-$50 per month.  One other major benefit of child sponsorship is that in most cases, you get to communicate with your sponsored child.  This makes for a great way for your children to get involved in orphan care!

Some great organizations for child sponsorships are:  Compassion International, World Vision, Food For The Hungry, Show Hope

2. Sponsor A Woman:  Just as above, sponsoring a woman helps keep a family intact.  Empowering  a woman through monthly sponsorship provides a way for her to learn a trade, get adequate medical care and provide for her family (thus her children will never end up in an orphanage).  I wrote an entire post on the benefits of sponsoring women all over the world that you can find HERE.  Monthly sponsorships for women typically cost between $25 and $40.  Most women who receive sponsorship are widows, victims of rape, or survivors of war.

The most reputable and widely recognized organization facilitating women's sponsorships is Women For Women International.

In this same vein- support organizations who are working in the developing world to provide maternal health.  In third world countries, women have an exponentially increased chance of dying during child birth- creating orphans on a baby's first day of life.  Organizations that help women have a safe delivery and teach breastfeeding and infant care help ensure that a new family gets off to a healthy start.  Some organizations doing incredible work in maternal health are Heartline Ministries and HEAL Africa and Project Hopeful.

 3.  Become A Foster Parent:  Foster parents are so vital to protecting vulnerable children here in the US.  Despite all the faults of the "system"- when it works, birth parent's are given an opportunity and the necessary resources to change and become better parents.  If parents can meet those expectations, they can continue to parent their children.  Foster parents are needed to stand in the gap while moms and dads do the work necessary to be suitable parents so they can get their children back.  Foster parents are trained, equipped, and compensated through the state department.  To become a foster parent in most states, there is a required 30 hours of training, a homestudy done by the state, and ongoing training to keep your home open.  Foster parents are needed for children of all ages- from infants to teens.

For more info on becoming a foster parent, visit the foster care division of AdoptUsKids.  They can help you get in touch with your local foster care office.

4.  Become a Respite Provider: Did you know that children who are in foster care can only be cared for by state approved respite providers?  That means that the teenager down the street just won't cut it when foster parents need a break or a date night.  Certified respite providers are the only babysitters that foster parents can use.  If you aren't ready for the commitment that it takes to be a full-time foster parent, then maybe providing date night babysitting or relief babysitting while foster mom needs to go to a medical appointment may be the right thing for you.  Having a good respite provider helps keep foster families refreshed and is a great way to make an impact to a child in foster care without jumping all the way in.

Contact your local department for family services office (or click here if you need help getting connected with the right people) for more information on becoming a respite provider.

5.  Mentor A Mom:  I absolutely support a woman's decision to make an adoption plan for her baby if that's what she wants to do.  I also absolutely support empowering that same mom to parent her child if that's what she chooses.  Many women in the US who consider adoption do so because they don't feel like they have enough support to raise a child.  Many crisis pregnancy centers offer mentor matching to help build a support network for the woman who find herself in a crisis pregnancy situation.  They are always in need of non-judgemental, loving women who are good listeners to help mentor a mom through a crisis pregnancy and help her get set up after the baby comes. Remember all those times you needed to call your mom when you first had a baby and needed to know everything from if you can put a bottle in the microwave to what to do when the baby has a fever?  Now imagine that you didn't have that resource.  Mentoring a mom is a way to provide that resource and help a women and her child get the best possible start to parenting.  When vulnerable moms and kids get off to a good start, those families learn to thrive (and those children stay out of the foster care system!)

For more information about mentoring, find your local crisis pregnancy center by googling "crisis pregnancy center" or "pregnancy resource center" and the name of your city or the closest large city.

Are you Francisco and Adolfo's mommy?
6.  Advocate For Waiting Children.  The most vulnerable orphans in the world are those with special needs or those who are older. These children are often called "waiting children" meaning that they are legally free and ready to be adopted and are just waiting for their adoptive families to find them.  Many waiting children are listed on photolistings with with a short bio about their personality and special needs.  If you are a blogger, a facebooker, a tweeter or are on any other kind of social media, consider advocating for one of these children on a regular basis.  Search the photolistings and find a child who "speaks" to you.  Post that child's picture regularly on your desired social media.  You may be the one who has a Facebook friend who feels like that child is the right child for their family.  Or ask your friends to share.  The point is- we all know people.  Sheer statistics say that the more a child's story is told, the more likely they are to find a family.  Be the one to share a child's story.  You never know who's ears that story may fall on.

Many waiting children can be found at Reese's Rainbow (Down Syndrome),  Adopt Us Kids (Older Child and Special Needs Adoption in the US) , Project Hopeful (HIV+)   
  
 8.  Give financially to help offset the financial burden of adoption.  Some are supposed to be adopters and some are supposed to be senders.  Over and over again, people say that the number one thing that keeps them from adopting, is money.  If adoption is not in your family plan, help equip someone who would desire nothing more than to be an adoptive parent.  There are so many awesome organizations that work to give grants to adopting families who also practice responsible giving.  They also give donor's a tax receipt.

Great organizations who equip families through adoption grants: Show Hope, Lifesong For Orphans

9.  Lend Your Voice:  Often times the general public just isn't aware of the breadth of the global orphan crisis or of the needs of vulnerable children in their own communities.  By even knowing that this problem exists, you have a responsibility to share your knowledge.  You don't have to be an expert.  You don't even have to be a very good speaker.  You just have to be willing.  Find a civic group in your town that will let you talk about the orphan crisis and give people a practical way to help.  Ask to share with your small group at church or with your Sunday School class.  Encourage that rotary club or that youth group to sponsor a child.  Or do a formula/diaper drive for the local crisis pregnancy center.  If you belong to a church, one great way to introduce your church to the orphan crisis is through Orphan Sunday.  Orphan Sunday is simply an awareness campaign and is a wonderful, effective way to teach your congregation about the needs of orphans. You have a voice that you can use to bring awareness to the plight of orphans.
    
10.  Lend Your Name:   The US government offers a tax credit for families who have completed an adoption to help offset adoption expenses.  This credit is set to expire and is in danger of not being renewed.  Without the credit, many families would not be able to adopt.  With just a few clicks, you can sign a petition asking Congress to renew the credit and ensure that more families are financially able to adopt. 



**Please feel free to list more ideas in the comments section of this post!  It's going to take all of us working together to bring about change for the fatherless.

   


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