When you hear “orphan in America,” who comes to mind?
Since the United States of America lacks traditional orphanages it can be easy to believe that our country is void of orphaned children (whether literal or social). Yet, in reality, the need to love and care for vulnerable children in our country is vast and growing greater all the time.
Since many—if not most—of today’s orphans in the U.S. can be found in foster care, here are 3 facts to consider about children in the system:
1. Over 437,000 children are in foster care in the U.S.
Consider this: The 4 largest football stadiums in the United States could be filled to capacity and still not hold all the children who are currently in the system. FYI: Roughly 102,000 of these children are currently eligible for adoption.
2. 8 is the average age of a child in foster care in the U.S.
According to milestones established by professionals, 8 is the year peer pressure starts to kick in for most kids. 8-year-olds typically enjoy being around their friends and are starting to take interest in specific hobbies that could follow them through life. 8 is also the age many kids start to enjoy reading books and earning money. In other words, 8 is an impressionable year.
3. 44% of children in foster care are white.
23% of kids in foster care are Black or African American, and 21% are Hispanic. Typically speaking, slightly more boys are in foster care than girls.
So who is the American orphan? In many cases, he’s the kid next door. The kid who attends your child’s school. The kid who visits your church’s Sunday School on occasion. He’s the kid who probably won’t tell you he needs or wants a family, but he does. He needs the love of Christ.
An invitation to the Body of Christ
Though the statistics are staggering, behind each number is a real child with a unique and painful story. To be sure, orphans in any context are the most vulnerable people in the world, and God has specifically tasked the Church with the responsibility of caring for children from hard places. Jedd Medefind, author and president of Christian Alliance for Orphans, said—
“This matchless beauty, this unspeakable pain—all woven together—this is at the root of God’s love for the orphan. It is His invitation to each of us as well.”
While nearly 2 in 5 Christians have considered adopting, only 5% have actually followed through. Yet, James 1:27 makes it clear that caring for orphans is not a job we can outsource to anyone, including the most well-meaning local government.
Jedd Medefind rightly described caring for orphans as “the Gospel embodied.” And in churches where the goal is to take the love of Christ where it is needed, perhaps nothing communicates this more clearly than counter-cultural hospitality for hurting children. Whether the pursuit is foster care or adoption (or a combination!), the need is greater today in this country than it has ever been.
Bottom line: Good intentions aren’t enough.
For more helpful information, read Becoming Home by Barna Group & Jedd Medefind.