“Religion that is pure and stainless according to God the Father is this: to take care of orphans and widows who are suffering and to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27, ISV)
In the United States alone, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system. What’s more, over 9,000 of these children are in Oklahoma. With numbers like these, the call of James 1:27 to take care of orphans can seem overwhelming. Where do we start?
A growing number of the OKWU family are starting with one child at a time. Foster families are there to help intervene and be role models to children and birth parents, and when it is safely possible, to hopefully reunite children with their birth parents. In other cases, foster families may have the option to adopt their foster children. There are many OKWU families with incredible stories of where they started in the foster care and adoption journey, and this year, TOWER took some time to learn from just a few:
Eric and Susan Mills
Eric and Susan Mills adopted one of their daughters from China when she was five. Today, they’re deeply involved in the foster care and adoption community, writing a book on their adoption process, as well as actively helping individuals and churches with foster care and adoption. In 2015, the family started an orphan advocacy organization, Faces with Names. The mission of the organization is to “serve as a catalyst ministry to engage and equip churches to create a culture of orphan care through foster care, adoption, and global orphan care.” Shares Eric, “Our vision is in our name…’a name for every orphan face’. It is this simple goal that drives us to reach out to others to help them engage the ‘least of these’. Learn more at faceswithnames.org
Ron and Carla Blain
In their time as foster and adoptive parents, Ron and Carla Blain have had more than 60 children come through their home, and adopted four of them. Their heart for foster care also goes beyond their own home, as they encourage other families to join the journey:
“So many we talk to say they’d like to try foster care but couldn’t give [the children] up…” says Ron, “[but] the price we pay emotionally is worth the value of touching the lives of these kids. We as Christ followers are ALL COMMANDED to take care of the widows and orphans. The Word doesn’t really give us the option of helping as long as it is emotionally comfortable for my family or me.”
David and Julie Cochran
Dr. David Cochran is an Associate Professor of Communication Arts at OKWU. David and his wife, Julie, were also foster parents, and have recently adopted two children through the foster care system. “We had a burden to foster for a decade before we actually began,” recalls David. “We have been adopted into God’s family, and that changed our lives, so adoption into an earthly family seemed an extension of God’s love for us.”
While each of these families have beautiful, rewarding, and sometimes painful stories that could fill volumes, TOWER chose to focus on their advice to others considering foster care:
TOWER: What do you wish you would have known at the beginning of your journey?
BLAINS: It was just a few years in when we decided our own policy would be to not accept any kids that were older than our own still at home. Whenever we sidestepped that policy, it just didn’t work. Our first responsibility is to our own children. This is a family calling. We want our children to be the influencers and not the influenced.
COCHRANS: We were close friends with a family who had fostered and adopted for years, so we asked many, many, questions and received lots of insight. We knew not to expect it to be easy or even to be in control of how the process went. Of course, knowing it is one thing, and living through it is another. It is very important to have relationships with people who have gone through fostering and adoption.
MILLS: I did not realize the level of patience required and how emotionally draining the process [of international adoption] would be. It was the hardest experience and most rewarding experience of our lives. There are times where you just can’t emotionally handle it, times of spiritual warfare. Some of the processes that you would think would be easy become hard. But God gives strength and provision each day.
TOWER: What do you want to tell families considering adoption or foster care?
BLAINS: The caseworkers are on your side. The laws and departmental policy often tie their hands. You will have to go to bat sometimes for the kids. Don’t be afraid to do that. No one else will. Be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves”.
COCHRANS: Expect to be stretched and asked to grow as you lean on Christ for the ability to do what you couldn’t do in your own strength. Read Scripture daily, because it reminds you that God’s children often experience difficult times even when they are doing what is consistent with God’s love. Pray continually to see as God sees. Read the book, “The Connected Child: Bringing Hope and Healing to your Adoptive Family,” by Karyn B. Purvis. It is a must read for anyone fostering or adopting.
MILLS: If you know for sure that you are called to do it, move forward even though it might not make sense. God will give you the strength and resources and energy to do it. Our adoption was one of the most fulfilling things I have done…it allowed me to understand God’s love personally more than anything else in my life.
The Mills, Blains, and Cochrans are making a difference in the lives of children through foster care and adoption, but many more families are needed. However, even if you cannot be a foster parent, says Ron, that doesn’t negate the command to “take care of”. “Single parents and underprivileged parents need help “taking care of”…For many it would be so easy to provide school clothes, bikes, cars, college, a day trip, fishing, shopping, if you would do it for your grandkids, find a kid and “take care of” them.