Guest Commentary | Orphan Sunday challenges churches to take action and support families
For centuries, when children lost their parents, the church stepped in to help. Government-funded foster care programs didn’t come about until the early 1900s in the U.S. Since then, the church’s role has dwindled dramatically. Today, the Christian Alliance for Orphans aims to revive that role and encourage the faithful to help orphans and children in foster care.
On Sunday, Nov. 12, churches around the world mark Orphan Sunday, a day created by the alliance to raise awareness of the orphan’s plight and what churches, families and faith-based organizations are doing about it.
Better Together helps the church return to its traditional role of caring for modern-day orphans and widows.
Our government’s foster care system is stretched beyond capacity. While foster care is an important last resort for children who are in immediate physical danger, most home removals stem from preventable neglect. Life gets hard, and parents need a network of support. This is where Better Together and the power of the church community steps in.
Brianna, a young mom of two, didn’t need foster care. She needed a support system and resources. She faced a daunting crisis with no place to go. The shelters were full, and the state was about to put her children into foster care.
Having grown up within the foster care system herself, Brianna was determined to prevent that fate for her own children. The Florida Department of Children & Families connected her with Better Together. One of our volunteer host families graciously opened their home to care for her children, while a mentor and our staff assisted her in devising a plan.
In just 50 days, Brianna got two jobs, found child care, moved into her new home and recently reunited with her children. She didn’t do this alone. We didn’t do this alone. Brianna had a community in her corner, and the whole church wrapped around her to offer additional support, including reliable transportation that she needed to sustain her success.
These kinds of connections, relationships and triumphs happen when the people of the church come together. This is two less children in foster care and changing the generations cycle for this family.
Every child deserves to be part of a safe and loving family, and in America, this should be the prevailing norm. With a wealth of resources, vacant guest rooms, and over 300,000 churches spread across the U.S., we have the potential to significantly decrease the demand for foster care by re-embracing our historical responsibility of providing care for vulnerable children and families.
We’re already doing it across Florida. Better Together has helped more than 9,000 children with 98% of children served through hosting and parent mentoring remaining out of the state system. Our model builds family-like relationships between those who want to help and those who are hurting, building a community and deeper relationships that deliver better outcomes.
Just envision a world where every church and neighbor steps in to provide support for families before a child experiences abuse or neglect, preventing the need for foster care. Picture the expression of love, true compassion, biblical hospitality and care for vulnerable children and families. It would be akin to a glimpse of heaven, and it has the power to transform the world.
Undoubtedly, this won’t be a simple task. It will require the church and individuals, just like you, to dig in, get their hands dirty, and become more actively involved in supporting the vulnerable within their community. It means embodying the principle of “Love your neighbors,” even when it’s difficult, inconvenient, and challenging.
Jesus set an example for us in this regard. He reached out to marginalized individuals, those often overlooked by society. He not only listened but also took action and addressed their needs. The church has the opportunity to continue this legacy today. If members of the church become more involved in assisting families facing crises, we can reduce the necessity for government intervention.
No child in our community should ensure the trauma, that they will carry for a lifetime of being separated from their parents for issues such as neglect, which we know the church can prevent through the power of community. This looks like the church living our the gospel in their lives, meeting the physical needs of families and providing the safety net families in keep their families together. Together, we can end the crisis by getting there first.
Better Together provides the connection to those who are hurting, the professional support and a go-to person who can help the church and volunteers make a real kingdom impact in the lives of vulnerable children and families in their community.
For Orphan Sunday on Nov. 12, we’ll join congregations throughout Florida to highlight this great need. Together, we can preserve families.
Megan Rose is the CEO of Better Together, a nonprofit organization that helps parents and families. To help families in your community, get help or donate, visit bettertogetherus.org or call 239-470-2733.