On the September 11, 2019 edition of The Defender Podcast, Herbie Newell talked with Jedd Medefind, President of Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) about the work of CAFO and engaging the local church in caring for vulnerable children.
CAFO was established in 2004 when Christian leaders from various organizations came together with a common desire to address issues that are close to the heart of God, specifically orphan care. They asked how they could join together to create and accomplish a vision greater than they could separately. Now, CAFO is composed of more than 195 member organizations, 700 churches, and individuals who are centrally coordinated to make the biggest impact in the lives of orphans and vulnerable children.
Understanding the global orphan crisis and the needs in foster care in the United States drives the initiatives of CAFO, as they reveal that caring for orphans and vulnerable children is a multi-faceted approach.
What are important statistics that people should take note of and understand in the global orphan crisis and in U.S. Foster Care?
- Unicef estimates that there are 140-150 million children classified as orphans.
- Only about 10% of this number has lost both parents.
- The primary need in cases in which one parent is alive is to care for the family and keep them in tact.
- 15-20 million children are growing up without both parents.
- Some of these children have some family members who can care for them, and they need support.
- The minority of these 15-20 million children need new families, and that’s where adoption comes in to provide safe, loving, permanent home for them.
- In the U.S. Foster System, there are approximately 440,000 children in care on any given day, with that number currently rising each year.
The initiatives of CAFO seek to address the needs of these children through individuals, churches, and organizations.
What are some initiatives from CAFO that the church and other organizations can utilize for effective ministry?
- Orphan Sunday—One day set aside each year that serves as a catalyst for awareness and engagement within church for orphan care. In addition to Orphan Sunday, CAFO has established Stand Sunday, which engages the church to stand for children in foster care.
- Annual Summit—An annual gathering that brings community together to learn and exchange knowledge and assets for effective ministry in adoption, foster care, and the care of vulnerable children worldwide.
- Church Ministry—CAFO consults with a church to map and plan out how to do an effective and sustainable foster, adoption, and global orphan ministry at no charge.
- Global Network—CAFO assists local pastors and churches in developing countries establish orphan care ministries and to help locals get involved with this kind of ministry.
- Applied Research and Best Practice—This initiative help organizations serving children to draw upon the best available research and knowledge that’s available in their work so they can be as effective as possible.
The vast need of caring for orphans and vulnerable children can be daunting. Jedd shared his advice for adoptive families, foster families, and church leaders who are engaging on the front lines or who are seeking to build a ministry to vulnerable children and families: know the costliness of the journey. When you engage in caring for the vulnerable, you will experience some of the pain that they have endured. When you do engage in this ministry, the following reminders from Jedd can be helpful:
- Humility: We can’t fix everything.
- Motivation: It is not from duty or guilt to engage in this ministry but from the power of the gospel.
- Together: Don’t take this journey alone. We need one another.
- Sustenance: From the beginning, establish certain habits and rhythms—such as weekly Sabbath and daily time with the Father—that God can use to feed and sustain us.
Even remembering these tips, seeing the need in orphan care and foster care can be overwhelming, especially when you are in the midst of it and feeling like you should be doing more. In that case, Jedd recognizes that the danger of statistics is huge numbers. However, he emphasizes that one statistic matters more than any other: It only takes one caring adult or one caring family to change the life of a child forever.
If you and your church would like more information on CAFO and how to get involved with caring for orphans and vulnerable children, visit their website. Lifeline also has free Orphan Sunday resources for you here.