When God’s people respond to His command to care for vulnerable children, our churches will become faith families to parents, children, and siblings who are navigating the journeys of fostering and adoption. Church families want to help and support, but often do not understand how to do that in a constructive, helpful manner, which can put strain on already-overwhelmed parents to educate small group leaders, Sunday School teachers, pastoral staff, and others.
In 2016, we developed a free curriculum for churches called Equipped to Love that not only answers the Why? but also the How? of supporting adoptive and foster families. The curriculum will help others understand how to make adjustments in traditional church programs and settings, as well as the language they use, to provide families with practical support.
Hear from one of our adoptive moms, Stacy Huff, as she describes how Equipped to Love has impacted her family and her church:
“During our adoption process we enjoyed great support from our church family. They prayed for us, encouraged us and gave financially to us. Once we were home, as one friend put it, “We wanted to help you but we just didn’t know how.” Equipped for Love has been able to give insight into how our family has changed, the reasons we do some of the things we do, and has empowered friends with the knowledge of what to do!
As the number of adoptive and foster parents within our church has grown, the need has arisen for lay people within the church to have the knowledge of how not only to help and encourage these families, but also how to interact with their children. Equipped to Love has been great in explaining the different needs of children from hard places. As we know, children from hard places can have challenging behaviors sometimes and the way we parent them looks very different. This class has been so helpful in enlightening those within the church to look differently at challenging behaviors and to see them as needs that need to be met. I love how it encourages members of the church to point the children to their parents to meet their needs. What an encouragement to parents to be able to have their church as a partner in building attachment.
It is our hope that this class will impact our church in several ways. First, that it will give our members the knowledge they need to feel comfortable serving the foster and adoptive families in our church. Second, we hope that it will open the eyes of members to the special needs of children from hard places and that they will understand better how to pray for these children and to think outside the box for ways our church can serve this community. Lastly, we pray that through this class, someone will feel led to foster or adopt, knowing they have a knowledgeable church body to support them.
For our family, the class has been very validating and freeing. It is reassuring to be reminded that the things you are dealing with in your family are typical for our circumstances. At the same time, it’s also reassuring to be able to let others know, “These issues are real!” It has been encouraging to have friends ask specifically how they can help us. It’s been a great encouragement to me!”
As an agency that holds the hands of our families throughout their adoption process and training for fostering, we don’t let go the moment a family is brought together. We stay the course with families and journey with them through joys and difficulties. However, the church will be the support community to bring meals, mow yards, share tears, and see these precious families day in and day out. Therefore, it is our desire to come alongside the local church and equip them with the knowledge to serve their foster and adoptive families well.
Topics in the Equipped to Love training include: caring for families, interacting appropriately with children with compromised beginnings of life, demonstrating sensitivity for adoptive and foster parents, understanding the unique needs of children from hard places, exhibiting sensitive language, and managing challenging behavior.
We pray it continues to change lives, families, and churches around the world!