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Twelve Days of Christmas Resources & Activities

Thank you for participating in the Embrace Twelve Days of Christmas activity calendar. If you did not receive a calendar by mail you may download and print one HERE.

Day 7 Activity Link: Purchase an item for a foster teen leaving care from our Amazon wish list. Please consider using Smile.Amazon.com to make your purchase and select Embrace Waiting Children, Inc.as your designated charity. Amazon will make a donation to Embrace for every purchase you make. It’s that easy (and does not change your cost/prices, etc. at all).

Day 10 Activity Link: Go through your toys and choose some GREAT ones to donate. Log on to Facebook and join Embrace’s “The Loop” Facebook group and create a post to offer your items to foster children in our community. This group is designed to allow the body of Christ to surround and support foster and adoptive families, at-risk families and foster youth in our community by meeting tangible needs and acts of service.

Day 11 Activity Link: Print off this coloring page and use the discussion guide questions to help your children understand the challenges homeless families face and lead your children in a time of prayer for homeless and at-risk parents and their children. If you are interested in Embrace’s Family Beacon Program (which provides parents in the midst of a crisis the opportunity to place their children voluntarily in a certified Beacon Home until they can get back on their feet, preventing children from entering foster care) you can learn more HERE. Host homes, client coaches and homes coaches needed!

Resources for Parents, Churches & Volunteers

We often receive emails and phone calls asking about resources families, churches and volunteers
need as they consider or begin serving in foster care and/or adoption.
Below are tabs for resources to reference along the way in several different areas.
We do not promote any specific agency, organization, therapist, etc.
and are glad to consider adding other resources to this list as is appropriate.

Whether you’re a parent, representing a church, or looking to volunteer, get the information you need below.

Don’t see what you’re looking for?  Contact us!
We’ll help you find it.

Click the image to get your resource on Amazon!
CGOCM ET Site 3
A Christian's Guide to Orphan Care Ministry
Click the image to get your guide
to host a respite night at your church
on Amazon today!
One Wild Night: A Step-by-Step Guide to Hosting a Respite Night

Want to Foster?

Currently there are over 16,000 children in the care of Child Protective Services in the State of Texas and nearly 420,000 children in the United States. CPS is the government agency which investigates allegations of abuse, neglect and abandonment of children, and if necessary, removes children from their homes. These children are placed in temporary care in emergency shelters, group homes, foster homes, and kinship placements. Children may be in care for as little as a week before returning to their parents, or as long as several years in the event that no adoptive family steps forward. The length of stay varies greatly and is dependent on a multitude of factors.

Upon removal, a temporary caseworker is assigned to a child or group of siblings. CPS begins making calls to licensed foster homes, and private Child Placing Agencies (who, in turn, begin to call their foster homes) to find a foster home for the children. In an effort to keep children from spending the night in emergency shelters or CPS offices, sibling groups may be separated, and children may be placed in a foster home several hours from their point of origin. A court hearing is generally held in the first 14 days to create a service plan for the children. This plan may address such details as reunification with parents, placement of siblings in a common foster homes, etc.

Steps to Foster Parenting

To begin foster parenting, you must first attend an informational meeting hosted by CPS or private agency. After this, an agency must be selected and application submitted. Agencies generally invite prospective foster parents in for an interview and to answer any questions they may have. A background check will be completed, and training scheduled if you are accepted into the foster parent program.

Training varies from agency to agency, although it is generally provided at no cost to the foster parents and at least 30 hours long over the course of 4-5 weeks. After or during training, a home study must be written for each family. This is a detailed document about your background, childhood, current lifestyle, education, parenting, children, extended family, beliefs and almost any other personal aspect of your life. This document gives the agency the information they need to decide if your home would be appropriate for foster children, and may be used if you later decide to adopt.

Homes can become licensed to foster only or foster-to-adopt. The licensing process is generally the same and lasts 2-4 months depending on the expediency of paperwork. Agencies may consider a parent’s desire to adopt when placing children. For instance; if two homes are available to accept a child (and this child will most likely be available for adoption), the home wishing to adopt will be given preference over the other foster home. Foster parents can choose the age range they wish to foster parent and may be as specific as “girls ages 2-5 and boys under 3, only hispanic children, etc”. Families hoping to adopt through the foster care system may wish to foster only children who meet their personal desires for adoption, such as those having the same ethnicity or only a certain gender.

Homes may be licensed for basic or therapeutic level children. Basic care children may have ADHD, asthma, hearing loss, developmental delays, and other special needs that would be described as “mild to moderate”. Children with more acute health issues, anger management issues, or those unable to function in a home with other children may require the specialized homes provided by therapeutic foster parents, and in some cases group homes.

Getting Placement

When a foster home is “open” it means they are licensed and have space available for children described in the profile they provided to their child placing agency stating what age range, gender, race/ethnicity and special needs they feel equipped to parent. The agency should only contact a foster home about children meeting these specifications.

As a child is removed from their home following an investigation, CPS broadcasts a search with the agencies they have contracted with to find a home as close to the point of origin of that child as possible. A phone call may come at any hour to ask if the foster parent can accpet the placement. Here is an example of a call to foster parents for an emergency placement.

“Hi this is Bob from CPS. Is this Susan? We have a possible placement in Tarrant County for your home. Two boys, brothers, the only children in the home. They are 5 and 6. They are being removed from their mom due to neglect. She is being taken to jail. They are hispanic. Can you take them tonight?”

The decision to accept an emergency placement needs to be made quickly with a predetermined understanding between the adults in the home. Children being placed will be brought to the foster home by a caseworker along with the necessary paperwork to be signed. From the time you confirm until the child is in your home usually takes a few hours, but once the paperwork is signed, the foster parents assume responsibility.

The responsibilities of foster parents mirror those of any parent. However, there are some limitations you need to be aware of. Children cannot have elective medical surgery such as circumcision, be baptized into a faith, have their ears pierced or hair cut without parental and caseworker approval. These limitations have rare exceptions and are consistent statewide. It is important for foster parents to maintain the minimum standards for being a foster home.

Once the child is in your home, this is a time to show them around, discuss the house rules, ask what their normal routines are and help them settle in. If a placement arrives late at night, that is probably a conversation to have in the morning. If they are school aged, you need to enroll them within 48 hours. In general, you will need to prepare before hand arrangements with your school administration or any daycare providers and plan to take off at least two days to help the foster child transition.

Embrace is not a foster care or adoption agency. We seek to inform and support families throughout the process even after a child is reunified or an adoption is finalized.

Foster FAQs

How will I let them go?

Remember that these children have been placed in your home temporarily for protection, care and nurturing. While some children may become adoptable, family reunification is always the primary goal of the courts. It can be very painful to send a child into a situation you know little about, especially after they have been a part of your family for some time. You have seen this child through their darkest hours, and made a lasting impression on their lives. It is also not uncommon to breathe a sigh of relief when some children leave. It can be a bittersweet situation for any parent.

What will they call me?

“Mom” “Miss” “Sir” “Hey You”. Depending on the age of the children, you should introduce yourself with what you want them to call you. Miss (first name) and Mr. (first name), are a common and respectful option. If you have children in the home calling you Mom and Dad, your foster children may quickly begin to call you this as well. This is not an issue, as long as you are always clear about who their biological parents are. Children may also begin to refer to their birthparents as “my old mom” or “my other dad”, and in these situations it is best to take a moment to clear things up.

Will I meet birthparents?

In some cases you may see birthparents on a regular basis when dropping a child off for their court allowed parental visits. Some children do not have visits, and some parents cannot be visited (if incarcerated, for example). Meeting a child’s biological parents for the first time can be nerve racking. Stick to the basics. Greet them and introduce yourself as the child’s foster parent. If they have questions about the child, or the care you are giving them, answer any you feel comfortable with, or ask them to write them down, and you will send update through the caseworker. While the choices of the birthparents are the most likely reason a child is in foster care, they are not the enemy, and your attempts to encourage them or find out what their child likes or dislikes while in your care can only improve the long-term success of a child’s healing and growth.

What about medical insurance or therapy?

Every child in the care of CPS receives some form of Medicaid (medical insurance) at no cost to foster parents. This covers all medical, dental, and vision costs with approved providers. There are no co-pays, and almost all hospitals and emergency rooms accept Medicaid. If your foster child is under 3 years old, Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) will assess their developmental needs and provide speech or occupational therapy if appropriate, otherwise, your school district will assess any special services your child will need. Foster parents can contact their child placing agency for references regarding counselors to help children work through neglect, abuse and loss. These counselors are covered by Medicaid as well.

What about my biological kids?

Many families who foster and adopt already have other children in the home, and it is necessary to think about the impact foster care and adoption will have on them. While you have expectations of what a new child will be like in your home, your children have expectations too. Will they like me? Will I get to show them new things? Will they share? Where will they sleep? What will it be like if/when they leave? What if they aren’t nice? Parents must give their kids voice into this decision and throughout the process. Many biological children come to mature and develop a greater compassion for other people because their parents chose to foster. So keep the conversation open and ongoing about how they are feeling and prepare them for the journey your whole family is going on.

Do we consider birth order?

Yes, but it is not the final factor in who you can or cannot foster parent. There will be times when foster and biological children of the same age will blend well together in a home, and there will be times when caring for an infant or child younger than your biological children will go smoothly. Be perceptive about the emotional health and maturity of your children. If you have a difficult time caring for a child that is roughly the same age as a biological child, adjust your age range for the next foster placement that comes to your home or take a break for a while after that child is reunified with their family.

How will they get to school?

A foster child will go to the school in your school district and can ride the bus like any other child. If your school district offers Head Start, a pre-school program for at-risk children ages 4 or 5, your foster child should be enrolled there. Foster children qualify for free breakfast and lunch as well. The state does not permit foster children to be homeschooled, and due to the neglect and inconsistency of the parenting many foster children received early in life, a child may require extra help in developing the skills they need to succeed. However, the priority foster parents should seek to work towards is the feeling of security in a child’s heart.

Can we adopt?

A group consisting of the child’s CPS caseworker, a CPS supervisor, a court appointed special advocate (CASA), the district attorney, and the child’s attorney ad lidem determine the child’s permanency plan with a judge’s ongoing approval. Birthparents traditionally have one year to complete a service plan and be reunified with their children. If this group diligently pursues reunification and reunification is no longer appropriate, the court will change the goal to adoption (usually no earlier than 9 months into a foster care placement). At that time, other family members have 90 days to be considered, and if no appropriate family steps forward, the foster family can adopt. The adoption process is usually finalized after a few more months and depending on circumstances can cost anywhere from $0 to $1,500.

How do I choose an agency?

When faced with a list of agencies, choosing one can seem like a daunting task. Get involved with support groups and talk to AS MANY people who have adopted as you can. Most are happy to share their experiences with their agency with you. Start a running list of recommendations from people you talk to, and then give the agencies a call. Good questions to ask an agency directly are:

  • How long has the agency been in business?
  • How many cases do each of your caseworkers oversee at any given time?
  • What is the turnover rate of your casework staff?
  • Do you have post-placement therapeutic services and resources available? If so, what are they?
  • Does your licensing training for foster care and/or adoption include trauma-informed care?

Planning to Adopt?

More than 1/3 of all American families say they have seriously considered adoption at one time or another. Many couples and individuals begin their adoption journey with casual conversations that lead to late-night google searches, trips to the library and perhaps even calls to local adoption agencies. In some cases one spouse may begin to investigate the process while the other remains unsure. However your journey begins, an important first step is to educate yourself on adoption options, ethics, procedures, and costs. Here is a basic outline to consider.

Ways to Adopt: Adopting a child from the US foster care system

Children in the care of the state, who have been removed from their biological parents, due to neglect and abuse, may become available for adoption. These children range in age from newborn to 18 years. They may be an only child, or part of a larger sibling group. Some may have special emotional, developmental or physical needs.

Families can become licensed through CPS or a private Child Placing Agency to adopt these children. Children must live in an adoptive home at least 6 months before an adoption can be finalized, and after a parent’s rights are terminated or relinquished there is a 90 day period for extended family to be considered in taking custody of the child. Below is an outline of the three most common ways to adopt children from the foster care system. To begin this process you need to attend an orientation meeting and can find dates, times and locations of these meetings HERE.

Foster to Adopt

Foster parents who hope to one day adopt may be licensed as “Foster to Adopt.” Although they are still a foster home, and may have many children come and go, most child placing agencies try place children who are likely to become adoptable in homes who want to adopt. A family may have many children come and go before they are able to adopt. If a child becomes adoptable while in foster care, their foster family has a good chance of being able to adopt them in the event no appropriate family member is willing or available.

Legal Risk

Legal Risk is a term commonly used to describe a case where children will almost certainly become adoptable. Although they are not yet free for adoption, parental rights may have already been terminated. Although it is not a “sure thing” when legal risk children are placed in your home, there is a very high likelihood that you will be able to adopt them.

Straight Adopt

This method of adoption places only children available for adoption in the foster home. Parental rights have been terminated and none of the child’s family is available or willing to take custody. These children must live in the home for at least 6 months before the adoption can be finalized.

Once a family is licensed, the family’s homestudy can be submitted by their caseworker for adoptable children based on the profile developed by the family and child placing agency. When a family is “matched” with a child, they are given a more detailed picture of the child’s background, needs, and permanency plan. The next step is pre-placement visits. These may begin as a one hour trip to MacDonald’s with a child, accompanied by their current foster parents or caseworker, and generally progress over several weeks to a weekend or overnight stay. At this point, the prospective adoptive family must carefully consider if they feel they are well suited to parent the child. If the caseworker and adoptive family agree to move forward, the child will be place in the adoptive home, generally within a few weeks.

There are many post-adoptive services available for children adopted out of foster care. Depending upon their age, race, any disabilities, and other factors, the children may qualify for college scholarships, healthcare and more. These services are provided by the state to ensure the best possible outcome for these children. Children must live with their adoptive families for 6 months before an adoption can be finalized, although it would not be uncommon for the process to take longer. The cost for these adoptions can be anywhere from nothing to less than $3000. Tax rebates can generally cover any expenses incurred from direct costs of the adoption.

To view just some of the many beautiful children available for adoption today in Texas, visit the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange or children from across the United States at www.AdoptUsKids.com.

Adopting a child from another country

Thousands of children in foreign countries become orphaned or are abandoned by their parents, and are in need of adoptive families. Each country has their own unique system for arranging international adoptions. The laws governing international adoption are complex and subject to change depending on that countries politics.

When investigating international adoption, it is helpful to acquire a list of open countries who are currently allowing children to be adopted by American families. It is important to know the ages of children available, average waiting time to finalization, cost and whether that country is a part of the Hague Convention. If a family is seeking to adopt from a certain country because they have been told it is easier or quicker to adopt from that country there is quite possibly unethical adoption practices taking place and needs to be avoided. Adoptive families should choose only reputable overseas adoption agencies that work with the governing bodies of other countries. An added expense to overseas adoptions is the cost of travel required to complete the process in a foreign country. Hotel rooms, food, translators, international legal advisers and airfare can quickly add to the cost. While the cost of an international adoption is generally higher than domestic adoption, infants and younger children are generally more available, and the wait time can be more predictable. International adoption costs range from $20,000-$45,000.

Adopting an infant in the United States

Many women give birth to infants each year, who are then lovingly placed for adoption. These mothers may be very young, single, have too many children to care for, or just feel unready to parent. These women may ask someone they know and trust, such as a family member, or a couple at their church, to parent their child. Others may turn to agencies to help them choose from qualified parents who have been approved by the agency. Birthmothers or Birthparents may be able to peruse a binder of prospective families and choose one they feel would be the best match for their child.

Parents wishing to adopt a newborn, may choose to pursue a private domestic infant adoption. These adoptions may be arranged by traditional adoption agencies and through private attorneys. The children adopted in these cases are almost always infants, although they are sometimes adopted along with older siblings. Fewer infants are available for adoption than any other age group, and agencies may set tighter regulations for adopting them. The wait time for this type of adoption can be as long as 2 years, and the average cost is $15,000, but can range from $5000 to $40,000.
It is of the utmost importance that private infant adoptions take place through the proper legal channels, and not be consummated through casual agreements. These non-legally bound adoptions are often the few and far between “adoption revocation horror stories” you may hear of.

Helpful Adoption Resources

Books

Embrace is not a foster care or adoption agency. We seek to inform and support families throughout the process even after a child is reunified or an adoption is finalized.

Adoption FAQs

How can I afford to adopt?

Adoption costs can range from nearly free (when adopting from the state foster care system) to upwards of $40,000 (with private and international adoption), and everything in between. You should consider the cost as you decide what type of adoption is best for your family. Some families host adoption fundraisers such as silent auctions or garage sales. There are also a variety of interest free loans available, and in some rare cases, adoption grants. The adoption tax credit can also help relieve the cost of adoption and was made permanent for adoption of any kind (except for stepchildren) in January 2013. So currently, if you have tax liability you can receive a credit for qualified adoption expenses (travel, legal fees, etc.) up to $10,000 (often increased for inflation) and carry the credit until it is fully used over a 5 year period. For more information on the credit visit adoptiontaxcredit.org.

How do I choose an agency?

When faced with a list of agencies, choosing one can seem like a daunting task. Get involved with support groups and talk to AS MANY people who have adopted as you can. Most are happy to share their experiences with their agency with you. Start a running list of recommendations from people you talk to, and then give the agencies a call. Good questions to ask an agency directly are:

  • How long has the agency been in business?
  • How many cases do each of your caseworkers oversee at any given time?
  • What is the turnover rate of your casework staff?
  • Do you have post-placement therapeutic services and resources available? If so, what are they?
  • Does your training for adoption include trauma-informed care?
  • Can I choose to only adopt a child of a certain race?

Only you know what type of adoption, and ultimately what type of child would best fit into your family. While it is not healthy or productive to dream of the perfect child bounding into your arms the first time your eyes meet, you should carefully consider who you are best equipped to parent. Children of all ethnic backgrounds need loving homes, and your agency should be supportive of your choice when it comes to your child. Talk to parents in multicultural families. Remember, they may not have your eyes, but they can have your heart!

Is infertility a reason to adopt?

When faced with infertility, friends and family may be quick to reassure the couple that adoption can provide them with the children they are longing for. The truth is, adopted children are not replacements for biological children. We would be short-changing the value of these children to assume they are “stand ins” for biological children that never came, and discounting the loss the couple is facing in infertility. In many cases families that would not have considered adoption before finding they’re infertile, end up adopting. Adoption should be an independent choice, made because a family has love to give a child that is not their flesh and blood.

Will my child have any contact with their birthfamily?

Before an adoption is finalized, both parties come to an agreement about the degree of “openess” of the adoption. This term describes the amount of contact a child will have with their birth family. Some families agree to send a yearly update with pictures to birthparents, or even allow visits. Some families have regular contact with birthparents, biological siblings or grandparents. Developing a level of appropriate openness is beneficial for adopted children as they will feel a sense of abandonment and responsibility for that abandonment. Openness can also help adoptees understand their identity as they mature into independence encouraging them to embrace their adoption. We never want to hide a child’s past although our conversations should remain age appropriate.

Foster & Adoption Agencies

(in alphabetical order with web address and office location(s) included)

Please note, the following agencies may vary in services provided from foster care, adoption from foster care, private infant adoption, international adoption, unplanned pregnancy services, and children’s shelters, however all provide at least foster care and/or adoption services for families and children in the North Texas region and have a Christian foundation aligning with Embrace’s Statement of Faith. Agencies may also have additional offices located throughout the state or country.

ACH Child and Family Serviceswww.ACHservices.org (Ft. Worth)

Agape Manor Homewww.agapemanorhome.org (Garland)

Arrow Child and Family Ministrieswww.arrow.org (Arlington & Carrollton)

Buckner Children & Family Serviceswww.buckner.org (Dallas)

Catholic Charities of Dallaswww.catholiccharitiesdallas.org (Dallas)

Child Protective Serviceswww.tdfps.state.tx.us (Arlington)

CK Family Serviceswww.ckfamilyservices.org (Arlington, Dallas & Plano)

Methodist Children’s Homewww.methodistchildrenshome.org (Dallas)

Our Community. Our Kidswww.ourcommunity-ourkids.org (Ft. Worth)

Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Serviceswww.pchas.org (Waxahachie)

Refuge Housewww.refugehouse.org (Dallas)

Texas Baptist Homewww.tbhc.org (Waxahachie & Bedford)

Post Adoption Services

Prior to finalizing an adoption, many resources are available to families and paid for through the State, however after an adoption is consummated by a judge, a family’s primary point of contact for services is often the agency contracted with the State for Post-Adoption Services. States are required to provide these services in order to draw federal funding for foster care programs. Click HERE to get all of the information and qualifcations for post-adoption service providers and liaisons in the Dallas/Ft. Worth region.  For other parts of Texas visit the Post-Adoption page of the DFPS site to find your provider HERE.

Parenting Helps

If you’re in need of parenting guidance to care, discipline or maneuver the complexities of attaching with a neglected or abused child, you’ve come to the right place!  Below are books, organizations, conferences, and more for getting the help you need.  If you need someone to talk to or a small group of other foster/adopt parents to normalize, learn and fellowship with check out our map of Embraced Churches!

Suggested Reading:

The Connected Child by Purvis & Cross (www.child.tcu.edu)

Parenting the Hurt Child by Keck & Kupecky (www.abcofohio.net)

Brothers and Sisters in Adoption by Arleta James (www.abcofohio.net)

The Whole-Brain Child by Siegel & Bryson (drdansiegel.com)

The Out-of-Sync Child by Carol Stock Kranowitz (www.out-of-sync-child.com)

Parenting is Your Highest Calling by Leslie Leyland Fields (www.leslieleylandfields.com)

The Mystery of Risk by Ira Chasnoff (www.ntiupstream.com)

Organizations:

Child Development Institute at TCU (Ft. Worth)

Child Trauma Academy (Houston)

Center for Play Therapy at UNT (Denton)

Parenting Center of Fort Worth (Ft. Worth)

Parenting Adoptees Can Trust (Ft. Worth)

Christian Works (Dallas)

Empowered to Connect (Irving)

The Dana Foundation – Cerebrum (New York)

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (Boston)

Conferences:

Tapestry Conference (Irving, Texas)

Adoption Conference (Rockwall, Texas)

A Future & A Hope Conference (Austin, Texas)

Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit (various locations)

Together for Adoption Conference (various locations)

Education Helps

Due to the risk factors surrounding foster or adopted children (neglect, abuse, instability, institutionalization, poor nutrition, en utero stress or drug exposure, etc.), education is often a difficult field to cross for our children. This information is provided to assist parents to ensure at-risk, foster & adopted children receive the services and best possible education available to them.

School District Liaisons:

Under the federal legislation of the McKinney-Vento Act, every school district has a Homeless/Foster Care Liaison on staff to ensure enrollment and services such as transportation, free/reduced meals, tutoring or other benefits are provided to qualifying students. Often times, counseling, individual education plans (IEPs) and the admission-review-dismisal process (ARDs) for special education fall under this liaison for the district as well. Each school campus may also have a committee consisting of an administrator, counselor and teacher to assist the district’s liaison with students at that specific school.

CPS Education Specialists –

Norma Eaves (norma.eaves@dfps.state.tx.us)

Beverly Nelson (beverly.nelson@dfps.state.tx.us)

Partners Resource Network/PATH Project (TEA Region 10) –

Linda Westrick (lmw_path10@att.net)

The Loop

the-loop-logo

 

The Loop is a simple platform to connect the tangible needs of the children you care for and your family with the generous people in communities across Collin County!  Needs from childcare to beds to diapers to meals and more can be posted.  So if you need some help, The Loop is a great place to find it… and it’s FREE!

CLICK HERE to join The Loop on Facebook.

Be sure to read through the guidelines for how needs are posted and met attached to the group page.

God has given a clear command to all Christians to care for orphans—“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1.27).

Worldwide, there are roughly 18 million orphans without any parents according to UNICEF most recent update from April 2013.  In the United States, there are approx. 420,000 children in foster care, and over 100,000 are adoptable—waiting for a forever home. With the command being clear and the need being apparent, there is an exciting new movement in churches across America to establish orphan care ministries so that we might not only care for these children in their distress while in foster care or orphanages, but empower birth families through poverty alleviation and development efforts to reclaim their kin and adopt when a child has no appropriate alternative.

If you are interested in establishing an orphan care ministry in your church or collaborating with other churches, we can help.  If your church is in Collin County (Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Allen), go to the Embrace Church Network page to learn more!  If you’re outside of our direct service area, click on the tabs below or Contact Us so we can help you get started!

How to Launch a Foster/Adoption Ministry

It took Embrace more than nine months of consulting with other churches, meeting with our own members and leaders and falling facedown in prayer pleading with God to provide direction for us to get started. Even after all that discussion and prayer, we still “spun our wheels” attempting to serve in effective ways for several more months. We hope this snapshot of how to start your ministry will assist you in avoiding some common pitfalls and give you some steps to move forward.

1. Pray Without Ceasing

Whether you are one lone person who God has sparked a vision in or a large group of interested volunteers, before you plan a strategy, look at a calendar, or try and think up of a clever name for the ministry…PRAY. This is without exception, and we encounter too many well-intentioned people with a passion who have not counted the cost of leading, addressed their own need for support, bandwidth, etc. If you have not “sown in tears” according to Pslam 126:5, put everything else on hold. No amount of expertise can replace this. We meet with too many groups who invite us in to share information and strategy but don’t ever petition the Spirit for discernment or guidance. If you or anyone is going to lead this ministry, it is going to take a realistic commitment of time, resources, finances and energy.

2. Assess Assets

Before we can address the needs of children, we must address what assets exist within our own community. Gather a core group of people you have both specifically recruited and cast the net wide to find. Learn what their experiences, interests, gifts and commitments are before delegating or planning. Do some homework on your own leadership. Are they financially willing to invest? Are they flakey? Are they a new believer? Have they proven they are diligent, creative, or administrative? Will you work well with them? You may have many programs in mind, but if you over-commit yourself or others, you will burnout. If you attempt to meet needs no one in your group can meet, those needing help will be more discouraged due to a failure to follow through. Allow your leadership and volunteers to prove themselves with little things before you depend on them to do bigger things. As this happens, assign roles and set expectations for one another. You will also want to think of what businesses, non-profit organizations, professionals and other churches exist in your community in order to network and build relationships.

3. Identify Needs

There are many issues in the realm of foster care, adoption and orphan care, and many areas in our communities those issues apply. Before we assume there is a need to provide resources to families, plan fun events or begin collecting any donations…meet with those in need. Talk to your county or regional Child Protective Services officials, other child placing agency staff, foster and/or adoptive families, emancipated foster youth, etc. allowing them to provide you with input for what is needed. In general, we know support, respite and ongoing education are needs, but how you go about providing each of those will vary in your community. One last thing before you head into the planning phase…take your leadership group through “When Helping Hurts” by Brian Fikkert and Steve Corbett. There are a number of other books recently written that are useful to you as well: Toxic Charity by Richard Lupton, Generous Justice by Timothy Keller, the Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, Understanding a Framework of Poverty in America by Ruby K. Payne and on the list goes. Be an educated leader to ensure you stay informed of the reality of orphan care from every angle.

4. Plan One Year Out

Many ministries start with great vision and initial enthusiasm only to host one event and sputter into irrelevance. After you identify needs, plan comprehensively for one calendar year. Your team regardless of how big or small it is will need to meet at least monthly to review and update plans, encourage one another, and communicate. As you think strategically about meeting needs, also think in terms of progressive programming. What we mean by this is a progression of opportunities volunteers and families participate in to become more involved in the efforts of the ministry. For example, you may have an entry level giving opportunity to donate items to foster youth entering independent living, a respite event requiring volunteers to be trained and spend a few hours with foster or adopted children as a next step, and then a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates speak on behalf of foster children in court and visit them monthly) volunteer recruitment push for those ready to commit at a deeper level. Seek realistic, attainable goals in this plan. At this initial stage, your ministry is building critical momentum to carry you to a point of sustainability and future growth. Doing too much too fast can burnout your leadership and potential volunteer base, and doing too little can stall your efforts entirely. A relational monthly meeting like a support group can be great to provide a foundation for the ministry, but once a quarter plan something to bring people in from the community.

5. Start Somewhere

At some point, you need to do something. This can be a respite event for foster and adoptive families, a recruitment effort to identify potential families, a service project to allow volunteers to give or just about anything that meets an identified need. You can only pick one thing to start with, and whatever you choose know this is not a sprint…it’s a marathon. We like to approach virtually everything we create as an experiment. In the beginning, you will create, organize and lead at least a handful of experiments. Our first support group consisted of three of us eating our own snacks and paying for our own childcare for several months. Our first donation effort required us to launder mass amounts of garage sale leftovers. Our first attempt to help other churches start ministries involved a well-developed website, curriculum and promotion ending after two meetings. And lastly, our first major fundraising idea ended before it ever began because our leadership was not on the same page. Get started, but don’t throw your eggs all in one basket.

6. Connect to Families

Now you have prayed, built a committed leadership core, identified tangible needs in your areas of service, planned and are ready to start…but where are the families? Regardless of whether you already have a large group of foster and adoptive families in your community or not, attracting families can be difficult. Your events may be stellar, but if no one comes, it doesn’t matter. Those families and professionals you sought out when you began identifying needs should be in your database. Database? Yes, database (we hope someone in your leadership has the gift of administration…or can at least type). This database should be a growing entity allowing you to stay connected to families, check-in when they have new placements from foster care or come home with their adopted child. An easy way to grow a database is to build relationships with child placing agencies, host a respite night or giveaway a book or t-shirt from a booth at a child welfare conference where you collect information for your giveaway. Social media is certainly an option, but you don’t need an elaborate marketing plan involving a flashy logo, printed materials and so on. If you have graphic designer or videographer, more power to you, but families need an understanding ear, knowledgeable insight and free childcare more than a pen stamped with your creative ministry name on it.

7. Refine and Build

Ministries deal with life cycles because we work with families that grow out of certain issues and into other ones. Cycles also occur in leadership, finances, and programs. In order to stallout- and burnout-proof the ministry, there must be a steady refining and building of the ministry in both its programs and its inner workings.

Recruitment, awareness, support and education will always be foundations of this type of ministry, but community involvement, advocacy, special considerations like AIDS orphans or medically fragile children and prevention are areas ministries can grow both domestically and internationally. So once a year, sit down with your team and reconstruct the ministry, dream bigger and evaluate your effectiveness with children and families. There will be times of affirming success and times of real doubt…this is the nature of ministry.

Lastly, In the event this has escaped us, the core of foster care, adoption and orphan care ministry is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you are busy organizing, delegating and meeting, it is easy to get caught up in the details and miss connecting children, adults and entire families to salvation. This is not simply prosteltyzing, it is exemplifying in actions and words the reality of redemption and restoration. Children will be hopeless, families will be in crisis, churches will feel helpless, and while we run about making plans to meet needs by planning programs or events, we must not lose sight of the Gospel…both for ourselves and those we serve.

Preschool, Children's & Student Ministry Training Workshops

As churches become more aware of the orphan care crisis, and families begin to open their homes to foster care and adoption, church ministries must prepare for their unique circumstances. Embrace offers training workshops for preschools, children’s and student ministries in order to educate staff, workers and volunteers in a variety of areas. Workshops currently offered are:

Caring for Neglected and Abused Children– an introductory overview to understanding foster care and institutionalized systems, etiquette for respecting children’s privacy, psychological issues and behavioral expectations and responses in organized settings.

Psychological and Developmental Issues in Children– an in depth examination of brain development as the foundation for language, behavior and expectations in a preschool or student ministry setting.

Complex Trauma and the Developing Child– a detailed presentation on the impact of drugs, stress, institutionalization, neglect and abuse on children in foster care or adoptive homes and how that impacts our ministry to them.

Submit a request for any of these workshops on the Contact page!

The Loop

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The Loop is a simple platform to connect the tangible needs of children and families with the generous people in your church!  Needs from childcare to beds to diapers to meals and more can be posted.  So if your church is organizing a resource closet or seeking a simply entry point to start a ministry, The Loop is a great opportunity requiring no extra usernames or logins… and it’s FREE!

CLICK HERE to join The Loop on Facebook.

Be sure to read through the guidelines for how needs are posted and met attached to the group page.

A Christian’s Guide to Foster & Adoption Ministry
is projected to release Fall 2017!

While foster parenting and adoption are both wonderful ways to have a huge impact on a child’s life, there are countless other ways to serve and everyone can do something!  You don’t have to open your home to open your heart to these children. Below are just a few suggestions of ways to give of your time, talents and resources. Embrace Texas is always looking for new ways to brighten the lives of children facing difficult transitions. If you are a foster or adoptive parent who knows of a need, or just someone with a new idea, please feel free to let us know… or get a group together in your church and community and go for it!

Get your background check through Verified Volunteers and start working with Embrace and the children and families we serve by clicking the button below.  The cost is approx. $20 and you can share your background check with other organizations you serve with so you only have to update it once each year.

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The Loop

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The Loop is a simple platform to connect the tangible needs of children and families with awesome people like you!  Needs from childcare to beds to diapers to meals and more can be posted.  So if you’re a doctor, a teacher, a lawn mower, a babysitter, a cook or a jack of all trades, you can help!

CLICK HERE to join The Loop on Facebook.

Be sure to read through the guidelines for how needs are posted and met attached to the group page.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

To learn about Embrace’s immediate volunteer needs, CLICK HERE!

All Embrace volunteers spending time with children must be background check with us through Verified Volunteers and affirm our Statement of Faith.

Regardless of where you are in the United States, there are a handful of national organizations you can volunteer with in your local community.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) represent foster children in court with only the best interest of the child in mind.  If you are in Collin County, contact our friends with Collin County CASA to get started!

Children’s Advocacy Centers provide a range of services including forensic interviewing and therapy for children who have been neglected or abused.  If you are in Collin County, contact the Collin County Children’s Advocacy Center!

Don’t see what you need?  Contact us!