November is Adoption Awareness Month. One of the largest organized initiatives surrounding this month is Orphan Sunday, a movement that began with the Christian Alliance for Orphans to promote awareness and action in the U.S and across the globe. The idea came from a small church in Zambia where impoverished village parishioners provided for the needs of local orphaned children.
According to UNICEF, there are approximately 150 million orphaned or relinquished children worldwide due to war, natural disaster, poverty, disease, stigma, and medical needs. Within the U.S., there are close to half a million children who are cared for through the child welfare system, many of which are waiting for their forever families including nearly 400 children in Mississippi. While adoption or serving as a foster resource family isn’t possible or feasible for everyone, the call of Orphan Sunday is that we can all take action to care for vulnerable children.
“We receive a call almost every day from someone seeking placement for a child into our program,” said Elliott Brown, supervisor for Canopy Children’s Solutions’ Therapeutic Foster Care Program. “Children thrive in the care and security of a nurturing home much better than in an institutional setting such as a long-term group home. Although not everyone is equipped to be a foster parent or even an adoptive parent, anyone can lend support to those who are called to serve in this way.”
Bringing a child into your home, whether he or she is biological, fostered or adopted, is a huge undertaking. Many times when foster and adoption placements take place, they happen quickly and with very little notice. That makes preparing difficult and having a support system in place is essential to creating a successful placement and helping to minimize stress and frustration. If adoption or fostering is not right for you, there are several ways you can come alongside others in their journey.
Bring them a family meal
Bringing a child into the home can be overwhelming, particularly for foster parents who are trying to comfort a frightened or upset child. The first three weeks of transition are often the most difficult as the family begins to adjust to a new routine. Drop off a hot meal big enough for the whole family or help organize a meal train where meals are dropped off throughout the week. Communicate with the family about allergies or food aversions and also storage capacity if bringing frozen meals.
Shower them with supplies
Placements happen very quickly so there is often little time to prepare and gather all the supplies the child will need. Organize a drive-by shower where friends, family and neighbors can drop off supplies such as diapers and wipes, cleaning supplies, toiletries, new or very gently used baby equipment and clothing. Be sure to ask the family what things they need most.
Picking up groceries, running to the bank, dropping off paperwork, picking up a prescription—these are all tasks that may become very difficult for a new foster or adoptive parent during transition. When you’re out shopping for your own family, check in to see if there is anything they need and offer to drop it by; it can be a huge weight lifted from the family.
Be their hands and feet
We’ve all experienced the difficulty in “getting it all done.” Come by and change sheets and make beds, fold laundry or clean the bathrooms to help lighten the load. Seemingly small acts of service can have a huge impact.
Every parent needs a break sometimes; but that can be more difficult for foster parents than others. Providing respite care — whether it’s just during an afternoon of errands, letting a couple get a quality date night, or caring for a child over a weekend — is a tremendous gift to foster parents and children. According to the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Service, families and friends can provide respite care for foster families with no more than a background check and approval from the child’s caseworker (in some cases only approval is needed). While home study and licensure is not required, those providing respite care for children in foster care must follow the same rules as licensed families regarding corporal punishment, sleeping arrangements, and photos shared on social platforms.
In November, as we think on the things we are blessed with and thankful for, also consider ways you can share those blessings with others in need. By supporting foster and adoptive families, whether it is with hugs and playdates, a box of diapers or just a cup of coffee and someone to listen, you too can be a valuable source of light and support in the lives of vulnerable children.
To learn more about adoption through foster care in Mississippi, visit the Mississippi Heart Gallery.
ABOUT CANOPY CHILDREN’S SOLUTIONS: Canopy Children’s Solutions is Mississippi’s largest and most comprehensive nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions. Founded in 1912, Canopy offers a full array of integrated, community-based services in all 82 counties as well as intensive campus-based and educational programming. For more information, please contact 800-388-6247 or visit us on the web at mycanopy.org.