how to care for orphans.

I've mentioned before that I've been interested in orphans and adoption for years. One of the beautiful things that God has been teaching me over the last year is that there are many ways to care for orphans. Here are a few ideas:

1. Adopt a child.
This is clearly the most obvious way to support orphans, and, I used to think, the only way. But what about those of us who can't adopt, or aren't called to (yet)?

2. Become a foster parent.
Being a foster parent is not an easy job - kids can be in and out of your home, they come with all kinds of past hurts and baggage, and the sheer volume of people involved in one person's case is enough to make your head spin (social workers, CASAs, mentors, case workers, guidance counselors, therapists, lawyers, parents and step-parents and other family members - the list goes on).

3. Give.
Adoption is expensive (though usually less so if you're adopting from the state foster care system). There are a lot of volunteer organizations that help to offset the cost of adoption for families who want to do so (like Bethany Christian Services or Shaohannah's Hope). You can also financially organizations that care for children and orphans around the world (like Mercy House, a new maternity home for pregnant girls living in the streets of Kenya, slated to open in late 2011, or Amazima, a ministry to the Karamojong people in Uganda).

4. Volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate.
This is why I do it, and some of the things I've learned.

5. Support friends who are adopting or fostering children.
There are a ton of ways to help friends who are adopting or fostering children - bring them meals, help with material needs, or offer to babysit or help transport children (there may be background checks and other steps necessary to do this).

I read recently about an organization in Atlanta calld Faith Bridge Foster Care, that seeks to build a community of volunteers around a foster family to provide support and resources. Its a fascinating model that partners with local churches with the express purpose of changing foster care in the U.S.

6. Provide a home for a young pregnant woman.

7. Sponsor a child.
There are a lot of organizations that already work on behalf of poor children throughout the world, like Compassion and World Vision. And with most of these, you have the opportunity to not just provide financially for food, clothing, and education, but to also write to and encourage the child.

8. Pray.
I've listed this one last, not because its the least important, but the most. I was reminded just recently (through this post) that prayer should be our very first step.

What are some other ways to care for orphans? I'm sure there are lots of ideas that I've missed - I'd love to hear them!

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."
~ James 1:27

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