Caring for Orphans As a Family

Today I’m sharing from my Orphan Care resources on Caring for Orphans As a Family.
One of my favorite topics!

Caring for Orphans as a Family is one of my favorite topics. Why? Because I want to leave a legacy for my children that includes knowing how to love the least of these well.

“God has called us to be a defender of the defenseless because that is who He is.
We are returning worship to God when we show His character to the world
by championing the cause of the least of these.”
– Orphanology

Caring for orphans is not the responsibility of the state or the government of another country: it’s the work of God’s people. And I believe it starts with us and our families.

Before we dive in, let’s be clear on who we are talking about. According to UNICEF there are 163 million “orphans” worldwide. Most of us, when we think of the term “orphan”, think of children without parents.

UNICEF and other agencies “adopted the broader definition of orphan in the mid-1990s as the AIDS pandemic began leading to the death of millions of parents worldwide, leaving an ever increasing number of children growing up without one or more parents. So the terminology of a ‘single orphan’ – the loss of one parent – and a ‘double orphan’ – the loss of both parents – was born to convey this growing crisis.”

So the number of vulnerable children worldwide is estimated to be 163 million. Some of these children have two living parents but are highly vulnerable because the parents are not able to afford their care, abuse them, neglect them, are very ill…

Of those 163 million vulnerable children, only 18.5 million are “double orphans”. I say only because if we just looked at the 163, it would be our assumption that homes are needed for all of those children, but that is not the case.

Nearly 90% of those children have homes and living family members. Their entire family needs support. And love. And prayer.

This is not just a global problem. There are half a million orphans right here in our country. We don’t use the term “orphan” in the United States but our society is not above this crisis.

The scriptural mandate is clear: Caring for orphans is the business of the Church. And the Church is made up of who? Us and our families.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 1:27

learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
plead the widow’s cause
– Isaiah 1:17

I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted,

and will execute justice for the needy.
– Psalm 140:12

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;

maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3-4

Here are some practical ideas and prayerful encouragement for what orphan care can look like for you (single or married) and your family (big kids, little kids or no kids).

What I want you to know is this: There is something for everyone. You can dip your toes into the pond or dive in head first BUT don’t let yourself become overwhelmed and as a result do nothing. At some point the need must compel us to practically do something. Let that point be now.

Ideas for your Littles

Start with scripture. There are five things Gods word tells us about caring for the poor. Even young children can count to five on their fingers and memorize these things. (Thanks to Lisa Kjeldaarld for giving me permission to share these with you!)

  1. God is concerned. Psalm 140:12
  2. God identifies Himself with the poor. Proverbs 14:31
  3. God commands us to act. Isaiah 1:17
  4. God blesses those who serve. Proverbs 19:17
  5. God punishes those who ignore orphans. Jeremiah 5:28.

Create a map of the world on your wall or in a photo book with photos of children/women/families you sponsor and missionaries you know. Add clocks if you create a wall map set to the time of that location. Talk to your kids at dinner time about what it’s like for children in other parts of the world at mealtimes.

Participate in collecting school or other needed supplies for at-risk children. You could do this for foster kids in your own community or children on the other side of the world. Take your kiddos and a list of needed supplies to the store. Explain what you are purchasing and why. If your kids are anything like mine, they will present you with ample opportunity to teach selflessness and make purchases for kids who are less fortunate than they are.

Teach your kids to be comfortable with public speaking so they can be a voice for those who are not heard. Have them memorize and recite scripture. Come up with questions and let them interview each other. Teach them the art of storying the bible and let them share stories with family members and others who don’t know Jesus. This is all great practice for growing into a bold voice for the fatherless!

Encourage them to donate their birthday instead of receiving gifts. (You could do this one too!;-) We have done this with our kids from the beginning and obvisouly it is much easier with a one year old. Now that they are older we allow them to choose the organization, ministry, or adopting family that will be the receipient of their birthday. We do still buy them one gift and grandparents are exempt from this rule. (Because they don’t listen to us anyway.) Our kiddos really do enjoy giving up their gifts for others! It’s pretty amazing!

Watch YouTube videos of orphanages or “Gotch Days” with your kids. Explain what life is like in an orphanage or why that family is bringing a child into their home.

Follow websites highlighting children waiting for families, let your kids pick a child, and pray that child home. The power of prayer is, well, powerful friends. You and your little ones can intercede on behalf of a child in need and change their life. Isn’t that amazing?! Teach your kids to get on their knees for the fatherless at an early age and they will not stray from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Teach them to fundraise. I’m all about raising little entreprenuers. You could start a change jar for a family you know who is in the process of adopting. Kids can easily have a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds. “Encourage” them to go through their clothes and toys and have a yardsale with the items they “choose” to give away.

Serve with your kids. I have yet to find anywhere in the bible where it says mamas with lots of littles are exempt from serving. I understand there are seasons where serving is not possible, but it should be just that – a season. There are places you can serve with your kids. You just have to seek them out, ask, and sometimes get a little creative.

One example: our family adopted a single dad and his four kids for Christmas last year. Our kids went shopping for the family with me, helped wrap the gifts, and deliver them. It wasn’t necessarily advertised as an opportunity to serve as a family but we easily made it into one.

Visit refugee families. In our area there are a TON of refugee families in need of stuff. We have stuff (we are American after all) so we can give some of it away. I love involving my kids in cross-cultural ministry because they get to see that not everyone looks like them, talks like them, or has all of the things they have. Search for a refugee ministry near you.

Sponsor a child/woman/familiy. Through Compassion International you can search for a child by location, gender, and age allowing you to sponsor a child/children the same gender and age as your kid/dos at home. I think this adds an extra layer of interest and reality for your kids into the life of your sponsored child.

PRAY! Our kids pick up on what is important to us. If we are not praying for orphans and vulnerable children our kids won’t be either. Ask God to break your heart and the hearts of your children for what breaks His.

Ideas for Adults

Become a Safe Families for Children volunteer. A couple things about Safe Families that I really want to point out: it is voluntary and supplemental to the care the parents are providing. It is not mandated by the state – the parents choose to seek a Safe Family for their kids before their situation (addiction, jail time, homelessness, job loss, etc.) escalates to the point child protective services becomes involved. It keeps kids out of an already overtaxed and underfunded foster care system, provides them with a safe Christian home, and allows their parents to take care of some adult business. It is simply uh-mazing.

Become a foster parent. This is not for everyone. But it may be for you. The need is real. Start with my Foster Care FAQ’s and follow the links to learn more.

Adopt a child. Not everyone is called to adopt a child. That is ok. But maybe you are? Here are 10 things I think you should know before pursuing adoption.

In the words of Johnny Carr “Orphan care is far more than a humanitarian effort or an issue of social justice. This is war. When you care for orphaned and vulnerable children, when you work to reverse this vicious cycle that Satan has so masterfully orchestrated, you are fighting against the devil himself.” from his amazing book Orphan Justice.

Cover your ministry in prayer. No matter how big or small your involvement in orphan care is, the place to start is on your knees.




And all God's people said: