USA (MNN) ― Older children who are adopted defy the statistics. Most of the time they are placed in foster care and eventually ‘age out' of the system when they turn 18.
Prospective adoptive parents tend to shy away from older kids (non-infants) because the children often have deep psychological wounds that need healing.
It's a double whammy and one that Bethany Christian Services is tackling head on. Project Open Arms is a joint initiative between Bethany Christian Services and the Michigan Family Forum with the goal that no Michigan child will have to wait for an adoptive home.
Project Coordinator Kim Offutt says their biggest job is to educate people about adoption and foster care. "When people think about adoption, they think about infants. Then other people think about international adoptions. I call our children here who are in foster care--older kids that are available for adoption-- the ‘forgotten' kids."
Foster care has its own mythology that Offutt works hard to dispel. "Foster care is supposed to be a temporary solution to a temporary problem. It's not supposed to raise kids. Unfortunately, many children end up being raised by the foster care system."
Most people aren't even aware of the orphan crisis in the United States, specifically in Michigan. Offutt says being one of the forgotten kids just adds to their emotional abandonment. "These children experience trauma in their homes. For whatever reason, they cannot return to their biological families, and they need a permanent home."
But where can you find a community stable enough to follow the idea of "it takes a village to raise a child?" You find it in the Church. Offutt explains that "as Christians, we are mandated to care for the orphan. It's amazing when I see churches who are opening their arms to our children and to our families, and who are helping us stand side-by-side and being the hands and feet of Christ."
Project Open Arms is not without precedent. It was inspired by Project 1:27, an orphan ministries program in Colorado, and it could grow fast because the needs are so overwhelming. "I see this program expanding. I see that when you look around many states, there are many programs just like this, where we're calling out the body of Christ and saying, ‘We are all called to be a part of this.'"
Commitment from a church may range from praying for waiting children or a specific child, to distributing information on adoption to their congregation, to hosting a guest speaker on the subject, to providing wrap-around support services to an adoptive family in the congregation.
"We have about 467 churches now that are partnering with us in this effort, and many of them have also launched orphan care ministries," says Offutt. She adds, "Those are the wrap-around ministries that support foster and adoptive families from their congregation."
Project Open Arms hopes to place at least 400 Michigan children into loving, Christian homes in four years: one church, one family, and one child at time. "[God] cares about our families, and He wants our children to be safe, to be in permanent homes, and to know Him."
With over 10,000 churches in Michigan, there seems to be a lot of untapped potential families for waiting children. There are more details for Project Open Arms here.