Let’s All Come to the Table

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Abide Family Center had the privilege of attending and leading a workshop at the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO) Summit this year. Every year I get to be at CAFO, I walk away encouraged by the great strides the orphan care movement is making. Every year I see more collaboration, more learning, more people talking about and asking about family-based care, and more growth. It makes me proud to be a part of this movement.

But I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit I spend time being frustrated. I’ve even been known to cry out of anger at a certain workshop (not naming any names). With 2,500 people all working in the same field gathered together at once, there can be a lot of strong emotions. Despite those emotions, there are still those God honoring moments where we come together and all move forward inch by inch in the right direction.

We can spend all day- and a lot of days we do- arguing and disagreeing and discussing what children need. We can make statements like, “we need to shut down orphanages,” “foster care is better,” “children should stay in their biological families,” and “international adoption is too corrupt to be an option.” And for every statement like that (even the ones supported by research), I can tell you an exception.

I believe children belong in families. 100 percent. But I can also tell you the story of when I was incredibly grateful for an orphanage that could get kids I loved safe quickly. I can tell you about a child who was internationally adopted who needed that option to be loved and thrive. I can even tell you about a group of kids I helped place in a long term group home because we could not find a better option. We work in family preservation and we have high success rates- but we also have cases where the child needs to be removed for their safety.

I want to live in a world where every child lives in a loving and safe family. I am fighting every day for that world. But I also realize I live in a broken and sinful world where we need to admit we’re not going to get there until Christ returns.
We need high quality short term orphanages and therapeutic group homes and loving foster families and committed adoptive parents and holistic family preservation programs. We need you all.

What we need most is people committed to always putting the needs of the child first.

That’s the common thing missing in the solutions we DON’T need. These solutions aren’t putting the needs of the child first… the corrupt orphanages that are full of kids with families that love them, the foster parents who abuse the kids in their care, the international adoptions where children are ripped from their loving families and bribes are exchanged so many times the truth becomes a cloudy storm. Greed, pride, money, and attention seeking are the main priority in these cases- never the child.

Let’s all come to the table- filled with humility and a learning spirit. Let’s all come together ready to ask ourselves, how can we do better for the children in our care? Let’s alway look for ways to improve and grow. We should do our best until we know better, and then we can do better. If that means transitioning kids in your care back to their families, or creating a foster care network, or strengthening your gatekeeping so that you are providing high quality care to the children who have no other option, then do it.

I’ve been the orphanage hater and the international adoption hater and the “my solution is the best” person, and besides being ineffective and unchristlike, it’s just exhausting. And it can be pretty humbling when you find yourself knocking on an orphanage door because you’ve gone through every other option, or when you find yourself supporting an international adoption because you realize that child cannot get the care they need in their home country.

This is what I’ve learned: we’re not getting anywhere in our fight for kids to be safe, healthy and loved if we don’t put aside our pride and come to the table filled with grace and an open mind.

We are grateful to be at the table and, as they say in Uganda, you are most welcome too.

-Megan Parker, Executive Director