• May/June 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 3

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Faith-based Campaigns: Answering the Call to Find Homes for Waiting Children

Religious groups can be an important ally in recruiting families, providing support, and adopting children from the foster care system. The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) profiles successful programs from Judeo-Christian communities in its March 2001 Recruiting News newsletter.

Two common themes found in these programs were:

  • Recruiters must learn and respect the rules of the religious groups they approach.
  • Recruiters must establish a lasting relationship with members of the faith community.

In North Carolina, the Division of Social Services works in cooperation with the General Baptist State Convention (GBSC) to recruit African American singles and couples to be adoptive and foster parents. Since 1998, the GBSC Adoption and Foster Care Ministry's staff has attended conferences, workshops, and Sunday services at churches that express interest. The Ministry's staff works with volunteer project coordinators in each of the more than 100 congregations currently participating. Outreach to other faith communities and partnerships with the State NAACP and the North Carolina Association of Black Social Workers help promote the initiative.

The Jewish Children's Adoption Network (JCAN) was founded in 1990 to place Jewish children in families where their religion and heritage would not be lost. Many of the more than 1,000 Jewish children placed have special needs. Recruitment of Jewish families is mostly by word-of-mouth through the staff's connections with Jewish family service agencies, Jewish communal organizations, rabbis, and past adoptive parents. JCAN's exchange services are free and available to the adoption community. Its database lists waiting families and the characteristics of children they are willing to adopt. JCAN's directors have found that placing children in their religious community increases the chances of finding other receptive adoptive families, who are willing to cope with special needs.

The Bandele Project in Detroit, Michigan, partnered with faith communities not only to find homes for waiting African American children, but also to provide an outlet for social and artistic activities for these children. Started in 1992 by Spaulding for Children, Bandele (an African boy's name meaning "follow me home" or "born away from home") involved 15 churches and 15 agencies in its 7-year history. A Bandele play helped the children develop self-esteem and showcased their talents and personalities to prospective adoptive families. Bandele staff learned that membership in the religious community and/or developing cultural competence in the faith community's rules and goals resulted in a successful collaboration.

Philadelphia's Faith-Based Partnership for Adoption—a coalition of faith-based social service organizations—took advantage of National Adoption Month last November to kick-off its first ever Adoption Sabbath. The weekend of presentations at churches, synagogues, and Sunday school classes, preceded by a media event, resulted in nearly 100 families coming forward to learn about adoption. It also served as a catalyst to unite faith communities with the adoption community and to strengthen joint recruitment efforts among Partnership members.

Families in the Bennett Chapel Missionary Church, located in a remote Texas town, have welcomed more than 100 children into adoptive and foster homes. The pastor and his wife spearheaded the effort to involve the congregation by adopting 2 children and fostering 2 others. The Reverend W.C. Martin arranged for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services (DPRS) to teach a training class for prospective adoptive and foster parents at his church, saving members a trip of more than 70 miles to the nearest city. From the first series of classes, 18 Bennett Chapel families finalized adoptions, followed by many more. The Chapel and close-knit community have served as a support group and recruitment mechanism for other families. They are working with DPRS to build a Family Outreach Center.

One Church, One Child is a national adoption education and recruitment project founded in 1980 by Father George Clements, a black Chicago priest who became the first priest in the U.S. to adopt a child. There are now 31 chapters operating in 31 States. Each chapter consists of a network of local churches that seek and refer prospective adoptive parents from their congregations and the community to local government social services, which has children available for adoption. The executive director of Virginia's One Church, One Child program provides tips to groups trying to work with faith communities in the "Ask the Expert" section of the newsletter.

For more information about these faith-based recruitment programs for waiting children, access NACAC's newsletter online at: http://www.nacac.org/recruitingfamilies.html

Related Items

Visit the White House website for news and speeches about Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at: http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/faith-based.

Visit the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov) for the following related item:

  • Actions for Faith Communities for Child Abuse Prevention (Note: this is no longer available.)

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