Adoption, foster care 'messy' but biblical, panel says

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP) -- Adoption and foster care and what local churches can do to help families navigate related challenges were among the topics discussed by a panel of Southern Baptists in Birmingham, Ala.

Tera Melber (right), talks with Matt Crawford (left) and Jerry Haag June 10 as part of a panel on adoption and foster care in the exhibit hall in Birmingham, Ala., prior to the 2019 SBC Annual Meeting.
Photo by Van Payne
The panel was one of many that tackled a variety of topics on the Cooperative Program stage in the exhibit hall of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex June 10-12. The CP panels were held in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting.

Matt Crawford, east campus pastor of City Church, Tallahassee, Fla., moderated the discussion. Panelists included Tera Melber, a co-host for the North American Mission Board's Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast for Send Relief; and Jerry Haag, president/CEO of One More Child, which is based in Lakeland, Fla., and has 50 locations in 13 countries.

Highlighting the Bible as a source for answers on how to approach adoption and foster care, Crawford said "the Lord will grip your heart to answer the Scripture's call to care for orphans." Crawford, a father to an adopted child, noted there are both challenges and opportunities to foster care.

Melber, a mother of three adopted children, said despite the difficult days, "Jesus pursued them and us, and we need to pursue them."

"It's messy," Melber said. "You have to walk alongside them. ... There is nothing is easy in foster care.... You get to lean into the messy."

Melber, whose husband David is president of NAMB's Send Relief, noted church prayer warriors must pray for the children in foster care. "Foster care families need help," she said. "... You can love on them."

Haag, citing Jesus' teaching on orphans, urged those in attendance to "run to these children." He suggested establishing a "foster crew" to help the church with foster families, needy families and outreach to single mothers.

He also emphasized knowing the changes in the local, state and national foster care system, knowing the leaders in those systems, and finding out how to help state foster care agencies. He advocated seeing governmental agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and others as partners.

"One More Child" campaign is just one example, Haag said, of helping recruit and license more church families as foster homes.

Melbar noted other things that local churches can do to help adopting and fostering families, including providing clothing, backpacks and the Word of God to foster children their churches.

For more ideas, NAMB has a "Restoring Dignity" initiative through Send Relief with online presentations and guides for assisting adopting and fostering families at sendrelief.org/foster-care-adoption/.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated in the 3rd and 10th paragraphs on June 26 with new information.

Marcia Knox is the editorial assistant for Baptist Press.
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