Editor’s note: Jan. 17 is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
Southern Baptist churches in Texas are reflecting the gospel by serving kids and families in the areas of foster care and adoption, where the needs are great.
Even before the pandemic, the nation’s foster system was strained. In January 2019 there were 29,927 children in foster care in Texas, and 3,378 children waiting for adoptive families. According to Adoption, Inc., more than 60 percent of those available for adoption nationwide spend two to five years in the foster care system.
Lakepointe Church in Rockwall, Fielder Church in Arlington and Houston’s First Baptist Church see the tragedy of children who hurt, and their families—biological or adoptive—as desperately in need of God’s unconditional love.
“We have a heart to love on all sides of what happens in foster care and adoption,” said Kasi Pruitt, director of Lakepointe’s foster care and adoption ministry. “No matter how you enter [the situation] there’s brokenness involved. We want to be a light in the darkness and bring God glory in the midst of some really hard situations.”
At Fielder, Maddie Huang serves as missions associate with specific responsibility for the church’s adoption and foster care ministry.
“Our over-arching vision statement is to inhale and exhale the gospel and make disciples who do the same,” Huang told the TEXAN. “One way we exhale is pursuing children through adoption and foster care. It’s an outward expression of living out the gospel.”
Legacy 685, an adoption, foster and orphan care ministry of Houston’s First Baptist Church serves Christian families in the church and in the community, said Toni Steere, the ministry’s director. The ministry focuses on resourcing foster and adoptive families in the church and community.
“Our goal is to come to a place where there are more than enough resources for all these families,” Steere told the TEXAN. “Many families become discouraged when fostering because of a lack of resources and support.”
Not everyone is called to adopt or foster, but every person can help in one way or another, said Pruitt. Lakepointe’s adoption/foster care—A/FC—ministry started with a dozen couples, 15 years ago, who wanted to help others like them.
Adoption and foster care is a heartbeat of Lakepointe, Pruitt said. Countless families have jumped in to serve. More and more leadership and staff are becoming adoptive or foster families, and this is flowing outward into the church body as well. The church desires to equip and support these foster and adoptive families.
Lakepointe life groups rally around the person or couple, offering emotional and physical support. The church provides counseling on an as-needed basis for adults and/or children, a monthly support group with childcare, CPR training, gift cards for families when a new child enters their home, and grants for families who are in the adoption process.
A quarterly “respite night” gives the fostering and adopting parents a three-hour break. A community-wide conference held annually since 2006 has grown to about 700 attendees.
Lakepointe also partners with local government offices by supporting caseworkers and helping birth families as they work towards reunification.
“That’s what we’re called to do as believers, to love them and serve them,” Pruitt said. “God calls us to the hard [tasks], to sacrifice and love people. These kiddos are made in God’s image. He loves them and wants them to know him. …
“We love the children and also are trying to love their biological families as well,” Pruitt continued. “You’re able to see healing happen, families restored and see God move in amazing ways. We do that out of love for God and love for people.
“Out of the overflow of what God has done for us, we in turn do that for others,” Pruitt said. “God sacrificed for us; we sacrifice for others. God shows us compassion; we do that for others. God is good to us; we are good to others.”
Jason Paredes, pastor, rolled out a 14-goal, 10-year vision in 2016 at Fielder Church, where pre-COVID about 4,000 people attended worship. One of those goals is that 1,000 children will be fostered or adopted by 2026.
“We pray a lot as church staff and ask the Lord to move in people’s hearts,” Huang said. “Adoption and foster care are a normal part of the culture at Fielder. It’s talked about a lot from the pulpit and is in front of people a lot. We say, ‘Would you put your yes on the table when it comes to bringing a child into your home?’”
To date, 97 fostered and adopted children have become part of Fielder, and 48 families are in the process to either foster or adopt, Huang said.
Among the church’s multiple ministries for A/FC are a “First Steps Q&A” night that includes presentations by outside experts, a virtual support group, quarterly respite and family fun nights, meals for new placement families, and financial assistance to families adopting.
There’s Adoption Sunday every November, Huang said. “We bring awareness to the need, celebrate families in the A/FC process, and challenge our church body, ‘Would you consider adopting or fostering?’”
At least 40 of Fielder’s community groups make “First Night Bags” for youngsters going to foster families—unfamiliar environments for the children who have nothing but the clothes they’re wearing. The bags include age-appropriate pajamas, toothbrushes, small toys and more. In late fall, Christmas baskets—filled with such items as kid games, restaurant gift cards, gingerbread house kits—are distributed to agencies to give to their clients.
Fielder intentionally normalizes A/FC for the church’s large Hispanic community, where adoption and foster care are culturally less common.
“We exist to lead, shepherd and equip families to exhale the gospel by relieving children through foster care and adoption,” Huang said. “We do so because we’re compelled by the gospel to care for orphans and other vulnerable children here in our city and around the world.”
The foster and adoption ministry Legacy 685 at Houston’s First Baptist Church started in 2008 when six families who had fostered or adopted children gathered for mutual encouragement and information sharing.
The ministry derives its name from Psalm 68:5-6a, “believing firmly that it is God who forms forever families and God who sustains these families,” Steere said. “Legacy 685 speaks to the power of the redemptive and restorative legacy through adoption.”
The ministry founders saw a need “to provide connection, community and funding to families compelled to move toward the miracle of adoption in compassion for the orphan,” according to the church’s website.
The initial plan has evolved to connecting families to families as well as financial resources; equipping families with relevant, biblical, trauma-informed resources, and sustaining foster and adoptive families on their healing journey, Steere said.
“In our area there’s very little support for birth moms who are creating an adoption plan for their babies, for the 5,000 or more children across greater Houston entering the foster system who need safe places to land, as well as for the families wanting to adopt internationally,” Steere explained.
In addition to the church family, which pre-COVID gathered 10,000 or more for worship, “Our mom’s group serves over 50 churches that do not have the ability to resource and support families who foster or adopt,” Steere said. “At Houston’s First Baptist, we provide monthly gatherings where families [from both the church and the metro area] can feel supported, build community and receive needed parenting resources.
“We have found traditional parenting skills often fail for those rearing foster and adopted children,” the director continued. “As a ministry we are committed to providing relevant, biblical tools for families as they seek to walk with their children toward emotional, physical, relational and spiritual health.”
Legacy 685 at Houston’s First is dedicated to connecting families to families, equipping and sustaining them throughout the journey, Steere said. Families gather at the church Sunday evenings to be prepared mentally, emotionally and spiritually before fostering or adopting.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There is a need for people to take children into their homes, to help them become people who love God, leaders from all three churches said. There also is a need to minister to the parents, who deal daily, even hourly, with impulses of children still reacting to the trauma they experienced before they received a new life.
“Everybody can do something,” Pruitt, Huang and Steere agreed.
Money can help provide contents for “First Night” bags, school clothes, mini golf for the family, even a parents’ date night.
Students and adults can become certified babysitters. Students who can read and write can help those behind in their grade level. Those who can cook can provide an evening or Sunday meal for a harried new mom or dad. Everyone can pray.
Steere said, “There’s no reason the body of Christ cannot provide more than enough resources for children in need and for families giving God their yes.”
Fielder’s Paredes, a father of six including two adopted children, summed up the heart of the ministry in comments to the TEXAN: “Adoption and foster care are such tangible and powerful examples of God’s unconditional love expressed in the gospel. As we pursue a child who hasn’t earned our love and doesn’t always love us back, we show the world the Father’s love for us.”