'I want to adopt a child'

Throughout the country single women outnumber single men in churches, making it difficult for women to find a Christian husband. Many single women long to express their love and nurture by having a family of their own through adoption or fostering. When they do, the active support of their church can be invaluable.

The following article, based on interviews with single people who have adopted, reveals what is important to them and how the church can help.

How church leaders can help single people in their congregation who want to adopting or foster

By Catherine Francis     

 'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their  distress…' James 1 v 27

If a member of your congregation approaches you to discuss adopting as a single person, are you equipped to help them? With singleness on the increase, both in wider society and in the church, this is an issue that leaders will increasingly encounter. Single women hugely outnumbering single men in the church, so many Christian women in particular don’t find marriage partners, and realise that if they’re going to have a family, it will have to be on their own. Adoption or fostering may be one route they consider.

Single people are certainly able to adopt and foster children, and shouldn’t be discouraged from exploring the possibility. In fact, the church is a massive untapped source of loving homes for children who would otherwise spend their lives in the care system. Churches can also be an amazing source of support for single parents, providing practical help, emotional and spiritual support, and providing young people with a loving community and good role models of both genders, to help them grow into happy, healthy and confident adults.

If a member of your church approaches you for advice on the process of applying for adoption or fostering, you can direct them [here] to learn about what to expect. This information will also help you and your congregation to care for them more effectively.   When it comes to emotional and spiritual support, we asked single Christians who’ve adopted or fostered, or are considering it, what they’d like from their church leaders and fellow church members. Here’s what they had to say…  

‘Help me mourn for the family I never had’

Adopting a child can be a wonderfully satisfying process, and many adoptive parents are ultimately glad they didn’t have birth children, because it was the route to adopting the children they adore. However, there’s often a grieving process first, as they have to let go of their dreams of marriage and birth children. Listen to them, love them, and help them work through their grief, so they’re ready for a new path into parenthood.   

‘Reassure me that we won’t be a second class family in the church’

Many churches are still very focused on the nuclear family with two parents, and single families report that they’re often made to feel ‘broken’ or ‘inferior’. This isn’t helped by the scapegoating of single parents in the media, blaming them for every social problem. However, single parent families are often strong, healthy and successful, especially if they have the support of a strong community. Reassure your parishioner that all families in the church are equally valued and embraced.      

‘Be there for me during the adoption process’

The process of adoption and fostering is full of rigorous investigations and self-reflection, and can be very emotionally draining. It will help if you and members of your congregation take an interest. Check in regularly to see how the person is coping, and if they need counselling or just someone to talk to. Help them review their strengths and weaknesses. Offer to give a personal reference. Ask if they’d like the church to pray for them in services or small groups. Above all, be aware and interested.  

‘Don’t underestimate the power of a casserole’

Adopting a child as a single person can be exhausting and isolating, because there’s no one to share the practical and emotional load. A new parent may find themselves stuck in the house, less able to get to church or socialise, and never able to take a break. It makes a big difference if church members take the trouble to visit, stay in touch if they can’t be as involved at church, and offer to babysit when it becomes appropriate. Don’t underestimate the value of practical help from church friends and small groups, such as helping to decorate a bedroom, doing a toy collection, or turning up with a casserole.  

‘Be accepting and non-judgemental’

Children who’ve been in the care system may come with baggage, behavioural problems and trust issues. The most important thing a church can do is to be accepting, welcoming and non-judgemental. Warmly embrace the child as one of your own, even if they display undesirable behaviours. Foster children in particular often feel ‘on the outside’, ‘different’ and ‘other’. A relaxed, accepting approach makes a big difference.  

‘Remember, it takes a village to raise a child’

A single parent may worry about their ability to be all things to their child. A church is in a unique position to provide a supportive community, a range of relationships with people of different ages, and good male and female role models. The same applies to foster children, who are members of your community for as long as they’re there, and who will benefit hugely from healthy relationships and a caring community.      

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