Jesus said to the disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 NIV). 

For the thousands of foster children and children waiting for adoption in Indiana, Jesus’ words are good news.

As local pastor Zachary Manton of Jasonville United Methodist Church was taking Course of Study classes, he read the Social Principles. He noticed that foster care and adoption had only a few passing references. He and his spouse, Erin, had recently become foster parents and knew how great of a need there was in Indiana. 

As of 2019 there were over 9,000 children in foster care alone. Indiana’s Department of Child Services shared in November 2021 that there are also over 1,200 children who are ready and waiting for adoption

Pastor Zachary and Erin’s first foster child was just over a year old at arrival. Since that time they have seen this child reunified with the mother. “We have built such a relationship with them that they asked us to be the child’s godparents. To this day we’re still in contact with the mother and child. I saw the impact that fostering could have, reflected Zachary.

In reference to the sparse mentions in the Book of Discipline, Pastor Zachary said, “I just don’t think that’s enough. I think we need to have a concerted effort to make [adoption] matter to people, to help people see the importance of this.” 

This led him to author the R-2 Manton Resolution “Adoption and Foster Care.” In the INUMC commitment to “Children Matter Most,” this resolution called for the 2021 Annual Conference to adopt a special focus on ministering to children in foster care and awaiting adoption. 

“For multiple years we have had per capita the highest number of foster children in the United States. Indiana also adopted more children per capita than any other state, so there is some hope there. What would the impact be if every United Methodist Church in Indiana fostered or adopted one child?” Pastor Zachary asked.

Even with that wondering of a Conference-wide impact, Pastor Zachary knows that not every family can foster or adopt. “One of the rallying cries behind foster care and adoption is everyone can do something. You don’t have to be specially trained; you just have to love like Jesus, he said.

That ‘something’ can take a variety of forms. For some, it will be becoming foster families or adoptive families. For others it will be taking up the cause through Family Advocacy Ministries such as Hands of Hope

Family Advocacy Ministries develop “Care Communities” of people who commit to supporting local foster and adoptive families. When nearly 50% of foster families across the U.S. quit in the first year or after their first placement, the impact of a Care Community can not be overstated.  

Other suggestions include things like foster closets where families have access to items that are needed when they are called upon for a placement. 

Churches can also volunteer to be safe and hospitable spaces for visitations between parents and children. As Pastor Zachary’s church has opened their fellowship hall, they’ve also seen families’ faith renewed. “It has allowed us to show that love and let them know that they’re not alone.“

“Everyone can do something,” Pastor Zachary said. If the church does a bunch of small things, that’s when we make a great impact on people’s lives. Sometimes it’s just a casserole.”

As Jesus welcomed children to him, so also can the Church join in Christ’s ministry to children and their families. Children matter to God. They matter to the Church, too. 

 

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. If your church is interested in exploring how God might be calling you to serve foster and adoptive families, reach out to Pastor Zachary at zachary.manton@inumc.org. 

You can also find more resources about Children Matter Most ministry initiatives here.