Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Replanted: Offering Support for Adoptive and Foster Care Families

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Christianity

Replanted: Offering Support for Adoptive and Foster Care Families

Article excerpt

Orphan care is an important value to God and Christian spirituality (Davis, 2008; Moore, 2009). In today's society, care for orphans (i.e., children whose parents have died or are otherwise unable to care for them as primary custodians) is most often operationalized through foster care and adoption (Nickman et al., 2005). Although adoptive and foster care families often have positive outcomes, this process is not without its challenges (McKay, Ross, & Goldberg, 2010). One of the most important needs for adoptive and foster care families is support (Atkinson & Gonet, 2007); however, there are relatively few opportunities for families to experience faith-based support.

Because of the close connection between Christian spirituality and orphan care, one might expect a plethora of faith-based psychological research and resources on this topic. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In our review of journal articles appearing in the Journal of Psychology and Christianity, the Journal of Psychology and Theology, and Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, only three articles focused on issues related to orphan care (Passmore, 2004; Salifu Yendork & Somhlaba, in press; Stiffler, 1991), and no articles focused specifically on support for adoptive and foster care families. Christian psychologists, professional counselors, religious leaders, and lay helpers need more resources to help adoptive and foster care families cope with their unique struggles and access the support they need.

Thus, in this paper, we describe Replanted (www.ReplantedMinistry.org), a faith-based nonprofit ministry for adoptive and foster care families. We first present a scriptural basis for the importance of orphan care. Then, we briefly review the literature on support for adoptive and foster care families. Finally, we describe the Replanted ministry, including (a) history and values, (b) primary services, (c) pilot data, and (d) a case study. We conclude by discussing areas for future research and applications for counseling and church support.

Scriptural Support for Orphan Care

"Religion that God our father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans..." James 1:27

Orphan care is emphasized throughout the Bible. For example, in the Psalms, the author declares that "the Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless" (Psalm 146:9). In the Old Testament, the Israelites were commanded to care for orphans: "You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry" (Exodus 22:22-23). Throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites were called to defend the cause of the orphan, and encouraged to prioritize justice for the needy and oppressed:

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).

Jesus placed a similar priority on caring for orphans and those in need. In what could be considered his mission statement, Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:18-21).

Jesus fulfilled this mission statement through his teaching and actions. In his teaching, Jesus stressed the importance of loving service, equating these actions with loving God:

Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. …

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