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Are you considering foster care or adoption, but aren’t sure of your next steps?

The Orphan Care Initiative is here to support you! Every month we host a monthly seminar called “Thinking About Adoption or Foster Care” designed to answer your questions and provide helpful overviews and next steps in a no-pressure environment. Learn more and register for the next class on Feb. 5th here: http://saddleback.com/events/eventdetails.aspx?id=69212

 

Watch and read (below) Amber and Dave’s story - how the journey of foster care and adoption brought two beautiful daughters to their family:

 

 The moment Amber Healy laid her eyes on her foster daughter Summer, it was love at first sight. She and her husband David had two sons and had been longing to grow their family. Amber had no idea that she would soon learn how love would transform her family in ways she never imagined.

 Amber and David’s desire for another child led her to speak with a friend who was a social worker about the idea of becoming foster parents. She liked the idea of being able to provide a safe and loving home for a child who was in need of care. Armed with the information and support provided by the Orphan Care Initiative, Amber and her husband signed up to be foster parents through the county and eagerly awaited news about when they would have a child placed with their family. When the moment they had been waiting for finally arrived, they were filled with excitement about adding another child to their family—even if it was temporary. The next day, Amber and David picked up their foster daughter, Summer. “When the social worker walked in with Summer, I remember being love struck and thinking to myself, ‘she is mine’,” Amber recalls.

 The months that followed would be a ride on an emotional rollercoaster. Most days were filled with joy as Summer began to find a secure place in the Healys’ hearts and family. They loved her as their own daughter and sister. The transition period was tough, and the couple’s small group wrapped around the family providing meals and rearranging schedules to have Bible study at the Healys’ house so that Summer would have the stability of going to sleep in her own bed at the same time every night.

 Amber understood that the emotional involvement involved with foster care is a two-sided coin. Over the months, she enjoyed being able to love, hold, and bond with Summer. However, she also learned that no matter how strong you are, the love you have for your foster child may not always be enough to prevent you from breaking down during the difficult times. She knew that deep in her heart, God was calling her to raise this child for however long was needed, and He was giving her the strength to endure the emotional difficulties she faced. The day finally came when the Healys learned that the court decided that Summer's biological parents were unable to care for her, making Summer eligible for adoption. They were filled with gratitude, relief, and joy that they could finally adopt Summer and legally make her their daughter.

 When Summer grew a little older and the Healys felt like she was ready to not be the youngest in the house, they made the decision to adopt again. This time, Amber and David explored international adoption and decided to adopt a child from Rwanda. But six months into the process, Rwanda closed it’s doors to adoption from outside of the country, and devastation set in for Amber. She compares the heartbreak, loss, and grief she experienced equal to that of a miscarriage.

 Now back at square one, Amber found herself discouraged and uncertain  in how to go forward. She laughs as she recalls the irony in having already completed the foster-adoption process once, yet having no idea how to start the adoption process from scratch. Amber was not comfortable with private adoptions. In her quiet time with God, she told Him that she didn’t want to adopt privately or adopt a young baby or infant. But God had a different plan and directed her steps onto a course she wasn’t expecting to take.

For three weeks straight, Amber stayed up nightly till 2:00 a.m. researching how to adopt. She sought advice from the Orphan Care Initiative that helped her explore all her options. One day while speaking to a Christian adoption service, she overheard a conversation between a facilitator and a woman who was expressing her desire to not be treated like an incubator or commodity and was contemplating abortion.

 Amber was overwhelmed by the depth of genuine care and love the facilitator had for the distraught woman on the other end of the phone. At that moment, she felt God calming her fears and giving her peace about adopting privately. As she stepped out in faith and bravely opened her heart to a process that had recently led to great pain, God miraculously orchestrated the private adoption of a baby within a matter of months.

 The Healy’s adopted from a 38 year-old-mother who lived in another state. The woman did not want her family at home to know she was pregnant, so she spent the last months of her pregnancy with the Healys. Amber recounts how she continued to learn the depths of what God means when He says “love never fails” by walking straight into this birthmother’s world of pain and loss. She remembers sobbing in a hotel room with the woman as she explained how she couldn’t get the money to abort her child and how she had wanted the adoptive family to be African American. In the midst of all this sadness, Amber was able to share that this was not what she had originally wanted either, but that God had a better plan than what they both wanted to choose for themselves. In the end, it was not a difficult decision for either of them, but rather an incredible gift that God had placed right in front of them. 

 In the short amount of time they spent together, the Healys grew to know and love this birth mom. Their children would hold her hand and walk and talk with her, and they even spent a day with her at the aquarium. When their daughter Ellie was born, Amber said the most difficult things she had to do were to take baby Ellie and say goodbye to the woman she had chosen to love.

Ellie was given the middle name “Love” as a symbol and reminder that this special little girl had come from a place and person full of love. The Healys will be forever grateful to Ellie’s birth mom for her heroic, loving, and giving act of selflessness that gave them the gift of their daughter.

 

If you have any additional questions about adoption or foster care, please email us at orphans@saddleback.com or call Orphan Care at 949-609-8555.

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Have you ever considered that there is a child living with HIV in the United States or around the world who is outside of parental care, waiting for a family of their own?

According to UNICEF (2011), there are 153 million orphans worldwide. It is accurate to say that millions of these children are living with HIV. Without a family to care for them, their risk of death is inevitable. Their deaths are preventable. Not only can the church care for children living with HIV, they can provide what every child needs most: they can help children reunite with their families (if they are separated because of orphanage care), and they can help them get adopted into legal, loving, lasting families of their own either within their country of birth, or within a family beyond their borders who will welcome them as their own child through adoption.

In 2011, in the United States, only about 9,000 people adopted from other countries, and tragically, of that small number who adopted, only a handful of children living with HIV were adopted. Families report that stigma, fear, myths and ignorance keep them from adopting children who are living with HIV.

There is hope. You can explore our sister site, www.HIVAIDSInitiative.com. You will learn what causes HIV and what doesn’t. You’ll learn how a child with HIV is not dangerous for a family and that HIV is not transmitted through ordinary daily contact. You’ll also receive hope and community to find other families who have adopted HIV positive, who can share what it means to have your child living with HIV.

Adopting HIV + children is part of the Orphan Care Initiative at Saddleback Church. Adopting children with HIV should be a well-informed decision. There are many issues to consider. Access to good medical care, how to deal with schools, friends, future relationships, and marriage are just some of the issues that need to be explored. Adopting child living with HIV is not like adopting any other child with a chronic disease. HIV affects the child and family in multiple ways, and becomes more complicated as your child grows and matures.

We believe that not everyone should adopt, but everyone who names the name of Jesus should ask themselves, “How can I help a child get into a permanent family of their own…every child-including those living with HIV.” There are many ways you can help others adopt. You can also support a family who is adopting a child who is living with HIV. We believe there are millions of children living with HIV who need a loving, legal, life-long family of their own. Could you be one of those families?

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Have you ever wondered if surrounding your adoptive or foster child with affection and compassion may not be preparing them for adulthood and the harsh realities of the “real world”? Dr. Karyn Purvis dispels this myth as part of her video series “10 Common Questions Adoptive Parents Ask.”

Building connection with your child is excellent preparation for the real world. Nuture when in balance with structure gives your child the tools and self-confidence needed to tackle the tough challenges of life in the future. Meeting the deep needs of your adoptive child, building solid relationships filled with trust and respect, and teaching loving limits allows them to develop secure attachments that are the solid basis for their future. As they mature, this basis teaches them to seek healthy relationships and apply healthy limits within their adult lives. For children from hard places, being nurturing is not permissiveness – it allows for the healing of old wounds and preparation for life.

To hear the entire series from Dr. Purvis visit http://empoweredtoconnect.org/topics/10-common-questions/ or explore more of Dr. Purvis’s resources for adoptive and foster parents at http://empoweredtoconnect.org.

If you are interested in connecting with other adoptive parents and learning more about adoption support at Saddleback Church, email orphans@saddleback.com or call 949-609-8555.

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The Children in Families First Act (CHIFF), a landmark piece of legislation that would prioritize family as a key element of U.S. foreign policy, was introduced to the House of Representatives on Wednesday by Representatives Kay Granger (R-TX) and Karen Bass (D-CA) along with 20 original co-sponsors from both parties.

CHIFF will work to coordinate government foreign assistance efforts so that emphasis and priority is placed on helping children remain, reunite with or regain a family. It will achieve this by redirecting and streamlining funds that are already spent to assist children living abroad and establishing a bureau in the Department of State to become a much-needed diplomatic hub for international child welfare. By bringing the need for effective and accountable child welfare systems to the forefront, CHIFF will also promote a holistic and preventative approach to strengthening child protections.

In addition, if passed CHIFF will strengthen the mechanisms for intercountry adoption by consolidating and placing these functions under the direction of the United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS).  CHIFF also transfers the accreditation of adoption service provider accreditation from the Department of State to USCIS.

This is an important time in the life of this legislation, and your voice can make a difference! Surveys show that only 20 calls from constituents are needed for a bill to the get the attention of our elected officials – click here to find information for your Representatives, as well as a script you can use on the phone to ask them to support CHIFF: http://bit.ly/17jO0OL

You can also show your support by liking CHIFF on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/childreninfamiliesfirst

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Orphan Care PEACE teams travel to Rwanda to work with the local church to train social workers, teach churches about orphan care, and visit the homes of families who have adopted.

Here one team member, Tim, shares his experience on an orphan care PEACE trip this summer when he visited the home of a man who has adopted and is receiving support from the Rwanda Orphan Care Sponsorship program:

The moment I entered Anatas’ home, I couldn’t help but notice the desperate circumstances in which this man lived. The damp, dirt floors were only barely visible from a single light bulb haphazardly hanging from the ceiling. The rugged adobe bricks that served as the walls of the home looked severely weathered. There was a single wooden bench and a couple foldable plastic chairs surrounding a table in the middle of the living room. We sat down and politely introduced ourselves. This was my first home visit in Rwanda and had no idea what I was in for. 

Anatas was a tall and slender man who looked to be in his mid-to late 40’s. He appeared to be very timid when he first introduced himself. His daughter Martha was sheepishly sitting beside him, occasionally whispering something in Kinyarwanda in to his ear. As he continued to share his story, his initial mild manner turned to excitement and joy. He couldn’t help but smile at the way he described how God had radically changed his life. I was moved by his testimony of perseverance and resilience.  After the genocide that decimated his home, he remained a soldier to provide for his family. He witnessed the brutal deaths of people close to him and questioned his own survival.  He said he later examined his purpose and place in the world. In his heart, there was an emptiness that he was longing to fill. Soon after, Anatas went to check out a Christian church with his wife.  Since then, he has been attending church regularly and is a living testament to the blessings the Lord has given him. Now as a leader in his church, Anatas uses his story to bring others to Christ.

At the center of every man’s success is a woman.  In this case it is Valencia, his wife of 20 years. Together they have raised 6 beautiful children, 5 of whom are their biological children. His eldest daughter, Ruth, is his niece and was taken in after her parents tragically lost their lives during the conflict. Though their family, like many others, has been through tremendous suffering, their faith continues to thrive. Anatas has a deep relationship with Christ. He shared with me that his biggest hope is that his kids will grow a strong relationship with Christ as well.

Just as soon as I thought I had figured him out, he revealed a startling revelation. He is infected with HIV. His struggle to afford the HIV medications only exacerbates his struggle to supply food for his family.  His job as a construction worker yields a meager pay. He tells me that the Orphan Care Sponsorship funds that he receives through the local church for taking in an orphan are critical in providing for his family. Although he appears to be in desperate circumstances, this does not impede him from being a guiding example for others.  He works with a ministry in his church that gives tests and provides treatment for others with HIV. He provides hope for others through Jesus.  

What Anatas and I shared during this visit transcended all cultural and language barriers.  Our faith in God united us to be able to share our story as one family.  I concluded the home visit with a prayer. I prayed for his health and family. I prayed that he continue to be a shining beacon of hope for all others he comes across.  Last, I prayed that other loving families, like those of Anatas, would open their homes for the orphans of Rwanda and provide a safe haven for those who are neglected. Though this man came from humble beginnings, he had the heart and generosity of a king.  His story will forever remain in my heart.  

Since this visit, our team was fortunate to have been able to conduct many more.  I heard shocking testimonials of people whose lives have been transformed by God. We consoled and offered our support and encouragement to the homes of HIV survivors, adoptive parents, and orphans. I was able to share, laugh, and even cry with the people of Rwanda. This experience has opened my eyes to the power of faith and love. I no longer want to travel any other way.

 

If you would like to sponsor a family in Rwanda like this one, please visit www.saddleback.com/sponsorship

You can go to Rwanda and make an impact just like Tim. If you are interested in learning more about Orphan Care PEACE trips, please email orphans@saddleback.com.

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