10 ways to care for orphans [without adopting]

This is a question I get asked a lot: How can I answer the biblical call to orphan care if I am not able to adopt?

God does not hide his will from us and if you are someone who has earnestly sought God's will concerning adoption and he has not led you to adopt (or has not led you to adopt right now), there are other very valuable ways that you can serve the most vulnerable children in our world today.  If you have a heart for orphan care- whether or not you are able to adopt- here are ten invitations to orphan care for you to pray over:

Original photo by flickr user Moving Mountains Trust, creative commons.
1. Host an orphan in your home: This is one of my favorite ways to get involved in orphan care without adopting. New Horizons is an international orphan hosting program. US families host children for 4-6 weeks in their homes and pour love into them. The children see what it is like to live in a family and have opportunities and they have their "horizons" broadened. The goal is not for the host family to adopt the child, although sometimes either the host family or family friends will go on to adopt after the experience. The goal is to show the child a life other than the one he knows and give hope for a better future. Please take a moment to sign up for the photo listings and ask yourself if you have 4-6 weeks to give to one of these children.

2. Get your church connected to an orphanage:  I found our about the organization The Hope Epidemic through an instagram hash tag of all ways (although I #cantrememberwhichone) and I am so impressed with what I've seen through them. Their mission is to connect American Evangelical Churches with orphanages all around the world. They want these churches to connect in order to share the gospel, to build relationships, to better the orphanage environments, and to advocate for the adoption of children in the orphanages. I've always wondered what it would look like if the church arose to take care of our orphan crisis once and for all. The Hope Epidemic is trying to do just that.

3. Donate on behalf of children with special needs: Reece's Rainbow is a Down Syndrome adoption ministry. You can look at pictures of waiting children with Down Syndrome or other special needs on this site donate to a specific child's adoption, whether or not a family has been found for them.

4. Support an orphan graduate program: There are a few different orphan graduate support programs out there but Hearts for Orphans caught my attention because it is run by adoptive parents and shares the gospel with orphan graduates. When orphans age out of the system most turn to crime, prostitution or suicide simply because they don't have any support systems or life skills. Orphan graduate programs work to equip teens with life skills, like cooking and budgeting, and help them find meaningful work. Hearts for Orphans works in the Ukraine. If you have a specific country on your heart, do a google search for "orphan graduate support" + "country." If you can't afford to donate to these ministries, consider volunteering for one in your area! Organizations like these always need volunteers to do tasks like photocopying, putting mailers together or even cleaning.

5. Advocate for a specific child: Project Hopeful is an organization that educates and advocates for the adoption of children with HIV and other special needs. Their FIG program (Family In the Gap) exists to match families with orphans overseas. As as a FIG family you would pray for, sponsor, and fundraise for the adoption of a specific child. You can also be matched with an unadoptable child (in their home country's foster care system) and you would support the foster family as they care for the child. This is such a cool program and I love how you can get your whole family involved. I can picture families with children working together to brainstorm fundraising ideas (summer lemonade stand??) to help with the child's someday adoption costs.

6. Help parents and families in crisis: Safe Families is a movement by Bethany Christian Services that serves families who need safe, temporary care for their children. From the website: "This network of host families help parents who need to temporarily place their children due to unmanageable or critical circumstances... this temporary care for children in need gives parents time to establish stability in their homes. Can you open your home to a family going through a troubled time?" There is a video on their site that's worth watching if this movement interests you at all.
7. Sponsor a child: Most of us are aware of these programs that help provide food, water, and education for children in developing countries. If you have a heart specifically for orphans, you can use Compassion International's search tool to find and sponsor a child who has been orphaned. You can also select country or special need if you desire. I've heard of families sponsoring children who share birth dates with little ones. Some couples honor the loss of a pregnancy by sponsoring a child who was born around the time of the expectant due date of the baby they lost. When you sponsor a child you have the opportunity to do more than just give money; you can correspond with the child, send gifts, and share the love of Christ with her! 

8. Give to an adopting family: Whether you're able to write a $500 check or sell knit-wares online for cash, donating to a family who wants to adopt is a much needed and very fulfilling way to answer the call to orphan care. If you are wondering how much a $30 donation could help just take a look at my son and know that he didn't come home via a few enormous donations. He came home though a ton of small ones. Every.penny.matters.  If you have no money or wares to sell you can help by offering your services. Maybe they need babysitting or volunteers at a fundraiser. Maybe they need someone to mow their lawn because they just don't have time between working and completing the home study. If you look hard enough I know you can find a way to help!

9. Send care packages to orphanages: In the end of January my church asks all the congregation members to use one Sunday for an act of service. This year our small group used the Sunday to put together a care package for Arie's former orphanage. If you know anyone who has adopted, consider sending a care package to their child's former baby home or foster home.

10. Support Anti-human trafficking efforts: Because orphans are so vulnerable and too often without protection, they are at increased risk of being trafficked.Take a minute to visit WAR International's website and view the video on their about page to learn more. 

If you've been involved with any of these organizations or have another organization or idea you'd like to share please join in on the conversation in the comments below or via my facebook page.


  1. Anonymous4/03/2013

    I sponsor a child through Compassion International and it's been a wonderful experience. I love getting letters from my child and/or his pastor and feel that although I am not yet ready to adopt, I can at least help in this small way. Thank you for this post Jillian. You offered great ways to help children in need.

  2. Wow, this is a great list. I hadn't heard of some of these programs. Thank you! We love sponsoring through Compassion, too. :) And to add to your list, on the domestic side, many states have mentoring programs for foster care kids to help them when they age out.

  3. Jillian, this is so helpful for many people who aren't "in the know". Are you willing to let us share this with our readers at "We Are Grafted In"?
    Just let me know!
    smurphy28 @ juno . com

    1. Jillian, Kelly asked me to check and see if you could send her the html for this post for use on WAGI because there are so many links in it. You can email it to her directly at [email protected]. Thanks so much!
      co-administrator of WAGI

  4. Great post, sharing!

  5. Anonymous4/15/2013

    You should check out lifesongfororphans.org. It's an amazing organization that gives 100% of the donation to orphan care. Seriously check it out!


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