Last week John and I were thrilled to attend the 10th annual Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit. The Summit is a growing two day event where thousands of Christians gather to learn and be equipped and inspired to help orphans all over the world. There are four large group gatherings and dozens of break-out sessions dealing with issues from family preservation to serving birth parents to preparing for foster care. I ran into a few different friends and acquaintances over the course of the conference and asked, "How do you like the Summit so far?" The answer was always the same:
"I'm so overwhelmed."
I could only agree.
In lieu of a very long and boring summary of what I did and learned, here are five of my favorite learnings and resources from the Summit!
5. Next Steps Booklet.
I can't tell you how many hours I have spent in my life researching adoption agencies, both before Arie came home and lately as John and I consider how to grow our family. I have grumbled on more than one occasion, "Why isn't there a list somewhere of what adoption agencies work in which countries??" The process of just finding
an agency is overwhelming to say nothing of the adoption process itself.
Well hallelujah the Christian Alliance for Orphans has come up with just the resource I've been searching for! I actually gasped aloud and gleefully waved this little booklet in John's face when I pulled it out of my Summit Welcome bag! The booklet is called: Next Steps: Trustworthy organizations to help families and churches in every aspect of adoption, foster care, and global initiatives.
Inside are long lists of organizations sorted by both ministry category (adoption, foster care, mission, etc) and country. The booklet has a gold cover which I found very appropriate because I'm sure it is MORE than worth it's weight in it! Follow the link above for a pdf version.
You're welcome. ;-)
4. National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
I'm always amazed at how much time I spend in the "adoption world" and how I can still totally miss out on some of the most incredible resources! In one of the panel sessions I attended, I learned about the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
. This network is brimming with help for parents, caregivers, professionals and anyone
who has a child in their life who has experienced trauma. I know I probably sound like a broken record because I say this a lot, but when John and I were preparing for our adoption we read so much about everything that "go wrong" for a child who has experienced trauma. I don't regret any of the education, but boy was it scary and in desperate need of a little hope!
The NCTSN does just that: offer hope for healing. Whether you are considering foster care or adoption, supporting a friend who has, whether you work with children or volunteer or if you are parenting a child who has experienced trauma, this site will be an excellent resource!
3. Preparing Children at Home for Adoption/Fostering.
John and I have talked a lot about adopting again or doing foster care in the future. One of the questions that always comes up in our conversations is: how would it effect Arie? I went to a seminar by Josh Caldwell from Lifeline adoption services
and the most helpful thing he said was basically that yes
if you adopt or foster when you already have a child(ten) at home your current child(ren) will be effected! Especially if your current child already comes from a hard place- like an orphanage or a neglectful/abusive family- they may regress or act out. It is a big change for them and may bring up some hard emotions! The rest of his session was about how to prepare yourself and your children with resources for the transition. The "how to prepare" part was very practical and somewhat obvious, but I found it very helpful to realize that yes
adopting or doing foster care would absolutely disrupt our lives, but there are lots of great ways to prepare and reassure child(ren) and make a healthy transition for everyone.
At the end of our session Josh warmly invited anyone anticipating this type of transition to send him an email or give him a call as they work to prepare for it. Check out the link above for his contact info if this is something that would be of help to you!
2. Positive Outcomes for Orphaned Children Study.
During one of the General Sessions we heard from Dr. Kathryn Whetten, a researcher from Duke University, who talked about one area of her research called the Positive Outcomes for Orphaned Children
study (follow the link to read more about it!). I thought the most interesting thing she shared was that when it comes to how orphaned children are raised the framework doesn't seem to matter as much as what's inside the framework
. In other words, whether the children in the study were raised in a group home, an orphanage, or a foster family, the outcomes of these children were related to the quality of care their received not the kind of structure in which they received it.
I know in the Christian/evangelical orphan care movement, we talk a lot about the value of putting kids in families, but Dr. Whetten challenged us to look carefully at the best interest of each child
rather than make the sweeping judgement that families are always better than institutions. Yes a great family is almost always going to be a better place than an institution, however if we rush to get kids out of institutions we may be moving them from good institutions into bad (unloving/neglectful/abusive) families. I actually remember our case worker in Moscow having reservations about Moscow's movement from orphanages to foster families for this very reason. This is not to say we shouldn't work to put children in families, but that we should be careful and wise when we move these vulnerable children. As she said, it is easy to empty orphanages; you just take the kids out. It is much harder to make sure these children are moved into good, loving homes where they can thrive!
One of the criticisms of the orphan-care movement has been that there's too much zeal and not enough wisdom. I thought Dr. Whetten's presence and words at the Summit this year served as a helpful corrective to that criticism.
1. Sarah Groves on Art and Advocacy.
|I tried so hard not to be awkward when I got|
this photos. I failed. And I got a bad photo.
I do for you you guys. ;-)
My absolute favorite hour of the whole Summit was the one in which I heard recording artist Sara Groves
talk about Art and Advocacy. She talked a lot about the unique role of the artist/writer/singer/etc in advocacy: a role of contemplation, of portrayal, of story-telling. She challenged us to move away from being didactic, utilitarian, or teacherly…. to not be prescriptive but instead to find the stories that need to be told, to enter into them, and consider- each of us- how we are uniquely gifted to portray and protect those stories.
As I blogger I know well how many others blogs "just like mine" are "out there" on the web, yet over the last two years I have not stopped writing because I truly believe God has called me to write for his
purposes. My heart leaped as I heard Sara speak directly into this conviction by saying:
Let me just shut down the voice inside that says there are too many blogs or books or songs… There are enough ears! The things of the Kingdom are not commodities!
The things of the Kingdom are not commodities. That's something worth remembering. If you're an artist of any kind and you've ever wondered about how your work matters in the Kingdom, take a minute to listen to Sara's song, "Why It Matters."
Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it's protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters
Also check out this beautiful place called Art House North
that she and her husband have founded. I left her session beyond encouraged and deeply inspired.
Five short snippets from an intense two days. Waiting anxiously to hear where the summit will be held in 2015 and already hoping to attend again!
Have you ever gone to the Summit? What did you think?