Orphans in our City

Screen Shot 2013-01-09 at 1.48.14 AMIn one of the most popular chapters of the Bible, Jeremiah 29, we find a powerful statement from the Lord about how we ought to view the city…and how we should care for its orphans. Speaking to His people who have been exiled by the Babylonians and in fear of mixing with them, God says through His prophet:

“Multiply there (in the city), and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the lord on it’s behalf, for in it’s welfare you will find your welfare ” Jeremiah 29:6-7

When we think about seeking the “welfare of our city” there is much we can do. The needs are many. Amidst it all, the need of caring for the orphans of the city is massive. In any given metropolis in America there are literally hundreds of children that have no family and no permanent home. Over 400,000 children in America are in foster care. Over 104,000 children are literal orphans with no permanent family, most of whom are living in the neighborhoods of our cities.  In Austin, TX alone there are 244 of these dear children that are waiting to be adopted.

Imagine if the church took seriously this call to “seek the welfare of the city” and made caring for every child in foster care and every child available for adoption a part of that mission. What if the church became more known for its care of the children than for what it is against in our cities.

What if our cities were filled only with waiting parents instead of waiting children!

Providing permanent families for all the waiting children in our city is not an impossible task. It may just be the greatest opportunity the church has today to seek the renewal of our cities for God’s glory!

Foster Care Statistics

One of the great needs and opportunities in our country today is the care of over a half a million foster children. These kids have been removed from their homes when their families are in crisis and can’t take care of them (these families are in great help as well). These kids are in need of temporary families and in most States and counties there are not enough families to care for them.

To put things into perspective, one website states if things don’t change and we don’t find more families for these children then:

By the year 2020:

  • 22,500 children will die of abuse or neglect, most before their fifth birthday^
  • More than 10.5 million children will spend some time in foster care^^
  • More than 300,000 children will age out of our foster care system, some in poor health and many unprepared for success in higher education, technical college or the workforce^^^
  • 75,000 former foster youth, who aged out of the system, will experience homelessness^^^^

Here are the latest statistics from the Federal AFCARS data (2006)

Who are the children waiting in the U.S. foster care system?

  • 510,000 children in foster care nationally
  • 32% of foster children are between the ages of 0 and 5
  • 28% of foster children are between the ages of 6 and 12
  • 40% of foster children are between the ages of 13 and 21
  • Average # of birthdays a child spends in foster care: 2 birthdays (28 months)
  • Average # of placements children experience: 3
  • 17% (88,475) of children live in group care or institutional settings

What are United States’ foster children waiting for?

  • 248,054 (49%) are waiting to be reunified with their birth families
  • 127,000 (25%) are waiting to be adopted
  • Average time foster care children have been waiting to be adopted: 39.4 months

Where did the United States’ children go after leaving foster care in 2006?

  • 287,691 children exited foster care
  • 152,152 (53%) were returned to their parents
  • 49,741 (17%) were adopted
  • 45,761 (16%) left to live with relatives (some through guardianships)
  • 26,181 (9%) “aged out” or left the system at age of 18 or older
  • 12,086 (4%) left for other reasons (ran away, transferred, died)
  • 2,349 (1%) left for unknown reasons

Find statistics for your state here.

Child Welfare Statistics

The Child Welfare League of America has created the National Data Analysis System (NDAS), which is the most comprehensive collection of child welfare data available. The data contained in the NDAS illustrate the wide variation in the states’ collection of information regarding child welfare issues. View the data

Transitioning from Care

Each year, an estimated 20,000 young people “age out” of the U.S. foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, the future of these young adults is tragic:

  • Earned a high school diploma         54%
  • Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher     2%
  • Became a parent                 84%
  • Were unemployed                 51%
  • Had no health insurance             30%
  • Had been homeless                 25%
  • Were receiving public assistance         30%
Sources^ In 2004, there were about 1,500 confirmed victims from abuse or neglect. See U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2006). Child Maltreatment 2004. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


^^14 Calculated by multiplying the number of children served in foster care in 2005 by 15, the number of years until 2020. This fi gure was derived by subtracting the number of children who re-entered care (about 100,000) from the number of children served by the foster care system in 2005 (about 800,000). See Child Welfare Outcomes 2003: Annual Report. Downloaded on January 3, 2007 from www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/cb. And The AFCARS report: Interim FY 2003 Estimates as of June 2006 (10).Downloaded on

January 3, 2007 from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm.

^^^U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2006). The AFCARS report: Preliminary FY 2005 estimates as of September 2006. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Downloaded November 30, 2006 from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#afcars. (Go to http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/ and click on “Adoption and Foster Care Statistics.”)

^^^^About 25% of youth who were placed in foster care experience one of more days of homelessness after leaving care. This statistic was derived by averaging the results of a representative set of foster care alumni studies that interviewed older alumni. The studies were then weighted by study sample size so the larger studies carried more weight inthe average (Casey Research Services)

Adopting Every Waiting Child in the US

Did you know that there are roughly 130,000 children that are waiting for adoption in the United States today? These children have had their parental rights terminated and living in temporary situation (either a temporary foster family or group home). Legally they are wards of the State with no parents but the government. You can adopt these children at no cost! In fact, in most States, you will receive a monthly stipend.

Every child in America (in the world) should have a permanent family. There is no excuse for this! So, what would it take to find each of these kids a family? To start off, I broke down the numbers by Southern Baptist Churches (they were the easiest to find figures for – as I have time I will add up all the other evangelical denominations – my initial count is roughly 170,213). But, just counting Southern Baptist churches the results and ratios are very powerful. There are roughly 40,000 Southern Baptist Churches in the US. If every church committed to 3 children, every child would be cared for. In 11 States all it would take is 1 church committing to 1 child. Again, that is just counting the SBC!

Will you please 1) Look at the numbers below, and 2) pray with me that God would move in an unprecendented way among His church to see that every one of these children (every number is a child!) have a permanent home. And in the case of the children represented below who are 16-17 years old and about to age out of the system, pray that they would have a family who would commit to care for them when they are left on their own in a couple months or a year.
Picture 16

For the full chart with all 50 States click here to download in pdf.

What Are You Doing for Orphan Sunday?

What are your plans for Orphan Sunday?
What is your church doing?
If your church is not doing anything what are you planning to do as a family?
One of the things my family will be doing is watching the LIVE Nashville event webcast. Join us and many others here.

I can’t but think there are many folks in the second category…share your thoughts and ideas!

Vodpod videos no longer available.