Every year in our country, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children. On average, 4 to 7 children die every day because of abuse and neglect. On any given day, there are well over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Given the number of kids in and out of the system over the course of a year, far more children now require protection from the state. For example, in 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.
What does any of that have to do with your church?
The psalmist wrote, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3)
Mark records that Jesus “took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me’” (Mark 9:36).
Matthew quotes Jesus as saying about children who were in his presence, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
James stated, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27).
As Kentucky Baptists seek to live out the teachings of Scripture, we recognize that we have an obligation to acknowledge, welcome, and do all we can to protect children, especially those who are vulnerable or have already been victimized. We have been called to care for orphans of dead parents and orphans of the living, kids whose family has been declared unfit, even a severe risk to the child. One of the ways we meet that obligation is through our financial support of the ministry of our Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children, known today as Sunrise Children’s Services. Every church giving through the Cooperative Program and/or through the special Thanksgiving Offering, supports Sunrise.
What more can we do?
- Raise our awareness to signs of abuse and neglect and being proactive about reporting anything that looks suspicious is a good place to start.
- With 8,700 victimized kids in the state system in Kentucky, let’s consider adopting a child or training to be a foster parent.
- Most of us could provide respite care for a foster family, which means you keep a child overnight or over the weekend.
- Any of us could become a mentor and visit a girl or boy who lives in an institution without anyone in their lives who ever interacts with them except those who are paid to do so.
- We could serve as a CASA volunteer—a “Court Appointed Special Advocate” who has volunteered to be assigned to kids in the court system to help them navigate the bureaucracy and trauma.
- Maybe you could start an orphan care ministry in your church.
These are just some of the many ways we can help protect at risk children and seek to heal the hurts of those who have become victims.
Written by Dr. Paul Chitwood, President, International Mission Board