As I’ve been speaking at more conferences across the nation in the past year, I’ve met many of you. I love connecting face to face, but I know many of you will never get a chance to interact with our team face to face. That’s one reason we’re launching virtual special needs ministry roundtables.
That’s also why I’m sharing the lists of stats I used in presentations. First, I offered figuresabout the prevalence of disabilities and mental illness in the US. Then I followed up with a post listing research related to special needs in the church. And now it’s time to look at the intersection between adoption and disability.
In recent years, more churches are launching adoption and foster care ministries, and pastors are exhorting their members to be serious in their care for vulnerable children and families. I’m completely in favor of that! But I want us all to be wise to this reality, presented by the U.S. Census Bureau: “it appears that adoptive families are more likely than others to face the challenge of dealing with disabilities among their children.”
One important note about language: For the purposes of clarity, in this post I will use phrases like “adopted children” below. While the wording makes sense in this specific context, I am not modeling the normal, everyday language you should use in talking about families like mine. I just refer to my kids as my kids, not my biological children and then my adopted ones. Sometimes it is helpful to compare the population of children who were adopted or are fostered to the demographic of children growing up in their family of origin, particularly in summarizing current research, so that’s why I’m making the distinctions below. In the church, we live in the fine balance of welcoming all families without capitalizing on any differences while also being sensitive to some challenging realities faced by foster and adoptive families due to disability, grief, and trauma. In other words, my family wants to be accepted like any other family would be, but showing loving care to us involves being aware of our unique dynamics without defining us by them.
Based on US Census data from 2008[i] [ii],
Church, we have a great opportunity to show love! The need is great. Kids are hurting. Adults are too. Families are struggling. The first step in being able to help is understanding the need.
Jesus met people where they were, and so can we.
[i] Americans with Disabilities. U.S. Census Bureau, 2010:http://www.census.gov/prod/2012pubs/p70-131.pdf
[ii] Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2010. U.S. Census Bureau.https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-572.pdf
[iii] Adoption USA: A Chartbook Based On The 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents. US Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved fromhttp://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/09/NSAP/chartbook/doc/chartbook.pdf
[iv] McKlindon, K. et al. (February 2011). Adopted Children with Special Health Care Needs. Adoption Advocate, a publication of the National Council For Adoption. No. 32. Retrieved fromhttps://www.adoptioncouncil.org/images/stories/documents/ncfa_adoption_advocate_no32.pdf
[v]Intercountry Adoption, Bureau of Consular Affairs, US Department of State. Health Considerations. http://adoption.state.gov/adoption_process/how_to_adopt/health.php
[vi] McLaughlin, K.A. (2013). Trauma Exposure and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a National Sample of Adolescents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 52(8). 815-830.
[vii] National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper 3. Updated Edition. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
[viii] National Child Traumatic Stress Network.http://www.nctsnet.org/nctsn_assets/pdfs/edu_materials/ComplexTrauma_All.pdf
[ix] National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2005/2014). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper 3. Updated Edition. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu
In addition to serving as a Key Ministry Church Consultant, Shannon Dingle is a co-founder of the Access Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.
In order to provide you with high quality, current content that is relevant to your journey, we’re proud to announce that we’ve partnered with several child welfare leaders including Key Ministry and their blog Church4EveryChild! You’ll have the opportunity of learning from dynamic thought leaders in Special Needs Ministry.