By Brandon Lemons
In 2010, a new ministry began at Friedens Church to support adoption, orphan care, and foster parenting. This ministry was named Forever Families, since the family a child is adopted into is frequently called a “forever family.” Forever Families’ primary purposes were set to be raising awareness of the plight of millions of orphans worldwide; to educate, encourage, and empower families considering adoption or foster care; and to provide funding for families in their adoption journey and for orphan care around the world.
As the ministry unfolded, Forever Families has even shaped Friedens’ identity to the broader community, as we have been called “the adoption church.” Adoption and foster care have been part of Friedens’ story since the 1960s, and Forever Families made this heritage more official and intentional by providing structure, events, and funding to support adoption and foster care locally and orphan care globally. The best-known aspects of Forever Families were two events each year: Super Saturday in September and Adoption Connection in the spring. These have drawn hundreds of people from throughout southeastern Wisconsin, and other churches inquired about how to begin their own Forever Families ministry.
Over the years, particularly in recent years, world events and dynamics have dramatically changed the landscape and opportunities surrounding adoption. The Forever Families Team has invested significant efforts to refine the ministry’s goals and purpose in light of all these changes. Forever Families’ goals and purpose are significantly impacted by the fact that international adoptions have decreased from over 11,000 in 2010 to less than 2000 in 2021, a nearly 84% decrease. We haven’t hosted a Super Saturday event since 2018 or Adoption Connection since 2019, first because of the building project at church in 2019, and then COVID hit in 2020. By the time these events could resume, the changes in adoption trends and dynamics had become clearer.
Decrease in number of adoptions and grant applicants
Fundraising to provide financial grants to help families with adoption expenses has been a big part of Forever Families. Since 2010, adoption expenses could easily exceed $30,000 or even $40,000. With the dramatic decrease in the number of international adoptions, Forever Families saw a corresponding decrease in applications for adoption grants. Before 2018, Forever Families would typically receive 4-5 applications per year; in the last few years, though, we have been averaging only one application per year. This caused the team to re-evaluate the need for significant fundraising events. Money raised in 2018 has been sufficient to continue funding these grants, which shows the success of Super Saturday’s fundraising as well as the dwindling financial needs for adoption grants.
Continuing to support parents and families
The Forever Families Team recognizes the major challenges that frequently accompany the parenting of adopted children. To help address these challenges, the Forever Families Team investigated the idea of providing financial grants to families who already have adopted children in the home, in order to help fund specialized therapies, respite care, and more, which insurance and other organizations typically don’t help with. However, the team realized that: 1) the complexity of supporting these types of services is beyond the scope of their abilities, and 2) these types of special services are increasingly available through social services with government support and funding. This, along with the decreased demand for adoption grants, reinforced that there hasn’t been a significant need for fundraising on Super Saturday.
One important aspect has continued throughout the last several years and will continue in the future: adoption/foster support groups. There are several of these groups, including a women’s group and a men’s group that meet every month and are open to anyone. These groups continue to be highly beneficial for people with adopted and/or foster children, and even for those who are considering fostering or adopting. People from within and outside of Friedens are active in these groups, and they will continue.
Another aspect that will continue is Friedens’ heart for adoption and foster care. This heart pre-dated Forever Families by many decades, and I fully expect that it will continue. Related to this, I expect that Friedens will continue to be a highly-supportive environment for families with children who have trauma and other challenges.
It is certainly possible that larger events (similar to Adoption Connection) may arise in the future. But no plans for this are currently in the works.
Does Forever Families have any remaining money?
It has always been true for Forever Families that 100% of funds raised goes to support adoption, foster parenting, and orphan care. The leaders of Forever Families and Friedens Church stand by this pledge. After sending a total of $10,000 to four orphan-care ministries in other countries in late 2022, Forever Families has about $8,000 left in its account. Part of this is earmarked for an adoption grant that has been pledged but not yet distributed. A small amount will remain in the account for the possibility of future Adoption Connection-like events.
There is much to celebrate!
There is much to celebrate with Forever Families! Personally, my heart is filled with joy as I look back on all that God has done through this ministry.
Forever Families raised and distributed over $150,000 to support adoption, foster care, and orphan care, and to help keep families together in order to prevent more children from becoming orphans! This money helped support the adoption of more than 35 children!
Through Forever Families, people were inspired to become foster parents and to adopt children!
Adoptive and foster parents received encouragement, wisdom, and practical assistance through the support networks fostered by Forever Families!
People grew spiritually and even came to faith in Christ as a result of Forever Families!
Forever Families produced so many smiles and memories through the years!
We have modeled God’s heart for the fatherless (Psalm 68:5) and fulfilled His call to care for orphans in their distress (James 1:27)!
This Sunday’s worship services at Friedens will be dedicated to celebrating God’s work through Forever Families. If you are able to join in, I encourage you to do so, because it will be a special experience!