Samela Macon, senior director of foster care and adoption for Buckner Adoption and Maternity Services
Tell us a little about your ministry and how you got started in this work.
My ministry began as a child, taking notice of children who felt alone or isolated. My heart was always drawn to them. At an early age God pressed it upon my heart to let them know they were valued. When I didn’t have answers for them, I would go to my mother to see if she could help me find a solution. I didn’t understand that it was the beginning of God’s calling on my life, until years later when I began my career with Child Protective Services. In that season of ministry, I learned so much about the hardships of children hurt by those they should trust most, and I understood the emotional scars that were left behind.
During this time, I was charged with ensuring the proper care and safety of those children who were hardest to place. These were the children whose parent’s rights were terminated and would likely never find a forever family. Most of the children lived in congregate care facilities or residential treatment centers. God helped me see their value, and I cared deeply for all of them. Over time, I realized that I wanted to help others create homes for these children, so God began my journey with Buckner, where I began recruiting and developing families to care for our hard-to-place children. That was 15 years ago, today, God has blessed me with the opportunity to serve our locations around the state as senior director for foster care and adoption. At Buckner, we are driven by our passion to bring hope to the hopeless through Christ-centered values and a deep belief in the value of every life.
Why should our churches care about orphans?
Scripture demands that we step in for those who are orphaned. We find this in James 1:27, but there are many other scriptures that speak to this. Decades ago, we depended on the church to care for the hurting and hopeless. We cannot forget that our children and their families still need us today. Social services offered through government services have made life better for many who are suffering, but the church ministers to more than physical needs. The church ministers to the spiritual and emotional needs. We are actively engaged in Kingdom work through our service to the most vulnerable.
What are the biggest misconceptions about orphan care?
The belief that children should be happy to have a better quality of life and to be free from abusive or neglectful parents. No matter how bad a child’s situation or how loving a foster or adoptive family may be, there are losses for the child that will result in an unrequited longing. The other misconception is that children in foster care are delinquent. This is not true, they are much like the children in your church and community. In fact, they are actually very compassionate, loving, and resilient
What are some creative ways churches can serve foster parents?
Churches can serve in many ways beyond accepting placement of a child. Not all families are called to foster or adopt. Advocacy within the church to help share the need for families and connecting with families who are called to foster or adopt. Foster and adoptive families need a great deal of support and encouragement. Congregations can support families through care groups (providing meals when a family receives a new placement, babysitting, activities, care portals, etc). Families need for their church family to be understanding when their child is struggling to adapt, and the church should be sensitive to the emotional needs of both the child and their caregivers.
For those of us not called to be foster parents, what are some ways we can serve orphans?
Advocacy (CASA volunteer, hosting information meetings, hosting devotional groups focused on the journey of foster care and adoption); see above also.
Anything else you would like to add or tell our audience.
There are over 16,000 children in the Texas foster care system in need of a loving home while another 6,000 seek an adoptive family to call their own. Many of the children are members of a sibling group and many are over the age of 2 years. Far too many of these children are separated when they enter the foster care system due to families being unable to care for the sibling group together. This re-traumatization can be avoided if families would consider opening their hearts and homes to older children and sibling groups of two or more. Children belong in families (Psalm 68:6).
For those interested in learning more about the process of becoming a foster parent through Buckner International, visit the website at buckner.org or call 1-855-264-8783.