By Jacqui Jackson, M.Ed
The founders and the framers - I think we can all agree - were intelligent, passionate and bold individuals who sacrificed and poured into our country, into community - into the citizens they represented. Everytime I think about how God has allowed our country to be formed - I feel pumped up and excited. I seriously still cry every, single time I hear I'm proud to be an American. Yes - I am high on the emotional scale - but even if I wasn’t - the memories of me being able to call America home are deeply ensconced in my heart. At age 2 months old I was first brought on to American soil - after having been born in an orphanage, placed in foster care, and then placed for adoption from a third world country. At age 3 years old, I distinctly remember my momma drilling me on the order of the presidents - of the USA...all of them. And I knew them - well not backwards and forwards - but at least forwards! I remember learning how to pledge to the flag, to stand up straight and to look at that textile symbol as a visual example of freedom, of hope and of possibility. I recall standing in front of the judge, and raising my (tiny) hand as I became “nationalized.” Even now I have my naturalization papers right next to my degrees. That’s the thing about possibility and hope - you feel like you can do anything. From where my life began to where I am now - I can only thank God, country and family. I am the first woman in my family to have received a Masters degree - whereas the likelihood of any education for me personally had I never been adopted was thin on the ground. Colombia, mi tierra, is a beautiful country, but truly beautiful people. I have had an privilege of going back to serve in the orphanage where my life began, loving on children too young to know that their life trajectory would be decided by judges, attorneys, social workers and such. Working in the newborn nursery with close to a dozen infants - 3 months and younger either lying, playing or waiting to be fed in front of me - I felt the burden of doing all I can to allow these littles to have the opportunities I have had. Not necessarily the the need to be American but rather the right to be placed in a stable, safe, family. Not every child at risk is available for adoption - nor should they be. Y’all if a child is placed for adoption - that means EVERY SINGLE THING in his or her life has been attacked - and they need a mama bear defending and a paper bear protecting them - just like many other kids have. Family - it’s crazy, and it’s precious. It’’s formative and it can be dysfunctional But what Family is NOT is a luxury. No matter what country you are born into, no matter what circumstances your family of origin is facing - good or bad - God’s answer to orphan-hood has always been family. Social science proves over and over again that neurological and physical development are impacted by attachment, trust and the meeting of basic needs. Spiritually we know it’s true. Scientifically it is confirmed. Lo those many years ago when the founders and the framers chose to write down those immortal words - We have the right to life, liberty and happiness - I believe they did NOT include that we have an inalienable right to a family - because it was simply understood. The need for family-preservation efforts and for resources to help families in crisis are needed. I applaud those efforts. The best case scenario is that kids stay in the family they are born into - because babies, children, teens - heck - middle aged mommies in ministry - need family! But when everything in a child’s life collapses, and the bio family is unable for whatever reason to provide a safe home and the ability to thrive - we need to think with our Mama and Papa Bear hearts. With one collective voice we need to say - If it’s not Ok for my kids - it’s not ok for any kids. Church- I’m calling out to you. What does the orphan crisis need - domestically, in foster care and in global institutions. Families! Great news - the church has families! We already have our Marching Orders. James 1:27 is a clear call and commission - care for the widows and the orphans. Camping on the needs of At Risk kids - Man’s answer to the orphan crisis has been orphanages. But God’s answer has always been family. He created family - and God creates good things. He calls himself our Father - so in deep deep ways He gets this whole messy place of families, children and adoption. After all - he adopted each of us. Last year, as part of a delegation with other advocates from all over the country, I was blessed to have been able to take part in Adoption Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. It hit me then that here I was - what many could have labelled - unwanted, unimportant and unseen in my infancy - was now walking onto capitol hill speaking to the decision makers and the powers that be about the importance of making Vulnerable Children here and abroad a part of our national conversation. As I walked into the Senate Building by myself that morning, I felt that same burden I had felt holding babies in Suba, Colombia. A sense of rightness - of calling and of destiny. I am raising my voice on behalf of the voiceless and I am calling on each of you to do the same. If the idea of your own kiddos being raised apart from family, apart from a mother’s arms to comfort the nightmares and a daddy’s hand to help them up to the next level. If the idea of a child crying tears no parent wipes away, or a teen aging out of a broken system and being expected to handle all the intricacies of adulting, while never having been poured into, directed, guided or encouraged by a parental voice makes you angry - I say “Me Too!” It’s not right for your kids to not have family. It’s not fair to you if you didn’t have family. . It wasn’t right for me as I began and could have continued my life in an orphanage and it is NOT right for them. Them….not statistics. Not unnamed, unknown someones. Real children. Right now. On our watch. Claim that righteous indignation and get ready to move! I ask you to pray hard about what you can do. Not everyone is called to foster or to adopt. But EVERY SINGLE ONE of us is called to do something. This is not a circumstance that we can afford to ignore because when these kids grow up without the basic influences of family, consistency, safety and love - that impacts all of us. These kids, just like yours - have a calling on their lives. Within the safety net of family - not a perfect family - just a family - their potential to reach that calling increases exponentially. Right now I invite you to join Ignite Hope, to Join others in this fight for children, to join me in signing this petition - created by the Child Advocacy program at Harvard Law School - supporting the child’s right to a family. You have a voice these kids do not - use it now to change their world today for tomorrow!