I recently watched a television commercial about the neglect and abuse of dogs in the United States. Pictures of needy dogs flashed across the screen. The pets looked malnourished and had been harmed or abandoned, and a celebrity spokesperson encouraged viewers to donate to local shelters or to adopt the pets.
After watching this, I decided to give my German shepherd, Maverick, a big hug. Then I changed the channel to watch some news. The lead story was about the passing of new legislation making it illegal to perform abortions in certain states.
I was excited to hear that the pro-life legislation had passed, but I watched in disbelief as one celebrity after another criticized the laws. Then I saw footage of protestors who were shouting and carrying offensive signs to protest the new laws.
In the span of just a few moments, I saw a snapshot of our nation’s misguided value system. More money is given to protect pets than to save unborn children. How disturbing it must be to God, our Creator, to witness the total disregard for the life He created.
As CEO of Falcon Children’s Home and Family Services, I regularly come across cases in which children and teenagers are victims of injustice because our society’s value systems have gone awry. From child abuse to child neglect, the ills being afflicted upon our youth today are staggering—and the numbers keep increasing because of the opioid crisis.
The commercial I watched about pet abuse caught my attention because of its irony. Even in the mid- to late-1800s, cruelty to animals was monitored more closely than cruelty to children. The first recorded case of child abuse was reported to Henry Bergh at the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in New York City in 1873. Neighbors concerned for the safety of an adopted child first reported their concerns to a city agency.
A worker with this agency, finding no available resources, turned to ASPCA for help. Mr. Bergh, a defender of abused animals, took pity on this child. With the assistance of an attorney, he petitioned for the child to be removed from the abusive home. Bergh and his attorney, along with a New York philanthropist, formed the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children the next year.
The protection of children has come a long way in 150 years. The Child Abuse and Prevention Act (originally enacted in 1974 and amended numerous times), provides oversight for many services offered to children. A lot has also changed in the ministry of Falcon Children’s Home since its inception in 1909. The ministry was formed after a service at the Falcon camp meeting, where a desire to help the orphaned children attending the services was put into action.
About $850 was collected to begin the process. A farmhouse was purchased and shipped to Falcon in order to receive the first two children, Mary, and Thomas Ward, who were from Bethel, North Carolina. The facility grew from those humble beginnings.
Today, 110 years later, Falcon Children’s Home occupies a 45-acre campus. The ministry has served more than 15,000 children to date. It now includes an additional facility in Turbeville, South Carolina, a program for adoption, a program for mothers and babies, a private Christian school, and the licensing of foster homes.
At the present time, between all of these ministries, Falcon Children’s Home serves more than 150 children. But the definition of an orphan has changed a great deal since that 1909 camp meeting. The majority of children we serve don’t fit the description of a true orphan. They usually do have a parent, or parents, who are living. But for various reasons, those parents aren’t able to return home to care for their kids.
In spite of the best efforts of social workers and counseling agencies, the parents or relatives do not change their ways and the children are left to wander through the foster care system, hoping one day, to find what is referred to as a “forever family.” On any given day there are more than 440,000 children in foster care in the United States.
As proud as I am of the work that Falcon Children’s Home does, I would be just as happy if every child we currently serve could find a permanent home and family. That is why we started licensing foster homes, and why we maintain our adoption license.
What if every IPHC congregation in America today (more than 1,800 churches) got involved in being a part of the solution for the modern orphan—either through volunteering, giving, fostering or even adopting? This is part of my dream.
We would love for everyone to be actively involved in the ministry of Falcon Children’s Home, but that is not realistic due to distance. I encourage you to get involved locally. Fostering and adoption may not be your calling, but there are so many other ways to be involved:
♦ Youth leaders can become a lifeline to children who have lost hope by developing programs that bring kids to events at church. Or you can send help to them in low-income areas.
♦ Churches can develop programs that recruit and identify potential foster parent families in your congregation.
♦ You can also develop outreach programs that send volunteers, tutors, or mentors to local group homes to help as needed.
♦ You can become a visiting resource for children in foster care. This allows the children to visit your home and be a part of your family at holidays or other planned events.
One of the most important things you can do is be mindful of the possibility that a child you know is in a situation that is not safe. Watch for signs that may need to be reported.
If enough Christian families got involved, this modern orphan crisis would be eradicated. There would be enough forever families that every child would have a forever permanent home.
This is important for the church because we need Christian families. There are many non-Christian and non-traditional families stepping up today to help. I admire them for being willing to make a difference, but the Lord must be at the center of a household for a child’s deepest needs to be met.
At Falcon, we have a painting by artist Linwood Berry that contains this Scripture from Psalm 68:5-6: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families; He brings those who are bound into prosperity.” I am thankful that the IPHC is committed to bringing His justice to the most vulnerable children in our nation.
The next time you view one of those commercials about abused dogs, let it remind you that there are children in our communities who feel alone. They too have scars that you may not visibly see, but their hearts are broken. They long to be part of a true family.
Originally published in Encourage Magazine.