How can we address the poverty at the root of the orphan crisis?

Today is day eight of ‪#‎AskBetterQuestions‬. In just a few days Amanda and I will be at CAFO2015. As we prepare for this gathering, we want to engage families, churches, leaders and influencers who are passionate about adoption and orphan care to stop and ask better questions. We would love for you to join in the conversation!


While most Christians focus on adoption and orphan care as the response to the orphan crisis, we cannot end the orphan crisis without giving vulnerable families a path out of poverty. Poverty is at the root of the orphan crisis. And as Christians, we’re called to care for the poor.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” (James 1:27)

The Greek word “to visit” means to go and see. The word is commonly used for a doctor visiting the sick. Here it refers to the Christians’ gracious care for orphans and widows, much like a doctor visiting a patient. Elsewhere in the bible, the same word describes God’s gracious care for us. God sees our needs and responds to them with mercy. In the same way, we’re called to see the needs of orphans and widows to respond to them with compassion.

Living out James 1:27 means caring about orphans and widows – but when the Bible talks about “orphans and widows” it doesn’t mean just orphans and widows! All throughout Scripture, we discover God’s heart for all who are powerless. In ancient Jewish culture, orphans, widows, immigrants and the poor would have been vulnerable to exploitation.

We are not called to care about just “orphans and widows” – we’re called to care about all people who are vulnerable to poverty and injustice. This includes 25 million people who have been forced to flee from violent conflict. It includes the 1.2 million children who are trafficked into slavery every year. It certainly includes the 1.4 billion people who live in desperate poverty.

When I think about these statistics, I have to confess that I am overwhelmed. I am a working mom with four young children. Some days it’s all I can do to get my kids to school on time and to make dinner when they get home. It’s hard to imagine how I can make a difference. But I believe it’s possible to make a difference one child, one family and one community at a time.

So how do we respond to the poverty at the root of the orphan crisis?

Here’s a little of what Amanda and I wrote in In Defense of the Fatherless:

“We aim to provide not simply a hand out, but a means for people to provide for their own families. Our goal is that families would be able to work to provide for their needs. By supporting and empowering vulnerable families, we can prevent children from being orphaned or abandoned.”

Poverty alleviation can look like everything from feeding the hungry to building schools to developing businesses in vulnerable communities. Whatever we do, we need to understand that poverty is more than a lack of resources. Poverty is about broken relationships that affect every area of life.

If we want to break the cycle of poverty – if we want to empower vulnerable families to prevent children from being orphaned or abandoned – we have to think about more than just resources. Fighting poverty means more than giving people food, water and housing. It means strengthening marriages, rebuilding communities – and ultimately restoring hope.

Ready to #AskBetterQuestions?

We would love for you to join in the conversation by leaving a comment or by tagging your posts with #AskBetterQuestions on Instagram or Twitter. You can discover more of the questions we’re asking here!

In Defense of the Fatherless is the conversation I would love to have with a friend who wants to understand the root causes of the orphan crisis – and how to respond. In Defense of the Fatherless is designed to take you on a journey through the Bible to understand God’s heart for the powerless – and how you are called to respond. The book shares stories from ministries and social businesses that are alleviating poverty in communities around the world. Learn more about In Defense of the Fatherless or read what experts have to say. If you are ready for a deeper conversation, In Defense of the Fatherless is now available on Amazon or at a bookstore near you.

Sara Brinton

SARA BRINTON is a writer and entrepreneur with a passion for reforming international adoption and orphan care. She leads marketing for Noonday Collection, a business that uses fashion to create opportunity in developing countries. Sara and her husband, Mark, live in Austin, Texas with their four children, including daughter Gabrielle who was adopted from Uganda.

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