Moving Unprotected Children into Forever Families

  • Religion
  • 2005

Among evangelical Christians, the adoption of unprotected youngsters, both domestic and foreign, has become a charitable passion in recent years. When Colorado pastor Robert Gelinas discovered in late 2004 that there were hundreds of children in his home state who were legally available for adoption but had no one willing to take them, he urged fellow Christians to “make sure there are no children waiting for homes.” He and other Coloradans launched Project 1.27 to train couples and congregation support teams to adopt or foster children languishing under state institutional supervision. Over the next few years, hundreds of children who had been waiting for adoption were scooped up by families guided by the program.

Taking its name from James 1:27 (“look after orphans and widows in their distress”), Project 1.27 is not an adoption agency, but rather educates parents on the legal, financial, and emotional issues involved in adoption and fostering. Participants pay a nominal $100 administrative fee; all other expenses of being trained and legally certified are covered by donors. It costs the organization an average of $5,000 to help a family adopt one child. That compares to $50,000 of annual cost to the government to maintain one child in the foster-care system.

Families recruited from affiliated churches are given 36 hours of training over a period of several weeks. Church leaders and members of the local community are also trained to help, because the organization believes families taking on needy children require the support of friends and neighbors. The organization shepherds volunteer families through the required paperwork, helps church leaders establish parent-support groups and adoption resources within their congregations, and advocates for parents throughout their engagement with the foster-care system.

Project 1.27 expanded beyond Colorado in 2014 and 2015 to Arizona, D.C., New York, Wisconsin, and Florida, and opened collaborations with eight similar organizations operating across the country. The group relies mostly on volunteers, and receives financial support from many small donors who give monthly, sponsor one child, or offer annual gifts. Pastor Gelinas, who has himself adopted five children with his wife, tells audiences that if “people of faith step up…it is possible that a foster-care system can be emptied.”