How the church is failing families

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“I don’t know what to do, my child is threatening to kill herself.”

“It’s so bizarre, my child is toileting everywhere but in the toilet. He’s 9.”

“I don’t know how much more I can take. The rages don’t seem to be getting better, and I’m exhausted.”

“I have secondary PTSD because of our placement.”

“Am I a bad parent? The behaviors seem to get worse instead of better.”

“I’ve tried almost every church in <insert major city>, and I can’t find one to help this family. They don’t need material things, they just need someone to show they care.”


These are all real life conversations I have with parents and counselors from all over the country on a regular basis. Usually when moms call me, they think they are crazy and that their situation is abnormal. They are the most isolated and discouraged group of people I have ever encountered, but they are also the bravest and strongest. They march on.

Here’s where it gets crazy. The majority of these families have church communities that have failed them–or even kicked them out. We, as a society, have also failed them, but I have much higher standards for churches since they have a mandate to care for these families.

You may be thinking, “Maybe they haven’t made their needs known.” True in some cases. This is a different soapbox, but suffice it to say that we didn’t really have to make our needs known when our daughter had surgery. People just flocked with support (meals, emails, phone calls, and a constant stream of in person questions about how she was doing…for months).

However, I know of families that have not only not been loved well but have actually been asked to leave the church because of their children.


I know of families who have been made to feel guilty for not serving in church during this season of their lives. Seriously!?!!? That would be like asking chastising someone who was the full-time caretaker for a terminal cancer patient to stop being selfish and sign up to teach Sunday School…ASAP.


There’s also this school of thought that says, “Well, if the church knew how to help, certainly they would.”

What if I told you there was a parent training course that would be a lifeline to post-placement families in crisis? In cities where it’s running, it’s giving hope to families by the hundreds. It’s keeping marriages together and kids in families. It saved our family. 

What if I told you that we’ve been actively looking for our church to run this course in our city for more than 2 years without success. We actually offer to teach the training for free. All the churches need to do is provide space, quality childcare, and commit to supporting the families that come through training. From Gaithersburg to Hunt Valley, we have heard every excuse in the book.

Finding childcare is too hard. Because people are too busy driving to soccer practice to care? These families that need you aren’t going to soccer practice either because their child’s trauma makes it impossible.

I’m not sure we could commit to these families. You’re the church. Isn’t that your job?

There is not enough scripture in the curriculum. It doesn’t seem Christian enough. I’ll really get myself in trouble if I go here.

I’m stopping because each time I write another excuse, my blood pressure starts rising and the tears make it too hard to keep typing.

I had a major agency in Baltimore call me last week and ask when they could start getting help for their families because they’d heard such good things about this training. People, I was on a conference call with of their social workers. In one breath I had to tell them I believed the church had the hope (and training) their families needed, and in the next breath, I had to tell them the churches in Baltimore weren’t willing to step up to the plate. The church is literally standing between families in crisis and the hope that can save them. I’m using my city as an example, but I know this is pervasive across our country. What kind of evangelism is that?


Church, stop caring about how people park in your lot and start caring for the people in the car.

Church, stop holing yourself up in a multi-million dollar building. Go where the hurting people are. Be proactive.

Church, stop focusing on your comfort and convenience. Ask, “What has Jesus done?” It was neither comfortable nor convenient.

Church, take more breaks from book learning to do real-life application. That’s what we tell our teachers to do with our kids…they need less desk time and more experiences.

Church, take worship out of the box. We spend a lot of time sitting around singing and listening to sermons. That time should certainly not outweigh the time we spend reaching out to hurting families.

Church, instead of constantly preaching at people, take time to listen to their stories.

Church, families are calling, will you please pick up?

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If you would like to stand in the gap for families, please pass this or something similar on to anyone you know who is part of a church community.

Posted in Adoption and Orphan Care, Ponderings, Ramblings, Slider, Uncategorized and tagged .


  1. My husband and I had talked about starting a group last year. We ended up finding a local adoption agency that provides a lot of post-adoption support teaching the TBRI classes. After 9 months of classes (they stretched out the material quite a bit), it is switching to a support group format. We are continuing with that group and so glad we have that option.

    I agree with you on your points about how the church is failing families. Long before I became the mom of an attachment-challenged kiddo, I had 2 special needs siblings – one with developmental disabilities, one with mental health issues. My family has been through lots and lots. My parents’ church has gone through seasons of being helpful and seasons of not being as helpful. Their previous church was solidly in the not-helpful category.

    It upset me as a sibling. As a parent now, it makes me want to cry. My husband is in church leadership, and we have a hard time communicating what families really need in a way that people understand. It’s not because we don’t try to communicate, it’s figuring out what language to speak that helps them see what they’re missing.

    (I also homeschool our teenager and don’t really care about academics because the emotional and relational stuff is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT.)

  2. Such a timely article, Melissa! I will be welcoming Robin Pennington from Hope for Orphans on the Adoption Perspectives Radio Show in the coming weeks to talk about how the Church is/is not supporting families! We will be discussing your article and she is very passionate about this topic! Here’s a link to her bio— Shoot me any questions you would like me to ask!!!

  3. The problem comes down to this… the American church isn’t preaching the Gospel. It is a watered down, man-centered, feel good message. No hearts are being transformed from hearts of stone to hearts of flesh. Faith comes by hearing. Most churches are so program focused and very little on the expositional preaching of God’s Word – which He Himself promises will not return void. If pastors would focus on expounding God’s Word, not stories or non-offensive soft messages, hearts will grow in faith and love in Christ. When a heart is transformed, a fruit of that, is a natural love for people… which works out in a desire to care for them. The last thing most churches need, is another program. They need the Gospel. Weekly. Daily. Now.

  4. Melissa , if you ever here of anyone in the Branson/Springfield area let me know and we can get them connected.

  5. My husband and I are going through train the trainer right now with Empowered To Connect. Our hope is to bring it to our area churches and serve the families. We are currently leading a Created to Connect study. The Connected Child is what saved our family from falling apart. We adopted and she has Sensory Pricessing Disorder, and other stuff. Dr.Karyn’s principals work. 🙂

    • Carrie,
      You can email me at melissa.corkum @ and we can set up a time to talk about opportunities for you church.
      Thanks for responding!

  6. Breaks. My. Heart. I want to be part of the solution. What training are you talking about? I’d love to know more about it. You can email me privately if you wish.

  7. This is SO good. On my way home from the kids’ school today, I was looking around at all the families in need of support (adoptive, foster, kinship). We are everywhere. And, we feel abandoned by the church. It has been extremely hard for me to “give” financially to the church because of the needs we live with and watch daily that are ignored by the church (while spending on ridiculous salaries, buildings, and programs). I am sure there are churches that “get it” and are following Jesus’ heart to love our children and our hurting families. Wish it were common. [Oh, and we do know of amazing churches. The ones who love our kids the most, don’t really have the resources to serve them.]

    • I’m sorry you guys can empathize. We struggle with the same dichotomy of struggling people and large church budgets. I also think adoptive/foster/kinship families are not the only ones this line of thought applies to.

  8. Please can you get me the info on this? We are one of the hurting families and the lack has led to disaster in our lives. I would love to do this here as well as share our story and help others.

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