Black churches set adoption goals Program follows Chicago model

June 06, 1993|By Angela Winter Ney | Angela Winter Ney,Staff Writer

The Rev. Oscar Brown leaned over a lectern in an Annapolis church Friday and raised his voice in hope.

"We wonder why our children are so messed up? They don't have a larger [family] unit to identify with. But we can change the course of the future. We can give children another opportunity," he said.

By adoption.

Adoption was the theme as more than a dozen black county ministers and about 40 church members and social workers met at the Mount Olive AME Church to kick off an Anne Arundel County adoption campaign.

"One Church, One Child" sends social workers to black churches, seeking families willing to adopt black children, said Mr. Brown, minister of First Mount Olive Freewill Baptist Church in Baltimore and chairman of the program's eight-member board of ministers.

Clergy from a variety of religious denominations make up the board.

"If one family from each church would adopt, no child would be waiting," said Jean Richardson, the program recruiter.

The program follows a Chicago-based model started in 1980, when a Roman Catholic priest was asked by a state social worker to help recruit black adoptive parents for black children, Ms. Richardson said.

The program has expanded to 27 states.

It sprouted in Maryland in 1988, when Baltimore clergy members rallied to the concept of encouraging their church members to take on special-needs children, Ms. Richardson said.

"The problem is that most children who wait for adoption fall into a special-needs category," she said. "It's a big challenge for parents to adopt such children, who are over the age of 6 and tend to have physical, mental and emotional problems because they were abused or neglected."

More than 200 Baltimore-area churches responded to the initial program. Since then, 125 Maryland children have been adopted through One Church, One Child, Ms. Richardson said.

Forty black children are waiting to be adopted in Anne Arundel County, said Dorothy Boyle, deputy director of the Anne Arundel Department of Social Services.

Already, she said, the program has recruited 13 county families interested in adopting a black child.

Ms. Richardson, too, is optimistic. "The initial support [in Arundel] has been overwhelming. We have established credibility in Baltimore, and a lot of ministers in Anne Arundel County know ministers in the city [who] are part of the program."

Since the church has traditionally been the strongest institution in the black community, Ms. Richardson said, "if the pastor says it's a good program, people will be comfortable with it."

One minister who has already seen success with the program is Michael Braxton, pastor of Cecil Memorial United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

L Two families in his church have signed up to adopt children.

"This is the only way to meet the needs of our community," he said. "Churches have always been the beacon, a place of refuge. We want to draw churches back to being a pro-active force. We want to show our love and commitment to society's problems and to these children."

Near the end of Friday's kickoff luncheon, county workers praised the church-government partnership.

But the Rev. Frank Ellis Drumwright Jr., a board member, praised God.

"One Church, One Child is so clearly to me an expression of what God can do," he said. "Those of us on the church side of this thing say it's the Lord doing this. Our motto is, 'Share God's love -- adopt.' "

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