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Orphan Care Initiative will be sharing our knowledge and resources with adoptive families and other churches – and you can help!

Together 4 Adoption is a national conference that provides gospel-centered resources to mobilize the Church for global Orphan Care. Saddleback Church Orphan Care Initiative will be an exhibitor at the conference and will host breakout sessions on three different topics taught by Elizabeth Styffe:

  • The Story of Rwanda: Transferable Truths. Churches everywhere can help countries empty their orphanages and mobilize the local church. Learn real strategies from a country that is trying to be the first country in Africa without orphanages.

  • When the Story is Struggling: How We Love. Ordinary people and churches can help adoptive or foster families who are struggling with insights and tools that are innovative, church-initiated and applicable in every culture and every context.

  • Expanding the Story Wherever You Are: Grow an orphan care ministry locally and globally and learn how to end the orphan crisis.

This year's conference will be held on October 4-5th at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

We are looking for a team of volunteers to travel with Orphan Care to the conference to represent Saddleback and empower other churches to care for orphans. You can help other churches learn about the PEACE Plan and expand their impact. If you like meeting new people and equipping others, this may be the opportunity for you!

Email or call the orphan care line at 949-609-8555 to get involved.


Years ago, a 13 year old boy in Rwanda suffered the loss of both his parents. Left without an adult caretaker, he then watched as his infant siblings - just two and three years old - were taken away and placed into an orphanage.  


Today, that young boy has grown into a young man living in rural Kigali with a wife and a three-year-old son. A loving couple of little means, when they heard that the Rwandan government is working to empty all the orphanages, they agreed to adopt his long-lost younger siblings and bring them home. After a history filled with so much loss, these siblings now live together once again as a family! No longer on their own, once lonely children are now secure in the care of a family that loves them.


With the support of Saddleback sponsors, this couple has been able to reunite with children who would have spent their entire childhood in an orphanage, perhaps never knowing they had family in the community. This is just one example of the amazing transformation that is taking place across the country as a result of the partnership between the Rwandan government, local churches and the generous support of Saddleback families who have given to the Rwanda Sponsorship Program.


To learn more about how you can help a family in Rwanda reunite or adopt through the Rwanda Sponsorship Program, please visit


If you are interested in going on an Orphan Care PEACE trip to Rwanda to see the transformation for yourself and be a part of the amazing work that is being done, email or call 949-609-8555 for more information.


Adapted from “Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement” by Deborah Gray,

What are reasonable things for parents to concentrate on during the first year home? Here are ten keys for a great start to your relationship with your baby or child.

1. Spend ample time in nurturing activities.

The most significant process of the first year home is creating a trust relationship. Intentional and ample nurturing promotes this goal. Restrict your hours away from the little one. Do not leave your child for overnight trips for the first year.

Meet your little ones needs in an especially sensitive manner. Feed on demand. Respond quickly to fussing. Let your child experience you as the safe person who is meeting her needs. Play games that promote eye contact, like peekaboo, ponyride, and hide-and-seek. Make positive associations between yourself and food.

Rather than children becoming more dependent through this extra nurturing, they become trusting. Anxious people do not know who they can trust. More secure individuals understand that they do not have to be perfect and that they can rely on significant others.

2. Teach children to play with you.

Act as an amplifier, teaching toddlers and children the pleasure of play. Most children have missed the experience of having parents express joy as they played. Their reward centers were not stimulated. This restricted the association of exploration and play with pleasure. Set aside at least thirty minutes a day for play. 

If your child can already play, then continue to build your relationship through play. Shared enjoyment cements relationships. Make your family one that develops a pattern of having fun. Throughout life, having fun as a family builds self-esteem.

3. Talk to your child.

Parents of infants use exaggerated voice tones to emphasize important concepts. Their "amplifier system" helps children pay attention to the most important parts of the environment. Continue to use this brighter emotional tone with your child as she understands your shared world, even if she is not an infant.

Explain things, even though you might think that the meaning of what you are doing is obvious. Not only are you conveying information, you are revealing your view of the world. Your voice tones guide him or her to better understand the context. Use your gestures to point out important things to your child. 

Most of us have an internal dialogue going on during the day – simply make some of this internal language external. This is a typical activity for parents of infants. Since children have missed this early activity, parents should feel free to describe things as they would to an infant.

4. When toddlers or older children have behavior problems, use your body to stop them.

Be gentle, but be consistently and predictably competent in stopping negative behaviors. Do not use across the room reminders. Stay within arms reach of the child, moving their hands, bodies, feet, to where you want them to go. Never tolerate hitting, kicking, or hurting. Gently move their bodies to where you want them to be. For example, if your little one is reaching for an item, move the child or the item. Describe in a pleasant manner how pretty the item appears to you as you move your child.

Obviously, most parents will not be getting much done except parenting when their child is awake. Remind yourself that your primary job is parenting when your child is awake.

5. Get enough sleep, good food, and exercise to stay in a good mood.

Little ones who have been moved and/or neglected tend to be irritable, fussy, and hard to soothe. Parents use their own positive, well-regulated moods to help calm and engage these little ones. Model respect for yourself by taking time for showers, good meals, and sleep.

Your own emotional stability will help to steady your child’s moods. A depressed parent struggles to form a positive, secure attachment with her child. The parent who is tired by day’s end does not give a child a competent source of emotional regulation. Parents who find that their moods are slipping, even with good self-care, should seek counseling. It is simply too hard to do essential, nurturing parenting while depressed.

6. Keep a calm, but interesting home.

Match the amount of stimulation in the home to the amount that is within the child’s ability to tolerate. Neglect massively understimulates children. They do not build neurology to process as much sensory stimulation. After adoption, their worlds can suddenly be overwhelming. Things are too bright, too loud, move too much. Slow things down, buffering your child to the extent that they can process the information coming their way. Lay out predictable, consistent events for the day.

7.  Explain to children basics of your relationships as they gain language.

For example, "A mothers job is to love you. I will always come back home to you when I leave in the car to go shopping. You will live with me until you are as big as I am. I will not let anybody hurt you. I will never hurt you. We will always have enough food."

One mother told me of her son’s relief and better behavior when she told him that she would never allow others to hurt him. "Why didn’t I think to tell him the first year?" she questioned. 

8.  Do watch for signs of an exclusive attachment by the end of the first year.

Children should be seeking out their parents for affection and play. They should be showing off for positive attention. They should prefer being with the parent and show some excitement about time together. When hurt or distressed, the child should seek out the parent. In a secure attachment, the child will calm with the parent and accept soothing.

Trauma and traumatic grief are the common culprits when children are remaining wary, fearful, and controlling of their parents. Signs of trauma with younger children include regular night terrors, dissociation (child shuts off emotionally and stares away), scratching, biting, extreme moods, freezing in place, and destructiveness. Parents who see these symptoms should find a mental health counselor to help their child.

9. Enter your little ones space positively.

This often means getting low and looking up for eye contact. It means trying patiently for a longer time. You are the one with the responsibility of engaging your child positively. Do not use punitive techniques to try to build relationships. After all, no one wants to attach to a mean person. Instead, be strong, dependable, available, and kind. Sensitive parents gradually build empathy and security in their relationships with their children. That process takes time and the type of parenting that caused you to want to be a parent in the first place!

Maintain a sane schedule as you move into year two. Many parents decide that the first year is the marker until they can re-enter a "normal" schedule. Resist this widespread but unhealthy pace. Continue to parent with margins of time that allow for sensitivity, with margins of emotional energy that allow for appreciation of those around you. Model a healthy, emotionally fulfilling lifestyle to your child.

10.   Be part of an adoption support group.

The relationships between families are invaluable. They can be emotional lifelines on hard days. If possible, find a mentor who is positive, and who likes you and your child. Ask her to be part of your circle of support. We all need to feel understood and authentically accepted. A mentor who can provide that sense of nurture for the parent helps the parent to be a good nurturer. The mentor relationship provides a sense of being heard and accepted, and tips and information. Sometimes this can be mutual support, sometimes one-to-one or part of a group.  

For information about adoptive and foster family support at Saddleback, email


"There's no such thing as unwanted children, just unfound families,” says Leigh Anne Tuohy, the real life mom from "The Blind Side" movie, who has a new TV series that shines a light on adoption by helping foster children become adopted into their forever families.

“Family Addition” is a new reality show featuring foster families who are moving to adopt, revealing the real practical, physical, and emotional struggles and joys of adoption.  Host Leigh Anne Tuohy will be working alongside these families to support them as they prepare to add another child to their family, as well as providing “make over” home improvement projects for the family.  You can tune in Fridays at 9pm on UPtv to check it out - and don’t miss Saddleback Orphan Care featured on their resources page!

Are you thinking about adoption, know someone who is, or are just interested in learning more? Hear from ordinary people from our own church who have adopted at our monthly “Thinking About Adoption” event on July 3 from 6:30-8:30pm in the MO2 Gathering Room


Did you know that this summer and fall, Saddleback will be sending teams from our church on short-term trips to assist local churches in Rwanda as they help the country reach its goal of emptying all their orphanages? No training is required to participate – we will train you in all you need to know.

To learn more about how YOU can go on an orphan care PEACE trip to Rwanda, come to the Rwanda tent at our monthly PEACE Global Night gathering, this Saturday June 22nd at 7pm in Tent 1, or attend Orphan Care Skills Training this Saturday at noon in the MO2 Gathering Room.

Wondering if this opportunity is for you? We asked three of our trip members to explain why they chose to get involved…

Why did you decide to go on an Orphan Care PEACE Trip to Rwanda?

Deana, August trip member

God changed the way I thought 2013 would look for our family. Back in February my daughter Madelyn was tasked with a Christian biography book report. My sweet girl has always had such a heart for missions, so I gave her the book “Kisses from Katie.” She devoured it! When she put it down, I snuck into her room and I, too, devoured it! It wasn’t the fact that a beautiful young homecoming queen, gave up her so-called “American Dream” life to move to Uganda to work with, and eventually adopt, children that moved us. It was her unfathomable love and faith in God! You couldn’t help but see Jesus in the way that she treated people.

I was changed. I had to go out and make a difference and I had to do it NOW! God was working on my heart, and I knew deep down that He wanted me to do something bigger. I found out that Rwanda, Africa has a crazy goal to empty all of their orphanages by 2014!  And, our church, Saddleback, is partnering with them, through the PEACE plan, to help them meet this goal!

I have joined a sweet little (but strong and mighty) task force whose efforts are to mobilize our church to ensure that every child in every Rwandan orphanage is placed into a loving family by 2014. So along with volunteering beside this beautiful team I am also planning to GO to Rwanda with a few them this summer! We will get to use some of the wonderful resources available at our church and train some of the local church members, visit the families that have taken these beautiful children in as family members, and most importantly meet whatever needs the local church has for us! I am beyond excited and thrilled that God is using me at 40!

Gary, August trip leader

As a team leader, I told my team, “Whether you know it or not, you will be involved in a historic undertaking.” Never before has a government of any country had a program to empty orphanages while using the local churches to support the effort. Can you imagine all dominations of churches in the US getting behind ANY government program? No way! But in Rwanda that is exactly what’s behind this program. The Rwandan government specifically asked Saddleback church to help lead the way and develop the plans and philosophy to make this program successful, and we will be a part of that!

Some people may say, "But don’t we need orphanages, aren’t they good for the children?" Well our team knows that orphanages actually restrict growth in children and it can be detrimental to their physical and mental health. I think everyone would agree that every child deserves a family – that’s our goal and that’s how you empty the orphanages.

Matt, July trip member

Personally, I have always had a heart for child development. I have worked with underprivileged children at UCLA and taught elementary school in South Korea. My future career will involve child development. So when I learned about this Rwandan orphan care initiative, I was surprised that fits my skills and interests perfectly.

Saddleback Church has been working in Rwanda for almost 10 years, training hundreds of local churches in the PEACE Plan. Recently, Rwanda set a BIG GOAL for their nation: to have all 3,000 of the country’s orphans adopted into families by the end of 2014. Every child not only deserves a family, but requires one for healthy development. I want to see all of the Rwandan orphanages completely empty.


To learn more about how YOU can go on an orphan care PEACE trip to Rwanda, come to the Rwanda tent at our monthly PEACE Global Night gathering, this Saturday June 22nd at 7pm in Tent 1, or attend Orphan Care Skills Training this Saturday at noon in the MO2 Gathering Room.

You can also email or call the orphan care line at 949-609-8555.