How to care for the least: Review of Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr

In one of my favorite movies, Ever After (a Cinderella adaptation), the prince, who is being influenced by the lady’s passion for equality and the poor, says these words: “I used to think that if I cared about one thing, I’d have to care about everything.”

I confess, my attitude toward adoption and caring for the world’s orphans has resembled those words. I love children, and the idea that there are children literally starving to death and dying from preventable diseases anywhere in the world breaks my heart. And I have been reluctant to open my heart to that kind of pain, afraid that I would become discouraged that I can’t take them all home, love them like they ought to be loved, or provide for all their basic needs.

So, I’m encouraged by a new book that challenges the Church’s attitude about orphans and adoption, as well as offers varied ways the Church can be involved in orphan care, not only through adoption.

orphan justiceIn Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting, Johnny Carr, who works for the largest adoption and orphan care agency in the U.S., presents a case for the Church to do its part to care for orphaned children, domestically and globally. And he isn’t always nice about it.

Nor should he be.

From the beginning of the book, Carr lays out the problem–153 million kids worldwide who have lost one or both parents, which is twice the total number of children in the U.S.–and reveals his own journey from American Dreamer to Orphan Advocate.

Every time I heard about missionaries digging clean wells, working with HIV/AIDS patients, or trying to alleviate poverty, I rolled my eyes. Why are they wasting their time? I thought. Don’t they know that the gospel is what really counts? … But now as I look back, I see how narrow-minded I was. … I didn’t realize I was missing the true meaning of religion–one that includes BOTH sharing the gospel and meeting people’s physical needs.

Carr and his wife have adopted three children with special needs, and throughout the book, he readily admits his own struggles to care about children with special needs, much less make them part of his family. And I think that’s a strength of this book. Carr’s journey is one many of us can relate to: of wanting to serve God only when it suits us, then being transformed by the real-life plight of those in extreme poverty.

Each chapter addresses an issue related to orphan care, such as human trafficking, orphanages, foster care, and poverty. Carr writes about the impact each of these areas has on the worldwide orphan population and gives ideas of what churches and Christians can do to care for orphans. At the end of each chapter is a three-tiered approach to getting involved, offering ideas that anyone can do, many can do, and a few can do. I appreciate this because Carr doesn’t assume that everyone can contribute at the same level, but he doesn’t let anyone off the hook for getting involved.

Overall, I found Orphan Justice to be informative and inspiring. I learned more about orphan care, including the idea that orphanages are not a “solution” and how churches can support adoptive families and families involved with the foster care system. My “social justice” beliefs are under development and the principles and stories in this book have helped with that development.

I no longer fear a broken heart when confronted with the realities of caring for the least of these. Equipped with practical insight such as is found in this book, I’m more ready to take the risk and be involved in orphan care.


In exchange for this review, I was given a copy of Orphan Justice.


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