In September, thousands gathered for the annual CAFO Summit in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The Christian Alliance for Orphans is a global network for both churches and organizations to come together to advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children in foster care and adoption and other vulnerable situations.
In addition to those working on the front lines of foster care and adoption, often families in the trenches of the journey can take a few days away and attend the conference for worship, teaching and community. This year, the theme of the conference was “Unhurried: Living With the Long View.”
Stephanie and Buck Baskin have fostered through Buckner for 12 years (and counting). They have three children, two who were adopted, and have fostered several children throughout their time with Buckner.
We were given a special look into their experience at the CAFO Summit this year as foster parents.
“A lot of great community, a lot of great worship and a lot of great teaching,” Buck shared.
For Stephanie, the Unhurried concept was very powerful for her.
“We want our kids to like hurry up and heal, but no matter what our kids are going through – no matter the trauma, the grief … the Resurrection is the end of the story for them,” she shared. “Remembering that they won’t heal overnight, but that Jesus died for their story too.”
The couple, as well as staff in attendance, were able to connect with others who understand this journey. Finding community whether you’re a social worker or a foster or adoptive parent is invaluable.
“We’re not created to do this alone,” Stephanie shared. “We know we’re not supposed to do life alone, much less serve vulnerable children and families alone.”
A history of impact
The first CAFO Summit began in 2004 in Arkansas as the “Orphan Summit.” With a start of just 30 leaders in 2004, today the annual conference draws in almost 4,000 leaders in-person and virtually.
As an organization who believes in the importance of protecting vulnerable children, Buckner has a longtime relationship with the CAFO organization. Dr. Albert Reyes, president and CEO, is on the board of directors.
Workshops featuring experts and leaders in caring for vulnerable children
For this year’s faith-based conference, almost 40 Buckner staff members made the trip and eight staff led informational panels and workshops. Staff presented on topics ranging from engaging public policy effectively, supporting kinship and foster families, identifying signs of depression and anxiety in children and sharing these vulnerable stories with respect.
In addition, CAFO hosted sessions such as Effectively Engaging Churches, Preparing Your Ministry to be Trauma-Informed and Connecting Research and Practice. Speakers ranged from foster and adoptive parents to child therapists, pastors and adult adopted persons. A few included Dr. Curt Thompson, Jackie Darby, Dr. Mamusha Fenta and Katie Davis Majors.
Buckner also hosted a social worker meetup for social workers across the country to have a space to connect.
Through CAFO, families, churches and more can find resources on the foster and adoption journey, family strengthening and working with children who have faced trauma in their life. Videos, books and short courses offer encouragement and applicable teaching.
Caring for vulnerable children can have challenges and burdens. Attending events like this and plugging into communities with others who are also walking this journey creates connection and emotional support.