“Every child deserves a place to dwell.” That is the core belief of Dwell Orphan Care-- a non-profit organization which “exists to support foster and adoptive families in Lycoming County, Pa. and beyond, so that children have a safe, loving, forever home in which to dwell.”
Jennifer Lake, executive director and founder of Dwell Orphan Care, and an adoptive parent herself, established the nonprofit one year ago in January.
“Even though our name includes the word ‘orphan’ in it,” she said, “we do not just assist children who are orphaned and adopted to a new family, but also foster children too--many [of whom] are not orphans.” Dwell seeks to help all children find their place.
“A huge gap exists in the world after a child is placed in an adoptive or foster home, which can create a cycle of families not receiving the adequate support they need to then provide the adequate support a child needs,” said Lake.
The child welfare system exists, along with multiple other programs and agencies, to assist in finding, securing, and ensuring a healthy home/family for a child, but after that, there is little in the way of support for children and their families.
“Dwell was created to fill that gap,” Lake said.
Dwell launched on January 5, 2019. With encouragement from friends and family to follow what she felt God was calling her to do, Lake decided to start the organization after she had worked in the social service industry and began to see the problems that arose when families had nowhere to turn for help if difficulties arose.
Hiccups and struggles are to be expected when parenting children who are coming from, sometimes, dark and traumatizing situations. “Kids would be placed, behaviors stemming from trauma would surface, parents wouldn't have adequate support, and ultimately they would turn in a 30-day notice, leaving the county and agency to find another new home for the child or children," said Lake.
"But if someone isn’t given the resources, education, and support to raise a foster or adoptive child, how can he or she possibly have the capacity to care for a child coming from that background?,” she asks. “There is no blame to be cast here, just a lack of education and support.” Dwell seeks to provide that support for families.
“Each adoptive or fostering experience is unique and has unique challenges,” continued Lake. “At Dwell, we want families to be seen. We are committed to showing up and that looks different in different circumstances.”
Goals for the coming year
At Dwell, their team, which consists of a volunteer board of directors and other volunteer members of the community, wants to be that backbone that helps support the families that support the children in finding their place. In order to do that, the organization hopes to roll out new program initiatives with the coming year to accompany the programs they already have in place, such as providing matching adoption fee grants to Central PA families pursuing domestic or international adoption, opening “The Hope Chest,” which will provide clothing and other items needed in an emergency placement situations, and serving churches by helping to create Family Advocacy Ministries to better support foster and adoptive families in their congregations.
Lake is an adoptive parent herself and speaks on the importance of the role her church played in her experience with adoption. “My church was my tribe and I couldn’t have done it without them. A lot of foster or adoptive families don't have a tribe and we want Dwell to be their tribe.”
These program initiatives come on top of the amazing work Dwell has already accomplished in just one short year. Since launching and building it from the ground up, Dwell has distributed more than 50 care packages to newly formed foster/adoptive families, supported more than 22 foster/adoptive moms and nearly 60 children through their Care Groups, and partnered with six different child-placing agencies to best help the children that are placed within central Pa.
Dwell also provided financial assistance to a family who was able to bring their special needs adopted daughter home from China. They continue to organize and participate in advocacy, outreach, and fundraising events.
Dwell is able to assist foster and adoptive families through a variety of generous donations given to the organization. Lake emphasized in her 2019 overview letter, “You empower Dwell to have this type of impact when you give. Your financial gift is transformed into something far greater than dollars and cents. Generosity today will create strong, connected, homes and families in which orphans and vulnerable children can forever dwell.”
For more information, or to donate, click here.