We will become foster parents once we have “our own” kids.
That’s what my husband and I thought for a while. But God had other plans. On our first date, we talked about how we would love to adopt one day. However, when we became aware of the plight that is the foster care system, we both knew that the Lord was leading us down this path instead.
Our church hosts a conference each year that is educational and free to prospective and current foster and adoptive parents. One year, we decided to attend to learn and see if God would help us understand what our next steps should be. Attending the conference that day was like drinking from a fire hose; there was so much information, and we were overwhelmed!
In the car, on the way home I asked my husband, “So what did you think about all of that?” He replied, “I think we are supposed to foster. One day we might adopt, but I think we are supposed to be foster parents.” Overjoyed, I replied, “I think so, too!”
And so it began. Fast forward about six months, and we started taking classes to become certified foster parents. After another six months, we were finally approved by the state. Two weeks later, our lives were changed forever when we said yes to a sibling group of three children, ages 10, 8, and 7.
Absolutely nothing could have prepared us for what we would experience while these three children were in our home. We thought we had some idea of what to do and what not to do, and that we had proper training under our belts, but there is just nothing that can prepare you for the whirlwind experience of your first placement. And while we had the support of an intentional care team, small group, and church family, we had no idea what it would be like to invite the wounds and ramifications of years of trauma into our home. We were facing intense spiritual warfare, and we found ourselves desperate for the Holy Spirit’s moment-by-moment help and guidance.
Many people have said to my husband and me, “I could never do what you do. I could never love a child and then have to give them back.” Here’s the truth: not everyone is called to this life. Not everyone is called to welcome children from hard places in their homes. However, we can all do something.
Here are a few sobering statistics to consider:
- Each year, more than 600,000 children experience foster care in the United States.
- 8% of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
- 50% will never graduate from high school or obtain a GED.
- Over 1/3 of all foster teen boys will be incarcerated before age 21.
- 25% of foster children experience PTSD (comparable to the rate of US war veterans), and tend to suffer high rates of debilitating depression and low self-esteem.
- After “aging out,” 25% of foster teens will become homeless.
Love Your Neighbor
In Mark 12:30–31, Jesus explained the two greatest commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (NIV).
Many of us want to know: who is my neighbor? A neighbor is simply any other person. The definition of “neighbor” in this context is not limited to the person who lives next door. It is simply anyone with whom we come into contact. We are to love the people God places in our lives well, whether they are there for a brief moment, a season, or a lifetime.
When we open up our lives to vulnerable children, we say yes to the hard work of restoration that can only be accomplished in the name of Jesus. This calling is not for all of us, but we are all called to love our neighbor.
So what does that look like? I’ve heard that if every church in America had one foster family, each child in foster care would have a home. But the sad reality is that there would be another influx of children entering the system after these children were taken care of. The answer isn’t in everyone running to their county to apply to be foster parents. The answer isn’t simple.
But steps that we, as the Body of Christ, can take are straightforward:
- Pray and ask God what your role is in foster care.
- Pray for God to show you a family that is close to you that you can serve.
- Bring a meal to a foster family.
- Provide gift cards and clothing for children in foster care.
- Become a mentor at a local school.
And so much more.
There is no easy way to solve this problem, and the fact is, it isn’t up to us to solve it. We are simply called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, willing to love our neighbor and leave our comfort for the sake of those who need Him most.