With our journey into foster care, I’ve stepped into the social media pond of foster parenting to find resources and make connections with others on the journey. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are a whole lot more foster moms on social media than foster dads.
We could assume that these moms are simply more media-engaged than their counterparts. Yet, it’s been my experience that many of these are single foster moms or ladies who lament that their husbands aren’t more engaged. In my face to face experiences, I’ve found the latter to be far from universally true, but you still hear the stories.
I don’t have hard and fast numbers on this, but based on the above experiences this seems a safe general observation: Women are more eager to engage in foster care than men.
A couple of months ago, I wrote a post called The World Needs More Foster Parents. I want to add to those thoughts, this time talking specifically to my fellow men.
One of my favorite passages on manhood in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, where Paul wrote, “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous [or: “act like men” as in the ESV], be strong. Do everything in love.” (CSB) I think these admonitions by Paul can serve as a foundation for why we need more men eagerly involved in foster care.
Be alert and stand firm—our faith drives our fostering. Old and New Testaments, the Bible is replete with calls to put our faith into action through helping those in need. James calls caring for widows and orphans in their distress “pure and undefiled religion” (James 1:27). Jesus said his sheep will be the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned; and how we treat such is how we treat Jesus (Matthew 25:31-40). Jesus also told the parable of the Good Samaritan. The neighbor we are meant to emulate is the man who actually went out of his way to help a stranger in need.
And that doesn’t even touch on all the Bible says about us being adopted into God’s family through Jesus.
Now, the way that we engage in such social ministries will differ from person to person and context to context. Not every man is under obligation to be a foster dad, though we are all obligated to help the disadvantaged in some way. But given the vast needs in the foster system, I’m willing to bet that God desires more Jesus-loving men to enthusiastically embrace foster care than currently do.
Men, will you pray about whether or not God is leading you to be a foster dad?
Be courageous, be strong—a child’s need for strong adults drives our fostering. All parenting is filled with various challenges. Foster parenting is filled with its own unique challenges. Trauma is a word that gets talked about a lot in foster care. Some kids go into care because tragedy has robbed them of their parents. Most kids go into care because adults have failed them in some way through neglect, abuse, or abandonment.
And those situations usually have been growing and festering for quite a while before the children are removed from the harmful environment and placed into care. These realities have many negative impacts on the kids.
These kids need strong adults who can help bear the weight of their traumas. These kids also need strong adults who will fight to get them the help they need in life.
The strength here is not our own, it never is. Let’s face it, most of us don’t like to wade through another person’s mess. It is God’s Spirit that gives us the strength and patience to take on bad situations of someone else’s doing, and the wisdom to understand that small positives in the now can lead to much greater twenty years down the road.
And it takes a sense of courage to welcome a stranger into your home, even if that stranger is just a little child. Because of the traumas, you don’t know what they’ll bring with them. It could be something as simple as a perpetually bad attitude. It could be something as complex as threats and attempts at harm against self or others.
We shouldn’t have to live in a world where ten-year-olds are suicidal, but it happens and they need your courage to help stare down their darkness and find light. And again, this courage is not our own. It is God who makes us courageous.
Men, are you willing to step out in courage to give strength to these kids in their times of need?
Do everything in love—loving others drives our fostering. God’s love for us in an amazing thing. He gave himself up that we might have life and a glorious eternity. When we experience his love, God, in turn, calls us to love others in a self-sacrificial manner.
We foster because we believe that every child deserves someone to love them well. In foster care, this might only be for a short time, but it remains true.
Love is happily seeking the best for another. With the traumas and causes mentioned above, so many of these children have seen the worst from life. Feeling loved tends to help us flourish. Lacking love causes us to wither.
Now, we must be cautious here. Putting a child into a safe and loving environment will not make all their traumas and related issues disappear. There will be battles against figurative demons for weeks, months, and years, and sometimes even a lifetime. Often counseling and ongoing therapy is a must.
But being in a loving environment will give them a better fighting chance as we help them learn to cope.
So, men, I ask a final question: Are you willing to show love to kids who aren’t your own and be their “dad” as long as they’re in your home?
After all, the world needs more foster dads.
You can check out Mike’s blog about being a foster dad at fosterdadadventures.com