Fostering—I’m writing on this topic being by no means an expert but being involved. When my wife and I married, we entered our union with a shared conviction: No matter what God gave us for biological children, we wanted our home to be a place to welcome children in need via fostering and adoption. We even moved from our rental to our first owned home recently, a purchase we made specifically to become a foster home.
Though there are many avenues, we decided to work through our state and local offices. We attended the informative sessions, took the classes, did our home studies, and received our license. Then, three weeks ago we welcomed our first placement.
Having not yet had children, it has been quite a change to welcome an energy-filled nine-year-old boy into our lives and quiet home. Though I know his is a temporary arrangement with us, it didn’t take long for the “dad” instincts to kick in with a boy who calls me by my first name.
Our first experience has thus far been positive, though we realize this will not always be the case. We have family and friends who have fostered, and we have heard some of the “horror stories” in addition to some of the things they warned us about in class. These kids, after all, are in the system for a reason though the reason is not a fault of their own.
Children in foster care are there because they have experienced trauma or loss. Their parents have died or they have been abandoned, neglected, or abused. Many of them have experienced in just a few short years things that most of us will never have to know in our entire lives. They are victims either of the circumstances of a fallen world or of adults mistreating them in gut-wrenching ways.
They have their scars and those scars often manifest in bad or unloving behaviors. There’s an adage you hear in foster care: The kids who need the most love are often the ones who ask for it in the most unloving ways. Yet, they are children.
They are children in need. They are the ones of which the Bible speaks:
Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 CSB)
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you took care of me…” (Matthew 25:35-36 CSB)
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:17 CSB)
There are two realities for the church when it comes to foster care:
First, the world needs more foster parents. (And I should add, especially Christian foster parents. Perhaps in part because we live in rural Missouri, we have found the state and county to have a positive relationship with people of faith in terms of the foster system.) In Missouri, we have over 13,000 children in foster care with over 1,200 having no identified adoptive home once their case has moved from reunification to adoption. In the United States as a whole, over 400,000 children are currently in the foster system.
It’s not an easy thing to welcome a stranger to live with you, even if that stranger is a child. But as Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you took me in.” As mentioned above, these children come with their traumas and scars, some more severe than others. It will be an interruption to your life. You will have to consider many things—due to our perceived abilities, situation, and life experiences, my wife and I have certain cases that we are not comfortable accepting. After agreeing to take in our foster son, we got a call on anther case and had to say no because we did not believe the situation would work. There are choices you have to make in addition to sacrifices.
But it will also be worth it. A friend, who took STARS training classes at the same time as us, said (paraphrasing a little here, I don’t remember the exact quote), “We want to love the children the best we can for as long as they’re with us.” And that is the point. A child might never call you mom or dad. They might never fully trust you because of how many adults have hurt them in their past. They might shy away from the hugs and the I love yous that we typically expect from our children. They might even do physical damage to your home. But it’s not about what they offer us, it’s about the love we can give them.
So, I want to challenge you: Prayerfully consider becoming a foster parent.
But there is also a second reality: Fostering is not for everyone. We need more foster parents, but not everyone is in a stage of life where they are able to do it or even called to do it. Just like we need more international missionaries but not everyone is meant to hop on a plane and fly overseas.
If you have never thought or prayed about fostering, I think you should. If, however, you have and you feel like it’s not right for you or your family then there should be no shame or guilt in that.
And if that is you, I would ask that you would still pray for, love, and support those you know who do decide to foster.
Thankfully, as we have set out on this journey, we have experienced the full support of our families. Both my wife and I have immediate family who have had various experiences with the foster system. They are all in for what we decided to do. Unfortunately, we know of those with a different experience—those who have had family and friends pull away because of a decision to foster or adopt. Don’t be those who pull away.
Also, don’t question others who decide to foster. We know one couple who was asked by church-going friends in regard to their fostering, “Why on earth would you want to do that to yourselves and your kids?” The answer is simple: Jesus.
Every single one of us enters into God’s family as an adopted child. We’re the broken, the rebellious, the outcast, the neglected, and the poor…spiritually speaking. We’re all the one’s not naturally born. Yet God said to us, “I want to be your Father and love you as my own.” And Jesus said to us, “I want to be your brother and I’ll even die for you to make it happen.” We as Christians should understand the drive to foster and adopt better than anyone on earth.
No, it might not be for you personally, but if you’re a Christian you should be among the most supportive people on earth when it comes to it. So, even if you never foster or adopt, please be a support and an encouragement for those who do.