May is Foster Care Awareness Month, so I wanted to write a post dedicated not only to the truth of what our children are going through, but also how the church can get involved. Mother's Day just adds in a special bonus to talk about this subject! Orphan care, adoption, and foster care take a special amount of boldness and faith. Our foster and adoptive moms can go through a tremendous amount of stress, fear, and anxiety; they are the stuff of legends. But they need our help, just as any other missionary needs the support of their church.
In America, there are around 443,000 children in foster care, with about 11% of those kids living in group homes. In 2017, more than 69,000 children were waiting in foster care to be adopted. In the same year, more than 17,000 children aged out of foster care. Sadly a large portion of the homeless in our country aged out of foster care. As the body of Christ, we can't continue letting these kids grow up without knowing that they can have love, support, and most importantly: family. Will every child want our help? Probably not. Will we always be appreciated and loved in return? No. But that doesn't give any of us an out when it comes to loving the people God has placed in our lives.
This information is hard to swallow, thousands of children in the U.S. don't have a home and family to call their own. For those of us with sturdy families, it's heartbreaking to imagine not having that stability. I can assure you that it's just as heartbreaking for these children. Frequently, there is so much brokenness in their relationships with their biological parents, failed trust, love that remains despite the circumstances, and hopes that are let down. Those emotions are hard for young kids to have to process, and the consequences surface differently for each child. What I can tell you, is that these kids need dedicated love like God's to heal the broken parts of their hearts. As Christians, we can embody that kind of love, even if we can't become a foster parent. I have made a list of some simple ways that you can get involved with the process of foster care, because if it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a large kingdom to foster and adopt!
Ways To Support Foster Families:
Bring them a meal - this may seem too simple, but you have no idea what a blessing that can be after a day at court, what I like even more is to offer to bring dinner over so that you can get to know the family more. What foster parents need more than just food, are good christian mentors and friends that they can call on when things get tough.
Offer to attend court or a doctor's appointment with them - once you have built that friendship or mentorship, a foster parent may really want someone to just attend court with them as support.
Talk to your DSS and see what needs they have - helping them with supplies, cooking meals for new placements and showing the social workers they are appreciated, will all trickle down to help each person involved in foster care. As an example, our local DSS said they always seem to be low on sanitary products, clothes, make-up, deodorant, etc. for teenagers' first night bags. That's an easy way that a whole church can get involved to make that first awkward night in a new home more comfortable for everyone.
Pray! - God needs to be the integral glue in and through the parents' motives and the children's understanding. Just like missionaries over seas, foster and adoptive parents face new, dangerous, multi-cultural, trauma filled, unexpected things every day. You may not always know what they are dealing with, but pray for them anyway. Pray for God to help them fully invest in their children for whatever amount of time they have. Ask Him to help the kids understand His love for them better because of their foster or adoptive parents. Just like any other family, they need patience for each other, courage to be honest about their struggles and weaknesses, and renewing love for each other. The parents may be exhausted and have little time to pray, but you can cover each member of their family with your prayers.
Be available to just sit and listen - as your relationship with the family grows, set yourself up as someone who is available to listen when they need it. You may be needed by one of the parents or by one of the kids. If you have a family, you may all be needed! Talk to you kids about foster care, and God's love for each of us and how He adopts us into His eternal family. It's a great opportunity to give your kids an example of God's powerful love, but also a chance for them to live it out. As they grow up around adopted or fostered children, they'll learn to be able to be a friend that can see needs and do their best to support them.
Jump at opportunities to help out with physical needs - sometimes a family who has been fostering older children, will be asked to keep a baby. DSS can't provide a crib, high chair, car seat, diapers, baby food and clothes. All those things, especially baby things, can get expensive, so purchasing something for them is so very helpful! My sister and brother-in-law were given a swing-set and trampoline by a friend from church, right after they got their third and fourth foster children! It was a huge blessing to them and all three older kids loved it too.
If none of these things seem to apply, don't be afraid to ask! - If you meet a foster or adoptive family, don't be afraid to tell them that you would like to walk with them on their journey and ask how you could help. I think the worst thing we do to each other, is assume that we all have everything under control. The truth is that we need each other and God weaves people into our lives at exactly the right moment, don't doubt that.
Share the stories of courageous foster and adoptive parents that you know (with their permission, of course), and raise awareness. We tend to not talk about things that scare us, and that only makes them seem more intimidating. So talk freely, ask hard questions, share your journey with your church family and let's grow our love for the people around us. Let their brokenness break your heart, mourn with each other, and don't forget to rejoice together too.
An important thing to keep in mind is that no response is a response and a powerful one. These children can't wait for us to become less busy or finish a project or save more money. They need our love, now. No matter what your gifts are, where your resources lie, or what talents you possess, God has given you a way to help others. He's been honest with us about His heart for those "left out" and in need, now we need to respond with the same kind of bold honesty. Everyone can do something.
Let's find our something together,