God’s design for families is not for them to be apart. Let me say that again. God’s design for families is not for them to be apart. If that’s true, why are there more than 11,500 kids aged 0-21 in foster care in North Carolina on any given day? And in the whole country? Around 438,000. That is staggering.
Foster care is a very tangible picture of the brokenness of this world. Kids are removed from their birth families and placed in foster care for a multitude of reasons – physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse, or neglect due to unmanaged mental health, substance use disorders, domestic violence, and more. None of these reasons for removal are explained away easily. Many of these reasons are the product of generations of socioeconomic strife and overt and systemic racism, among other problems. For our purposes, if sin and brokenness were not in this world, foster care would not exist.
What does that mean for followers of Jesus? If we look in the Bible, there’s not a commandment on how to think about foster care specifically, but there are references to our God who is the ultimate father, a “father of the fatherless” (Ps. 68:5), to a call to “visit orphans” (James 1:27), and to instructions to share resources with and (Deut. 14:29) “ensure that orphans…receive justice” (Deut. 10:18). Kids in foster care are often not orphans in that their parents have died, but they are temporarily orphans in the sense that, for whatever reason, their birth parent cannot provide a safe place for them at the moment. There’s your call, church.
The goal when a child enters foster care is that they would be able to reunify with their parents. Their parents have about a year to work on their case plan that may require such objectives as parenting classes, mental health therapy, maintaining employment, etc. In that time, foster care should provide a safe and loving environment to a child, help them adjust to the life-altering experience of being removed from their birth family, and when the time comes, prepare them to be reunified. Sometimes parents complete their plan and sometimes they don’t, which leads to a plan of adoption. When a child comes into care, you have no idea what the outcome will be, and that can be scary. That’s why the most common objection I hear to why someone can’t do foster care is that they couldn’t stand to love a child and have to let them go. I understand that, but consider our Jesus. He came to Earth, He lived a perfect life, He was wrongfully accused and sentenced to death, He was murdered, His Father turned away from Him for the first time in eternity, He conquered sin and death by rising from the dead to dwell with our Father in Heaven. He came to Earth knowing that was the game plan because He loves His children so much. If there’s anyone who can understand the pain of being separated from someone they love and enduring for a greater purpose? It’s our God. What great love.
As believers, we must cling to this love. Foster care will surely give you opportunities to do so, as well as to practice it. Imagine: You have a 3-year-old throwing the F-bomb at you and you’ve got to keep your cool. A teenager gets angry and punches a hole in your wall. You adopt a child who has so many challenging behaviors that you don’t even like them anymore. All of these are opportunities to model the love of Jesus shown to you. What about this: You form a relationship with a birth parent and visit her in jail. You connect your child to mentors who love Jesus and share that with your child. Your child has never been to church before and loves it so much that they continue going when they’re not in your home anymore. There are so many rewards to be found in loving these children and families.
Now, I will say with certainty that foster care is not for everyone. I will also say that praying about your involvement in foster care IS for everyone. If you feel that having a child in your home is not right for you and your family, maybe you could be a GAL, a court-appointed volunteer advocate for a child, or be background checked to provide respite to a foster family. Maybe you could go through foster care classes with your friend who’s being licensed as a support for them, or be on a meal rotation, or assist with transportation to therapy, family visits, etc. What about providing homework help? Or being a mentor? What does it look like for our church to be a church that loves birth families, kids in care, and foster families?
There are around 11,500 kids in care in NC. 337 of those kids are in Durham County, and 668 are in Wake County. I don’t know about you, but diminishing those numbers seems pretty attainable to me.
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Megan works as a foster care specialist for a private foster care and adoption agency in the RDU area. If you would like to talk with her about how you can be a part of caring for children and families, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.