An Alternative View to the Foster Care Discussion
Did You Know?
- At any given time there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the United States
- 27% of these kids are in homes with relatives
- 46% of these kids are in non-relative homes
- The median age of kids in foster care is 8.8 years old
- 41% are white
- 27% are black
- 21% are hispanic
- 52% of these children have a goal of reunifying with their birth parents or primary caretakers
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Foster care statistics 2011. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
Just so we're all on the same page from the beginning...my family believes in the God of the Bible and His amazing sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. The Bible says when God made people, he made them in His own image. Not just the "best of us" but also the "least of us" are created by God. Throughout Scripture He tells us to care for the orphans and fatherless. This makes sense doesn't it? Compared to the riches and glory of God, the richest, most prestigious person on the earth is still in the same category as the most powerless, vulnerable child. Anyway, being foster parents seems to be the best fit for our family to care for the orphans and fatherless. That's our background. Here we go:
We are really new to fostering, but I am already thankful for what God is faithfully and gently teaching us.
After months of classes and home studies and background checks, my husband and I finally received our license to be foster parents. One week later we were asked to consider a newborn boy. Less than two hours after we said "yes" he was dropped off at our house with exactly one extra diaper, a day's worth of formula, and wearing a onesie that was several sizes too big.
There are a few responses we almost always hear from people when they find out we are fostering. I have thought and prayed about my reactions when I hear these words from others. Here are my current thoughts (and I reserve the right to allow God to change my mind and broaden my perspective at any time He chooses!):
1. "How will you ever give him up?"
Honestly, I have no idea! However, I am an adult. I should be able to deal with loss much better than a child should be able to deal with not having someone love and take care of him. Will it hurt to give up our little baby boy? I am not naïve enough to think that my heart isn’t going to grieve deeply when he leaves.
It is true that many foster kids go back to a less than ideal biological family situation. This breaks my heart. Really. I ache ache ache for them. But it doesn’t mean that God has stepped off His throne for a second. He is still in control. I think of Hannah who willingly gave up her little Samuel to be raised by a terrible father figure, Eli the priest. And God not only spared Samuel from the temptation that Eli failed to protect his own sons from, He used Samuel over and over again his entire life.
It is a privilege to invest in children, for one day or for a lifetime. I pray that God will continue to give my family the grace, desire, and means to do just that. And I pray that God will give us the grace to never guard our hearts against a child who needs to be loved and cared for.
This question has brought another reality to my little world of parenting. We are not only not in control of when our foster child leaves our home, we also have no control over how long our biological children will be with us. God is in control, and He is good.
Mountains of Laundry
2. "That is such a hard thing you are doing."
Some days are harder than others. However, in my limited experience, life is just hard anyway. We foster. You work full-time at a thankless job. Someone else cares for her mother who has terminal cancer or her husband who is in chronic pain. And someone else doesn’t have enough money for dinner. Another struggles through daily and nightly loneliness. And yet another grieves over a wayward daughter or spouse.
I’m learning that life is not supposed to be easy. I have heard one of our pastors say, “hard is not bad; hard is just hard” The apostle Paul said that he “suffered the loss of all things … in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8). He even wrote of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, becoming like him in his death (v10). Now THAT’s hard!
Foster Care Experience
What is your experience with the foster care system?
3. "That is such a noble thing you are doing!"
Noble? Nope. Not an ounce of nobleness in my house! If only you could see us every morning getting ready for school. The girl ALWAYS has meltdowns while trying to get the seams of her socks just right so they don't bother her toes. The boy is likely to let the cat out of the house so I'll have to chase her. The baby is just normal, and needs to eat at exactly the same time we need to be heading out the door. This is us. Just a house full of chaos with me running around trying to find car keys and my phone.
Is fostering noble? Even my righteous deeds are as filthy rags (just like yours, by the way :)). So I know that no matter how desperately I want my motives and my actions to be pure, they are not. Praise the Lord that He is faithful and still continues to work in spite of this fact!
4. "Those kids will ruin your biological kids."
Most people phrase this a little nicer, but that is the gist of what they mean. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’ve prayed for foster kids who won’t introduce worldly things into my family. How hypocritical of me. “Yes, Lord, I’ll obey your command to care for the fatherless, but can you just give us the really good kids please?” I am so thankful God doesn’t have the same requirements of “good kids only” for entering into His family.
Here is where things get murky. I have an ideal of what I want my family to be, but we have never been tested in this area. Pastor Daniel Bennett has an article on the GodCenteredChristian blog that speaks of the temptation to make our nuclear family an idol. He wrote, “The danger comes when I set my heart’s ultimate affection not upon God but upon the five other individuals who make up my immediate family.” I cannot use my biological children as an excuse to not care for others. It is a privilege to teach my kids that we care for other kids and welcome them into our family. And God, our loving and powerful Father, is the One who is in control of the safety of my children anyway!
Making a Difference
So have we actually made a difference? We are only caring for a newborn. It doesn’t take anyone special to prepare a bottle or change a diaper. Possibly living in our house is not going to have any impact on his life. But isn’t that just like God? We choose to obey Him thinking we will make a grand difference in the lives of children and bless them, and instead He makes a grand difference in us and blesses us.