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An Alternative View to the Foster Care Discussion

Updated on May 3, 2014

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!):

sweet baby feet
sweet baby feet | Source

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

I'm thankful for piles of laundry; it means that my loved ones are near!
I'm thankful for piles of laundry; it means that my loved ones are near! | Source

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?

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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.

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    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 15 months ago from Illinois

      VirginiaLynne ~ you have blessed me with your comments today! Too many times Christians act as if Christ died to save us from trouble in this world. When, as you know, he died to save us from sins. He promised we'd HAVE trouble in this world. Fostering and adopting has been incredibly hard for several of my friends. But given the chance they would still do it all over again. This mystery is amazing to me. Thanks again for reading my hubs!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 15 months ago from United States

      Glad you've written this. Fostering or adopting is something that Christians are called to at least consider, in my opinion. Sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is hard, and sometimes it is very hard. So are many things in life!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 15 months ago from Illinois

      I agree with you about theory v reality. It breaks my heart and makes me crazy angry at the same time. I don't know of anyone who has found a good solution though. So I guess we just keep plugging along, helping when we can and trusting God that these little ones are never beyond his reach.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 15 months ago from Australia

      Congratulations on his adoption! I'm sure that will provide more stability for all of you. I haven't heard that title used in Australia, but we certainly have programs that offer temporary foster care for kids in crisis. There is also a great commitment by governments to try and keep foster kids in touch with their birth families, and return them if possible.

      That's fine in theory, but it can cause awful problems in reality.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 15 months ago from Illinois

      Longtimemother, it is so encouraging to hear that some things we pass on to the next generation are wonderful! Thank you for sharing about your now-adult child. I sometimes wonder if my kids will be so tired of helping others that they will completely shut everyone out when they are older. We adopted our little guy from this photo in April of this year! We haven't had any more long term placements. I'm not exactly sure why, but I've heard that Illinois is really trying to keep kiddos with relatives. We've also started working with a program called Safe Families for Children. Do you have that in Australia? It's wonderful!! Trained and background-checked people host kids in crisis before the situation gets so bad that the state needs to intervene. And there are coaches from local churches to work on goals with the parents. Sometimes the parents aren't willing to work to become better parents, but many times they just don't have any healthy examples or the resources needed to improve their situation.

    • LongTimeMother profile image

      LongTimeMother 15 months ago from Australia

      I'd love to hear an update about your fostering, Ginger. A couple of years have passed since you first became a foster parent. Do you have any news to share with us? I was a foster mother, and one of my now-adult children is now a foster carer herself. I'm really happy another generation has stepped up to help out. All kids deserve a loving home.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Jen - I love your answers!

    • profile image

      Jenn 3 years ago

      I get a kick out of people's comments sometimes. Yes, we foster. No, we aren't saints. Yes, I'm tired. Yes, they're precious. No, they probably won't stay. Yes, I wish they would. And on and on and on it goes! :)

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Etherealenigma, I'm so sorry it took me so long to respond! We had several single moms in our fostering classes. I think they will do a great job. But I do agree that it would be much much much harder to do alone. There is a monthly stipend, so our out-of-pocket expenses have been minimal. Thank you for commenting!

    • Etherealenigma profile image

      Sandra M. Urquhart 3 years ago from Florida

      Hi,

      That really a great attitude and perspective. I have long thought about fostering, but as a single mom, my financial situation has been an issue that has stopped me. Plus, I really think its better if there are two people to help with the care of the child. Now that my son is turning 18, I may revisit the idea a bit later, because he's old enough now to really be a help. God bless you for your insight into this.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Jane, What a great encouragement you have given! I pray that blessing right back on you :)

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Pamela, I hope you were able to have a great talk with your husband about your future with children. I would love to see more stable families joining in to help. I think that may be the only way we can actually change the system for the better! Blessings to you for even considering it. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 3 years ago from Oregon

      Wow, this was so good! I'm thrilled and praising the Lord that this made it to the front page of of my hubpages today. Great perspective. May Jesus Christ continue to uphold you and bless you in your desire to love the orphan.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I'll be reading this hub to my husband this coming week end when life slows down a bit. It's perfect. We talk back and forth about fostering. Our children are grown and we have grandchildren, but we also have lots of energy (most of the time) and we feel there must be some good we can do with children. You've really covered the common questions and fears of prospective foster parents. Thank you for sharing your experience so far and your heart's feelings. Voting way up and Pinning.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Carter06, it is nice to "meet" you! I'm tempted to print out your encouraging comment and hang it on my bathroom mirror for the hard days!! Some days I count how many long our baby has been with us, and it makes me smile to think that we've been able to give him 4 months in a safe and loving environment that he otherwise would not have had. And I'm comforted that 4 months is better than nothing :) But yes, it will be h-a-r-d to give him up!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Laurasmother, I SO appreciate that you took the time to comment. You sound like a very strong woman. I think fostering special needs children adds a whole harder dimension to parenting, and it sounds like you have been successful! Thank you for being a great example. Thank you for persevering through the hard times with your autistic child. Bless you for investing in these children. And thank you for encouraging my family also :)

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Hi sallybea - we also would love to adopt at some point. I do have to remind myself daily that I am not in control - and do not even want to be in control of when that "point" will be. Adoption comes with its own set of things to work through! I'm so encouraged that so many know people who care for orphans! And I agree with you; my biological kids benefit from knowing that not everyone gets a stable family. May God bless you!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      KoraleeP, Your comment is beautifully stated. It sounds like we could learn a lot from your cousin. Also, it is a great idea to pray for bio parents. They clearly are at a stressful time in life! I'm really glad you brought this up. I think often we fail to consider them, and we shouldn't! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      RTalloni, You have the gift of encouragement!!! Thank you for your sweet words. I am also encouraged that so many have gone before us in caring for little ones. Kids are amazing. I love that the memory of helping your acquaintances' baby is still in you even after time passes.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      VVanNess, My husband and I talked about fostering for years before we actually took the leap. In fact, almost 2 years ago we even signed up to take the classes and then dropped them at the last minute! The classes really helped with our anxieties! I'm so glad this was helpful for you, and I wish you tons of blessings on your next steps with fostering :)

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Krillco, Thank you for sharing your experience. It sounds like you really did gain great wisdom from working with foster kids and parents. I just checked out your profile page, and almost didn't make it back to finish commenting. I can't wait to learn from you. Thank you for commenting!

    • carter06 profile image

      Mary 3 years ago from Cronulla NSW

      Expect Great Things please tell me it's not the hardest job in the world to love and care for a child..and then give them away!! this has to be the most beautiful picture of how to live a selfless, giving, loving life, directed by a selfless, giving, loving God and just want to say thanks for sharing your story with us & congrats on this beautiful HOTD it is def worth it..Cheers

    • profile image

      Laurasmother 3 years ago from Europe

      Thank you for this article! It is like seeing back in time. My former baby boy, who cames in october 2000 in my family, is now 13 years with us. He is autistic, but received so much support and aid in our family, he was developing in a unsuspected way. He can go, he can read, he can speak.... all that normal things, which never were in his opportunities when I was speaking with specialists at that time.

      Please excuse my english skills, I am in a hurry and English is not my mothertongue.

      I had 4 foster children till now, 2 are living with us, 2 had to leave us. I know all these feelings of loss and grieve, but I know also, what I have changed for them. Experience love and family is very important for children, foster parents ar role models. You will have impact on your baby boys future especially in aspects of relationships and opportunities in education.

      My own 5 children have a very social attitude, they are 3 students on university, 1 skilled worker and 1 pupil in middleschool. They have no damage from my fostering care.

      I have studied Social Sciences, Social Care, Pedagogy, Autism, Counselling and Human Rights in my time as foster mother. In spite of no opportunities to go out and to meet friends in my austistic sons bad times of fear and tantrums I had the opportunity to study at home. For examinations we were driving to Berlin, all children with me :) I think, it matters, how you view your situation. All negativ things can have a positiv aspect, depending on your views of life. God bless you!

      Nice regards, laurasmother

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      ExpectGreatThings - a big heart to go with heaps of faith - definitely a solid combination. I know several foster parents who taken in many children over the years, a few have gone on to adopted some of the children themselves and they all share the same generous spirit as you appear to. I am sure they will all bless your house. I personally think that bringing other children is a good thing as it teaches our own children that not everyone is as fortunate as themselves. I wish you a joyful time with all of your children.

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 3 years ago from Penticton British Columbia Canada

      Although I have no direct experience fostering children, my cousin and his wife have. They have been fostering for about two years now. I know it breaks their heart when children leave, and return to their not so stable homes.

      But I also know they find fostering a blessing, and when a new child comes into their home, they focus on the new child. The entire family (they have two boys) works hard to make them feel special, safe, and loved.

      I would suggest praying for the biological parents while the child is with you, asking that they get and accept any help they receive to strengthen them to be better parents. And pray for help from our Heavenly Father for the child to deal with what they experience in life and strengthen them when they leave your home.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      There aren't words to describe the beauty of this hub. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and heart on the foster care discussion. To help some acquaintances, I once cared for a newborn waiting for adoption to be finalized. Even then it was hard to hand him over to the adoptive parents, but I have always thought that one day I would do so again. (Not truly a foster parent then so I couldn't vote in your poll.)

      Enough congratulations on your Hub of the Day award can't be given. I am so glad it was highlighted here and I hope to see it highlighted again in various ways many times over. Have pinned it to my Leadership/.../Heroines board, and more.

    • VVanNess profile image

      Victoria Van Ness 3 years ago from Prescott Valley

      Wow! Liked, posted, tweeted, pinned, and voted up! We've been talking about the possibility of foster care in our home but have had a lot of anxieties and questions.

      You're article makes me feel 100% better about those, and I already wanted to foster children. :) Thank you!

    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 3 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      I worked with foster parents and foster kids for a few decades, and the foster parents are the 'salt of the earth'. Foster children taught me a great deal about treating kids with interpersonal trauma, and the foster parents were so open to learning, using, and supporting what I had to teach about healing these kids. I'm so proud that my book on treating PTSD in kids is in it's second printing, and know that it's foster care that gave me that success.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Jackie, You are far from discouraging! It encourages me even to know that you are still interested in reading about current foster care concerns! I'm looking forward to getting to know you more. And it is encouraging that you are still making a difference in lives through your "hugs of the day" - what a great idea!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      I sure didn't mean to try to discourage you. What would they do without people like you. I know you will do great, many times get your heart broken but you know what you are walking into and that is the difference. I was a kid practically and did not at all know. I know it will bring you much more happiness than sadness.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Grace, Congratulations on getting certified! Nice job on persevering through the classes and paperwork and home visits, etc. May God bring just the right kids into your home! I'm glad this post was encouraging to you. I'd love to hear how things go for you. God bless you also!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Jackie, you have seen some heartbreaking things. I love that you made a difference while you had the chance! Thank you for being an example. I can understand how it got to be too much. Since we are just starting we are not to that point yet. All we can do is pray that God gives us strength and raises up newbies after us :). I appreciate your comment more than you know. - Ginger

    • profile image

      Grace 3 years ago

      Hi, I just got certified today to become a foster parent, after a year of going through the process. As a woman of faith, my husband and I are truly doing this to Glorify God with the same intentions of helping the fatherless as God's word states. Your post was exactly what I needed to read to calm my nerves and to put my thoughts in the right frame of mind. Thank you for your post. May the Lord Bless you!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      You really are a special person to do this no matter what you say. I cared for welfare kids for a couple of years, way back and it was just awful. I had to soak the diaper lose on one baby that never got changed after it went home on the weekend, another was starved all the time and I fell so in love with him he was so sweet. Finally when I reported this stuff they just got a new sitter and I never knew their fate...and there were others. It just got to be too much but of course different circumstances than yours slightly. God bless you and give you strength.

    • RihanaFansite profile image

      RihanaFansite 3 years ago from NYC

      it's useful for a newly mon to car babies.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
      Author

      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Faith! Thank you for your encouragement. You have a gift! Reading your comment made my day! And thank you for sharing - my page views on this hub tripled today because of you :) To God be the glory!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      God bless you dear Ginger! You are making a huge impact in the lives of others. If the world only had millions more just like you ... just imagine!

      This truly honest and beautiful write here has touched my heart so deeply. Thank you for being you and loving as Christ loves to His glory, and this piece here glorifies Him.

      Keep on shining your light and loving from your big heart, for the world with you in it, is a much nicer place.

      Up and more and sharing

      God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Wow twoseven! Your comment made writing this hub worth it! Thank you for your efforts to help foster children and for your encouragement to foster parents!

      There are lots of days when I have to chant that "hard is not bad; hard is just hard" phrase over and over just to remind myself of its truth. Everything the world throws at us seems to say just the opposite. On another note, I hope that you will continue to be inspired by those of us who love and worship God until you end up joining us :) - Ginger

    • twoseven profile image

      twoseven 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      This is absolutely beautiful. I am a lawyer and worked for a number of years at a non-profit that tried to improve foster care systems. I was always struck by the wisdom of the foster parents I met, and you strike me as one of the wisest!

      While I am not religious myself, I find it tremendously inspiring the lessons you draw from religion to guide you in your fostering. For example, the quote you included from one of your pastors (“hard is not bad; hard is just hard”) is incredibly profound and reaches me as well.

      It warms my heart to know that people like you are taking in foster children.

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      kidscrafts, Crafting and cooking will definitely be a special addition to those kids lives!! I completely agree that we can do miracles for children when we work together! I think in some cases we just get caught up surviving our own busy lives that we don't carve out time for the less fortunate. I hope your dear family has a great future experience with fostering. Thank you for commenting! - Ginger

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      God bless you indeed! Nobody should judge people for fostering children. We need people to be foster parents as we need people to adopt children. So many kids grow up without a family and it's really sad! My son and my daughter in law want to be a foster family at one point. When they will be at that point in their life, I want to bring something special in the life of those children as well..... in my case it will be either crafting or cooking :-) As a society, I think when we pull our resources together we can do miracles for the less fortunate children!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject!

    • ExpectGreatThings profile image
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      ExpectGreatThings 3 years ago from Illinois

      Bill, Thank you for commenting! You are definitely a success story from the foster program! It is fun to think that we could be raising the next billybuc :) And thank you for sharing. I have read lots of hubs with H.O.W. in the title, but I will have to look up what exactly that is all about. - Ginger

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      God bless you for doing this. I was a foster child....so you kind of touched my heart with this one. :) Sending you hugs and thanks...sharing on the H.O.W. site...you really are making a difference my friend.