What comes to mind when you hear the topic? We all have a stigma, whether good or bad about foster care. Many of us immediately shut down when we hear the word, and say, “Oh, that’s not for me.” Others think, “I could never handle getting attached and having them leave.” Some just aren’t at the right phase in life to raise children and so they don’t give it a second thought.
Is this the response we should have as Christians, though? James 1:27 says, “ Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Here’s what this is saying: If you are a follower of Christ it is your job to care for orphans (and widows). It isn’t just the job of some Christ followers– not just those who can’t have children biologically or those who are called to care for orphans in foreign mission fields, but all of us.
To tell you the truth, for some time I had a bit of a negative stigma about foster care. I knew that it was my job as a Christian to care for orphans, but I was much more interested in crossing borders and caring for orphans in another country than my own– and to be fair, I did just that. In fact, it took me moving thousands of miles away for God to change my heart, and convict me about the stigmas that I held for the orphans of my own country. As I sat in my bedroom in Guatemala, my heart broke for the orphans of my home country, especially my own state. I thought to myself if I can come here, and learn another language and whole new way of life to care for orphans in Guatemala, shouldn’t I have at least been willing to foster the children who already share my language and way of life that have the same exact needs. Little did I know, this was God preparing my heart because He would soon call me home through the illness of my son to do something about it.
The truth is this: it’s time for us, the church, to reverse the stigma against foster care, and do something to care for the orphans in our own backyard. The number of children in foster care in the state of Kentucky is currently around 9,500. Just a few months ago it was only at around 8,000. The need is growing so fast, to the point that officials are calling it a foster care crisis. While the numbers for every state are different, trends around the country are similar. The need is growing, and now is the time for the people of God to do something.
That something is not going to be the same for everyone. For some of us, maybe it is time to set aside the fears of what could happen and open our homes in faith to care for these children. After all, isn’t it so much better for us to get attached and have to say goodbye to a child we love, than for that child to never know what it feels like to be loved at all? A quote that our family has been striving to live by is, “When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.” How many of us have room to love one more child or even a few? This is where God is calling our family, and we would love to chat if you think He may be calling you to consider fostering as well.
Others may not be in the position to open your home, but everyone can do something. If you are looking for a way to care for the orphans in your own backyard here are some ways you can help.
- Respite Care: Every parent needs a break sometimes, whether it be due to medical emergencies, needing to pour into biological children, or travel. Those who help with respite care volunteer to take foster children on a short-term basis with families need someone to keep their foster children for a few days. This does require some training, and it varies from state to state. However, what a blessing it would be to give families on the front lines a break when they desperately need it. What a bigger blessing it would be if you could be the respite for parents that you know and have a personal relationship with. Do you have a place in your home that you could offer periodically as respite care? Could this be your something?
- Prayer Partners: Caring for children from trauma can be a challenge, add in the constant uncertainty of the courts and legal side, and you have some often challenging situations. What better way to support a family on the front lines that to pray for them. I don’t mean just say the occasional prayer for all of those caring for the fatherless. Find a foster family and truly pray for them. Contact them every few weeks, and ask how you can pray. Find out about court dates and behaviors that they are struggling with and intercede on their behalf. Are you a prayer warrior? Could this be your something?
- Help with Meals: When someone has a baby people are generally very helpful in realizing that the family may need help with meals. They often set up meal trains and deliver meals to families for their first few weeks with a new addition. Why not do the same for foster families when they get a new placement? In addition to trying to fit a new person into the family, children in foster care often come with little warning and time to prep. Do you love to cook? Could your something be to commit to cook meals for foster families when they get a new placement?
- Offer Date Night Childcare: Foster parents need time to invest in their marriages as much (if not more) than any other family with children. Many times they have several children and have a hard time finding someone to care for the children so that they can go on a date. Could you give up one night a month to hang out with their kids while they go on a date and strengthen their marriage? Could this be your something?
- Offer Supplies and Meet Physical Needs: Kids are expensive, and foster kids are no exception. For each placement, families need beds, dressers, clothing, and school supplies. If a child is younger, they also need baby gear, car seats, diaper, and the works. Often placements come with no warning, and foster parents don’t know gender and age to prepare. Do you have a crib that your family no longer needs? Find a foster family that has just been placed with a baby and donate. Is your son a clothing size ahead of the foster boy that your friends have? Pass along his outgrown clothes to your friends. Maybe your days of raising kids were long ago, and you have nothing left to donate, could you buy a gift card to a local restaurant and the movie theater to bless the family with a fun night out? Could meeting physical needs be your something?
Let’s step up as the local church and be the front liners in addressing the foster care crisis. We are all called to care for the fatherless. The question should not be if I will care for the fatherless, but how. Everyone can do something. Find your something.
If you are local to South Central KY, and are looking to serve in one of the above ways please check out our local ministry, Be the Village, on Facebook.
Looking to learn more about what you can do to help? We recommend the book Everyone Can Do Something by Jason Johnson. Get it here on Amazon (Ad).
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