In my former life, I was a police officer. I was often called to people’s homes on the worst days of their lives. Sometimes we went to the same homes regularly. I recall an incident when we were contacted by a neighbor who called due to sounds of fighting next door. We arrived and knocked, announcing ourselves as police.
The door was locked, but a child came to the window and looked through the blinds. An adult man angrily called the child away from the window. We ended up having to kick in the door.
Inside, we found a man with bloody knuckles, a woman with a split lip and missing teeth, and a six-year-old girl. We arrested the girl’s father and took her mother to the hospital. I gave the girl a purple stuffed walrus; she was happy about that.
In this case, the girl’s mother was able to return home after she received medical attention. She called us a few days later because she had found her boyfriend’s pistol in the little girl’s toybox. He had stashed it when we came to the door because he was a felon and did not want to be charged with possessing a firearm.
What Is Foster Care?
When a child is removed from his or her parents and there are no relatives available to care for them, they must be placed in homes willing to accept them, protect them, and temporarily raise them.
Most fostering programs pursue the goal of the reunification of families. The expectation is for a parent to get out of legal trouble, get rehabilitated from drug addiction, or complete some form of a court-ordered goal in order to be granted the guardianship rights of their child.
Often, foster children emerge from the fallout of arrests, drug overdoses, crimes against children—or, most commonly, abandonment and neglect. In many cases, children are with their parents when they are arrested.
Sometimes, children are found to be in deplorable conditions and then removed. No foster child comes from an ideal setting.
When foster parents agree to take in a child, they are agreeing to protect and love a child who is not their own. They do this knowing that the child is going to go back to their parents if all goes well.
Foster children have often been poorly parented, poorly nourished, not subjected to discipline, or traumatized. Many act out in problematic ways; they can be foul-mouthed or violent.
But in the words of the Holy Spirit via Paul: “In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
Because the Father has adopted Christians—forgiving their sins and welcoming them abundantly into a new family—Christians take care of foster children, imaging their God and serving as a father to the fatherless.
Some Foster Care Facts
Legally, children in foster care are wards of the state. Since the government does not have a parenting apparatus, they depend on volunteers willing to take in children. For financial support, foster parents receive stipends that are drawn from state funds.
Currently, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care. The average foster care child is eight years old. In many cases, birth parents of foster children have their parental rights permanently terminated by the courts, meaning that their children need adoption into permanent families.
A sad truth is that many of these children become young adults and exit the foster care system without ever experiencing permanent adoption. Children who age out of the foster system without permanent adoption are at significantly greater risk for a multitude of problems—including homelessness and mental health issues.
Some children live in group homes or institutions while wards of the state. This is hardly ideal, and foster parents are far better for them. Many foster parent arrangements result in permanent adoption, which is a bittersweet blessing.
The loss of any chance at a healthy relationship with the birth parents is painful, but the adoption and acceptance of people who love a child as their own is a special and unique consolation.
What Can You Do?
Advocacy is not as directly helpful, but it is a useful activity for people who are not able to take in children. In the United States, certain groups are trying to force foster care and adoption agencies to place children in homes that reject biblical values.
LGBTQ+ groups are working to have laws changed so that faith-based agencies must place children in LGBTQ+ homes. There is always a need to fight against this kind of lobbying.
Other types of advocacy also help. For instance, advocacy groups have led the state of Tennessee to prioritize keeping siblings together whenever possible.
Decreasing the time for maltreatment investigations, removing children from institutions, and increasing the rate of permanent adoption for foster care children that are eligible are likewise excellent causes to champion.
If you cannot foster a child, consider financially helping those who do. Pay school tuition, provide clothing and meals, and even play Santa Claus while purchasing their Christmas presents.
Become a Foster Parent
The most needed form of help is to become a foster parent. These children need families. Different states have different processes for becoming a foster parent, but there are a number of agencies that will help couples navigate the process.
Usually, states are in need of foster homes and are happy to have more volunteers. Foster families must submit to state inspections and questionnaires, but the need is great and experienced foster care experts are available to help.
Groups are available for you to begin the research on how to become a foster parent. A good place to start is the Child Welfare Information Gateway. This website can direct you to state-specific information on how to get started.
Our Christian Responsibility
Christians have a long history of tending to the needs of the orphan, the sojourner, and the widow. Children are in need today, and if you are in a position to help them, please consider reaching out for more information to get started.