Foster Care Should Matter to You

Foster Care matters to me, and I think it should matter to you too.

I never wanted to be a foster parent. It’s not that I was against it, but it’s something I just never considered. My wife, before we were even married, shared her desire to help children and families through foster care and adoption. Again, I wasn’t against it, but I didn’t put much thought into it after that conversation. Fast-forward a few years, and my wife brought it up again. “What if we were houseparents?” She showed me a few places online, and I ended up being on board. We packed up all our stuff and our dog, and moved from Burtchville, Michigan to Clinton, South Carolina. Almost 3 years and 67 foster kids later, foster care is my life. We loved being houseparents and loved the privilege of caring for so many amazing kiddos.

That’s why it matters to me, but why should it matter to you?

As of September 30, 2015 there were 427,910 kids in foster care nationwide, a number which has been rising for the past few years (for more national statistics, go here). That’s about the same as the populations of Greenville, Spartanburg, Columbia, Charleston, and Rock Hill combined. That’s a really big and scary number, but I’ll try to simplify it. As of last month, there were 4,227 kids in foster care in South Carolina. Overall, South Carolina needs about 1600 additional foster homes to meet the current need (to see county-by-county numbers, go here). Wherever you live, there is a need for foster parents. There are children in your community who need a safe, stable, loving home.

Children who age out of foster care without a forever family are much more likely to end up unemployed, in prison, or pregnant as a teenager. This should matter to you, because if someone can help these kids and change some of these statistics, our communities will be much better off. Less crime, less unemployment and homelessness, less unplanned pregnancies, and many other societal issues that can be improved by a strong foster care community. Being willing to help those in your own neighborhood who may be struggling can have so many benefits beyond just helping a child (which is totally worth it on it’s own). You’re helping a family heal, and a community come together.To put it dramatically: if you care about your community, you should care about foster care. When people come together to improve the lives of children and families, communities improve, families are healed, children have a chance at successful adulthood.

So how can you help? You can become a foster parent. Contact a local agency (I’m partial to Thornwell, since I work there and it’s awesome) and get more information about how you can begin the process. If you can’t become a foster parent, then support foster parents. Find out who in your church, school, or neighborhood are already fostering, and ask them how you can help. Ask your local foster care agency (like Thornwell) or foster parent association what needs they have, and do your best to meet those needs. There are dozens of ways that you can help foster parents around you. If you want more ideas, contact me and I’d love to help!

Long story short: Foster Care matters to me, and I think it should matter to you too.

 

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Foster Care is a Family

That title might seem obvious. The point of foster care is to provide a family for a child who needs one. That is true, but entering the world of foster care means a family of foster care providers that you are now a part of. A family that knows what you’re going through and can give you advice and encouragement to navigate the troubled waters of foster care. Like most other things in life, foster care is much more doable if you have a supportive community around you.

It’s not completely fair to say that foster care is providing a family to a child who doesn’t have one. Most foster kids have families, albeit insufficient ones, and they love them. Regardless of what was done to them, children are loyal (sometimes illogically) to their parents and families. They are in a stable, safe place for the first time in their life and they kick and scream because they want to go home. It’s all they’ve ever known. In his book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, psychiatrist Bruce Perry says that people, children included, often prefer the certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty. Foster care could be better described as filling in the gaps of what a family should be. Ideally, foster care should be a group effort between the foster family, birth family, caseworker, and court system to ensure the best possible outcome for the child’s future. Nobody can do it alone, each piece of the puzzle needs to rely on the other to do their part.

It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to be a successful foster family. The parents and families that invite children into their home are definitely an important piece, but equally important are the people that surround that family with love and help to make their difficult job a little easier. Preparing meals, babysitting, home maintenance, and prayer support are all important skills that will ultimately benefit the life of the child. Jason Johnson says “We’re not all called to do the same thing, but we’re all certainly capable of doing something.” Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help foster kids.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NLT)

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other. That means you have a spiritual gift and you should use it to help others. No excuses. If you think you have nothing to offer, you’re wrong. You have things that you’re good at and you enjoy doing. Find a way to use those hobbies and skills to help foster families. Spiritual gifts aren’t something that just pastors and ministry leaders have. You don’t have to take a test to figure out what your spiritual gifts are. You just have to think about what you already do, and how that can be adapted to help.

Family Matters. Karl Winslow said so. Earthly families matter, and so does the family of God. We’re called to live life together and encourage one another daily. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NLT) So it’s not enough to just meet together and live life together, we need to get creative. We need to come up with new ways to encourage and motivate those around us to do good and make the world, foster care system included, a better place.