One of the bravest women I know is the woman who gave birth to my son. She was young, it was her first child, her life was unstable, and she hadn’t made all the best decisions up to that point. In fact, some of her decisions would have lasting consequences for her and her unborn child. Yet she remains one of the most courageous women I know, because she let this little one grow inside her, not knowing what the future would hold. When it would have been perhaps “in her best interest” or “more convenient” to visit the abortion clinic, she chose life. She carried this little one inside her to full-term, went to the hospital when the time came, and gave him life.
I’m forever grateful for her decision, and for this little boy who’s now my son.
Though many children enter the foster care system later in life, this is how the story begins for many foster children in the United States. By definition, foster children are those whose birth parents are unable to care for them at the present time and need someone to care for them for a week, a month, a year, or permanently. Some have been abused or neglected, but others have birth parents who simply need time to get back on their feet.
About 430,000 children in our country are in foster care, and nearly 112,000 are waiting to be adopted.
Foster care isn’t an adoption agency—the goal is to re-unite children with their birth parents or biological family members, if possible. However, if in time it becomes clear that this reunion will compromise the child’s safety or well-being, adoption becomes the aim. Currently in the United States, about 430,000 children are in foster care, and of those children, nearly 112,000 are waiting to be adopted. Though the numbers can seem overwhelming, the remarkable part is these children have been born. Their unborn lives, like the life of my son, have been protected. They are now toddlers, young children, or teenagers in need of a place to call home for a few months—or for the rest of their life.
Our journey with foster care began with a phone call one chilly March morning, just weeks after becoming a state-approved foster home. A six-pound baby boy had been born and needed a home for a few weeks until more permanent arrangements could be made with family members. We said yes, taking him in as our own for as long as the Lord saw best. Little did we know those weeks would turn into months, and the months into years. In September 2016, a two-and-a-half-year chapter in this little boy’s life closed. He went from being one of the 430,000 foster children in our country to being our son. My husband, Joel, and I had the privilege and joy of swearing under oath before God, the family court judge, and our friends and family to officially make him a part of our family forever.
In September 2016, a two-and-a-half-year chapter in this little boy’s life closed. He went from being one of the 430,000 foster children in our country to being our son.
The journey hasn’t been quick or easy. Over the course of the last three years, the things we’ve seen have broken our hearts. We’ve anxiously awaited phone calls after court dates. We’ve braced ourselves to say goodbye to our baby on numerous occasions. We’ve cried over news of birth parents dropping out of rehab. Most recently, we wept as we watched our little guy’s birth parents kiss him goodbye (for now). I’ve said it before: Foster care is a messy and complicated process, filled with messy and complicated emotions. The road is usually long and even treacherous at times for the hearts of all involved, but we have a God who never grows faint. He is able to give strength to those who embark down this long, winding path of foster care.
Call to the Church
Orphan and foster care in America actually began as a Christian effort. In the early 1850s, a minister named Charles Loring Brace made efforts to help thousands of homeless children in New York City. He’s known as the father of the foster care movement, and went great lengths to place children in Christian families.
As Christians, we have a God who cares for the orphan and for those who cannot help themselves (Ps. 68:5; James 1:27). Foster children are essentially orphans, some only temporarily, but the results can be tragic if they’re left to grow up in the system without a family. It’s estimated that 30 percent of homeless people were once in the U.S. foster care system. Having never learned how to attach to people or places, they struggle to find healthy relationships, to stay in school, and to hold down a job later in life. It has also been documented that 70 percent of foster youth dream of going to college, but only 3 percent actually make it despite the fact many states offer them free college tuition.
The need is enormous, but when you consider that there are roughly 348,067 evangelical churches in America, the 430,000 children-in-foster-care number doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that can be solved by simply doing the math and distributing children among churches. Many factors complicate the issue, but the numbers are still fascinating to consider.
The church really can do something to help. While not all may be called to open a home to foster children, there are numerous ways to get involved and be part of the solution. I’ve been incredibly blessed by a meal from a friend on a busy week of social worker visits, or by friends who took the time to get fingerprinted so they could be approved babysitters. Larger group homes may be in financial need to care for the children, or they may have a child in need of a tutor or a counselor. The needs are many and ongoing at every level of the foster care system. Who better to meet those needs than the church?
Foster care doesn’t have to be “plan B” in your life. Joel and I didn’t pursue it because of an inability to have biological children. We also didn’t do it because we’re special or possess a unique ability to remain unattached from kids who come into our home. Our plan from the beginning was to get “too attached” to our son, no matter the outcome. The path of foster care isn’t safe for the heart, but we embarked down it anyway. And we hope to do it again, because there are children who need homes, and because we have a Savior who has loved us like this. He willingly laid down his life in order to welcome us into his family forever, and though Joel and I are far from perfect in our love, this is what we want to do for our children. The road has involved many twists and turns, tears and sleepless nights, but we don’t regret for a moment our decision to walk it.
Foster care doesn’t have to be ‘plan B’ in your life. Joel and I didn’t pursue it because of an inability to have biological children. We also didn’t do it because we’re special or possess a unique ability to remain unattached from kids who come into our home. Our plan was to get ‘too attached’ to our son, no matter the outcome
In some of his final words to his disciples, Jesus assures them to not let their hearts be troubled, since he will not leave them as orphans (John 14). He promises to send the Holy Spirit as their Helper; he also promises he will one day return to bring them to himself. Jesus explains that his Father’s house has many rooms, and that through his death he will fling open the doors for those who trust him to live forever with him.
As Christians, we’ve been adopted into an eternal family through the blood of Jesus. In light of his grace, may we care for the lives of the born, and consider opening our earthly homes for a week, a month, or all our days on earth to the countless number of children in need. And as we do, may we point them, their birth parents, social workers, and a watching world to Jesus—the One who welcomes us into his forever home.
Editors’ note: For more information about getting involved in foster care, go to your state’s website and search “foster care” or find an organization in your city that works with foster children.