Take a moment please to imagine being a modern day orphan: a child in foster care.
Imagine … you’ve missed school for a week because your parent decided it wasn’t important. Then one day there are police outside your house. Your parent won’t let you go. There is shouting and screaming. Your parent has a gun and is threatening the police.
Imagine … after days of tension the police enter your home … by force. There is crashing, banging, guns going off, police shouting, parents screaming, siblings hysterically crying, and more chaos than I can describe. You’re hiding. A police officer finds you, hands you a TRASH bag and tells you to put your things in it. Everything you own: your clothes, your toys, your most prized possessions shoved into a trash bag. A stranger forcibly removes you from your home. Your home is small, it is not safe, but it is home. It is all you’ve ever known and now … it’s gone.
Imagine … you are taken from everything and everyone you have ever known to another families house. You don’t know why you are here. Your first night there, you lay awake in a strange bed, in a strange room, in a strange house that belongs to strangers.
THE FACTS ABOUT FOSTER CARE
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Children’s Bureau estimated 225,000 children entered foster care that year. The Children’s Bureau also estimates about one-fifth (approximately 45,000) of the children returned home will re-enter foster care within a year. That is a staggering number of children who enter and reenter foster care in the United States.
The last statistic I read stated there are just over HALF as many foster homes as children in foster care in the United States. However, that does not mean that many homes are actively fostering, making a huge shortage of homes for children in crisis to find peace.
(Considering being a foster parent? Talk to your local Department of Health and Human Services and they can answer all your questions.)
Foster care is near and dear to my heart. I used to care for children entering foster care and some of the families who cared for them. Now, I believe that foster care is not something everyone can do. I also believe that anyone can help the families in the system: the kids, the bio parents, and the foster families.
Today, I want to talk about the kids … and the foster families.
TRUTH VS. LIES
Having had the honor to serve these children and their foster families, I can attest most foster families are very similar to yours and mine. While I know that the foster care system gets a bad rep and I admit it’s a broken system, it is mostly filled with people trying to help the most vulnerable in our communities – the children living in abusive, neglectful and dangerous circumstances.
- We need to remember that foster parents are like ‘other parents’. Most are doing the best they can with what they got. Sometimes that means they make mistakes! The foster parents we see on the news are just a small percentage of all the foster parents everywhere.
FYI: Bio parents sometimes make the news too. So please don’t throw stones (John 8:1-8), instead show love and offer a helping hand for families who are struggling.
- Why do foster parents need supplies if the state pays them? First, the average foster parent is not getting paid. The money they’ve already spent is reimbursed. Also, as adoption.com pointed out, the average rate of reimbursement is $20-25 dollars a day, that’s less than $1 an hour. Plus the reimbursement is prorated, this means it can be a month or more before the foster parents are reimbursed.
- The above is the reason why foster parents appreciate any supplies their friends, family, and community are willing to give. Whether it is Sleep Train collecting coats for kids in care or a neighbor offering a warm dinner after receiving a child into their care. Sometimes it is just the help of a friend offering a shoulder to cry on. Because being a parent is hard (period).
HELPING the MODERN DAY ORPHAN
WHY SHOULD YOU HELP?
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Because the added stress of children processing their abuse, neglect, and dangerous situations WILL take its toll on the family. These families are taking on an amazing task of love. Jesus said:
Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.
Mark 9: 37
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Who was is that said: ‘it takes a village?’ It’s true. There are simple ways to help and there are ways that will need an approved background check. If you are able and willing to do a background check, please consider:
- Baby Sitting
- Transportation Help
- Volunteering – Check out one organization that could use volunteers. Hand in Hand, it has an extensive training process, but well worth the work.
(To learn more about Hand in Hand check out Theme Verse.)
Or maybe being approved by the state is too intimidating. I get it. There are other ways to help.
- Emotional Support – a shoulder to cry on. A listening ear. Just be there for your friend.
- Kids’ Night – invite the family over for a game or movie night with pizza and salad (p.s. they only bring themselves).
- A meal – notice when a family receives a child and bring them dinner, especially in the first 24-72 hours. A lot has to happen in that time frame and a pre-made dinner would be so helpful.
- Christmas – a small age appropriate gift at Christmas for each child in the home, foster or bio.
- Pray – prayers are powerful! Please pray for your friends. Being a parent isn’t easy. And added trials come with being a foster parent. Want to know what I mean? Ask a foster parent.
HOW CAN YOUR CHURCH HELP?
I am a firm believer in the community of Church. Christianity Today said there were 331,000 churches in the United States in 2000 and the number has only grown since. Do you know what this means? There are more churches in the U.S. than children in care. ALL of the children in foster care would be cared for if EVERY church sponsored a family and cared for one child.There wouldn’t be a shortage of homes and the Church would be doing the Lord’s work.
Take a look at these examples of how your church can help.
DO NO WRONG TO THE ORPHAN
This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
I love the similarities between the old and new testaments. And caring for the orphan is one that God is really clear about. I wish I had time to tell you more about the plight of the modern day orphan; to give you a clearer example of what it takes to be a foster family; or even a glimpse into the life of parents fighting to get their children back. They all need love. Every one of them needs God. And we have a great opportunity to share God and His love with them.
Have a blessed day,
P.S. None of the organizations, products, and services mentioned in this post compensated me. I decided that the organizations, products, and services would enrich the content of this post. Thank You.
Please see my DISCLOSURE statement in regards to any and all organizations, products, and services discussed in the above post.