As believers, our pro-life conviction stretches farther than the womb. It also extends to vulnerable children in need of life-giving safety and support. One way we express this conviction is through foster care.
Reflect on the following verses as you consider involvement in foster care. What is God saying?
Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
Psalm 82:3, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.”
James 1:27, “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.”
From the Old Testament through the wisdom books and into the New Testament, God consistently repeats an outcome of knowing Him – caring for the vulnerable. In our modern context we can apply this outcome through foster care ministry. Here are some practical, next step, ways to be involved.
1. The Children.
Ask the God of all mercy, and comfort in affliction, to be with children in foster care. God promises to be near the brokenhearted; therefore, ask Him to be near the brokenhearted children of foster care. Pray for God to bind up their wounds and bring healing. Pray that foster children can feel belonging and know they are not alone.
2. Biological Parents.
Pray for the brokenness that exists in biological families. Ask that brokenness be healed, and sin mastered so that it will no longer crouch at the family’s door. Thank God for His marvelous ability to bring beauty from ashes. Ask for biological families to live abundantly through the power of the Holy Spirit and counsel of God’s Word. Pray that God would use your church to help families heal and reunite for their good and God’s renown.
3. Foster Families.
Thank God for families that deny themselves and follow after Christ through fostering. Ask God for grace upon grace in daily living. Pray that church families fulfill the law of Christ and carry burdens for one another. Ask that much good fruit come from their investment in children in need.
4. Forever Families.
If parental rights are relinquished, thank God that His plan is to place the lonely into families. Ask Him to do that for children in your community. Pray for wisdom and strength for adoptive families as they walk through healing from trauma. Pray for friends and families to rally around new forever families.
5. Aged Out Children.
Pray for every child that ages out of foster care in your community to have the relationships and resources to thrive as an independent adult. Pray that older men and women come alongside these youth to disciple and train them in all righteousness. Ask that God, who can use all things for good, create new life in these young adults.
6. Service Professionals.
Pray for lawyers and judges, social workers and counselors, police officers and health care workers – all that are involved in a professional capacity to help vulnerable and victimized children. Ask for discernment and wisdom as they serve. Pray for rest and healing so they can continue to serve and serve well.
Thank God that caring for the orphan and oppressed is part of His plan for the church. Ask God to stir the church, through the reading and hearing of the Word, to joyful obedience in defending the weak, fatherless, poor and oppressed. Ask God to create a movement of multiple churches working together so more can be done for children than could be done individually. Ask that there be such great light shining into darkness that there is rejoicing to the God of heaven for all that is done.
1. Start with Posture.
Begin with your own heart. Go into a call or meeting with a Social Services representative with a primary desire to listen. Seek to understand before being understood. Are there any preconceived perceptions of the public sector or ideological differences that need surrendering prior to engagement? Pausing to correctly posture your heart sets the tone for productive possibilities.
In the same way that firemen, law enforcement and teachers are often celebrated, celebrate your department of family services. It is HEROIC work to serve the community’s vulnerable populations. Celebrate it! Work with other area churches, or within your own, to host a monthly thank-you lunch for the workers. Surprise your local social service office with gift cards, coffee, or a box of donuts. Simply say thank you in word or deed.
3. People Power.
Whether your church has five or five hundred people – you have people power. State services need caring adults to help the hurting. They need the church! One population needing help is biological parents. Biological parents are often without the tools to make desired changes. Coaches can help! Coaches could be “empty nest” families, senior adults, families with dependents, or single adults. The skills needed are simply the ability to withhold judgment, listen, and help augment families that could stay intact if they had support.
4. Material Support.
One resource you may have is space. Offer to provide available space for training, support groups, or storage. Are there ladies in your church who like quilting or sewing? Ask to make blankets to comfort children entering new homes. Soothing care items such as stuffed animals could also be donated. Be sure to ask what is needed. Dropping off items that are not needed or in too large of a quantity adds more work than help.
5. Helping Youth Aging Out.
Imagine being on the verge of adulthood and without family support. How would you make it? This is the reality of many young adults aging out of state care. These youth need someone to call when a tire is flat, to learn how to get a license or lease an apartment. The level and type of care is different than fostering and may be a place where a few families partnering together can lean-in to help a newly independent youth beat the odds.
6. Raising Awareness.
Child welfare agencies need community advocates to educate and inform. Collaboration helps create awareness. Church families know the community and know of families with giftings that could meet specific needs. Simply making foster care visible in your congregation helps.
Developing community partnerships expands the knowledge of the goodness of God. The trajectory of lives are changed, faith encouraged, and hope grown. Expect adversity but know that we are called to the work. Ask God to go before you as you walk in obedience to care for the vulnerable.
1. Bring Food.
This is always a good place to start. Everyone must eat and nobody needs to be hangry. Offering a meal brings comfort and care – plus saving time amid all the busy. Don’t feel pressure to cook a gourmet meal. Freezer dinners to store, a pizza delivered, or a timely box of donuts all go a long way. If you want to up your game, then organize a meal train. A meal train could be especially helpful at the time of placing a new child.
2. Welcome a New Placement.
A new child in the home typically creates additional needs. Maybe a gate is needed for the stairs due to a toddler in the home. Perhaps a family received multiple children and bunk beds, or dressers are needed. Cost can add up quickly for a hosting family – chipping in financially is often a needed blessing. In addition to welcoming a new child placement through belongings, helping a child belong is also needed. Consider adding a fun spark to the adjusting homelife through dropping off a game, gift or treat for a guaranteed smile by all.
3. Help the Child Assimilate at Church.
Every child needs a friend at church – especially foster children living in a completely new context. Ask the family how best to help. Maybe arrange to be approved for drop-off or pick-up of biological children from Sunday small groups. If Sundays are difficult with behavior encourage the family with unconditional acceptance. Consider asking the entire family over for an afternoon playdate or meal together. Having the family over helps everyone assimilate into the larger community and not feel isolated.
4. Be an Extended Family.
Foster children often require a significant amount of extra appointment during the week. Visits to doctors, counselors, biological family, or court visits can add up to be a lot. A significant help to the family is offering to be a part of their transportation plan. Another big help is offering respite care. It could be for an afternoon of errands, a date night, or an extended weekend, but providing respite care can breathe life into a stretched foster family. If consistent, you can become like an extended family. It’s a game changer.
This one really matters. A needed role is simply to be a caring listener. Often, foster families will have much to process and having a safe space that is judgment and gossip free can be a real help. Laughter can also go a long way. It is good medicine for the soul. Be a pro-active friend to this loving family.
6. Gifting Play.
Playing heals. It matters. Gifting a family with season passes to a local attraction – a zoo, park, museum – can aid in mental health, adjustment, and bonding. Work with others in your church or small group to spread cost.
Lastly, pray. There is always much going on under the surface and many players on the field. Pray for the foster child. Pray for the biological parents. Pray for the foster family. Pray for the social worker, courts, and decision makers. Pray for the biological children of the foster family. The battle is the Lord’s. Pray.
Adapted from The Global Orphan Project blog: goproject.org/blog
IN THE SBCV
We are actively working to create a network of church leaders and members that are either actively involved in foster care or have a desire to become involved. Help us build these connections. Are you fostering? Interested? Want to support foster families? We would like to hear from you and learn more about your interest in foster care or active advocacy and support. Please contact Sarah DeJarnette, SBCV Compassion Ministries Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEND Relief, our partners through the North American Mission Board, offers a content-rich podcast with episodes that help the foster care curious to foster care veterans. Have a listen!