As Christians, we are committed to taking the love of Christ to some of the most broken areas of our world. One of those areas is orphan care, and we want to see our churches become a culture that cares for the fatherless.
An enormous—but often forgotten—step in caring for orphans is foster care. I asked a local Christian social worker why Christians should care about fostering. This was her response:
I’ve been a foster care worker for about 7 months with Wake County. This has given me the incredible opportunity to be a witness of what it looks like when families step out of their comfort zone and step into a child and their family’s lives. I’ve seen foster parents who lose sleep for weeks to wake children up and take them to the rest room because trauma sometimes makes children wet the bed every night. I’ve seen foster parents worry, cry, and fight for help for these children only to lose battle after battle with schools, DSS, or that child’s parents. I’ve seen foster parents break down in tears and tell me they don’t know how to help and they don’t know if they can take any more.
And when that happens I don’t know what to tell them. Because there is no earthly reason why someone would want to be a foster parent.
In fact, I think it takes an incredible measure of God’s love, grace, and wisdom being poured into you and out of you to be a foster parent, which is the very reason Christians are called to do it.
1. By choosing to be foster parents, Christians are choosing to live a life that demonstrates the love and humility of the Gospel.
Since I started my job, I’ve been challenged to face head-on some of the things I would like to most ignore, such as the presence of sexual abuse, violence, death, and fear. And in the midst of that, God has taught me some incredible lessons about what it means to be forgiven and to accept his grace and mercy. Instead of painting those who abuse or neglect their children as monsters, I’ve learned to look at them and see the effects of a fallen world and sin from which I’ve only been removed because of some mixture of privilege and God’s grace.
It’s really easy for me to look at the families I work with and to say they are there because they deserve to be there, because they’ve made bad choices and are reaping what they sowed.
There’s a measure of truth to that, of course. But only a measure. Because what the Gospel teaches us is that their sin is no worse than ours. Most of us don’t act like we believe that. We don’t really think that we deserve no better than the worst of their consequences. And when we do that, we are cheapening God’s grace.
Most of the people that I live my life with have food. We have safety. We have the ability to seek friendships. We have family to call on when we need them. Who are we to keep this grace to ourselves? Jesus didn’t. He came down to us and sacrificed himself entirely for our flourishing, despite the ugliness and the neediness of our sin. And that’s what foster care requires. It requires reaching out and making yourself available for sacrifice despite what you might think about the families you are serving.
In return, we learn an even greater depth of the love that Jesus has for us. And we get the privilege to show that love to the world.
2. By choosing to be foster parents, Christians are choosing to live a life of faith.
Foster care is a voluntary act of service to a government organization that retains control over every major decision affecting that child’s life. You are the caretakers of a child that is very literally not yours. That means you get some (but not all) of the say in where they go to the doctor, where they get therapy, if they are on medication, who they have contact with, and most importantly, where they spend their future. In fact, you may have very little say about their haircut, the clothes they wear, or the language they use.
One of the hardest parts of my job is giving foster parents bad news. I once had a foster child who needed to be moved to a different state. Every week the foster father called me, weeping and begging for a different decision. It broke my heart when I had to answer, “My hands are tied. This has to happen.”
After watching this foster father attend therapy twice a week with that child, work on discipline every day to establish a routine with them, teach an almost-teenager about teeth-brushing, and advocate at school to get the help the child needed to learn, he was forced to say goodbye. That child had grown, healed, and learned to love at this home. But the child left, and now all this man can do is pray.
He can pray that this child remembers the lessons learned, that the love poured out would take root and keep growing, and that this kid would be safe and supported in the new home.
Like the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, this foster parent may never see the results of his faith. That can be painful. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. The rewards that I have seen in the lives of foster parents have been a deep prayer life and an incredible outpouring of wisdom.
3. By choosing to be foster parents, Christians are choosing to take a stand against injustice and to care for the poor.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: To visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Christ’s heart is for the vulnerable, and we who call ourselves by his name share in his heart. It’s our duty as Christians to stand up for the citizens in our community who lack the power to do so for themselves. It is hard to think of a population that is more vulnerable than foster children—young, poor, from minority populations, from broken families.
There is no earthly reason why someone would want to be a foster parent. But there is every heavenly reason why they would. Those of us who have been touched by the gospel become like the gospel—full of grace. And as we love those the world finds unlovely, we join with a God who will one day “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.”
For more information about foster care, check out the upcoming RDU interest meetings here.