Mom, do you remember when you were awaiting the arrival of your babies? There were months to prepare and everyone was waiting with excited anticipation. Showers celebrated the impending arrival of your blessing; new clothing was washed in that amazing Dreft detergent and folded and placed at the ready in a lovingly prepared nursery. The arrival of a child is a blessed and joyous event that should be celebrated.
When the call comes, foster parents have little time to prepare. Until that moment, they have no idea of age, gender, size or situation. In a matter of minutes or hours the child will arrive, likely with nothing more than the clothing on their backs, sometimes in the middle of the night, confused and possibly fearful.
May I share the arrival story of my second granddaughter? A case worker called – this is the official announcement that you’re “expecting”. The baby was being discharged from the NICU. In a matter of hours, a very sick, very tiny baby was delivered to her new home. There was no time for preparation except in the heart of a woman who heard the specific call for this child and said “yes”.
Foster moms go into nesting mode from zero to sixty with that call. And often, they are on their own. If they’ve been at it for a while, they likely have a network they can mobilize. Sadly, that network is mostly other fostering families.
It’s not the same. I get that. But what if we, as a community of believers…the CHURCH, got serious about this issue? What if we said ENOUGH? What if rather than getting bent out of shape about a disposable cup we took up the cause of the orphan?
In the United States over 250,000 children enter foster care each year. That number is staggering. While not every family can or will foster, the statistics tell that if one family in one church out of every three churches were to welcome one child into their home, there would be no child waiting.
I wish I could just lay my heart bare. Words are supposed to do that, but I am better at telling a story than championing a cause. As best as I can tell it, this is what I want you to hear, dear reader. What if that that one family out of those three churches had an army of people around them? What if when a mama posted a status update about needing a toddler bed, instead of sending links to beds for sale on Craig’s List that same team of people found a bed and delivered it to that home where everyone is in prep mode?
I never knew. I had no idea. I thought those people were super heroes and I admired how they had it together and managed so well. I ignored the fact that I could should be a part of the story. I freely admit that I only became part of this amazing story because of my daughter and son-in-law.
But regardless of my failure to walk in it, this was not written for one family in one church out of three, my friends:
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world. James 1:27 NET
So, dear reader, if you are still with me, and if that verse is speaking to your heart, let’s get on with it.
There are ways to touch the lives of children in foster care even beyond becoming a foster parent. I was going to give you a nice, neat bulleted list, but I just deleted all of it (I hope I don’t regret that in a minute!). What if we got to know them by spending time, asking questions and then reacting and responding as needed out of our abundance and with the conviction that these children ARE our responsibility?
Further, what about the church? What is her role in supporting fostering and adoptive families? It’s not enough to celebrate Orphans Day one Sunday in November (if your church even did – mine didn’t but that’s my fault).
Under the authority of the very Word of God, churches must provide tangible support for families who pursue a calling in fostering and/or adoption:
- Put in place supports that will allow the families to maintain their current level of involvement in the church
- Make sure you are ready to welcome special needs children into the various ministries for babies, children and teens
- Make church the easiest place to navigate with a large family
- Grief counseling (fostering involves loss)
Fostering is a delicate dance. For good reasons foster families take lots of things one day at a time. And ironically, that’s how love grows. One day at a time. And sometimes, that little girl who was discharged from the NICU becomes my granddaughter.
The Book says it more than once. I’m only sorry that I am so very late to this amazing dance.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.