As we enter the month of May and the opportunity to celebrate foster parents during this Foster Parent Appreciation Month, let’s truly look at the CARE in foster care. The much-quoted James 1:27 (NLT) says “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means CARING for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” SO…
What is this CARE foster parents are providing?
How is it different from the care all parents give their children? Do you know any foster parents? If so, you see it first-hand. If you don’t, I am excited to honor all the wonderful foster parents by sharing with you some examples of how they CARE.
Foster parents CARE:
1. By going through extensive training about trauma and learning to be “loss experts.” They give more than 30 hours of their time to focus on hard topics that teach them about the children and their families that they will be CARING for through fostering.
2. When opening their homes (for a social worker to come assess safety) and lives to many personal (and what most would say are intrusive) questions about themselves and their families (including their family of origin, losses in their lives, and parenting philosophies).
3. By having background checks, medical evaluations, and reference checks to confirm they meet all state standards.
And then… the real CARING begins:
1. They accept children into their homes who have been separated from their biological families through no fault of their own. Children might arrive frightened and fearful of the unknown, or angry and acting out because of what has happened to them.
2. They love and teach the life lessons that all parents do, but to children who might have had inconsistent or different ways of teaching up to this point. Until children trust you, they often do not respect you, so the lessons are harder for them to receive at first.
3. They navigate the ups and downs of medical appointments and needed procedures, ISP’s (Individual Service Plans), visitations (or missed ones), court dates, IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) and monthly social worker home visits.
4. On birthdays and holidays foster families want things to be happy, but children are missing their families and the traditions they had prior to coming to the foster family, so they might be sad or have challenging behaviors to try to deal with the pain.
5. Foster parents patiently introduce their children to a church family where many people expect children to be quiet and listen, or at least behave and be respectful, but the children do not, and are not, because of past trauma or the lack of exposure to opportunities to learn about worship settings and the expectations therein. Unconditional love might be a foreign concept, so the love of Jesus might be quite difficult to grasp.
6. They practice shared parenting with the children’s birth parents from a distance, and seek to help them on the hard journey to meet goals, and heal from the past mistakes and get their children back. Birth families love their children, but oftentimes have addictions or mental health challenges. They may also have past trauma themselves which makes parenting in healthy ways very difficult.
7. Foster Parents may have to say goodbyes to children they have CARED for over weeks, months or years. They will grieve the loss of those relationships, sending the children back to birth families or on to adoptive families.
And the list goes on and on… CARING 24-7, day in day out.
Foster CARE is hard!!! Foster CARE is often thankless. Foster CARE is not for the weak.
For the Foster Parent who seeks to CARE well for the children and families God has brought into your life, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
If you are considering becoming a Foster Parent, and opening up your heart and home to a child or children who God needs you to CARE for, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!
If you do not feel called by God for this type of CARING, but want to serve foster parents or children in their CARE, please reach out to Agape. There are many ways to CARE for “orphans in their distress.” We would love to share some other ideas of how you can CARE. Please start now by praying for all the foster parents and the children in their care…. That the ONE who ultimately CARES for each of us will give them strength, wisdom, joy, peace, faith, and grace for each new day of CARING for children.