Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home. . .
By Rev. Justin L. Marple, PPL Board member Justin and his wife, Shelby, are licensed foster parents.
Immediately before and after the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade there were a flood of tweets and Facebook posts asking where all the pro-lifers are who will sign up to be foster parents to handle the predicted flood of children who would enter the system because of the court’s ruling. Putting aside whether these prognostications constitute false prophecies and how these posts were seeking to justify murder because some children might need to enter foster care, it is appropriate for all of you who are Christians to consider whether God might be calling you to become a foster parent. The process of becoming a foster parent is not one for the faint of heart—for the Christian, it involves taking up one’s cross daily. Sometimes God’s call with regard to particular children may even evolve into a situation where you have the opportunity to adopt the children that you’ve been fostering. But unless the child is an orphan, it always begins with the goal of reunification with a parent or parents. In the meantime, you are protecting kids, providing for them, and loving them.
There are mixed feelings about foster care in our country.
Horror stories abound. Many people would like the whole system to be scrapped. Recent laws purporting to put “family first” have essentially been anti-foster care and jettisoned many of the safeguards still required for traditional foster homes so that children might stay with family and “fictive kin” (those who have some sort of relationship—even if it isn’t through blood or marriage). Such “reforms” have made things worse. There is definitely a need for God-fearing Christians to step forward, whether they become traditional foster parents or perhaps in emergencies to step in as “fictive kin” to families that they come to know through church, scouts, rescue missions for the homeless, pregnancy centers, or wherever else.
You also have a considerable amount of latitude concerning your personal abilities and values when it comes to getting matched with children. My wife and I let the agency know that we were open to sibling sets and what are called pass-through situations. She grew up in the foster care system and only after becoming an adult did she even find out about her half-brothers and meet them. Thus it is particularly important to her to be able to help keep siblings together. A pass-through situation is one where the parent is the child in the system. In other words, maybe a sixteen or seventeen-year-old pregnant teen or a teen mom whose children may already be toddlers. Thus the foster parents are taking care of the mom and helping her to care for her little children.
Another important way we can serve is as a respite caregiver.
Sometimes foster parents need a break and someone who is signed up to do respite can take care of those kids for a weekend or a week or more. Other times the foster parents may be going on vacation and the biological parents or the agency refused to allow the foster parents to bring the children. Thus, someone who is a licensed foster parent can help out for these short periods. Whether you are thinking about becoming a traditional foster parent or a respite caregiver, a caseworker will reach out with the details before you decide to commit to taking particular children for any length of time—or not.
Other ways to be a support to foster parents.
There are also more ways to get involved than simply to become a full-fledged foster parent. For example, in our region there is a foster care closet that accepts donations of new or slightly used clothes, strollers, and much more. Likewise, the church that I pastor has a crafting group and I understand that they donated many blankets, hats, scarves, and other such items to the county social services for foster families. I am not taking any credit for this. In fact, the church did this before my call began as their pastor. But the point is that you can find opportunities to help if you look for them. For those who might be nay-sayers on this particular point because foster parents get paid for the children in their care, I would suggest that when foster parents are doing it correctly, they are actually spending more on the children than they receive in assistance. Part of the screening process for traditional foster parents is to weed out those who might seek to do it out of hope for financial reward.
May is National Foster Care Month. Perhaps it might be a good time of year to invite someone to address your congregation about the process of becoming a foster parent. Being a traditional foster parent involves training, background checks, a home study, health checkups, interviews, and for us Christians—a lot of prayer and maybe some time of reflection on the way that God cares for children.
When Jesus saw that the disciples were hindering children from coming to him he was indignant and said:
“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
—Mark 10: 13-16