It happened again the other day. I was reading through an article about a child who had experienced abuse and neglect. When I finished reading the article itself, I decided to skim through the comments (I know, I know– rookie mistake). And that’s when I ran into the familiar phrase– “If all the Pro-Life Christians would care as much about these kids as they do the unborn ones, we wouldn’t have these problems.”
I have seen this same comment phrased a hundred different ways, both with and without the pro-life issue referenced. It’s always some variation of how Christians claim to care about kids, but then do nothing. If Christians are so passionate about the needy, why don’t they get involved? Christians are such hypocrites- they complain, but aren’t willing to get their hands dirty.
It’s at these moments that I kind of want to scream. I HAVE DONE WHAT YOU’RE SAYING NO ONE IS DOING. Motivated by my Christian belief that all life is sacred and with a desire to see healing in the lives of these children and their families, I have stepped into a challenging role. A role that gets very little respect and often means negative assumptions are made about me. And I’m not alone. I am not some rare unicorn of a human being. Christian foster parents are not mythical creatures. The church in America has always been involved in caring for the most vulnerable, but we are more fully waking up to the current crisis in our own backyard. WE ARE DOING SOMETHING. My little church has had many licensed foster families, families who have adopted kids internationally, domestically and through foster care, and families that have been part of the support structure foster kids so desperately need. I see this at churches all through my community. We are getting the picture. We are getting involved. We are loving these kids in big and small ways and learning how to support their families. There’s still more work for us to do and it’s my passion to keep pushing the church until we see a day where there are no more children waiting for families. (If you’re a person of faith with a love for children and you’re wondering how to make a difference, how to be the hands and feet of Jesus, how to prove to a watching world that what we believe matters, it might be time to consider foster parenting.)
Because we do this motivated out of a love for children and a devotion to our faith, we can be an invaluable asset to the foster care system. We’re not there to make money or even to add to our family if that isn’t what’s best for a child and their family. Our desire is to selflessly support healing for this family and connect them to the source of our own peace and joy. We want to work as diplomats in a system that can breed conflict and animosity. We love and pray for caseworkers, even (or especially) the ones who seem exhausted and hard to reach. We are willing to risk getting our own hearts broken so that a child can have a safe place for as long as they need. What allows us to be these kinds of people? It’s our faith. That is foundational to why we are foster parents and why we work so hard to provide excellent care even at a great cost to ourselves.
Foster care is hard, but it comes with its own rewards and I don’t need the approval of internet commenters to tell me what I’m doing is important. This is just a friendly reminder that Christians DO provide foster care. Christians DO care for children and families in crisis. We exist. My foster mom friends who love Jesus exist and I watch them grieve and rejoice and dive back in for more. We have seen the disfunction of the system up close and we’re doing the best we can in our corner of the world to limit the damage. There are those of us who work at crisis pregnancy centers, those of us who staff homeless shelters, and those of us who become foster parents. We aren’t all equipped to do the same work even though we have the same underlying beliefs. Those beliefs compel us to share the love and redemption we’ve been shown and we take that very seriously.
In Nebraska some of our own state senators have seemed unwilling or unable to grasp the importance of Christians and faith based agencies to the foster care system. Just recently the Christian agencies that support and train foster parents have been drug through the mud and threatened because of their standards (specifically that they only work with couples that attend church and refer non churchgoing couples to other agencies). If the state senators questioning the importance of faith to the work we do would become foster parents themselves, I wonder if that might change their opinion. Sadly, this controversy is not unique to my home state and has been part of the reason faith based agencies in other areas have chosen to close their doors rather than operate outside of their beliefs.
If you want to complain that Christians aren’t doing enough to care for the abused and neglected, maybe take a minute and realize the problem might not be that Christians aren’t doing the work, it’s that you’re not connected enough to your local foster parenting community to know how involved we are. Before making the assumption all we care about are embryos or political posturing, get to know some actual Christian foster parents in your area and find out what they’re passionate about. Instead of arguing that Christian agencies should function exactly like agencies without a faith, let’s remember there are unique strengths to both kinds of organizations and there should be room at the table for all of us. There are wonderful foster parents who do it without a faith perspective. There are people who call themselves “Christians” who grieve the heart of God by hurting the children they are trusted to care for. We can’t always make assumptions about someone from the way they self-identify. Christians can’t prevent all abuse or neglect of children, but we can and often do step in when that happens. You might not know that’s happening unless you’re involved. If you want to join us in doing this good work, we’ll gladly take all the quality help we can get.