Why We Can’t Say No to Foster Care
It’s difficult for me to describe the first time I held my daughter. I had never seen her, but I felt an indescribable depth of love that incomprehensibly extended backward. It was as though I always knew her, always loved her, and despite the irrationality of it all, I could not conceive of a moment when she did not exist. She was fragile. Helpless. I wanted to protect her from anything and everything that would ever want to harm her.
If you don’t have children, I’m sure you can still imagine the power of that connection and of that love.
Yet, despite what I felt in that first moment, I also know that, as a parent, my love has been mixed with frustration and irritation. I wanted to protect her so badly that I couldn’t see the ways my own failures as a parent would harm her.
This is true of every parent. We do our best. But sometimes the complications of life, misguided choices, past hurt, unhealed trauma, and our own sinfulness put us at odds with the very thing we want the most for our children.
Welcome to the complexity of fostering.
If you sit across the table from a foster parent, they will tell you that their chief goal is to care for a child when a biological parent can’t, in the hope that the biological parent will be able to do so again one day. Perhaps the foster parent sees that if their own life circumstances were different, they could be the parent separated from the child they love.
Fostering is about healing. It’s about wholeness. It’s about organizing your life self-sacrificially to create spaces for resurrection, life, reunion, mercy, and beauty.
When I talk to foster parents, I cannot help but see the far greater love of my savior who laid down his life to reunite me with my heavenly father. Jesus didn’t come just to pay for sin. He came to reunite and make a broken world whole.
A Story That Broke My Heart
Several months ago, I sat across the table from leaders at Coyote Hill, an amazing foster care institution that trains and supports foster parents. Bill Atherton, the CEO, asked me a simple question without simple answers, “If you couldn’t take care of your child, and they were placed in foster care, would you want them to be down the street? In the same city? Or in a different county?”
The answer was obvious: I’d want my children to be as close to me as possible so that I could see them more frequently and be a bigger part of their lives.
The problem is there aren’t enough foster parents in Columbia to meet the need. As a result, many children are sent to foster homes in other counties.
According to Bill, about 300 children need foster care in the city, but there are only 80 foster families. Of those 80, about 60 actively foster. You can do the math and understand the consequences.
The families currently fostering face immense challenges. If they don’t have close connections, it can be hard for them to leave the kids with a babysitter for a date night or entrust their foster children to family members. These foster parents are just like you: they have good days and bad days, energized days and tired days. And foster care can take a mental, physical, and spiritual toll on their health and the health of their marriage.
As Bill explained all this to me, I knew I couldn’t sit back and do nothing. Thankfully, he had some good news: there are many ways to help serve the needs of foster children.
How You Can Help
If we want to be a church that reflects the love of Jesus to Columbia, we have to be a church that actively creates a culture of wholeness, life, and shalom in our community. Jesus was clear: this means actively caring for the needs of children and for those who are weary and heavy-laden. When we show this love, it’s not so that people would be impressed with us. It’s so that people would be impressed with our savior.
A church that meets the needs of foster children—as an expression of God’s love for us!—is a church that magnetizes other toward the God who heals and loves.
When children and families in need cry out for help, we must be a church that answers.
Answering that call doesn’t require you to become a foster parent. There are many ways to support fostering spiritually, monetarily, and through personal service. To that end, The Crossing is working with Coyote Hill to hold two separate meetings where anyone interested in making a difference can attend and assess how they can best love foster children and foster families in Columbia.
Even if you’re unsure, I encourage you to attend. Don’t worry—we don’t believe in guilt motivation. Our prayer is that God would call hundreds of people in our church to simply consider what role they can play.