Kentucky Foster Children need the Church
by Brittany Lind
One of the bravest women I know is the woman who gave birth to my son. She was young, it was her first child, her life was unstable and she hadn’t made all the best decisions up to that point, in fact, some of her decisions would have lasting consequences for her and for her unborn child. Yet she remains one of the most courageous women I know because she let this little one grow inside her, not knowing what the future would hold for her or for him. When it would have been perhaps “in her best interest” or “more convenient” to visit the abortion clinic and get back to her life, she instead chose life. She carried this little one inside her to full term, went to the hospital when the time came and gave him life. I am forever grateful for her decision and for this little boy who is now my son.
Though many children enter the foster care system later in life, this is how the story begins for a good number of the foster children in the U.S. today. By definition, foster children are those whose birth parents are unable to care for them at the present time and in need of someone to care for them for a week, a month, a year, or permanently. Some have been abused or neglected, but others have birth parents who simply need some time to get back on their feet. Foster care is not an adoption agency—the goal in foster care is to reunify children with their birth parents or biological family members if possible. However, if in time it becomes clear that this will compromise the child’s safety or well being, the goal is changed to adoption. Currently in the U.S., there are approximately 430,000 children in foster care and of those children, nearly 112,000 of them are waiting to be adopted. Though the numbers can seem overwhelming, the remarkable part is that these children have been born. Their unborn lives, like the life of my son, have been protected and they are now toddlers, young children or teenagers in need of a place to call home for a few months or for the rest of their life.
The Need and a Call to the Church
Orphan and foster care in America actually began as a Christian effort. Caring for these children began in the U.S. in the early 1850’s when a minister by the name of Charles Loring Brace made efforts to help thousands of homeless children in New York City. He is known as the father of the foster care movement and went through great efforts to place children in Christian families. As Christians, we have a God who cares for the orphan and for those who cannot help themselves (Psalm 68:5; James 1:27). Foster children are in a sense orphans, some only temporarily, but the results can be tragic if left to grow up in the system without a family. It is estimated that 30% of homeless people were once in the U.S. foster care system. Having never learned how to attach to people or places, they struggle to find healthy relationships, stay in school, and hold down a job later in life. It has also been documented that 70% of foster youth dream of going to college but only 3% actually make it despite the fact that many states offer them college tuition free.
The need is enormous, but when you consider that there are approximately 348,067 evangelical churches in the US, the 430,000 children in foster care doesn’t seem quite as daunting. Unfortunately it is not a problem that can be solved by simply doing the math and distributing children among churches. There are many factors that come into play complicating the issue, but the numbers are still fascinating to consider. There really is something the Church can do to help. While not all may be called to open our home to these children, there are numerous ways to get involved and come alongside foster families and agencies in order to be part of the solution. I have been incredibly blessed by a meal from a friend on a busy week of social worker visits or by friends who took the time to get fingerprinted so they could be approved babysitters. Larger group homes may be in financial need to care for the children staying there or they may have a child in need of a tutor or a counselor. The needs are many and ongoing at every level of the foster care system, and who better to meet those needs than the Church?
Foster care doesn’t have to be “plan B.” My husband and I did not pursue foster care because of an inability to have biological children. We also didn’t do it because we are special or possess a unique ability to remain unattached from children that come into our home. Our plan from the beginning was to get “too attached” to our son whether he would stay in our home or not. The path of foster care is not safe for the heart but we embarked down this road, and hope to do it again, because there are children who need homes and because we have a Savior who has loved us like this. He willingly laid down his life in order to welcome us into his family forever and though we are imperfect in our love, this is what we want to aim to do for our children. Our road has involved many twists and turns, tears and sleepless nights, but we don’t regret for a moment our decision to venture down this path.
Please join us for a Foster Care Awareness event on Friday, February 24th titled “Caring for our Kids”. The event will take place at Third Avenue Baptist Church from 7:00-8:30 PM. Childcare will be available. You will have the opportunity to hear about the needs in our county from a Jefferson County State social worker, testimonies from several Christian foster families and children who have been adopted through foster care. Orphan Care Alliance will be partnering with us and sharing ways to get involved and for those who are interested in continuing on with foster care training through the state of Kentucky, this event counts as the required informational meeting that must be attended before training. For more information visit thirdave.org.