By: Lindsy Wallace
I’m honored to be writing the opening post for this month of exploring and understanding the reality of “aging out” of the foster care system. The cycle of brokenness perpetuated by aging out has become a part of our family’s story and therefore, sharing it with others is heavy on my heart.
So, what does it mean to “age out”?
It means at some point in a foster child’s life, usually at the age of 18, but in some instances 21, they will leave the state’s custody and go out into this big, scary world alone. All alone. But let’s back up. Think for a moment; what has life been like for them up to this point? Have they experienced a loving family? Possibly. Have they experienced trauma? Absolutely. Have they experienced supportive adults who have pushed them to excel? Maybe. Have they experienced rejection? Without exception. Each year, more than 20,000 youth age out of the foster care system in this country. Only half of them have graduated high school.
Fifty percent of the females left alive will become pregnant – they are 600% more likely than the general population to become pregnant before the age of 21. Less than 13% of former foster youth will enroll in higher education and less than 3% will actually earn a degree.* Stop. Feel it. Because these are not just numbers. They are children.
Frankly, I believe the Church needs to put an end to this cycle. We can adopt the children featured on Wednesday’s Child. With education and support, we can provide homes to children with “difficult behaviors”. With training, we can become tutors/mentors/CASA workers and families for these children. I’m kept up at night trying to find ways to mobilize the Church. The need is REAL. And the command is CLEAR. Remember what Jesus said about children? “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Scripture is FULL of passages about the fatherless, the Father’s heart for them, and His expectations of us:
You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.
If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry,
Exodus 22:22 – 23
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.
Psalm 10:17 – 18
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction,
and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; He leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land.
Psalm 68:5 – 6
“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field,
you shall not go back to get it.
It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow,
that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me
And the King will answer them,
‘Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,
you did it to me.’
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31:8 – 9
These are God’s holy words to us, His hands and feet, when it comes to caring for the orphaned, the widowed, the poor and the destitute.
As my friend and foster parent Leslie Word said, “If we start REALLY investing in our foster children, imagine the possibilities. . .
- Education, college, and careers can become a reality for them, not just a pipe dream;
- Fewer inmates in our prison system;
- Fewer unwanted/unplanned pregnancies;
- The generational cycle of abuse and neglect can stop.
By just CARING about a child and offering LOVE and TIME, it could impact our entire NATION.”
At some point, the Gospel has to compel us to practically DO SOMETHING.
I am praying you will find your piece of that something for foster youth here on the Orphan Care Alliance blog this month.
Lindsy and her husband William live in Kentucky with four preschoolers and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a toddler from Africa. Lindsy is fiercely passionate about inspiring and empowering God’s people to care for orphans. (It’s in the Bible and all.) Lindsy blogs about orphan care, seeking justice, and Jesus at lightbreaksforth.com