Time and time again I have heard this question in my adoption Facebook groups and among my friends who have adopted or become foster parents: Where is the church? They have all the support in the world when they announce they are going to foster or adopt. Friends and family rally around them to help raise funds, get rooms set up for the kids, pray, and share their joy.
Churches sometimes help raise funds and rally around those starting the adoption journey as well. However, the wait is often long and the journey is slow, so the support gradually wears off. By the time a family travels or receives the first foster placement, few supporters are left and that is when the journey just begins to get tough.
Foster and Adoptive Parents Need Consistent Support
If you have never adopted or had a foster child in your home, there is really no way to explain the joy, but also the heartache. A child who is hurting, broken, and full of trauma coming into a family who opens their heart often cannot reciprocate that love. It is in the depth of this brokenness where a family often feels so isolated. The Church pats them on the back and says “You are doing a good thing,” but fails to see when a parent may be drowning and in need of help.
So often, the Church is nowhere to be found once a family comes home. Many times people in the church even pass judgment on the family who is struggling with difficult behaviors of their new child. The Church is isolating, turning away their own and failing to care for the family who so desperately needs their support.
The journey of adoption and fostering doesn’t really even BEGIN until you have a child in your home. The journey doesn’t get difficult or hard until you are in the trenches with the brokenness of your little one. And the journey doesn’t end a month or two months or even a year or two years after you have that child in your home.
The journey can get more difficult as the days pass. The journey can get more terrifying as the child grows and has questions and deals with anger for the abandonment they feel. And yet, the Church stands by, sometimes oblivious to the difficulties these families are facing. Adoptive and foster families NEED the Church. They need support on the first day they are home with their child and on the day their child has been home five years. They need you to care. They need you to SEE them and not just pat them on the back or say “I could never do what you are doing.”
How To Provide Practical Help For Foster and Adoptive Families
Here are some practical ways YOU can care for a foster or adoptive family in your church and community:
1) Offer an evening of respite. A date night is rare in most adoptive and foster families I know. Give the couple a night out, uninterrupted by their kids. Even better, offer a weekend of respite. (For foster families, you may need special qualifications.)
2) Offer to bring a meal. There are times as an adoptive mom that I am so worn out from dealing with the effects of trauma in my children that cooking dinner is the last thing I can even think about.
3) Just be there. Go out for coffee or lunch and listen with an understanding heart.
4) Pray genuinely for the family, ask about what is going on in the family and how you can pray specifically.
5) Invite the family to go out or come over to your house. Sometimes adoptive families feel isolated and all they really need is someone to say they care and they are there.
It’s time for the Church to rise up and care for these families after they are home when the load they are carrying is too difficult to bear alone. Caring for the “orphan” doesn’t stop the day the child has a family, it continues through a lifetime as they process the grief and pain they bear from the heartache of abandonment. It’s time for the Church to wrap around these families and give them the support they need to keep on in this amazing but difficult journey of foster care and adoption.
Thank you, Jenna Lewis, for writing this post and providing our audience with practical ways to help from an adoptive parents’ perspective.