Foster care is… a lot of things. It is a system that is confusing, bureaucratic, and broken. It also represents one of the biggest needs and opportunities for the church in our community.
On a recent Sunday I shared a bit about the experience my wife Margaret and I have had as foster parents. With this blog post I want to emphasize two points: (1) the need that exists and (2) the specific ways Trinity Park can help meet that need, particularly as my family prepares to take a new placement (“placement” is just a word used in the system to refer to the process of moving a child to a new living situation).
First, the overwhelming need: in Wake County, there are approximately 740 children in foster care as I sit and type this post. What this means is that over 740 kids were found to be abused or neglected so severely that the local authorities legally intervened by forcibly removing them from their home. That number represents some of the most needy and vulnerable people in our community. It also represents a number of children who will never live a normal, healthy adult life: 40% of former foster children will be incarcerated after they age out of the system (at 18) and try to live on their own.
This is one of those things that can seem more and more hopeless the more time you spend looking at it. Thankfully our hope does not lie in statistics or the foster care system itself, but in our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who himself declared that “the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.” And Jesus always accomplishes what he sets out to do.
So how can the church be involved? Borrowing from the Fostering Together model, there are three “roles” you can serve in. These roles are designed with the intent to create extended family type of support for foster kids in a church congregation and to unify the work of different church members.
Becoming a licensed foster parent requires 30 hours of training, a home study, and a small mountain of paperwork. It is open to singles, couples, and families with kids. Being a foster parent means taking children into your home (often with little notice and for an unspecified period of time) and nurturing them until the county allows their parent(s) to regain custody. It is challenging and taxing, but also the primary way the church can reach those 740 kids who would never otherwise step through the doors of Morrisville Elementary on a Sunday morning.
Respite families are licensed the same way as foster families, however they would only take children for short, defined periods of time (the two girls who lived with us stayed at a respite home for a weekend before their 6-month tenure at our apartment). Being a respite home is an important part of meeting the need in our community and would also serve foster families in the congregation by providing a place where foster kids can occasionally stay (overnights are not typically allowed in unlicensed homes). My personal prayer is that one family in the church who has a burden for this ministry would take this (admittedly large) step as Margaret and I prepare to open up our home again.
A supporting mentor would be a special “go-to” person for foster/respite families in the church. Mentors would make a specific point to encourage foster kids in the church and would commit to occasional childcare/transportation/meals to aid foster families. This would not require becoming licensed. Though less of a commitment in a certain sense, Margaret and I have observed this kind of support to be lacking in the foster care community.
Excited? Encouraged? Concerned? Confused? That all sounds about right. Certainly there is a lot more information and details to be worked out if you want to jump into this ministry. But if you prayerfully feel the Lord calling you to be involved, even if you are not sure how, please let us know! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with one of the elders.
“May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!”