Why Foster Care? (Part One of three)
Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me. (Mark 9:37)
Every night in America, 556,000 foster children go to sleep as a guest in substitute homes. Of this number:
43% will be reunified
20% are available for adoption
15% case goal is not yet established
6% are emancipated
5% live with a relative
3% live with a guardian
9% are in long-term foster care (Casey Family Programs, 2002).
Fathers do not embitter your children or they will become discouraged. (Col. 3:21)
We know from studying youth who have experienced foster care at some point in their life, that many often have difficulty making the transition into independent living. According to the Casey Organization, Youth placed in foster care often have difficulty making the transition to adulthood. The magnitude of the problem is reflected in the fact that youth transitioning from care have:
A higher rate of arrest and incarceration;
An increased likelihood of early parenting and instability in relationships, including divorce;
Lower High School graduation rates and generally lower school performance;
An increased likelihood of health and mental health problems; including emotional and behavioral problems;
A greater likelihood of experiencing homelessness;
A higher rate of substance abuse; and
A higher rate of unemployment.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13: 34, 35)
As Christians, we are compelled to reach out to those in need. We cannot sit back, rest on our laurels and believe these vulnerable youth are “someone else’s problem”--or “it’s just their bad luck.” While a functionalist may justify the existence of the hardships experienced by those aging out of foster care as a necessary part of society, as Christians we must be motivated by the love of Jesus and challenged by His example to practically touch the lives of those in need. Luke 6:38 declares, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Psalms 37:26, when speaking of the righteous, explains, “They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.” And Jesus himself declared in Matthew 10:8b, “Freely you have received, freely give.” These are just a few of God’s instructions to us that prevent us from “looking the other way.” If it is our desire, as Christians, to be used of God and demonstrate His benevolence (Ps. 68:5), we must not depend solely on government intervention to help young foster care adults as they transition into life.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40
This became more than just a theory; it became a reality for my husband, Gordy, and me in 1990. Our foster daughter, Diana, was graduating from high school; consequently aging out of the foster care program she had been part of her entire life. Her parents had terminated rights when she was 13 years old--the age she moved into our family. During the five years Diana lived with us, we strongly believed she had made steady progress toward independent living. When she came to us she struggled with trust issues, anger control, and had experienced very little discipline that was appropriate. Diana was rough around all the edges--but had a broken heart that longed to be loved and accepted. Her outward actions, however, sent most people running; we were her third foster family.
***Having been asked about our involvement with Foster Care, I am posting a three part reply, taken from a college paper that I wrote two years ago about "Aging out of Foster Care." I have refined it just a bit, not wanting my reply to be merely scholarly....but hoping to share with you the desperate need we discovered--the need for a permanent family for all children. Can you even imagine sending your children out into the world at age 18 without having a permanent place to call "home;" a place to share holidays, a place to call when you are lonely, a place that will share life with you! It's unimaginable, isn't it! Yet, for 100's of thousands of children each year--this is their fate.