Monday, May 15, 2006

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.


Morning Glory said...

I truly admire people who provide foster homes for children. My youngest brother and his wife did that for several years and had all ages of kids from babies to young teens. It's an amazing heart that can do that. God bless your family for how you've met the needs.

Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

Thank you for writing about this critical problem in our systems (Canadian too). It needs attention.

good for you for doing foster care! If only there were more loving, good homes that were able to take these kids in and love them as their own - into their twenties and beyond.

As you know, I worked with teens, many senior teens and early twenties. This is a critical time in their life and thrust into the world at 18 with no financial resources and no one to come home crying to (or even just a place to do their laundry and grab some food) they are lost. And we all no what happens to lost people. It is tragic.

My heart is for this teen and early twenty age group. Itis such a vulnerable time. I wish I could do more to help them.

I am looking forward to reading the next 2 parts of your essay.

Juliabohemian said...

what about the one's who are going to bed in their own parent's home but would RATHER be somewhere else?

Praying for your Prodigal said...

Yup--Julia--there is pain inside homes too. That's what motivates me as a mother. If we can keep our children's heart whole...we will have done a very good thing.


Lisa said...

As a former foster child and current child advocate, and a Christian...

My greatest disappointment with institutionalized churches has been their focus on getting children born into this world, but not wanting to become involved in the aftermath often experienced by unwanted children.

It strikes me as being a naive assumption that once a child has life, parents will learn to love and care for him or her. Sadly, that does not always happen.

Many children and teens experience neglect and / or abuse in their biological families, foster homes or in institutions.

You quoted many verses in your blog. I became a Christian when I was 18 years old. Prior to that time, my mother had died when I was 10 years old and my father abandoned me shortly afterward.

I grew up in group homes for older foster children in the 80's. There was violence. There were male houseparents who touched young girls inappropriately.

When I "aged out" of foster care, I did so as a cynical and distrustful young woman.

The verses that brought me to faith had to do with God as being "Father of the Fatherless" (Psalm 68:5).

Many Christians don't know about those type of verses, because they have families of their own. They have never needed to think of God in that way...

But, in the same way that you might take a Christian apologetics class or read a book like "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" in order to defend your faith, or just explain it, to someone else...

It would behoove Christians in general to be aware of what the Bible says about fatherless children.

Such as Psalm 27:10: "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."

kpjara said...

Thank you for sharing this. It's such good food for our soul's and a wonderful reminder to be thankful for what God has given us and give back to those who have little, and need more then anything else...LOVE!

I'm looking forward to these entries.

Rach said...

Awesome that you decided to take a child in! That's really practising what you preach!

Lisa said...

The most powerful statement that addresses my concerns about this issue, is the one in James 2:15-16...

"And if a brother or sister is naked and in lack of daily food, and one of you tells them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled;" and yet you didn't give them the things the body needs, what good is it?"

Thank you for living out your faith by taking in foster children.


Gabriela said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, I look forward to reading more.

theresa said...

Thanks for sharing...look forward to reading future installments.

Big Dave T said...

Mother's Day really has special meaning to you, I'll bet. I can't say that I know any foster parents personally but I believe it to my a challenging and rewarding experience.

Thanks for visiting my blog!

my bathroom is my sanctuary said...

My heart aches fo children who are hurting, I was one....I am truly blessed to have read your blog. God bless you. Brenda

Mel said...

(Hi. Couldn't find your email address . . . my new blog URL is . . . would you mind updating your blogroll? Thanks!)

T said...

look forward to reading the rest. it takes a person with a huge heart and love for others to be a foster parent!

Amanda said...

My parents worked as parents in a youth home during my high school years and later adopted four foster children. It has been the biggest challenge of their lives every step of the way. I truly admire them, and others who make the sacrifices it takes to open up their homes to these children.

Dream Mommy said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for writing about aging out of care.

I hope when my husband and I are much older, we'll have the ability to help young teenagers transition to living on their own.

Anonymous said...

Excellent, love it! »