Photo Credit: The Forgotten Initiative
“I’m naive. I will admit it. Before I became a social worker I thought every kid had a birthday party. I thought every kid had someone cheering them on in the bleachers. I thought every kid was taken care of when he or she was sick. I thought every kid was read to at night before bedtime. I thought every kid lived in a safe environment. Now? Now I know that thousands of kids live in fear. Thousands of kids struggle with low self-esteem. Thousands of kids are abused. Thousands of kids witness domestic violence. Thousands of kids are in need of a family. Who will care for the orphans?” – a friend who works in foster care
“Who will care for the orphans?”
Did you know that in your city, at the end of any day, there are children needing placement in a safe home? Maybe just for one night, or maybe long-term. Is it possible that your home is just the place for that infant to begin to experience love or for healing to begin for that child or teenager?
There are two types of foster care – traditional and therapeutic. You can learn all you need to know about traditional foster care by going to the Department of Social Services website of your city or state. Foster parents are in high demand and these agencies make it as easy as possible for you to learn what you need to know to become that parent.
Therapeutic foster care involves finding homes and parents for children who have special needs – either medical, emotional, or behavioral issues. These are children who may have suffered violence or who have endured terrible losses. These could be pregnant teens or runaways. These are children that need love the same as any others. Therapeutic foster care involves many more support people than just the foster parents and case workers. If you sense that you could reach out to such children who need more “hands on” care, there are agencies who need parents like you.
Photo Credit: Childrensaidsociety.org
Foster children may need to be placed in a home for short-term or long-term stays, but they may also need emergency placement with very little notice to the foster parents. Their ages and situations vary widely. These kids need love, care and a safe place to call home.
Photo Credit: Ashleyannphotography.com
3 goals of foster care are:
- Reunification with the parents – this can happen when the parents of the foster child comply with whatever stipulations are applied by the Department of Social Services.
- Placement of child with someone in the extended family (biological relatives) – Again, this is approved by DSS, when the home/family situation is such that the child would be safely and therapeutically returned to a family member.
- Adoption or Permanent Foster Care – adoption of a teen is rare. Teens in foster care actually “age out” at 18y/o or when he or she finishes high school. Younger children can be adopted when it’s clear that a return to their biological parents or family won’t be happening. [See profiles here of children and teens available for adoption right now.]
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Is this something we could do as empty-nesters? Early in our marriage, we cared for a teenaged girl from our church for several weeks. She was estranged from her parents and both she and her parents needed time to heal. Just those few weeks, her with us, gave them all time to decompress. The problems didn’t vanish but the family was emotionally prepared to try again with each other. I will never forget that experience and realized then how valuable it is for families in crisis to know they are not alone. It was an experience that changed us, too, and created a life-long bond with us, both with the parents and their daughter.
The church has a mandate from God to care for the fatherless.
“If I have withheld anything that the poor desired,
or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it (for from my youth the fatherless grew up with me as with a father, and from my mother’s womb I guided the widow)…then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket.” – Job 31:16-18, 22
Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. – Isaiah 1:17
Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27
Chris Campbell, a social worker in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the executive director of an initiative called 111 Tulsa. He and his team are working in the community and with the churches of Tulsa (across denominations) to raise up foster parents across the city – such that every child can have a safe and loving home for as long as he or she needs it. This could be an emergency placement of a few hours, or for a short time, or for long-term (maybe even leading to adoption).
We could do this in our own city.
Where do we start? We pray. Then we call one of these agencies and ask how we can help. Even if it’s just taking the foster parenting classes, so we’ll be prepared such God lead in this way. We can also help with non-funded needs the children might have – a birthday present, baby supplies for that pregnant teen, and even prom expenses. Then we get our churches involved.
There are many ways that we can love these neighbors – these kids in crisis. The most critical need is for foster parents. We could be those parents. I would love to hear your story. Let’s do what we can for these children to have their own story of love and family.
Photo Credit: BPNews.net