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Standing in the Gap for Kids in Foster Care

Air Date 05/13/2015

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Dr. Sharen Ford and Kelly Rosati discuss the plight of children in the foster care system and ways that listeners can help them.

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Episode Transcript



Dr. Sharen Ford: Parents, if you're struggling with a child you've adopted, you're struggling with a child you're taking in for foster care, God says, He's there. Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open to you.

End of Teaser

John Fuller: This is "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I'm John Fuller. God has promised to be with us and answer our prayers during even the most challenging times of our lives and certainly for many, adopting and providing foster care for children can rank right up there among some of the most challenging of life circumstances.

Jim Daly: Now that's true, John, and I love the passion that Dr. Sharen Ford speaks with in that brief clip there. We're gonna hear more from her in just a minute, but you know, this is such a difficult topic because oftentimes parents who want to do well, they want to do the right thing, they will adopt and it can be difficult and we're very forthright about the difficulty of that. I know you and Dena have gone through that experience.

John: We have, and I thought in my pride that one more child, I mean how hard can that be? And I tell people that Zane has rocked our world (laugh).

Jim: Yeah.

John: He's absolutely undone us at many, many points.

Jim: Right, and that then causes a special strain, but I love what Sharen is saying there, that God's with you and do you feel that, John?

John: Absolutely. There are times I just think, there is no way I responded to that boy from my own self. That had to be God's Holy Spirit guiding me through that, because I'm not that good. I couldn't have done it.

Jim: Well, and it shows you just how much we crave easiness--

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: --as opposed to faithfulness, and it's one of the great problems in the culture today and we're gonna talk today, and maybe even challenge you today about seeking a life of ease over a life of commitment.

John: Yeah, we have this presentation that you mentioned. It's from Dr. Sharen Ford who is a nationally recognized child welfare consultant. For many years she worked for the Colorado Department of Human Services, and the Division of Child Welfare Services for about 30 years, I guess it was.

Jim: Yeah, and then thankfully we were able to nab her here at Focus on the Family.

John: It was such a wonderful moment when she was announced--

Jim: Yeah—

John: --to come on staff.

Jim: --she'd come on staff here, and is helping our vice president, Kelly Rosati, who heads up the community outreach area. And Dr. Sharen Ford's come in to give her hand--

John: Uh-huh.

Jim: --specifically with adoption and orphan care.

John: And I think we're planning to have Kelly here at the end of our program to talk a little bit more, right?

Jim: We are and why are we talking about all this? Because May is National Foster Care Awareness month, and I think coming out of the foster care system when I was in 4th and some of 5th grade, it's important to be aware of what's goin' on with 400,000 children in the U.S. today when it comes to foster care.

John: Hm.

Jim: Not all of those children are available for adoption. About 100,000 out of 400,000 are, but I think your eyes will be opened today as you hear Dr. Sharen Ford talk about her passion and what's happening in the foster system.

John: Yeah, she's inspirational, and right now, let's go ahead and hear more from Dr. Sharen Ford, speaking at the Christian Alliance for Orphans summit held in Chicago on today's "Focus on the Family."


Sharen: Today across this country there is such a great need, a need for children to be safe, a need for the brokenness to go away, for the hurt and pain to go away and I sometimes cry. You heard Jason say, I literally cry. I cry out to my God about how I need Him. (Singing) I need Thee, Oh I need Thee; every hour I need Thee

See, as a worker, you come to God, asking Him to intervene, knowing that everything that you do every day affects someone's life and if God doesn't do it, who will, because I can't. I need the Lord and I need God's people. I need God's people to come and be the answer to my cry, (Singing) I need Thee, O God, I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee. O bless … (speaking) bless me with Your people, O God.

Bless me with people who would hear Your clarion call and come and answer the need, because there are children around this world, around this great nation, who are hurting, children whose parents are choosing to give their food stamps away to buy drugs, women who are working two and three jobs and letting the boyfriend come in and because he doesn't know how to parent, because he doesn't really care to parent, he's harming the children—a need so great that our children are being hurt.

Some of the No. 1 deaths around this country are because men are living with women and as they live with those women, they harm their children. Women are making choices, not good choices and workers are having to come in and do what workers do, do what government does and government does what? We protect. It is our job. It used to be my job. I don't have that job anymore, I have a new job (Laughter), but when it was my job to protect the children, to investigate, to go in and to know what is going on, the need is so great around this nation in every state, whether your state is in the newspaper every single day or not, there is a need.

And workers go in, day in and day out, they themselves, filled with trauma. Can you imagine going in every day and having to make the decision, "Do I protect and take away? Do I leave that child at home?" And workers are saying, "It's me; it's me' it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer."

I'm in the need of prayer, knowing what to do, because what I do or what I fail to do impacts a child's life, impacts that family's life. And so, I continue to say, "God I need You." I need You for direction. I need You for guidance. Workers need You every day. The court needs You. The judges need You. The Guardian Ad Litems need You. The CASA volunteers, they need You. And the birth families of those children, God, they needYou. I need You. (Applause)

A need so great that the only answer can be a God in heaven and His people who are called by His name. That would be you. That would be you. (Applause) Okay, I can't get an amen in the house. That's all right. (Laughter) That's all right. (Laughter) That's all right.

You see a map before you and that map represents a dream, a dream that the church would really be the answer and that map shows that, that's how many children. The brown represents the number of children who are waiting today in foster care, waiting for their forever families. Yes, they hits the gavel, signed it in ink and those children are waiting.

The clock is ticking on their life and they wait. And as you see that map again, you see that there's brown and then you see the blue and the blue represents all the churches across this nation. And if you look and find your state, where you live, do you see more blue than brown?

So, if every child who's waiting in your state, let's talk about the great state of Texas for a minute--'cause everything in Texas is big and they do it real big--that every child in the state of Texas who's waiting could get a home. Well, let's not just pick on Texas.

Colorado's right there. And we still have kids who are in need and the church, the sea of blue, that God has parted the sea and made a way for all of those children who stand in need today, a need so great that only an answer from God and His people could meet the need.

Those some 102,000 children are standing in the need of prayer. They're standing, hoping today that God hears them saying, "God, it's me; it's me. It's not just my worker standing in the need of prayer, God, it's me; it's me. It's me, God, wanting to leave foster care, wanting to have my forever family. I don't want to age out of the system. I want a mama. I want a daddy. And I'm wondering, God, today will You send me my mom and my dad?

I'm looking for some people who's [sic] willing to be gap-standers, who'll stand in the gap for those 102,000. Some of those children will find their forever families and some of them won't. But will you stand in the gap for them? Will you stand in the gap for the workers who are caring for them, who are making the hard decisions about, "can I let this child go to the Smith's, to the Roger's. Can I let go?"

Do you know that, that's a hard decision to make? Can I trust that family? Do they really, really, really want this child, this sibling group? Do they really want to be parents to the children that I've had on my case load? That is an enormous decision to make.

No worker wants to let a child go to their forever family, only to have them come back in the system again. Will you stand in the gap for those hard decisions that need to be made?

Will you stand in the gap for the families, who when they take those children in, that they do so forever? Forever! Forever's a long time. You know, like when you got married. (Laughter). She was cute and he was handsome. Not so much today (Laughter), but you're still forever, forever, in this thing together. Will you do that? 'Cause our families stand in the need of prayer.

Adopting a child isn't easy. It is a life-long commitment. And all of our families need prayer. Whether you adopt one or take a whole houseful of seven, all of our families are standing in need of prayer and one of the things that can help make the difference for a family is respite care. And you say, "Well, what's respite?" Respite is what that family needs at the point of when they need it.

Respite might mean a time, a Calgon moment where they go and just sit in the bathtub with no kid knockin' on the door. It might mean going to the golf course and just putting the ball, not playin' the course, just putting the ball, just lettin' go, just some "you time." Or maybe some couple time, so that the couple stays a couple, so that families stay a family for the children.

I used to dream about what God's Word said, about what He wanted for His children. That brought hope to me, brought hope. and as God brings hope, He showed me a vision in the Scripture and it's found in the book of 1 Kings, the 18th chapter, verse 43 and 45. "And the man of God says, 'Go and look toward the sea,' he told his servant. And he went up and looked. 'There is nothing there,' he said." Seven times Elijah said, "Go back and look." The seventh time, the servant reported, "A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea."

So, Elijah said, "Go and tell Ahab; hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you." I have seen a cloud on the horizon and God's rain is coming and it is the church being the answer to those who stand in need.

When you're standing in need, God's Word is what you stand on and as someone who has stood in need and moved from state government now to work for Focus on the Family, I've gone from being retired, someone told me just the other day at work, the Bible doesn't say the word "retire." (Audience murmurs). In state government, you can't be an advocate. You can only be an educator. You can only educate legislators about a situation. When they ask questions, you could answer their questions.

But now being at Focus on the Family, I can advocate for God's children in a very different way. And one of those advocacy pieces is the importance of wrapping support around families, whether you're a foster family or an adoptive family, even birth families. The Word says that He gives you promises. I know that God's Word says, "I'll never leave you, nor forsake you," according to Joshua 1 and 5. "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble."

Parents, if you're struggling with a child you've adopted, you're struggling with a child you're taking in for foster care, God says, He's there. Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be open to you, according to Matthew 7 and 7.

I see a cloud and that cloud is growing and as it grows, I know that God will bring a cup of cool water to those who are thirsty. He'll bring food to those who are hungry, 'cause we have some children in this nation who are yet at home, yet being abused, yet being neglected and they're trusting that someone will hear and say, "Come. Come under my hedge of protection. Let me nurture and love you."

That there are some families who will take them in and that there are yet, some other families, other families, who after they've taken people in, that families will come and wrap around them and be the comfort and the support that they need, so that they can continue to be what God says they to do and be for children. Amen.

Audience: (Applause)


John: What a heart, and what an inspirational prayer from Dr. Sharen Ford as we wrap up this portion of the Focus on the Family broadcast with Jim Daly. She was speaking at the Christian Alliance for Orphans conference in Chicago, Illinois.

Jim: You know, John, the first thing that jumps out to me is, so often we in the Christian community can be hard on those working in government. I mean, Sharen worked many, many years in government, and you can hear the heart--

John: Yeah.

Jim: --of that woman for those children. There are so many good people committed to helping kids. She is what makes the system right. There's many things we need to improve, but when you have people with heart like Dr. Sharen Ford on your behalf, I'd wanna be that 9-year-old on her caseload--

John: Hm.

Jim: --'cause you can hear her passion for kids.

Jim: Let's introduce Kelly Rosati. We mentioned that at the beginning of the program. Kelly's our vice president of community outreach here at Focus on the Family. I think it's probably the best job in the whole ministry, actually. (Laughter)

Kelly Rosati: I agree. (Laughter)

John: So if you ever leave—

Kelly: Thank you.

John: --Jim'll just slide in there.

Jim: But you get all the—

Kelly: I do.

Jim: -- deep heart stuff. I mean, you get orphan care, and Option Ultrasound. That's the placement of the ultrasound machine in pregnancy resource clinics and the beat just goes on. You must just have fun every day.

Kelly: I really do. It's a fantastic opportunity to come in and stand up for kids who need life and who need families.

Jim: We've often called you just the VP of Life. (Laughter) I like that title.

Kelly: I like that, too.

Jim: I think that's a good one.

John: Uh-hm.

Jim: Kelly, your heart beats for these kids, like Dr. Sharen Ford. I'm so excited that Dr. Ford's here on the staff at Focus. Talk about your passion in this area. Talk about your own personal situation. You and your husband John adopted four children out of foster care. That's proof in the puddin' right there. Thank you for doing it.

Kelly: Oh, well, you know God led us right to it because we were passionate about the sanctity of life. We had always said if we ever heard about a woman who was considering abortion, that we would absolutely take that child and then what happened was, we became aware of all the kids in our own community--

John: Hm.

Kelly: --just like the one we said we would do if we were faced with, but we just didn't know--

Jim: Yeah.

Kelly: --that there were so many kids and once we did, God just really spoke to our hearts about the fact that we had a family and these kids needed families, and why wouldn't this be something we did? So …

Jim: Kelly, your finger's right on it, and it is such a passion here for us now. We've been at this a number of years, and thankfully almost 3,000 families have adopted through the Focus program. And you know what? It takes a lot of people–pastors and church staff–to bring these things together and I'm so grateful to everybody that's participating, and that includes, state social workers--

John: Hm.

Jim: --who are helping us get the job done.

Jim: When you look at it, and bouncing off of what Dr. Ford has shared with us, give us the lay of the land. You and I share a phrase that I know both of us love to convey to people and that is, there's 300,000 churches in the U.S. and about 100,000 kids that need a home. Can we not find one in three churches, that one family in one in three churches that would say yes, and the other families get around that one family and help?

Kelly: Yeah, that's exactly it. That's what we want to do. Two clarion calls: we gotta get these orphan kids in America into families that will love them the way God has called us to love kids and then the great news for people who aren't called to this. 'Cause lots of people, it's just not for them to adopt or to do foster care, but they do want to help. That's the great news. We run into so many people who want to help and there are things they can do.

So they could cook, clean, drive, babysit, shop, any of those things they would be surprised to learn that they could absolutely make the difference between struggling and thriving for an adoptive family who did say yes to God's call, who has welcomed home a child, from the foster care system, but that kid was so traumatized.

Jim: Hm.

Kelly: They don't come into our homes and just magically get fixed.

John: Hm.

Kelly: We've got to be Christ to them, and patiently, and lovingly, and it takes a long time, help them to heal. And honestly, I know, John, I don't if you can speak to this, but we can't do it alone. I mean we have been to the place of absolutely not knowing how we were gonna get through another day and when the people at our church showed up with the meals for that week, or when our friends and family members would show up and take the kids who maybe weren't struggling that week so that we could spend the extra time, those things were gold and everybody can do that.

John: Yeah, I think a community of grace is so--

Kelly: Hm.

John: --important. I mean, now we work at Focus on the Family so people think we have this parenting thing down. (Laughter)

John: And then we have an adopted child that goes sideways on us in public and all you can do is shrug, but in that community of grace whether it's a church or we had friends over the other day, and Zane was just having struggles, and he's hitting puberty now, so all bets are off so who knows where it's gonna land? But he was having a hard time and our friends did not judge at all. They just loved on us, gave grace, and supported us. That attitude of acceptance and recognition that, that's a tough parenting situation and it's not the kind of thing you can just say, "Why don't you do this and then the child will be all better?" These kids have deep wounds. They have big issues and so yeah, it can't be done alone.

Jim: Well, and for Jean and I, if you can't adopt, I mean that was something we took a strong look at, but you can do respite care.

Kelly: That's right.

Jim: So we'll have kids on the weekend and just a couple weeks ago, we had four kids in. (Laughter)

John: What does that look like practically?

Jim: You know, really what it looks like is grandparenting to be honest, 'cause the kids come over and you just love on 'em and it can be challenging at times, 'cause they're coming into an environment that's different from their own, but they, what I find is that they're constantly challenging you in one way. Do you love me? If I do this, will you still love me? And you just want to be there for 'em. And my boys, I've really been proud of my boys, particularly Trent. It's been awesome to see him respond to these kids and he'll spend eight hours with them, and really pour into them, and he's caught it and he knows what it means, and he's even chastising little brother saying, "Come on, Troy. These kids need our help."

Kelly: Hm.

Jim: And it's wonderful as a parent to see your own kids engaged in that way and it develops in them a heart for someone else.

Kelly: Absolutely.

Jim: And I love that.

Kelly: That is so awesome. Can I just say, Jim, this is no small deal. If there were an army of people willing to do respite care for adoptive families and for families that are doing foster care, we would revolutionize the system. What you guys are doing is so huge. And I think for all parents who want to show their kids that our faith is real and that when the rubber meets the road, we can give of ourselves. This is a great opportunity to do it, so I just want to commend you and Jean (Laughter). If there was an army like you all, things would really change.

Jim: Here's the bottom line though, and this is why I'm excited about talking with you today, and listening to Sharen Ford. The Christian community, we have got to act. I love that Scripture, it says, "Do these good deeds so they'll honor your Father in heaven." Folks, this is the bottom line. When we are actually engaged in the culture, Ray Vander Laan talks about that in the That the World May Know series, when we're engaged in culture, the Holy Spirit works. When we're not, it's hard for Him to work and so we as a Christian community, what a great place for us to engage the culture.

Let me in fact read one listener comment that came from someone who actually visited the campus here at Focus, and this visitor said, "I bought one item in the bookstore that seemed to jump out at me for some reason, a book about adoption that was on the clearance rack. A few days after I returned home, my wife and I got into an emotional discussion regarding adoption." Jean and I have had those, too.

He went on to say, "We're seriously considering adopting a child, but we have differing perspectives on this matter. As we laid down on our bed, frustrated and exhausted, I pulled from my luggage the book I bought and found a section that dealt with my wife's concern. It was exactly what we needed to hear. As we hugged and cried together, I began to understand why I had purchased that book. God knew we would need it. Thank you! You continue to help my wife and me grow in our efforts to be godly spouses and parents. God bless you all."

That's the Holy Spirit moving that couple's heart along in a direction, isn't it?

Kelly: Absolutely.

Jim: Kelly, thank you. Thank you for what you're doing. Thank you for you and John and you're witness to the world, adopting those four kids. And thank you to Sharen. Thank you, Sharen, through the radio waves here. You and many others, keep up the great work on behalf of these precious little ones. Thank you.

Kelly: Thank you.

John: Well, I so appreciate the heart that you two have expressed here for the least of these and I trust that as you've listened along, that you've been touched and encouraged to consider taking a little more active role in serving adoptive families or even opening up your home to a needy child and as you heard, it'll be challenging, but really rewarding, as well.

Now we've got a number of outreaches here at Focus on the Family and those include Wait No More, which helps families understand the need and the process of foster adoption. And another resource you'll want to check out is a DVD. It's called A Servant's Heart and it's packed with practical ideas on supporting adoptive families in your community and has stories from a few of those real-life families, sharing their experiences.

Now this kind of outreach is only possible because you partner with us. You support Focus on the Family with your prayers and your financial gifts and if you've haven't gotten in touch lately, I'll invite you to join our support team with a gift of any amount. When you're able to do that, we'll send A Servant's Heart that DVD to you as our way of saying thank you and also a way just to encourage you in this realm of orphan care. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY or online find details and donate at

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, inviting you back next time. You'll hear some new ways to connect with your spouse, as we once again, offer trusted advice to help your family thrive.

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More Episode Resources


Sharen Ford

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Sharen Ford, Ph.D., is a nationally-recognized child welfare consultant and the retired Manager for Permanency Services for the Colorado Department of Human Services in the Division of Child Welfare Services. She is the former president of the National Association of State Adoption Programs and the Association of Administrators for the Interstate Compact on Adoption Medical Assistance. Dr. Ford currently serves as the program director for Focus on the Family's foster care and adoption efforts. She and her husband, Roy, have a daughter and a grandson.


Kelly Rosati

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Kelly Rosati is the Focus on the Family Vice President of Advocacy for Children, where she serves as the ministry spokesperson on child advocacy issues. She oversees efforts that include the Adoption and Orphan Care Initiative, Option Ultrasound and community care outreach. Prior to joining Focus, Kelly served as the executive director of Hawaii Family Forum where she advocated for Hawaii's children and families in the legislature and media. She is a frequent public speaker on the topics of the sanctity of human life and adoption and orphan care, and has been featured in various media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Denver Post and New York Daily News. Kelly and her husband have four children.