On a warm, breezy Saturday in Jacksonville, Florida, families gather at a church to learn how to make a difference for children in foster care. Focus on the Family’s Wait No More program facilitates the event alongside an on-the-ground champion for foster care and adoption, One More Child. Additional ministries, agencies, and organizations set up booths where they engage with attendees.
After a time of worship, attendees hear from a foster/adoptive father, a former state child welfare worker, a former foster youth, and others who have interacted with foster care. They receive lunch on their way to a breakout session on either foster care, adoption, or support. In these breakout groups, local organizations share practical ways families can take the next step. Then there is a time for mingling and conversation amongst attendees and exhibitors.
For many families, this is the day they decide to take a step towards fostering or adopting. For others, they learn why foster and adoptive families need support.
Wait No More Educates, Equips, and Empowers
Wait No More aims to educate, equip, and empower families to make a difference for children in foster care. The Wait No More event is one way families can get involved. During the main session, families learn about the foster care system, how children enter foster care, and how families become licensed. This education is essential in setting realistic expectations for families. Stories from foster/adoptive parents and former foster youth reinforce the fact that fostering is not always easy, but it is worth it.
Three Main Takeaways
Throughout the event, families learn three very important things about foster care and adoption:
1. Not everyone is called to foster or adopt, and that’s okay.
Dr. Sharen Ford is the Director of Foster Care and Adoption at Focus on the Family. Previously, she worked for 30 years with the Colorado Department of Human Services. As she speaks to attendees during the Wait No More event, she reiterates an import truth: “If you are not called to foster, don’t do it.” Fostering and adopting is hard work. Unless God has placed it on a family’s heart, they should not force themselves into it. Not only will it be harder for the family, but it will also be harder for the children and teens that enter the home.
Now, just because God has not called someone to foster or adopt does not mean they are off the hook. On the contrary, Dr. Ford quickly follows up her statement by saying that everyone can do something. Unfortunately, a large portion of foster families quit within their first year of fostering because they have no support. If someone is not called to foster, they should be doing something to help foster families keep their home open for as long as they are called to.
In the support breakout room, families learn practical ways to wrap around a foster or adoptive family. Real-life foster parents share honest stories of why they need support and how people can provide it. Those in the support breakout session emerge inspired to support families in their community.
2. For those called to foster or adopt, don’t wait.
More than 440,000 children are in the United States foster care system. Over 120,000 children are legally available for adoption. And 20,000+ youth age out of foster care each year. These numbers can feel overwhelming. But if every person who heard these statistics chose to do something about it, the crisis would be over.
It is understandable that families can feel overwhelmed when starting the process. Instead of taking things one step at a time, families might fixate on all the required paperwork, training, and preparation. Wait No More equips families to move forward with confidence. When families attend a Wait No More event, they learn about the system from people who have experienced it in all types of roles.
The goal of Wait No More is simple: to educate, equip, and empower families to foster or adopt so that these children will wait no more. Families can also apply this calling to themselves. Fear and hesitation are valid reactions, but this should not be the final barrier between children having families and homes. Therefore, prospective foster and adoptive families should wait no more to get started.
Some people convince themselves that they do not need to engage with foster care because they think others are doing it. But the truth is that there are not enough foster and adoptive families. In fact, there is a shortage of foster and adoptive families throughout the United States. As Christians, we have a calling to care for children. We cannot dismiss foster care as something that “other people do.” The need is great, and children in foster care need loving homes today.
3. Local organizations and the community can help families harness the momentum.
Attending an event, watching a movie, or reading an article might inspire a family to foster or adopt. But sometimes it can be difficult to turn that inspiration into action. That is where organizations and ministries come into the picture. Throughout the United States, there are local and national organizations that want to come alongside foster and adoptive families.
At the Wait No More event, organizations were present to answer questions about fostering and adopting. They shared valuable information about the process for families in that state, and they provided the opportunity for families to take the next step. When a family can move forward right away, they leverage their momentum and are more likely to follow through with their calling.
Wait No More provides resources and content to foster and adoptive families on a national level. If foster families need a boost of encouragement, they can find articles online about foster families, former foster youth, and other people involved in child welfare. The Wait No More Instagram and Facebook accounts also share daily inspiration and information for people wanting to make a difference for children in foster care, whether through foster care, adoption, or support.
The Lasting Impact of Wait No More
At the end of the day, families leave the Wait No More event feeling energized to move forward with fostering, adopting, or supporting foster/adoptive families. The information they receive equips them to make informed decisions about their future. The relationships they build with other attendees and local organizations empower them to move forward with confidence. People who want to support foster and adoptive families walk away with inspiration and practical ideas.
There is no telling how many children’s lives will be changed by the decisions made here today. For more information about Wait No More’s resources, please visit WaitNoMore.org.