How to be a support friend to those who foster

By Ellie Egles
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supportive friend wondering
Due to the challenges inherent in fostering, 60% of foster families nationwide won't make it past the first year. However, we've found that the retention rate improves when fostering occurs within the context of a supportive community.

“The gospel changes the questions we ask ourselves. They begin to move from things like, “Why would we do hard things for others?” To “Wow, in light of what Jesus has done for us, why would we not?” -Jason Johnson.

We care for vulnerable children not because we are the rescuers but because we are the rescued. 

The heart of foster care is one of reconciliation and redemption. And who better than the Church to demonstrate and live out this love? We believe that the church is uniquely positioned and called to answer this need. The church should be a beacon of hope. Piercing the darkness and offering the same measure of love and redemption we’ve received. We need to be known as a community where abused, and neglected children are cared for as beloved sons and daughters of God.

The Torres Family

The Torres Family answered that call to be a home for abused and neglected children. When they welcomed a little one into their home, they also welcomed a family. They demonstrated a profound love as they championed reunification and family reconciliation. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t come without heartache. But by offering love to first the child, and then his family, they could see a family redeemed, and today they are godparents to this child.

Foster Families Wrapped with Support Friends

When Foster the Bay launched over five years ago, we hoped to empower, equip, and energize the local church to raise up foster families wrapped with support friends. The sad truth is that more children are entering foster care than there are homes to welcome them. Every year thousands of children are removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect.

As if that initial trauma wasn’t enough, these children are often displaced from their communities, teachers, friends, extended family, and often their siblings, and settled miles from all that is familiar due to the lack of foster families in their local communities. These children deserve a loving home in their community where they can experience stability, healing, and hope for their future. At Foster the Bay, our dream is to one day see a waiting list of loving families ready to welcome children rather than a list of children in need of a home. 

Advocating for Children in Foster Care

Foster the Bay is not simply a nonprofit organization. We are first and foremost a coalition of churches. You’re not going to see a billboard for Foster the Bay as you drive around town! Foster the Bay’s work and impact is truly the work and impact of over 125 Bay Area Churches. When our team sits down with local church leadership, we hope to affirm what the church is already doing. And celebrate their progress. We offer tools and resources. As well as the next steps to enable the church leadership to share the profound needs of children in foster care to their congregation.

Furthermore, we empower the church by working with the leadership to first identify an advocate the champion and ministry lead for Foster the Bay at each local church, and then provide ongoing training, resources, and coaching for the advocate as they both guide and champion the work of Foster the Bay. We want to honor each church’s unique personality, opportunities, and limitations by raising up local leaders that understand the dynamics within their community. Advocates also ensure the health and longevity of the Foster the Bay ministry in the church.

According to Barna Research, the Bay Area is the most unchurched metropolitan area in the USA. At best, the church is seen as irrelevant. It’s been amazing over the last five years to see the church defy that reputation.

Our Rally Cry

Our rally cry is “a church for every child”. It’s not just one safe and loving home, but a safe, loving, encouraging, and supportive church. Due to the challenges inherent in fostering, 60% of foster families nationwide won’t make it past the first year. However, we’ve found that the retention rate improves when fostering occurs within the context of a supportive community. Our ask to the local church is to raise up one foster family, wrapped with four support friends. This support provides tangible, emotional, and spiritual support to the foster family.

“No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…” John Donne. Or as the Apostle, Paul shared with the Corinthians that we who are called to follow Christ are of one body, and as such, made up of many parts. “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has placed the parts of the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

Beautiful Stories

In much the same way, in the foster care world, if one was solely the foster family, where would the support be? And if one was just the support friends, where would the homes be for the children? 

Some of the most beautiful stories of God’s love have come through this dynamic embodiment of Paul’s words as we’ve seen foster families carried through their foster care journey. One family shares that they said “yes” to toddler twins in a season when the husband was gone evenings for school.

One Family’s Journey

support friend cooking meal with older child

One night early on, the support friend was assigned a meal drop off. She rang the doorbell and heard a faint, “Come on in”. Somewhat hesitantly, she entered into the home to discover the foster mom fully clothed in the bathtub with twin toddlers. The foster mom shared that the very experience of having a bath was so foreign and trauma-inducing for the children that she had to climb on in the bathtub to help calm the children. The support friend heated up dinner, cleaned up the kitchen, and assisted the older children with homework. Every week since that first night, she can be found back in the kitchen with food and warm words of encouragement.

The foster family shared what a difference that made in their lives and the lives of those children in their home. It offered hope that they weren’t in this alone, that their yes to foster care was met with an enthusiastic yes to provide real-time support. This support came from within their own church community. The support friend role has been meaningful in so many ways. We know not everyone can foster, but we can all do something. Within Foster the Bay, we ask that Support Friends provide two touchpoints a month. One touch can be words you say or write- words of love and encouragement through an encouraging text, email, or handwritten note. The other touch should be something tangible that you do. This can be something you give, bring, or do (a grocery run, a meal delivery, a night of babysitting, tutoring, yard work, etc.).

Support Friends

One of the greatest joys is to see the Church step up to meet the needs of Foster Families and to see and know that these vulnerable children are in safe and loving homes. 

While our team at Foster the Bay exists to equip the local church to raise up foster families wrapped with support friends, we’ve had churches who have found it more difficult to raise up a foster family, but that didn’t deter them from creating a robust foster care ministry on behalf of vulnerable children. One of the inspiring aspects of empowering the church is to witness how the advocate and the leadership are able to leverage the unique giftings, talents, and resources of their church community to serve both the immediate and broader needs in the foster care world.

What You Can Do

We’ve been blown away by the variety of efforts that churches have felt empowered and energized to execute. From classic car show fundraisers and foster family days to backpack drives. Most recently, thousands of dollars poured into Amazon Wish Lists to encourage foster families through the months of Shelter in Place. Additionally, churches have used their unique gifts to offer support and encouragement to social workers. Volunteering at our social worker appreciation events. As well as handwritten thank you notes. And monetary donations to provide food and gifts to our local child and family welfare departments. The passion and commitment of the advocates are what drives the leadership to further the story of the gospel. A story of love, redemption, and reconciliation. 

Invitation

The need for families willing to open their homes is more pressing than ever. The need for families to be encouraged, connected, and supported by the church is more important than ever. This invitation into a world of brokenness and beauty is an invitation to humbly run, walk, and yes, at times, crawl the race set before us. This dream to see a waiting list of homes is a marathon and not a sprint. It calls to mind Paul’s words that we are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith.” 

We believe that the best way to see a transformed Bay Area tomorrow is to care for a vulnerable child today. If even a fraction of Bay Area churches raise up at least one foster family, the critical need for homes will be met. There is a church for every child.

Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No teen parent is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

Copyright © 2021, Ellie Egles.

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