The couple sat nervously in my office, and the wife held a tissue to her eyes. They had come to talk to me about becoming foster parents. The concern is always the same. They have felt God pressing on their hearts that they should become foster parents for more than two years. They hear story after story of children being abused, and they know that they are in a position to help. She finally whispered, “I don’t think I could handle it when the child leaves to go back to their birth parents.”
This is a real and legitimate fear. Being a foster parent involves taking a risk with your heart.
I’ve worked recruiting foster parents for over 20 years. I’ve seen children be placed in great homes where they heal, thrive, and then go back home, leaving the foster mom in tears and a hole in her heart. Here are a few things I’ve learned through time that I encourage foster parents to consider when contemplating foster care.
Considerations for Potential Foster Parents
- Even with biological children, we as parents, are only given a window of time, whether it is 18 years, or with foster care, eight years, or eight months. We only have a window of time. Providing foster care is an opportunity to show these children God’s love, pour into them, give them the tools and knowledge they will take into the rest of their life. An opportunity to introduce them to God’s grace, His comfort, and His joy, something that will last an eternity.
- Don’t be too rigid in your religion. Don’t make church, devotions, or prayer something that they dread. Make it fun, make it hope-filled and make it something they will want to hold onto for the rest of their lives.
- Accept help when offered. When they do leave, you are going to need support. Don’t be too proud to accept comfort or help, whether that is a licensed therapist or another foster mom who has experienced the same. 2 Corinthians 1:4 says that “He who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
- Be His hands and feet.1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “You are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” Don’t let the fear or the pain stop you from doing God’s work. You can show children God’s unconditional love, His grace, His peace, His joy. If becoming a foster parent is not for you, there are so many other ways you can help: become a mentor, offer a scholarship for an extracurricular activity, volunteer.
- James 1:27 refers to the orphan and the widow. That includes the birth parents of children in foster care. Many times, we imagine the birth parents as “bad people.” When often, they are products of their upbringing. It requires grace to see beyond their transgressions into their hearts. If you can establish trust, you can develop a relationship, and Jesus is all about relationships. You may be the only Jesus they meet.
Being the Hands and Feet of Christ
Fast forward 18 months. The couple had taken a 4-year-old girl whose mother, from the beginning, was working very hard to get her daughter back. She had been in an unhealthy relationship with an abusive man. She moved out of the women’s shelter and had been able to maintain employment. The couple had met mom in the lobby for the first visitation and brought her a picture her daughter had colored for her. The mom teared up when they handed it to her. From there, they were able to talk about the little girl and put everything else aside. The mom thanked the couple for taking care of her daughter while she “got her life together.”