The trajectory of my life changed forever when my 18-year-old, unwed birth mother came to know Jesus Christ as her savior. She didn’t have the resources or family support to raise me. Knowing this, her pastor helped her make the loving choice to terminate her parental rights and put me into foster care. After a short while, I was adopted out of foster care. I entered into the home of Paul and Joyce Mattson, who will always be dad and mom.
The Five Phases of Fostering
Annually, more than 650,000 children and youth in the U.S. are placed into foster care. Foster care was established as a temporary arrangement. Children are placed in foster families’ care while their birth families get the help they need during a difficult time in their lives. Because of the vast number of children coming into care, there is a great need for families to step in. To care for the children in foster care and partner with these struggling birth parents. At the same time, they work toward becoming stable enough to be reunited with their children. But sometimes reunification is not possible, and then these children are available for adoption, as was my story.
With more than 300,000 Christian churches covering every community in the U.S., FaithBridge Foster Care believes the local church is the answer to the foster care crisis in America. We partner with local churches to recruit, train, and license foster families. These families provide community-based, short- and long-term traditional and therapeutic care for children in foster care in Georgia. Our vision is for every child in foster care to experience the hope, healing, and unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
Having recruited, trained, licensed, and supported more than 1,000 foster families, FaithBridge has observed that each foster family experiences a cycle of five different phases during their journey. Those phases include considering, preparing, waiting, fostering, and transitioning.
The First Phase of Fostering
Recently, I have wondered what motivated the family who cared for me while I was in foster care to become licensed foster parents. Perhaps I will never know the answer to that question. Still, for most individuals and families who become licensed FaithBridge foster parents, it is a calling based upon their relationship with Jesus Christ. Additionally, more than 50% of our foster families have a close relationship with someone who has been in foster care or has served as foster parents. Some foster parents knew they wanted to foster since they were young. Others felt led into it when they had kids of their own. Still, others have chosen to foster to help family members. Whatever the reason, there is always a time of consideration.
The Considering Phase presents:
- Opportunities to invite people in
- Encourage them to face their concerns and fears
- Pray for them as they take their best next step.
Inviting People into the Foster Care Journey
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” I believe this scripture speaks to caring for children in foster care and their families in our communities.
If you are a pastor or a church leader: There are individuals and families in your church who are privately and prayerfully considering whether or not God has called them to foster care. Creating safe and welcoming environments in which they can begin to publicly process it will help them. This safe space could be an informational meeting. Or a casual gathering where they can learn more, connect with others, and gain clarity on their next best step. There’s a lot of power in them seeing they are not alone in this “considering” phase.
“Families that feel an interest in fostering should pray and simply take the next step, whatever that looks like. Continue taking one step at a time as the Lord leads you. If it’s not a calling, don’t do it! For us, our first step was an informational meeting.”, says Danielle, a foster parent in training. If you have a foster care ministry or want to start one, this is a great time to invite people into a variety of serving opportunities that meet people where they are. This ministry could include serving and supporting foster families in tangible ways like bringing meals, babysitting, or providing resources.
Facing their Fears
One of the best indicators of whether or not it’s the “right time” for a family to foster is their willingness to step forward into some unknowns while refusing to allow fear to have the final say.
A FaithBridge foster parent shares, “During our journey, we encountered numerous fears.”
- the capacity for more children
- impact on our bio children and our marriage
- ability to parent through challenges we might encounter
- interactions with birth families
- opening our home to caseworker visits and regulations, etc
“These fears might have stopped us, but God was so clear in convicting both my husband and me in our call to this that we were able to spur one another on.”
The number one fear we see is the fear of getting too attached. One of the best ways to respond is to remind them that their willingness to get attached is the reason they would be a fantastic foster parent. Getting attached is exactly what these children need. It’s also an opportunity to remind them that foster care is less about getting and more about giving. This is just one of many opportunities you have to pastor, shepherd, and counsel people to consider what following Jesus into broken but beautiful places looks like. Ultimately, that life and ministry and caring for others is less about us and more about them.
Praying for Those Who are Considering Fostering
One of the best ways to pray for those who are considering fostering is to pray for God to reveal himself along the way. Time after time in scripture, we see regular people who God called to serve in extraordinary ways. All of them weren’t sure they had what it takes. Time after time, God faithfully shows up and reveals that he is all they need. Pray that fears and doubts are put aside and replaced with trust in God.
“My husband and I experienced different fears at different times. The other would be strengthened in faith when one was doubting,” recalls Heather. “We continued to remember that He will equip us in every way needed. He has proven faithful. And we have seen our family and faith grow in ways we would never have experienced had we allowed our doubts and fears to overcome our call to become a foster family.”
Finally, pray for the families and children whose lives are impacted by the need for foster care. God’s calling to foster care is about participating in the bigger story of holistic restoration surrounding their lives. This certainly includes, when it is safe and in the best interest of the child, working with and for the health and reconciliation of that child’s family and the community they come from.