Earlier in the year we introduced you all to The Influence Commons. As a Network we want to give our members a chance to use their voice. We hope to share a new piece each week, so if you’re thinking about sending a pitch, don’t hesitate!
Three years ago, my husband and I earned our foster care license. Due to a series of life circumstances beyond our control, we were only able to use our license to offer respite care (weekend long stints of caring for foster children) twice, and babysit a few other times. My heart was broken by our inability to maintain our license, even as I knew God was guiding us to release it. A question emerged in a present, painful way in my heart and mind: is there a legitimate option for us to engage the local foster care and adoption community if we cannot do so through actually fostering or adopting? Do people mean it when they say that there is, or is the option binary—foster/adopt or don’t?
As God is so faithful to do, “He brought me out into a broad place” (Psalm 18:19), revealing to me that not only were there ways to be actively involved in the lives of foster and adoptive families and children, but that they were plentiful. I became convinced that I was invited to join Him in His work of “placing the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:6), which I have written about here.
I’ve recently spoken with several women who, like I did, have questions about engaging the foster care and adoption community. I’m delighted to share their questions, along with answers and insight from foster and adoptive families and an adult adoptee, with you today. As you read, I encourage you to pick one step to take and consider letting a friend or two know about it. Ask if they’d be willing to have you share with them what you learned and discuss possibilities for acting on it.
Kate asks, “how can I speak up for [foster and adoptive families] when they aren’t visible to me? How can I make these issues more elevated to others without claiming to being a part of it myself yet?” She and others also asked for the best website to peruse to begin learning more.
If you’re American, I recommend contacting your local Child Protective Services office, Court Appointed Special Advocates office, or Google “Private Foster Care or Adoption Agency in (your state/area).” Canadians, check out The Canadian Foster Family Association and the Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal FAQs. Choose one organization and send an email or make a phone call to tell them you’re trying to learn more about supporting foster and adoptive families. Ask what they need, if there are churches or volunteer groups currently supporting them that you could connect with, and what they wish people knew about the system. Inquire about organizations and government agencies you could contact that help keep families together so foster care does not occur, such as Safe Families (USA)/Safe Families Canada.
Research adoption/foster care conference teams and resource creators to encourage them to, as Stephanie, an adult adoptee said, “incorporate the voices of adult adoptees better.” She also stated, “if you’re going to start a group for adoptive mothers to talk through the issues they face, they’d benefit from having an adoptee to inform the conversation, offer insight, and more importantly to recenter the narrative. Often [adoptees] become the object in the sentence not the subject.” While you may not be joining or starting a support group, this is an important perspective to have in general as you begin to engage the foster care and adoption world.
If you know a foster or adoptive family, or if you are able to connect with one through your church or a community organization, there are a range of choices for offering your support. Consider these words from foster mom Amanda when she was asked to name some of the most helpful ways others could support her family.
“People not acting like fostering is any different than having a baby (for example: throwing a fostering shower, giving meals when child comes, giving hand-me-downs, etc), willing to jump through the hoops to babysit, asking me how I’m doing emotionally, and praying for us and the child.”
Foster mom Julie added,
“We have been so grateful for the times our church family has stepped in post-placement. There is a ‘honeymoon phase’ when things are generally fine (though we were still grateful for meals and help while we settled in!), but kids from traumatic backgrounds often exhibit significant behavioral issues a few weeks or months into the placement. Recently I texted our church group that we had had a very tough day with discipline on top of the normal therapy and meetings, so a friend and her husband came over with dinner and took our foster son in the yard to play for an hour or so. That meal that I didn’t have to prep and that hour that I didn’t have to handle tantrums were monumental gifts to me.
Also, I am so appreciative of the families around us who have vocalized things like, ‘We know [your foster son] may be different than our kids, but we really want him to come play.’ Sometimes I feel like I should keep my foster son away from ‘church kids’ because he has behaviors that aren’t acceptable in most church circles. But I’m thankful we have some friends who are willing to jump in and parent him with us, even if that means exposing their kids to things they don’t approve of. Before he really knew God’s love, our sweet boy knew that he was deeply loved and truly wanted by church people, and that meant the world to me.”
Laura says, “we’ve teetered on the edge of fostering several times. I’d like to know how it impacts your biological kids, especially getting attached/saying goodbye.”
This is one of the most common questions when the topic of foster care comes up, and for good reason! The thought of saying goodbye to a beloved child is hard enough, and asking our children to do so can feel excruciating. Because of that, I cannot commend this post by Jason Johnson highly enough. He is a biological father and foster father, as well as a writer and speaker on foster care and adoption. He and his wife, Emily, have walked their daughters through saying goodbye to foster siblings, and their words of wisdom are sage.
As you choose a step to take, remember God’s faithfulness to do much with our little. Don’t let the fear of not being able to do enough, or the lack of knowledge about foster care and adoption, keep you from starting to move. The same way that a ten minute walk is better than not exercising, one phone call made or blog post read is better than lingering in uncertainty. I’d love to connect anytime if you have questions or ideas about supporting foster and adoptive families, or families at risk for CPS-intervention. May God be kind and clear as He leads you to join Him in “placing the lonely in families.”
Abby Perry has written for The Gospel Coalition, Christ and Pop Culture, and Upwrite Magazine. She is a co-host of the Shalom in the City podcast with Osheta Moore and coordinates communications for a non-profit organization. Abby co-facilitates community efforts in racial reconciliation and in support of foster and adoptive families. She currently attends Dallas Theological Seminary and lives with her husband and their two sons in Texas. Find Abby at www.joywovendeep.com and on Twitter.