Between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I have spent the last several weeks reflecting on the incredible parents in our church community. I am continuously inspired by the selflessness and courage that these parents demonstrate! If you are a parent, I hope that you know how significant you are. While most of what you do may feel unseen and unappreciated, your daily acts of sacrificial love carry just as much profound weight in the kingdom of God as any sermon preached from a pulpit.
Along those lines, I want to take time to share about a topic that has been weighing heavily on my heart: foster parenting. For those of you who don’t know, May is Foster Care Awareness Month. The purpose of foster care is to extend physical and emotional support to children who have been displaced, abused, and abandoned by placing them in the temporary care of loving guardians. Any strategy which works to provide a safe environment for children to call home is without question a topic worthy of our awareness!
Importantly, our post-pandemic world has created even more urgency surrounding foster care than ever before. Due to the virus and resulting quarantine, the number of children in the foster care system has skyrocketed high above the number of vetted sponsors. According to one recent statistic, there are approximately 424,000 foster youth nationwide. And experts suggest that this number will grow even larger as students go back to school and more abuse cases are reported by teachers and counselors. There are simply not enough foster parents to cover the need.
If 424,000 children were wandering our neighborhoods and streets in need of food and shelter, I imagine that many of us would respond immediately. We would open our homes for the night and provide a temporary shelter for these children. The current foster care crisis in the United States may be happening behind the scenes, but there is no question that it is urgent.
The need is great, and the conversation is heavy. But we also serve a great God. And the more I reflect on foster care, the more I recognize just how much it reflects God’s heart.
God is all about caring for the orphan and the widow (Psalm 68:5). He is all about putting the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). He cares deeply about these broken families and the children impacted by them, and he has equipped his Church to be the solution. As James reminds us, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
I understand that for many people, the idea of getting involved in foster care may feel intimidating, especially after the disequilibrium that our world experienced last year. For some, the logistics are overwhelming. You may be asking, “Where do I start?” or “How do I get approved?” For others, the emotional toll of fostering may feel too heavy to carry. “How can I allow myself to become attached to someone who may be reunited with their biological parents eventually?” “I am worried about growing too attached, so I don’t want to risk it.” Still others may not feel equipped to foster. Perhaps they have resources and lots of love to share, but feel they are in the wrong season of life.
I want to encourage you. If you are feeling even the slightest tug on your heart as you read this (and even if you aren’t!), take time to pray and ask God how you can help be part of His mission of restoring a healthy family. Perhaps God will invite you to commit to prayer for foster students or to support a foster organization financially. Perhaps you will feel compelled to take the first step toward fostering. A great organization is Christian Alliance for Orphans Home - Christian Alliance for Orphans (cafo.org) This is a great faith based resource for individuals, churches, or organizations who want to find out how to get involved in fostering. On the site you can find out how to foster locally, who to contact, and data about foster youth need in their area. There are also additional resources to help support those that want to foster.
Whatever role you feel led to take, remember that you are the hands and feet of Jesus in the world. As disciples of Jesus, we are called to demonstrate the same radical, sacrificial love that he walked with. We are called to go on a journey of dying to self. Becoming a foster parent – or supporting other foster parents along their journey – is one way to lay down our lives to serve others. There are many other ways, as well. But maybe – just maybe – this is a path you are feeling invited to walk down. How can the Church respond to the post-pandemic foster care need? We must start by taking the first, small step.
Miles McPherson is the Senior Pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. He is also a motivational speaker and author. McPherson's latest book “The Third Option” speaks out about the pervasive racial divisions in today’s culture and argues that we must learn to see people not by the color of their skin, but as God sees them—humans created in the image of God.