The decision to foster a child brings great challenge and great reward. You become the stabilizing force in a life disrupted by turbulent times. Knowing that reunification with the birth family is the goal you open your home and heart. And you fall in love.
Several years ago, my wife and I embarked on this adventure. Today our family includes two biological sons, an adopted daughter, and a foster daughter who joined our family at three months old. She just turned two and likely will be reunited with her birth family soon. Saying good-bye will break our hearts, yet we are not called to an easy path—we are called to be faithful. I can say unequivocally that we sense a calling on our lives to care for these little ones. Children living right in our cities and towns who have no one to hold them, take them to a park, or put a warm meal on the table—this trumps many things that command more attention. Children represent the future. They represent the hope and possibility of our communities, our churches, and our nation. All people, regardless of faith tradition, must come together to advocate for these children.
Since May is National Foster Care Month, the time is right for religious leaders to begin cultivating a massive interfaith movement to target this crisis. On any given day, approximately 402,000 live in foster care in the United States, and on average, these children remain in state care for nearly two years with eight percent of children enduring five or more years. We must do better than this.
Recently, a Jewish friend, who works for a foster-adoption agency, and I discussed how our faith backgrounds shape our views on how our communities should pursue foster parenting. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament for Christians) includes several verses about taking care of those who are parentless (Isaiah 1:17, "...learn to do good, seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow."). This provides very tangible directions on community care. I also shared with her that as Christ-followers, fostering is a sacred responsibility that models Jesus' love for us. Just as God adopts us into His family, we have the means to adopt these children—even if only briefly into our homes and forever into our hearts.
The care of children transcends all that divides us and encourages me to reach across artificial lines. I have friends who are foster parents from many (and even no) faith traditions. I have Republican, Democrat, and Independent foster parent friends. We come from different nationalities, ethnicities, socioeconomic means, and the list goes on. But our role as foster parents draws us together in solidarity and advocacy for often-forgotten, voiceless little ones in need of homes and people who care for them. In a world divided by politics and faith, I love the unity I feel with others regarding this issue. Let us come together in heart, mind, and spirit to solve this crisis. People of faith are called to do no less, and Christians are called to do more.