One thing the church could change in South Carolina
I remember the first time my wife asked me, "Do you think we would ever be foster parents?" My answer at the time was 100 percent no! However, as I began to pray about and read what the Bible said about caring for orphans, my answer began to change.
God's plan for orphans is not to keep them in institutions, but to bring them into families.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families...” (Psalm 68:5-6).
I realized something: God's plan for orphans is not to keep them in institutions, but to bring them into families. As a follower of Jesus, I am commanded in the Bible to somehow care for orphans (James 1:27, Psalm 10:14, Psalm 82:3-4).
The Problem We Can Solve
Local Department of Social Services officials say there are 4,110 children living in foster care in South Carolina. Reports show there are three to four times more children in the system than there are foster homes available. This is a big problem, but the calling to take care of orphans is not a government problem or a schooling problem. It's a church problem and the solution lies in the homes of followers of Jesus — people like me and my family.
I realized our family couldn't care for every child living in foster care, but we could make a difference in one child's life. Then I began to wonder, what if Christians all across our state would step up to this calling and start caring for one foster child at a time? Maybe this whole foster care crisis, which repeats itself in almost every generation, could be eradicated with this generation of followers of Jesus.
The most common reaction to our story is this: "I've always thought about doing that!" What would happen if followers of Jesus quit thinking about foster care and actually did it? I'll tell you what would happen: it would change our state!
What is Foster Care and What Does it Require?
A question my wife and I often hear is, "What is foster care and what are different ways I can get involved?"
According to the Department of Social Services, foster care exists to provide a safe temporary placement for children who cannot remain safely in the home of their parent(s). The goal of foster care is to implement a plan for permanency for each child. A plan of permanency can include a number of options such as: reunification with the parent(s), adoption, or guardianship/custody with a relative or nonrelative. It all depends on the child and individual circumstances.
Anyone can get involved in caring for children in foster care in a number of ways:
- Full-time foster parenting
- Short-term emergency care
- Respite care - caring for other families' foster children on a short-term basis
- Mentorship - being an encouraging influence for a foster child
- Support - providing financial support and/or basic needs for foster parents
- Married or single, young or old, there is a way for everyone to be involved.
- How to Tell if You Should Get Involved in Foster Care
How do you know what your next step is when it comes to caring for orphans? The absolute best way to live as followers of Jesus is to listen to Him and do what He says. You can ask God what your next step is and what this looks like for you specifically.
There are some practical questions I needed to consider before my family took this step. I would advise you and your family to consider the same questions:
- If you’re married, how solid is your marriage right now? If you are having issues in your marriage, bringing a foster child into your home will not solve those issues. Your first calling after your relationship with God is your relationship with your spouse, so it serves everyone best if your marriage is solid before you get involved in foster care.
- Are you and your spouse unified in this decision? In our case — and it seems to be true for just about everyone — my wife and I got on board with it at different times. I would advise against talking your spouse into it. If God calls you to do this, He will call both of you together.
- Do you have adequate space in your home?
- If you have your own children, have you talked with them about it? Explain why you’re making this decision and walk them through the details.
Why the Church Should be the Most Active Advocate for Foster Care
Being a foster parent is such a blessing, but it is not easy. I can't tell you how many times my wife and I have been asked, "Is it hard sending them back?" Of course it is hard! Sending children back to their families feels like someone tore our hearts out.
We love these children like they are our own and we know we may never see them again. But caring for orphans is ultimately a picture of the Gospel. We were all lost and hopeless, and Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, came back to life, and made us a part of God's family (Ephesians 2:8-19). Followers of Jesus are called to show that same type of sacrificial love that changes lives and the world we live in.
Visit the South Carolina Department of Social Services website to learn more and see how you can help.