Why Become a Foster Parent?

Why Become A Foster Parent (Hint: It's not about being heroic!) | Satisfaction Through Christ We didn’t realize it at the time, but when my husband and I began to consider foster parenting, we may have had a slight “savior complex” going on. Ahem.

We knew there would be sacrifices involved. But we counted them worthwhile as we anticipated swooping into places where children were being severely abused and callously neglected, scooping them up into our arms and whisking them away to a safe and happy place, our superhero capes fluttering behind us in the breeze as we dashed back to the security and comfort of our home.

The children. It was about helping children. We wanted abused kids to be safe. We wanted hungry kids to be fed. We wanted dirty kids to be clean. We wanted hurt kids to be healed. We wanted sad kids to be happy. We wanted lonely kids to feel belonging.

And we still want those things.

But not quite in the same way we used to.

You see, we’ve now observed firsthand that it’s not just the children who need to be helped. It’s the whole family.

Yes, there are some mean and evil parents who severely abuse or callously neglect their children, either intentionally or with complete disregard for their welfare; but I now realize those parents aren’t the majority.

Most parents of children in the foster care system do love their kids. And many of them take care of their kids the best way they know how.

The problem is, their best really isn’t good enough.

But here’s the thing…it’s hard to do better when you don’t know better.

I grew up being well-fed, well-clothed, well-taught, and well-cared-for. I don’t think I can fully comprehend the depth of gift this was…because it’s so ingrained in me, I take it completely for granted. And I bet you just might, too.

I was never left at home alone as a child, so I know kids aren’t supposed to be left alone.

I was fed consistently as a child, so I know kids are supposed to eat consistently.

I was sent to school as a child, so I know kids are supposed to go to school.

I was always clothed in clean, neat, and well-fitting garments, so I know kids are supposed to be dressed this way.

I was given regular baths as a child, so I know kids are supposed to be cleaned regularly.

I was taken to the doctor for regular checkups, so I know kids are supposed to visit their doctor.

But what if I wasn’t raised this way?

And what if no one I knew was raised this way?

It would be a lot harder for me to know how things are supposed to be, wouldn’t it?

And even if I did somehow find out, it would be much harder for me to implement, wouldn’t it?

These thoughts barely scratch the surface of the obstacles faced by many, many parents. What about parents who suffered various forms of abuse as children, or those who grew up with parents enslaved by various addictions, or those who were abandoned by their own parents, or those who gave birth to babies when they were still pretty much kids themselves?

This makes the foster care problem a lot bigger, doesn’t it? Perhaps it makes you feel even more helpless than you might already feel about such an overwhelmingly huge issue.

Thankfully, the Departments of Social Services in many locales recognize the obstacles parents face, and have programs in place to help them. From counseling to job training, parenting classes to anger management courses, parents who want to do better have an opportunity to know better.

But what if knowing better and even doing better still aren’t enough? Because when we consider this issue from an eternal perspective (which Christ-followers should), knowing better and doing better might solve short-term problems…but they don’t offer eternal value.

Jesus sacrificed His life so people could rise above knowing and doing…to being.

And so foster families and social services are a help…but they’re not the ultimate source of help. Because social services at their best still can’t accomplish what God can.

The One who can make crooked paths straight can straighten crumpled lives.

The One who can bring forth streams in a desert can bring forth lushness in a barren heart.

He can transform sinners into new creations. He can take the darkest, filthiest blackness and wash it whiter than snow.

He redeems from the bondage of sin and sets free those captive to addictions.

He heals wounds and restores souls.

He is Father to the fatherless and He is the Spirit indwelling His children.

The truth is, I can never give children the help they need. And I can’t give their families the help they need.

But I can point them to the One who can help. The One who wants to meet their every need…the One who is just waiting for them to come to Him.

Which is why, by God’s grace, my husband and I have traded in our imaginary superhero status for a new vision from God. Why should a Christian become a foster parent? The answer will surprise you! Because it's not just about the kids. The best possible reward for a Christ-following foster family is to see families reunited and serving our God.

You and I know the answer to life’s problems. We have the solution.

It’s Jesus.

What if more Christ-followers came alongside families who don’t know the answer and don’t have the solution, and pointed them toward Him?

Lord, make Isaiah 26:8 our plea! “Your name and Your renown are the desire of our hearts.” Because when families find You, they have a fighting chance at overcoming the obstacles they face.

Jennifer Optimized Signature

Looking for more adoption posts? Here are a few favorites:
Forever Is A Long Time
Our Adoption Letter – A Real Example
A Heart Like His
Orphan Epidemic & What Can You Do?

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Loving child of Almighty God, adoring wife, and homeschooling mother of three, I am active in teaching and music ministries in my local church. I am passionate about encountering my Savior and about encouraging other women to do the same. It would be an honor to have you visit me at A Divine Encounter!

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for this post Jennifer, my husband and I definitely want to foster someday (soon!) and we are always gathering info and trying to get into the heads of foster parents. :) Have a blessed day!

    • says

      I’m glad you found some benefit from my thoughts, Shirley! It always encourages my heart to hear how God gives others a heart for foster care. Thanks for reading, and for taking the time to comment. :)

  2. says

    I love this! I very, very much so want to foster someday too. And you are so right–we tend to victimize the parents without understanding the whole situation. Fantastic post!

    • says

      Hi, Brittany! How wonderful to hear from you! I rejoice to hear of your desire to foster at some point. May our God guide your steps as you seek to serve Him with your life!

  3. says

    I As a woman who had been passionate about adoption (and still am to a large degree), but discovered God’s heart for family preservation, I LOVED this post. We all need Jesus! Some of us also need some parenting help and encouragement along the way – but without Jesus, we miss the most important stuff – the BEST stuff!

    • says

      Hello! I love the phrase you used: family preservation. My husband and I would love to grow our family through adoption some day, but we’ve come to have a greater desire for families to be restored whenever possible. We don’t want to expand our own family at the expense of another! I’m so grateful that we’re merely tools in the hands of our Lord, and that He knows best in each situation. Thank you so much for reading, and for getting in touch!

  4. says

    Yes Yes Yes! You are so completely right about this! My husband and I are foster parents too and I felt to lucky going into it that the training we received talked about the whole family needing help. The judgment that the bio family gets is astounding to me because once you get into it and hear the majority of the stories, it is absolutely heartbreaking. I’ve left so many meetings in tears just wanting to fix it all for them, but the reality is only Jesus can do that. I actually wrote a post about it and why the judgment of bio parents is wrong: http://uncommongrace.net/2014/05/09/the-birth-parent-challenge/ I was hoping to explain the situation more, just like you have! Great post!

    • says

      Hi! It truly makes my heart smile to hear from another foster mom on this topic! You brought up some great points in your article. I particularly appreciated your point about the lack of support system, which means many bio parents don’t have a safety net in place when they’re struggling. It’s hard to do better when you don’t know better, and even harder when you’re trying to do it alone! I also love your last line: “We’re all broken and we shouldn’t have the luxury of ignoring our brokenness while being indignant about theirs.” Oh, but we do this so often, don’t we? In so many aspects of life! Thank you for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully, and for sharing your article with me and with our readers!

    • says

      Thanks for reading, Tshanina! This is a phrase I use to remind myself often to lavish grace on others — including my kids! I think it’s almost always the better choice to assume people don’t know better, unless you know for certain otherwise. It’s always best to err on the side of grace! Blessings to you!

    • says

      I’m glad you found some truth here, Tiffany. It’s a true joy to share from what God teaches me, and I’m grateful to you for reading and for getting in touch. :)

  5. says

    My husband and I are teachers and we often see children of parents that just don’t know any differently because as you pointed out above they were not raised themselves any differently. We have talked about being foster parents later in the future, but realizing it’s about the whole family, not just the children, is something I don’t think I ever thought about even though as a teacher i should know. Great post.
    Angela @ Time with A & N

    • says

      Hello, Angela! I appreciate your perspective as a teacher. Your ministry at school is vital, and I thank you for serving your students and modeling Christ’s love for them — even if they don’t realize it! I’m thankful for a God Who works in mysterious ways we can’t see, and Whose knowledge and power are infinite. You’re His ambassador doing His work, and I encourage you to press on faithfully. May God bless you!

  6. says

    You are so right about bio parents loving their children. As a former foster parent, a vast majority of the parents I met did love their children, they just didn’t know how to be adults. For parents who found a positive and accepting church community, there were amazing changes in their lives – it was a blessing for all involved.

    • says

      I agree with you! We’ve seen the genuine welcome of a church family make all the difference. May Christ’s Church be known for its grace and compassion toward the hurting, as Jesus Himself was.

  7. says

    I love this post, being a Foster Parent myself, thanks for sharing. :-) I wanted to let you know that I am featuring this post on my blog at Tuesdays with a Twist, come by and check it out. Thanks again and have a great week.

  8. Megan says

    Hi! I’m a foster care case manage run Detroit and now I work specifically with young adults who are transitioning out of the system. I’m SO impressed with your refreshing outlook on child welfare! I cannot tell you how ENRAGED I am at the way some Christians and churches approach the topic…I confess I saw the title and thought your article may be something negative and making fostering all about the rewards that the foster parent gets. Keep up the good work! And may God bless you as you help preserve these families!

    • says

      Megan, it’s so helpful to have your professional perspective here. My heart aches when I hear of the negative experiences you’ve had with some who claim to be Christians – that’s certainly not the way God intends it to be, and in that way, your rage is warranted. I pray often that more Christ-followers would grasp God’s heart for the children right in their own communities, and I just took some time to pray for your key role, as well. You’re doing hard things in hard places, and in so doing, you exemplify Jesus Christ for us. God bless you!

  9. Katherine says

    For the most part, Jennifer, i agree with you. This is an accurate description of most parents whose kids end up in the system. My husband and i have always said that were are in this to rescue kids who need rescuing not to steal kids whose parents can learn. However, i know first hand that there are monsters our there. There are people who torture and rape their own innocent children because it gives them pleasure. I am not one of the moms who will ever be able to speak well of the mom who came first.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right, Katherine, and I’m supremely thankful for foster parents who become adoptive parents of kids in the situations you’re describing.

      Even in the best of cases, I don’t know that it’s a matter of “speaking well of the mom who came first,” as much as it is recognizing that but for the grace of God, I could be where she is. I’m not above that. If I hadn’t been born to my parents, hadn’t been planted early in church, hadn’t learned the value of education, hadn’t had good examples all around me for all my life, I could easily take the same missteps and commit the same sins. So I don’t try to elevate her as she has been or as she is. I just try to see her as she could be and as God designed her to be, after receiving the gospel. Because the gospel is the answer to all our sin problems, hers and mine.

      Thank you for doing the really hard work of foster parenting. I just took some time to pray for you and your husband. May you be a shining light in a dark world.

  10. April says

    I am encouraged to see that you homeschool AND foster. My husband and I are waiting on our initial application package to become foster parents, and we homeschool our four children. We’ve wondered for some time if that would be an issue. We are total newbies, both excited and nervous, but with hearts called to help.

    Your article is an excellent reminder of something it is easy as a Christian to forget. We are BLESSED to have been born into families and circumstances that have put us in the position to give others a hand up. We could just as easily have been born into families and circumstances that would have made us the one in need of a hand up. Our blessing is certainly something we are wasting if we are not humbly sharing it with others. It was not given to be hoarded.

    • says

      April, your heart is very much in synch with my own, and I’m so grateful to you for taking the time to get in touch. I believe even the timing is from the Lord, as we just received a placement of three siblings into our home this past Monday, and your words have been an encouragement to my heart. I continue to homeschool my own three children, and while the sacrifices involved with foster care are great, the rewards are even greater. We have build relationships with biological parents, nurtured children, planted seeds, and even seen the harvest of two souls into God’s Kingdom as a direct result of our foster parenting journey. I say this not to bring glory to myself, but to our great God, and also to encourage you. It is hard work. It is painful work. It is sacrificial work. But it is blessed work. I can promise you that you’ll never walk alone, and that God will equip you to do what He has called you to do. Thank you for being willing to do hard things in hard places, and to show so much compassion and grace to people in desperate need. Your heart reflects your Savior!

  11. says

    Thank you for this post!! I’m gearing up to starting a Foster Care ministry at our church, and hoping people see the value in fostering, the chance to not only impact the lives of the kids but the families they come from. Even more so as Christians getting to introduce them to the hope and healing they can have in Christ. We adopted 3 kids out of foster care and in the process learned about their bio mom and not a day goes by that I don’t think and pray for her even though we’ve never met her (our boys were already legally free, and she never showed up for anything with our baby girl, and signed over rights). I know she came from a cycle of abuse and I see her pattern and it breaks my heart. I will definitely be using your post as a reference

    • says

      Hi there! What a joy to hear from you. It has blessed me to hear of your care for your children, and for your upcoming work at your church. If you’re interested, you can click here to find other posts I’ve written about foster care. Also, if you aren’t yet familiar with The Forgotten Initiative, I highly recommend that you check out their ministry. Thank you so much for letting me know how this post blessed you!

  12. says

    Your testimony sounds very similar to my husbands and I we did fostering for a few years till we got hit in Nj with hurricane Irene & sandy from there I had to have my nephew and my last child removed due to the house having no hot water n no heat for a while from both storms it took a bit to recover.
    From there I had some down hill health set backs that won’t allow me to foster any longer. My heart loves it,and I know while we had those children we planted seeds, we pray for those kids still today.I just have to accept that God had a season and a reason for this to all come to an end and another chapter of my life has come.
    I will be praying for you & your husband as you continue to touch the lives of others with the name of Jesus that they may grow in the gospel

    • says

      Those children were very blessed to have a foster mom who planted gospel seeds! Thank you for your service to our Lord, and for sharing this testimony of His grace in your life.

  13. Laura Ellis says

    I am so thankful I found this blog. We are in the process of getting licensed to be foster parents and THIS is what i have been trying to explain to people. We are to be a bridge to reunite families with the hope of the Gospel and watch them flourish! THAT is my hope and my desire on this side of it. Once kids are placed with us I am sure attachments will be formed and it will feel a lot messier than that but my heart rejoices with this blog.

    • says

      Hi, Laura! Your enthusiasm comes through loud and clear, and it blesses my heart to read about it. I’m so glad my post encouraged you, and I can assure you that I will pray for you as you following the Lord’s leading in this process. I can tell you that it’s one of the hardest things we’ve ever done, and one of the most fulfilling. If you’d like to read more about our foster parenting journey, you can do so at my blog by clicking here. Thank you so very much for walking by faith and not by sight, and for your willingness to open your heart and your home to children and families facing desperate circumstances.

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