Although my personal story is about infertility and international adoption, my role as an advocate has led me to become passionate about foster care. With over 400,000 children in the foster care system in our country, there is a tremendous and urgent need for foster parents everywhere. Over 100,000 of these children are available for immediate adoption. Ranging in age from infants to 18 years old, these are children who have experienced abuse, abandonment and neglect. They are children who are suffering, through no fault of their own, and desperately need families to provide love, stability and support. Simply, foster children need foster parents to give them normalcy and to give them HOPE.
Many people turn to fostering as a pathway to adoption, but this is a largely misunderstood concept. Foster care and adoption are not the same thing; there is officially no such thing as “fostering to adopt.” Foster care is actually a pathway for ministry! Foster parents are agents of reconciliation in a child’s life, as well in the child’s parent’s life. The goal of foster care should always be family reunification! While children are in foster care their families are working to overcome the problems that caused the children to removed from the home in the first place. The foster parent’s role is to provide stability and support to the children during this difficult season in their lives.
I believe the ideal foster parents are either couples who decide to foster before trying to build their own family or the family whose children have one step out the door. Grandparents in good health also make excellent foster parents. However, as a woman who has endured a 23-year infertility journey, I would not recommend foster care as a pathway for infertile couples. Children who come into foster care are hurting and broken; they need unconditional love and they need professional parents who are wholeheartedly assisting the reunification process. Empty arms can make for a heavy burden, and while that is a legitimate hurt and pain for the parent, it’s not a burden that foster children should have to carry. They need advocates who are fighting for them to be reunited with their birth parents, not broken hearts trying to build their own families. Foster care may lead to adoption, but it should not be the primary reason that foster parents step into the role.
If you feel called to foster care and would like to learn more about this ministry, the best place to begin is with your local DCF office. They should be able to provide you with a list of licensing agents in your area that can help with your training and foster parent licensing. There are often faith-based groups, such as Baptist and Methodist Children’s Homes that can license and support foster families, so be sure to check around before you begin classes held by DCF.
I also recommend connecting with your local foster care community and letting your church know you plan to begin fostering. Fostering is tough and foster parents need support through prayer, respite and resources. There are many wonderful support networks, continuing education, and community resources available to foster parents that can make all the difference to being successful in this hands-on ministry. Make sure you take time to get these pieces figured out before you take that first placement!
Here a list of books and resources that I highly recommend on foster care. If you are reading this page, please feel free to add books you like in the comments section below.
- · Adopted for Life, The Priority of Adoption for Christian and Families and Churches – Russell Moore
- Faith & Foster Care, How We Impact God’s Kingdom – Dr. John DeGarmo
- Becoming Home, Adoption, Foster Care and Mentoring – Living Out God’s Heart for Orphans – Jedd Medefind
- A Passion for the Fatherless, Developing a God-Centered Ministry to Orphans – Daniel J. Bennett
- Journey to the Fatherless - Lawrence E. Bergeron
- ALL IN Orphan Care, Equipping the church to help kids and streamline families – Jason Johnson (This is a small group curriculum available as a Kindle download)
- The Connected Child - Dr. Karyn Purvis
- Small Town, Big Miracle: How Love Came to the Least of These – Bishop W.C. Martin
- The One Factor: How One Changes Everything – Doug Sauder
- Fostering Families Today Magazine, A Foster Care and Adoption Resource for America, subscribe here: http://www.adoptinfo.net/catalog_g2.html?catId=55347
Foster care/ adoption video links:
· Florida Baptist Children’s Homes Foster Care video – https://vimeo.com/165282905
· Removed (Part 1) – almost 13 minutes, but VERY powerful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOeQUwdAjE0
· A short promotional video from Focus on the Family – 5 minutes: https://vimeo.com/54539960
· 111 Project ,The Vicki Experience - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t08QtP3dOIw
Webinars for families and churches:
· How to be a Welcoming Church for Special Needs Foster & Adoptive Families: https://cafo.org/resource/welcoming-church-special-needs-foster-adoptive-families/
· Creating a Balanced Adoption & Foster Church Ministry: https://cafo.org/resource/creating-a-balanced-adoption-foster-church-ministry/
· Spiritual Preparedness for Foster Care & Adoption: Creating a Culture of Commitment: https://cafo.org/resource/spiritual-preparedness-for-foster-care-adoption-creating-a-culture-of-commitment/
· Wrapping Around Adoptive and Foster Families: Providing Help and Hope to Those Called to Foster or Adopt: https://cafo.org/resource/wrapping-around-families-providing-help-and-hope-to-those-called-to-foster-or-adopt/
· Orphan Care Ministry that Lasts: A Pastor’s Perspective on Overcoming Common Obstacles: https://cafo.org/resource/orphan-care-ministry-that-lasts-a-pastors-perspective-on-overcoming-common-obstacles/
· Starting a Church-based Foster Care Ministry - https://cafo.org/resource/starting-a-church-based-foster-care-ministry/
· Starting and Growing a Church-based Orphan Ministry - https://cafo.org/resource/starting-and-growing-a-church-based-orphan-ministry/
· Empowered to Connect – annual simulcast each spring: http://empoweredtoconnect.org/conferences/