On a normal Sunday morning in a normal little church, it seemed everything changed, while also nothing changed. God was doing what He does best—moving in the hearts of His people, calling us to take a step of obedience with Him. It simultaneously felt risky and safe, insane and also unbelievably logical.
It’s funny how God does that, isn’t it? What is an unimaginable risk in the world’s eyes becomes a place of peace when we say yes to walking down a path He has already obviously prepared for us. I had asked my husband many times about foster care and he feared what we all fear: the going home. But today was the day he would finally say yes.
This conversation launched us into hours of classes, a home study, and an approval process. We worked through mountains of paperwork, put tiny plastic covers on every outlet, bought strange lockboxes to imprison our Windex and our Tylenol, and had interviews in our home that felt a little like hostage situations. These dozens of checkboxes on a task list were our quiet obedience, a trusting in every step, even though it didn’t feel like faith. It really just felt like logistics.
At every training we were told, “This is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done,” and I don’t know if they did this to weed out the slackers or just to incite fear in us all, but I think it probably worked either way. If I learned anything from this season of life it’s that we can do hard things, and not only can we do them, but God calls us to them. God gives us hard things as precious gifts.
Our story is a bit different than most foster care stories, as our first placement resulted in adoption. Admittedly, we feel guilty that we didn’t walk a harder road like so many other foster families we know. Our son’s story is not without grief or the loss of a biological family, and it is certainly not without failures on our part. Yet, around every corner we see Jesus as the rescuer and hero of the story. We see God as our perfect Father in contrast to our weakness. The grief of loss and sting of failure are blessings to us, and in it we see such a clear picture of the gospel.
People tell us all the time that we rescued our son, but what we think is truer is that he was rescued by God because God so dearly loves him, and we just got to be the recipient of a most amazing gift. We are certainly not the heroes of this story. We could not be a more ordinary family. Yet, God has chosen to show us extraordinary things and all it took was saying yes to hard things.
God has a pattern of doing that, doesn’t He? Scripture is full of God’s people walking through hard things. Sarah was barren; the Israelites wandered around in the wilderness; Joseph was thrown in a pit; Job lost it all; Esther risked her life to go before a king who did not summon her; Paul was bitten by a snake, shipwrecked, and often run out of town. Hard things don’t always have sugary happy endings, but so often it is in hard times that God reveals Himself to us and His name is made known. It’s through hard things that we see His glory best—a baby is born, a people is saved, a life is restored.
God may not be calling you to foster care today, but I know that He is calling you to hard things, because that’s just what He does, and I pray that you would take a step of obedience today in whatever that is. It may not feel like a grand illustration of faith. It may even feel like logistics. But I pray that you would say yes, because with God, we can do hard things.
I’m going to leave you with this adorable picture of my kids (Yes, I’m biased) because out of what seemed like a scary step of faith came a blessing we are thankful for everyday. I want to share a little more about foster care specifically with you, but I wanted to reward you with cute kids for making it this far.
So, there are probably different reasons in different families for when and how to engage in foster care. Here were ours:
“But to all who did receive him, he gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in his name” – John 1:12
“God in his holy dwelling is a father to the fatherless and a champion of widows.” – Psalm 68:5
God has adopted us into His family, grafting us into a perfect and better family tree. What an opportunity to see the gospel on display as a child is brought into our family, just as if they had always been there!
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under the bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” –Matthew 5:14-16
People will see Jesus in the way that we love them. Our hope was that we could be a picture of Jesus to whatever children were placed in our home, to case workers, and especially to the biological family of the children placed with us. I really wanted to help a mom who was struggling, showing her the grace Jesus offers us in our failures, so that she might be reunified with her children at the end of it all, made new through Jesus. This wasn’t the situation we were given, but I still have hopes that one day I’ll get to walk with a birth mom through a dark, dark season in her life, sharing with her the light of a Savior she may never have met before.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27
God has given us so many riches, and I can certainly share them with those that are considered the least of these. God cares for widows and orphans and those in need, and as we seek to see people in the way that God sees them, we will be led to love and care for those He lavishly loves.
This sounds simple, but we had an extra room in our house with a twin bed that no one slept in. We had the space, so why not give?
The moment I knew I had to be involved in providing a solution to such a widespread need was when I heard these numbers:
Today, there are around 400,000 kids living in foster care in America. Every year, 23,000 children age out of the foster system.* That’s 23,000 kids who are figuring out how to be adults without the support of a family. Nowhere to go home to for Christmas. No safety net or mom to call when they fail.
No one supporting those biological families who may be grieving the loss of their children and trying to get them back home. Reunification is the goal of foster care, and both when that is possible and when it is not, we can help.
*Stats are from https://showhope.org/2016/05/25/4-important-stats-about-the-orphan-crisis/
If you want to help, but can’t have kids in your home, you can:
- Meet needs.
Did you know kids are often given a trash bag to put their things in when they are removed from their home? Call your local children’s services department and offer to provide some duffle bags so that when kids are moved to a stranger’s home and sleep in a strange bed in a strange house with so many things that are unfamiliar, they may have something to put their things in, and they may be encouraged by your kindness to gift them with a bag (a blanket, stuffed animal, and note is also a great addition to the bag!).
- Love on a foster family.
Take their kids to the park. Be there. Buy gifts for Christmas for a particular family. Ask them how you can help. I’m sure there will be a need that you can meet.
Pray that God would move. Pray that God would comfort the kids and parents who are involved in the system. Pray that He would provide them with stability (kids lose 6 months of development every time they are moved, so stability is so important!). Pray that God would reveal Himself as the perfect Parent to all involved.
- Become a CASA provider or a foster parent advocate.
Call your local department of children’s services for details; often with a weekend of training you can provide support and advocacy for a child or a foster parent. That is one of the most valuable resources we had during our journey!
If you are considering foster care:
Do it. You can do hard things because God is with you. He will sustain you.
Of course, it’s a broken system. There’s plenty to be frustrated about and plenty of difficulty, but God is using it to mend families, to love children and their biological families, and to introduce people to Jesus. I’d love to talk with you more about it.
Mary Wiley is the marketing strategist for women’s books at LifeWay Christian Resources. She hosts the Questions Kids Ask podcast and writes for multiple publications. Mary holds a B.A. in English and Theology from the University of Mobile and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Theological Studies at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mary, her husband, and their two two-year-olds live right outside of Nashville, Tennessee. Connect with Mary about foster care or simply life @marycwiley.