One word. It’s that simple.
There is one word, that if fully embraced and executed, can change the landscape of foster care and adoption in your area.
That word is relationship.
Relationship is the one word that describes how the Church can transform the foster care system and the lives of children and families involved. I said it was simple, not easy. Relationships can be uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone, but it’s how Jesus taught us to love others. He gave us an example of how important relationships can be in influencing people and speaking love into their lives. There are 4 primary groups that I think it’s important for the Church to build relationships with: DSS, foster families, bio parents, and young families.
DSS (or your local social services agency)
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus
Investigators, caseworkers, and everyone else at DSS seem to always have too much to do and too little time to do it. Building relationships with your local DSS staff is a great way to help them feel supported and encouraged. Getting to know them can help you learn how to best serve them. It could be bottled water and healthy snacks for them to eat in the car when they’re driving all day from visit to visit, it could be providing lunch for the office once a month, it could be intentional prayer for them and the work they do, it could be notes and cards so the staff feels seen and appreciated. It could be any number of things, but you won’t know what will be most helpful unless you have a relationship with them.
Foster and Adoptive Families
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Do you know all the foster and adoptive families in your church? The church can be a difficult place for those parents. They can feel embarrassed and judged if they have a child who has an issue during the service. Having a relationship with foster and adoptive families in your church can help them feel more at home and comfortable, even if something happens during the service. If foster parents get to know the people working in the nursery and with the children, they can feel less anxious about leaving their children and can focus on getting more out of the service. Getting to know those in your congregation that are on the front lines of foster care and adoption can do a lot for your congregation. Not only will you be able to meet the needs of those families, but you’ll set an example for other families in your church who may be considering getting involved. They can see that if they take the leap into foster care or adoption, there will be a team of people to support them and love them through the good and bad that they will inevitably experience on their journey.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:18-19
Working with the biological parents of children in foster care can be scary for everyone involved. It can be easy to see the bio parents as the bad guys in this foster care world. It’s easy to say ‘they are bad people who did bad things to their children.’ While it’s often true that they made bad choices that harmed their kids, they are not the enemy. Many of those choices and struggles can be traced back to a lack of healthy and safe relationships when they were children. When you grow up without nurturing parents and no examples of healthy relationships – how can you be expected to be a loving, caring parent? Bio parents need examples of safe, loving, caring relationships. If their hurts happened in relationships, then their healing needs to happen in relationships. Again, simple but not easy. Many of these bio parents have either been hurt by the Church or feel strong shame and unworthiness that causes them to be fearful of the church. The Church must work with these parents from a place of humility and grace, showing them the perfect love of Jesus that casts out fear.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
The best way to make a difference in foster care is to prevent foster care from ever being needed. Children enter foster care when their parents don’t have the support and resources available to handle the stresses of life and parenting. Building relationships with young families in your church and community, especially if they don’t have a lot of support of their own, is huge. It takes a village to raise a child, so the Church can be the village for parents who don’t have one. Supporting new parents as they adjust to life with a new baby can be critical to the success and stability of that family. Many young parents did not have very good parental role models, so they are forced to figure out parenting as they go and they don’t always have the coping skills to deal with the stresses of parenting. Have a loving community surround and support them can help them give their children the best start possible and keep families together.
Everybody can’t do everything, but everyone can do something. If you want help figuring out your something, we’d love to talk to you about it!