Why I Can't Ignore Foster Care.

God has put a cause in my heart, and continually fuels the flame. Every day in this country, innocent kids and teens are removed from the people who are supposed to protect them because of abuse, neglect, abandonment, or addiction. Those children are now a part of a broken system that does the best it knows to do, but it is not enough.
The foster care system simply cannot provide the fullness of what these children need. Christ. He is all in all.
Over the past year, I have talked to many friends and loved ones who were totally unaware of the reality and depth of the problem. I grew up in church and was never told about foster care, or the orphans that are in this country, in our neighborhoods, and in our schools. It's time for the silence to end. There are many worthy causes that grieve God's heart. My prayer is that all of us would begin to listen and be willing to respond. Not everyone will develop a heart for foster care, but some, through hearing, will develop one, just like I did.

I am no expert on this topic. I have very little personal experience with the system, but what l have learned has touched and affected me so much that l cannot keep quiet! Let's start with the biggest part of foster care that really grinds my gears. One third of the children in the care nationally are teenagers- and one quarter of all of the kids in care are 15 or older (Beam). And every year, TWENTY THOUSAND teens age out of the foster care system. This means that twenty thousand eighteen year-olds are now "adults" and they are now officially not wards of the state or legal children to any parents. The state provides assistance to these teens until age 21, helping them in apartments and groceries, and the like. But these kids are sent into the world with no one. No one calling them their own. No one to call when they make a bad credit card decision. No parent to call and cry to when they get a flat tire. No one to guide them through how to properly wash a decorative pillow. And most importantly, no one to run home to on the holidays. No one to honor and praise on mother's and father's day. Where do they belong?




Going into the world as an orphan would be hard enough WITHOUT all of the trauma, rejection, and sheer pain most of these kids have experienced. Children of foster care are twice as likely to develop Post-traumatic Stress Disorder than are veterans of war (Beam). I have been reading memoirs of people who have been in the system, and the things I have read are incredibly haunting and deeply saddening. These children have already been through more than most of us endure our whole lives. 


Remember, in order for these children to be placed in care, they were removed from their parents or guardians. Then, the state usually looks for immediate relatives or friends to see if anyone is willing to take the child. Next, the state then looks for foster homes that will welcome older children. If there are none, they are placed in facilities. Even once children are placed in a foster home, the rejection often continues. 70 percent of kids in the system for 2 years or more have been moved at least three times (Beam). Foster parents are not required to keep the children, and that is understandable. There are difficult circumstances and there are times when children do need to be placed in other foster homes. Sometimes children are a danger to themselves, the parents, or other children. In these cases, though unfortunate still, the child does need to be placed elsewhere. Other times, though, the going gets tough and people quit. Can you imagine how this must feel to a child or teenager? Imagine if your parents could have called to have you placed in another home when they thought they couldn't handle your behaviors anymore?

So, why are these children aging out of the system without families? Ask yourself, how many people do you know who actively seek out to adopt older children? I do not ask this to make you feel guilty, but to alert you to the need for people to rise up and love the ones often forgotten. No one ages out of the need to be loved. Children and teens of foster care are removed at all different ages and stages of life. There is such a need for loving homes for teenagers and school-age children, that many grow up in residential group homes. In fact, 49 percent of teens in care are placed in group homes long-term (Beam). Though some of these homes are loving and supportive, this is not the ideal way children should grow up. Rates of both physical and sexual abuse increase significantly in group homes as well (Beam). So, this scenario is not beneficial for the kids, and it costs on average $210,000 a year for a child to be in a facility (Beam).


So, what happens to these kids, now adults? They should pick themselves up an move on, right? By age 19, boys are 30 percent more likely to be in prison and girls are 2.5 times more likely to have become pregnant (Beam). Only between 3 and 11 percent of them attain a college degree, compared to 28 percent of the population (Beam). And check this out:
Thirty percent of the American homeless population is made up of people who were once in foster care (Beam). Orphaned adults through foster care are largely contributing to crime, teen pregnancy, lack of education, and homelessness in our country. This is an issue that intersects with so many societal problems. 
 
Many may not understand that the goal of foster care is to reunite children to their parents. This is why many people run the other way when they hear about foster care. The thought of loving and losing is unbearable to many and frightening to me as well. However, I believe that the life and example of Christ is that we volunteer for that pain and for that sacrifice just to get the chance for someone to know they are loved. The salvation and freedom in Christ is offered to all, but many will not take it. He died for them still. Love is always worth it. And love does change people. These kids and children do not sign up to be abused and to be tossed around. We, however, can sign up to love them and to be willing to be hurt on the road of true love. We know Christ. We have seen hope. We have been loved with a love unconditional. They cannot say the same. So, if anyone is going to be hurt, I for one would rather it be me.

And I will take the point further still. As Christians, we should be rooting for biological parents. We should be praying that they would rise up and raise their children. We should not be praying that we get to keep someone else's child. This is the wrong motive entirely. I imagine a people of God who are willing to get their hands dirty and not only love damaged kids, but to love damaged adults and offer them a hope and a love that cannot be overcome. How our world would change!

In all honesty, I have the tendency to try and be God and think that I am the divinely sent savior of the world. Many people have told me that I cannot save or fix these children. And they are absolutely right. I am not trying to fix or save. Even though that temptation is still very real to me, I know I am not responsible for how children respond. Some children will continue down the road to destruction, even if they are loved. Other children, though, will be transformed by love. Not my love, but the all consuming love of God.

I know I am probably naive. I know that I am still years away from being a parent. I know that I am probably making this all sound way too simple. I can admit all of that. And I know that when Brett and I, God willing, do begin our journey as foster parents, that there will be days that I will have to come back to what I have written and remind myself why I do it. I know there will be days where everything in me will want to quit and excuse myself. But today, I am not in that place. Today, I am hopeful.


I am incredibly hopeful that the body of Christ will fill in the gaps that the state and government simply cannot satisfy. I am hopeful that we will willingly do what is hard against the odds. I am hopeful that we can be humble to admit when things are out of control.I am hopeful that we will all start listening to the voices of the hurting in a more intimate way and that we will not merely watch from the sidelines and offer condolences, but that we will be willing to love like Jesus did. To love in a way that sets ourselves aside and love those who are hard to love.

I cannot wait to see what God does.
Thank you for reading!








References and further reading:
  • All of my facts came from this AWESOME book about foster care that I recommend to anyone interested in the subject.To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam.
    • The amazon link to buy is here: http://www.amazon.com/End-June-Intimate-American-Foster/dp/0544103440/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435180117&sr=1-1&keywords=the+end+of+june
  • If you are interested in memoirs, here are links to 2 of my favorites. Watch out, they are heartbreaking- but also full of hope! 
    • http://www.amazon.com/Foster-Girl-Memoir-Georgette-Todd/dp/0615710808/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435180419&sr=1-1&keywords=foster+girl+a+memoir
    • http://www.amazon.com/There-Urgency-Gregrhi-Arawn-Love/dp/0982307403/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1435180527&sr=1-1&keywords=there+is+an+urgency 


Comments

  1. I love your heart and your passion! The world and those kiddos need your voice! I hope someday I can remind you of your optimism when you just can't handle another visitation or court date - I know you will be a gift of the the Lords love! As for those aging out, there are still states that don't provide services after 18, VA just had a piece of legislation to extend it to 21. Such a terribly scary thing for those kids.. I cannot wait to see the impact you will have!!

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  2. Also, just learned today that the law in VA to extend care past 18 didn't make it. At 18 if they do not go on to further their education, don't have a group home willing to allow them to stay and their foster parents won't keep them, they get nothing to help them. They sign a statement saying they understand this and walk out of a courtroom completely on their own. If they go to college, and have a job they get a small stipend to help them. If not...they have nothing..just breaks my heart!

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