If you ever have loved a foster child, you no doubt have known joy and heartache, experienced laughter and tears, felt exuberance and grief. If you minister to a foster child, surely you experience the blessing Jesus promised to those who serve “the least of these” in this and any society.
May is national Foster Care Month. Not coincidentally, we celebrate Mother’s Day this month. What better way to honor mothers everywhere than by making certain every child feels unconditional parental love.
As Managing Editor Ken Camp has reported, the foster-care system in Texas is broken. The state violated the constitutional rights of foster children by exposing them to unreasonable risk in a system where they “often age out of care more damaged than when they entered,” U.S. District Judge Janis Jack ruled.
Failed and abandoned
The state’s most vulnerable children experience double jeopardy—failed by biological family, who put them in peril, and abandoned by the rest of us, who refuse to rescue them.
Foster children’s crisis is escalating. Child Protective Services is removing more children from dangerous situations, and it doesn’t always have homes for them. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services reported CPS removed 481 more children this January than it removed in January 2015. And increasing numbers of children are forced to spend at least two nights in CPS offices. Children who already have been abused and neglected—sleeping in offices, for God’s sake.
Texas children are desperate for foster families, insists Samela Macon, Buckner Children and Family Services’ senior director of domestic foster care: “We have a tremendous need for foster families. There’s a shortage of families and a shortage of families who can take in sibling groups. Beyond providing places of safety, foster families provide love and stability for children at their most vulnerable. Texas needs families to step forward to care for these children in need.”
More than 31,000 Texas children have been place in foster care, and yet the needs are greater still.
What if …?
What if Texas Baptists decided we would follow Jesus (who said, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me”) and honor our mothers by declaring we will care for Texas’ neediest children? Here are some steps we can take:
• In our churches, let’s affirm foster care as a vital ministry to children who desperately need to feel the love of Jesus expressed by gentle, caring adults. If our congregations begin to think of foster care as ministry Christians naturally do, we’ll see an escalation in the number of volunteers.
• If you are able and have room in your heart and home for a child or children, consider becoming a foster parent.
Three Texas Baptist child-care agencies provide adoption services—BCFS, Buckner and Children at Heart Ministries. Click the names of the agencies for links to their foster-care websites. And if none of them sponsors foster care where you live, you can be sure other charitable organizations will welcome the opportunity to work with you.
• Even if you cannot become a foster parent, open your heart and home to become a licensed foster babysitter and/or respite caregiver. Think how many more people could and would volunteer to become foster parents if they knew a network of friends was ready and able to give them a break when they need it.
Licensure requires time for training, paperwork and a home visit. Then it calls for investments of time and energy. But the caregiving can provide the margin of success for foster parents and the children.
• At the very least, pray for Texas’ abused and neglected children. Pray for foster parents. Pray for over-worked and under-staffed CPS caseworkers. Pray for the state’s foster agencies. And give to support the foster care ministries of BCFS, Buckner and Children at Heart.
Your mama will be proud.