foster care

I'm a Foster Mom. Here's What I've Learned About Being a 'Temporary' Parent

Image via /Shutterstock.com

I know that this child’s life and mine have intersected by a miraculous plan, and that however temporary, we will both enjoy what we can from how our stories have come together. He tells me stories of what it was like at his birth family’s house, we talk about the differences and similarities between his birth household and my household now, and together we make more crazy plans. 

God calls us among all of our anxieties, voiced and unvoiced­, to keep on living. To pray for one another, to argue with one another, to take the terrifying chance to say “I love you” to one another every day because we know the other needs to hear it. 

New & Noteworthy

Raising Themselves
The film Know How, a musical written and acted by foster-care youth, tells interwoven stories of coming of age within a dysfunctional system, the losses and dangers these young people face, and their against-the-odds struggle to persevere. First Run Features

Beyond the Food Drive
In Charity Detox: What Charity Would Look Like If We Cared About Results, Robert D. Lupton asserts that poverty must be addressed “through development, not through one-way giving.” With anecdotes and examples, he explains development strategies such as fund reallocation, reciprocal exchange models, and neighborhood reconciliation. Harper One

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A New Hymn for Foster Children and Those Who Love Them

Little girl resting on her father's shoulder. Photo via Dina Uretski/Shutterstock.

Author's Note: This hymn is written with gratitude for foster parents, social workers, and others who do seek to do their best for abused and neglected children and youth. It is written as a prayer for the many children and youth who are failed by a broken system that too often ignores their cries and rights. Parts of this hymn, especially, are written as a prayer for one small boy who was our foster son for nineteenth months and is no longer in our care, but who will always be in our hearts. Sojourners' January 2014 issue had several helpful articles on foster parenting.

Lord, Hear the Cries of Children
PASSION CHORALE 7.6.7.6 D (“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”)

Lord, hear the cries of children who struggle every day,
Caught up in failing systems that steal their hope away.
Some find they’re lost to violence, then lost in foster care.
They long for life’s abundance! Lord, hear their pleading prayer.

VIDEO: “ReMoved”

Every child deserves a home. Yet 400,000 children are being raised within the U.S. foster care system. Who will look out for them?

All in the Family” (Sojourners, June 2014), by Julienne Gage, tells the hopeful story of churches stepping up to care for these children of God. As part of the “127 movement,” churches across the country are mobilizing to provide homes and support for these foster children. Read this inspiring story.

To learn more about the foster care system, watch “ReMoved”—an award-winning, short film about a young girl’s journey as a ward of the state.

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The Many Ways to Love Like a Mother

Child with mother, arek_malang / Shutterstock.com
Child with mother, arek_malang / Shutterstock.com

As a mental health professional and a mom, I have come to appreciate the incredible importance of family relationships on the development and maturation of children. I’ve also realized that the archetypal family relationships worshipped in our (Christian and secular) culture often have little to do with the real sweat and blood of family life.

My husband and I have a running joke that one day we will start an “ambiguous family relationships” greeting card company. Our imaginary company is designed for those experiencing family situations that aren’t exactly addressed on the cheerful card aisle. Mother’s Day is prime among those occasions that seems to call for our imaginary company’s services. While the consumerist culture portrays images of wonderful family relationships rewarding the hardworking mom with leisure and jewelry, Mother’s Day is not joy and leisure for all. It can be a time of irony and pain for those who have experienced relationship loss, infertility, miscarriage, separation, or death. Mother’s Day in many ways has become a cultural enforcement of the middle class ideal rather than recognition of the real pain and sacrifice of mothers worldwide.

All in the Family

FROM EGG FREEZING to genome analysis, desirous parents with sufficient funds these days have many choices for starting a family. But what about children born to parents who can’t care for them—at least not at the present time? With 400,000 children in foster systems across the United States and a quarter of them awaiting adoption, it is a pressing question.

Some evangelicals increasingly are taking their cue from a particular biblical passage in the first chapter of James, verse 27: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God ... is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress ...”

From this verse has come the “127 movement,” dedicated to supporting prospective foster families within a church community. Project 1.27 in Colorado was the first group founded under this banner back in 2004. Its goal was to provide the state-mandated orientation and training, from a Christian perspective, to potential foster parents. If a family ended up fostering or later adopting a child, then the movement’s members would serve as a support network.

“We had 875 legally free kids waiting to be adopted in Colorado and twice that many churches,” recalled Project 1.27 director Shelly Radic. “We thought, ‘Wow, that’s just not right,’ so we began to build relationships with county social services and child services at the state level, and then connect with churches and private agencies to set up training.”

Since foster systems are run by individual states, so too are these faith-based support movements.

“We do recruiting, orientations, and training. We’re not a placement agency,” explained Radic. “We follow state guidelines, invite people to come who might be interested in foster care and adoption, tell them about the trauma and the hard things the children may have experienced, help families see what their process would look like, and talk about building a support team as a high priority.”

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Foster Care Resources

In “Foster Care for a New Millennium,” (Sojourners, January 2014), Juliet Vedral describes foster children as the modern-day “orphans in distress,” with more than 102,000 children nationwide waiting to be adopted. DC127, a movement started in Washington, D.C., is hoping to reverse the foster care list by encouraging church congregants to become foster families or adopt.  

Everyone can do something to care for children in foster care, whether by fostering, adopting, or supporting those that are doing so. The resources below help engage foster care at a personal and community level. What can you do to help the thousands of children who seek a loving and stable home?

ORGANIZATIONS

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Foster Care for a New Millennium

I WAS 7 years old when my family first opened our home to foster children. My parents were in their early 40s and already had four children at home. They were somewhat typical for foster parents at that time: married, established, often people of faith. We had a total of 10 children in our home—two of whom were adopted—from 1988 until 1997. Fostering children was a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week commitment and calling. As my mother would say, “God sets the lonely in families—but am I willing to let him set them in mine?”

This is a question that more Christians—particularly the oft-maligned Millennials—are asking themselves. They are examining both the sheer number of children growing up without families and scripture to see what it says about their faith. Taking their cue, and often their names, from James 1:27 (“look after orphans and widows in their distress”), groups in Colorado, Arizona, Oklahoma, Virginia, and most recently the District of Columbia have committed to looking after these modern-day “orphans in their distress.”

According to the Administration for Children and Families, in 2012 there were 400,000 children in foster care nationwide. Of that number, 102,000 were waiting to be adopted. Only 52,000 children were adopted in 2012; at the end of 2011, 15 percent of youth in the system lived in group homes or institutions. What is most troub-ling is the number of youth who “age out” of the system every year without the support of a family. At the end of 2011, 11 percent, or 26,000 youth in the system, aged out. These youth are much more likely to experience homelessness, health problems, unemployment, incarceration, and other trouble later in life.

In Washington, D.C., there are about 1,300 children in the foster care system; 300 of them are on the waitlist for adoptive homes. Many are siblings, and many more are adolescents, past the ages when most families typically want to adopt.

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DC127: Fostering a Better City

Photo courtesy of DC127
Foster the City is DC127's first major event, taking place on Nov. 2. Photo courtesy of DC127

"Foster care touches on multiple issues and engaging the system is a way to comprehensively engage some of the biggest challenges to a city’s flourishing." 

There is a new initiative in Washington, D.C. that hopes to so profoundly change the foster care system in the city that the supply of foster homes will far exceed the demand for them. DC127 is an organization committed to “reversing the list” of children and youth who are waiting for a foster or adoptive home. By reminding churches of the biblical mandate to care for widows and orphans, they have started a network in D.C. that spans Christian denominational lines.

The movement is beginning to gain some traction and DC127 is gearing up for its first event on November 2.

DC 127: Flipping the Foster Care Waitlist

Photo: Chris LaTondresse
Church goers gathered for worship and prayer in Columbia Heights, Washington, D.C. Photo: Chris LaTondresse

Jesus flips things upside down. DC 127 plans to follow suit.

The Washington, D.C.-based foster care initiative created by the District Church seeks to reverse the foster care waitlist in our nation’s capital, leaving parents waiting to foster the 3,000 children currently on the list instead of children waiting to be taken in by families.

“The heart behind DC 127 is to reflect God’s heart,” said District Church Lead Pastor Aaron Graham. “We believe there are no orphans in heaven. And Jesus taught us to pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ And so our prayer is that we would reflect God’s heart, who’s adopted us, by helping adopt and foster kids in D.C.”

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