foster care

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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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.”

Ali Forney Center's Ad Supporting LGBT Homeless Youth

The first few nights weren't so bad. It was on the fourth night, the night it rained, that it got to me. I had just spent the past week sleeping on the sidewalk in front of the Illinois state Capitol building in Springfield. Throughout the week, young people of faith, college students, as well as homeless and formerly homeless youth traveled from Chicago to Springfield. Some slept on the sidewalks at night, and others came solely to lobby their legislators. We were all there for the same reason -- because each year nearly 25,000 youth experience homelessness in the state of Illinois. Not only were there not the resources to help these youth, but most legislators and most of the general public didn't even realize the problem existed.

In the past few weeks, I've written about a lot of full-page ads. This full-page ad is different. Too often, homeless youth have been invisible. The Ali Forney Center, a service provider for LGBT homeless youth, has a full-page ad in this month's issue of Sojourners magazine. GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Association Against Defamation, connected the Ali Forney Center to Sojourners, as a part of an advertising campaign the Ali Forney Center is running. The ad highlights that up to 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. I have talked with many teens who became homeless because they were kicked out of their homes or ran away from abuse by their parents because of their sexual identity. After their homes became dangerous, they went to the streets, where many were attacked and some were trafficked or forced into prostitution.

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