“Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” (Psalm 127:3-4)
Each of us, despite maybe being older than society’s idea of a child, are still children—children of God. And for many of us, we have had or will have the gift of bringing more children into the world. As Psalm 127 states, children are a reward, a blessing, God’s prized possession. Verse four compares children to that of arrows, meaning they must be carefully shaped and formed, guided by skill and strength, and given direction. It is so important that kids are raised in a loving and affectionate home, attended to by a mother and father, and genuinely cared for.
Unfortunately, there are too many kids who grow up not knowing what affection feels like from a parent, who are abused emotionally or physically, and are given little to no direction and guidance from their parents. For some of these reasons and more, many of these children are removed from their home and placed in foster care. In the U.S. alone, there are currently more than 400,000 children in the foster care system. The prayer is that they might one day be able to return home once their parent(s) are able to take adequate care of them or be adopted into a loving family, extended or otherwise. But in the meantime, there needs to be more attention given to how the foster care system can improve in order to provide a more successful and loving upbringing for these kids.
A little-known fact about foster care is the lack of training for caseworkers working with foster care agencies. A large portion of caseworkers are not provided with professional training before being thrown into the deep end of the system. Because of this, approximately 90 percent of agencies have stated they have difficulty retaining their caseworkers. This is largely due to lack of funding and resources available to agencies and allocated by agencies to properly train their social workers. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides more than half of the federal funding for child welfare action. However, this Title does not allocate funds towards investigations of child abuse, hotlines, or other necessary outlets that would be beneficial for children placed in foster care. On top of that, most leaders of foster care programs have expressed that they are given little to no control over how they can spend the federal money, and often times it does not cover the expenses for particular services and needs the child or foster parents may request.
The funding issue creates a trickle-down effect. If caseworkers are not being trained by their agencies due to lack of funding, how then are parents expected to feel confident stepping into the role of being a foster parent for kids in desperate need of a loving family environment? And if children are placed into homes with inadequately trained parents who do not have the option of beneficial programs they can extend to their foster children, the turnover rate of children moving from home to home will increase, creating emotional hardships and attachment issues. If a child comes from a physically abusive and neglectful home, he/she will need to be given adequate attention and care both from the foster parents as well as outside resources such as counseling. Due to lack of funding, a lot of foster parents will take it upon themselves to research and learn ways to interact with a child who has come from a rough upbringing. One potential upside to this is that the child may see their foster parents’ motives in wanting to welcome them and genuinely help them adjust to the transition.
It is so crucial that a child coming into an unfamiliar home with new parents, possibly new siblings, and even a new town, is receiving thoughtful attention and love from their foster parents. The best thing a foster parent can do for a child in foster care is sincerely love them and show them the love of God through their actions and words. “Live out your Christianity in front of them. The way a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church is the greatest example to set for the child,” said David Bane during my interview with him. David and his wife are treatment foster care parents who foster children with mental deficits or that come from abusive/neglectful homes. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 60 percent of children that are abused or neglected receive help. Even if a foster parent is stuck with minimal training and little funds delegated to provide resources for themselves and their foster children, they still have the ability to shape and cultivate what home environment they want their foster child to experience.
So how can we as Christians help to cultivate a healthy foster care culture?
- If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent, look into your state’s Foster Care Agencies and how your state receives funding for their programs.
- In order to advocate for the lives of these children, it starts with asking Congress to reconsider their financing decisions.
- If you discern that the Lord is calling you to foster, do not be intimidated by the logistics (training, funding, etc.)—be obedient to that calling and create a safe space for a child to be loved and cared for.
- Support those in your local churches and communities who are stepping into the foster care system by lending them encouragement and prayers.
- If you’re not ready to become a foster parent but desire to help children in these situations, look into Big Brother Big Sister programs.
Brooke Brown is a Brand Advancement intern at Family Research Council.