A Guide to Foster Care Ministry in 2017 – Part Two
Jan 10, 2017 by Jonathan Reid
Let’s begin with a word association game. What chapters in the Bible come to mind when you read the words “foster care ministry”?
Isaiah 1? Check.
Psalm 68? Check.
Proverbs 31? Check.
No, that was not a typo. While it may not be one of the go-to “orphan care” passages, it is a great starting point (after prayer, of course!) for anyone who desires to minister to the foster care community in 2017.
Proverbs 31 is King Lemuel’s record of the instruction his mother gave him in preparation for his rise to leadership. As part of her counsel, she taught him the following:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (31:8-9 – NIV)
From these verses, we learn that wise and godly kings:
- Speak up/advocate for those who have no voice
- Judge the poor and destitute fairly
- Defend the rights of the vulnerable
Let’s focus on that first one…speak up/advocate for those who have no voice. It assumes at least three things.
- A wise king must be aware of those within his societal context who have no voice.
- He must be aware of their specific needs (how else could he advocate for them?).
- He must have the moral courage to speak on their behalf.
You may be wondering how this applies. You probably aren’t a King and what does this have to do with foster care anyway?
Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that the kings of the wisdom literature point to the greater King, the one who is the ultimate fulfillment of the wisdom kings, Jesus Christ. Jesus is what no Hebrew king ever was: wisdom incarnate and exemplified.
If you are a follower of Jesus, this applies directly to you! All who follow Jesus are called to reflect his wisdom in their own lives, including the kind of wisdom described in Proverbs 31:8-9.
Now, admittedly, Proverbs 31:8-9 is not about foster care in its original context. But, it teaches a general principle that applies to any number of people or societal groups in any number of cultures. In our culture, few societal groups have less of a voice than foster youth. In fact, they have had either zero or, in some cases, very little voice in the following:
- The families they were born into;
- The difficult circumstances they faced in their home lives;
- The decision to remove them from their homes;
- The decision to separate them from siblings (in some cases);
- The foster home in which they were placed;
- The decision to bounce them from foster home to foster home (in many cases);
- The shortage of loving foster/adoptive families (in most states);
- The court’s decision regarding their future (depending on the age);
- The effects of trauma on their neurodevelopment
- The list goes on and on…
SO, what does all this mean?
One way you can serve foster youth in 2017 is by choosing to be an advocate for them. Seek creative ways to be a voice on their behalf! While I can’t exhaust all of the ways to do this, below are a few ideas that should get your creative juices flowing.
The most common way to formally advocate for foster youth is by volunteering to be a court appointed special advocate (CASA) or guardian ad litem (GAL). The national website for CASA describes their role in this way:
“CASA/GAL volunteers are appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system or languish in inappropriate group or foster homes. Volunteers stay with each case until it is closed and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. For many abused children, their CASA/GAL volunteer will be the one constant adult presence in their lives.”
Check out their website to discover more information about what they do, how to apply, and to find contact info for your local chapter.
Create awareness about the foster care need within your community and your circle of friends.
- Research the specific need in your region. Ask questions like, “How many youth are in the system? How many are waiting for adoption? How many licensed foster families are there? How many more families do they need to bridge the gap?”
- Research the ways in which your region is particularly under-resourced. Mentors? School supplies?Tutors? Supplies for foster families? Social events? You can meet with someone from your local DCF (or equivalent) or private agencies to learn more.
- As you begin to gather information from the first two steps, create awareness among your circle of family and friends about the local need. Initiate conversations. Don’t be preachy or pushy. Just dialogue with a view toward creative solutions (more on this in a future post).
- Host a Coffee and Adoption Night at your home, church, or even business.
- Regularly present specific children from the state waiting lists to your prayer groups for prayer.
- Follow foster care/adoptive agencies on social media and like/retweet/repost worthy information, articles, and stories.
- Follow local foster care news. Be willing to write letters to the editor or to your local representatives when action is needed.
- Get to know foster families and their children and invite them into your circle. Allow them to share their lives and stories with people you know.
These are just a few practical things you can do to begin to reflect the wisdom of Proverbs 31:8-9 within the context of the foster care crisis. If you need any further guidance or have any questions, feel free to connect with us. We would love to help!