An Unexpected Venture
Sep 19, 2016 by Jonathan Reid
I often get asked about the origins of Fostering Hope New England. Make no mistake: for most of my life, advocacy for foster youth was not even a blip on the radar of my “life plan”. However, as is so often the case, the script God writes for our lives is much different than our own…it’s invariably harder, but always wiser and better.
In our case, the script included an unplanned struggle to conceive a child that, after many twists and turns, resulted in our pursuit of adoption through the foster care system. As I reflect on those early days, I am almost speechless at our naiveté. We quickly learned how deeply complex, emotionally nuanced, and even painful, adoption can be–particularly for the adoptee. Despite this growing awareness, we plunged ahead, intently focused on the adoption of our son, a process that ultimately took three years to finalize. At this point, we knew that we wanted to adopt other children in need of families, but we made the decision to change our license from pre-adoptive to foster care…a decision that would prove to be life changing.
As a foster family, we began to get phone call after phone call asking us to take in children. As we heard their stories and then began to receive them into our homes, the Lord broke our hearts. What had up until that point been a relatively abstract statistical reality (i.e. the 410,000 children in the U.S. system; 24,000 in New England) was now emphatically concrete. These children were no longer mere statistics in a category or nameless faces on a billboard. Each one of them was a real person with a real name, a real face, a real personality, real needs, and a real future. In short, they were real kids in real crisis in need of real love. Even more significantly, as Christians, my wife and I began to see these children through the eyes of God: each of them was an individual person, uniquely created in the very image of God and thereby endued with an inherent dignity and value that was not only worthy of but demanded our care. In particular, they needed families willing to open their hearts and homes in order to provide them with a temporary or permanent family.
At this point, we began to research both the extent of the need as well as the Scriptural basis (or potentially lack thereof) for Christian engagement. This research had several consequences.
First, the enormity of the need overwhelmed us. My wife and I were increasingly compelled to do more to serve these children.
Second, the nearness of the need hit home. This was not a problem “out there somewhere”. This was a local need for virtually all of us, including New England.
Third, we began to develop some deep convictions regarding why Christians should care about these children.
Fourth, we were a little confused as to the pervasive shortage of foster families throughout the country, particularly in light of the millions upon millions of professing Christians in the U.S.
But lastly, we found ourselves excited and energized. Why? Because, despite the enormity of the problem and all of its attendant complexities, the need for safe and nurturing foster/adoptive families can be met if the Christian community would open their hearts and homes to these children and their families. In fact, we discovered that one of the marks of authentic Christian faith (Isaiah 1:17; James 1:27) is care for the vulnerable children in our midst. This stunning reality convinced us that the Christian community would (and, in fact, must) rise up if they were only exposed to the need and saw a viable path of participation in its solution. In short, the Christian community in New England needed awareness, vision, and support. Fostering Hope New England was founded to help meet that need.
Fostering Hope seeks to mobilize Christians to love and serve the foster care community in New England. In particular, we desire to help raise up enough foster and adoptive families to meet the ongoing need for homes. In fact, we long for (and envision!) a day when the excess of children waiting for a safe, nurturing foster/adoptive family is replaced by an excess of safe, nurturing foster/adoptive homes waiting for children who need them.
We obviously could never do this alone. We join with the many Christians, churches, charities and agencies who are already passionate advocates for our local foster youth. Together, by God’s grace, we can make a transformative difference in these precious lives…the most vulnerable in our midst. Some significant things are happening and we are humbled to be just one small part of it. Our prayer is that the one who “…places the lonely in families…” (Psalm 68:6) will use all of us to shine the beauty of his adopting love throughout New England.