My family of five has had the privilege of being involved in foster care for the past year and a half. We have had the joy of having three different girls in our home and currently have one of them with us. Whether it’s the fact that we have a lot of kids or that one doesn’t look like us . . . people notice and people ask questions. Whether it is from a stranger at the park or a fellow member at church, the question I receive the most is, “Why?” or “What made you want to do this?” Here are my personal reasons for being a foster parent . . .
1. The Image of God Is So Valuable
When I look into the eyes of any child, I gaze into the window of their soul—eternal, unique, precious, valuable. Scripture teaches that to be human is to exist in God’s image (Gen 1:26-27). This gives you and I and every single person—regardless of their location, background, age, sex, ethnicity, health, etc.—infinite significance. Each one of us is formed and known by God before birth, intimately woven by him in our mother’s womb (Jer 1:5; Ps 139:13). Because of this, God has declared that the shedding of human blood is murder (Gen 9:6). God loves all the little children of the world and all the children in the womb. Life is a gift given by God at the moment of conception. When we abandon this objective reality, we are left with our own subjective, inconsistent standards for what constitutes life. The definition of life is not debatable and no one has the right to reckon one life more valuable than another. Abortion and abandonment are literally acts of spiritual warfare against the image of God. Because both are so prevalent in our world, foster care is a practical way for me to join the fight to protect and serve this image of God in my fellow man.
2. The Command To Care Is So Definite
The Ten Commandments, the call to regularly attend church, rejoice always, pray without ceasing, avoid unwholesome speech, etc.—when it comes to the commands in Scripture, we are typically intentional about following them. But for some reason when it comes to the call to care for orphans, I see very few Christians actually involved. The Old Testament is clear that God has a special regard for weak and vulnerable children (Deut 10:18; Ps 10:14; 68:5; 146:9; Hos 14:3). He commanded his people to reflect his values by giving special care to the fatherless (Deut 14:28-29; Ps 82:3; Is 1:17). We see the same ethos in the New Testament instructing the church. James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress.” Foster care is a practical way for me to mirror God’s special concern and fulfill the clarion call to care for the fatherless.
3. The Problem Is So Encompassing
This is a dark world. The fact that fatherless children exist everywhere in the world proves that our world is broken. There are an estimated 153 million orphans in the world and this number does include all those who have been abandoned and aborted in the womb. Famine, disease, and other natural disasters have left children alone without their parents. Worse— corruption, war, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and overdose are the result of man’s selfish intentions and come at a high cost to children. Sin and death permeate every corner of our world. This was not God’s original design for his creation. The Scriptures teach that sin and death are a result of the fall. God originally created this world free from suffering and pain, but sin has only made the sweetness of life bitter, especially for the children. God will one day make all things new, I want to live in light of that reality. Rather than being overwhelmed by a fatalistic indifference, the ubiquity of this dilemma spurs me to care for God’s creation in any small way I can.
4. The Need Is So Proximate
The orphan crisis is a heart-wrenching and worldwide phenomenon and the statistics can be too overwhelming to comprehend when you truly desire to make a difference. Although technology allows us to be involved around the world, there is a need right where you are—in your country, your state, your county, your town. The day we became certified, we got a call about a placement. In L.A. County, where I reside, there are 30,000 children in foster care . . . 1,400 are currently waiting for a home. I believe that God will hold me accountable to the needs that were in proximity to where I lived my life. Like the Good Samaritan, I cannot overlook the needs directly in front of me. When a million is simply a statistic, one child has the potential to reveal to you the tragedy that exists globally. When so many are waiting for a home in your county, there is a need for local families to step up. Do you want to change the world? The opportunity is right there in your grasp. Neither you or I can change the world alone, but we can together . . . one child at a time.
5. The Legacy of the Church Is So Compelling
Church history is filled with faithful individuals who cared for orphans. In Rome, where abortion and infanticide were common practices, orphan care and adoption actually became distinctives of the early church. When unwanted children were left out in the streets to die—a common and socially acceptable practice called exposure—Christians stood up against this unjust and immoral act and defended the sacred life of children. They sacrificed of their time and resources to provide a home for discarded children. This ultimately led to the end of exposure which became illegal in 374. Further, many heroes from the Reformation such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and George Whitefield were committed to caring for the fatherless, some even establishing orphanages. When I read about the life of faithful men and women, such as George Müller and Amy Carmichael, their examples of dedication and sacrifice compel me to act and carry on their legacy. When I see any family caring for a child who is not theirs, I see beauty breaking into a broken world.
6. The Label “Pro-life” Is So Unsatisfying
One of the critiques of the pro-life movement is that we seem to care only about unborn lives. Once a child is born, some claim, the “pro-lifers” disappear. Although this is a sweeping generalization and based on a belief in “big government,” there is some helpful criticism here. Many of us are advocates for life behind the ease and comfort of our computer screen, but not actually involved in the hard work of caring for real people. There is a potential for hypocrisy here. Unless our convictions transfer to conduct, they are completely worthless. Far be it from any of us to live like the hypocrites condemned by Jesus who were religious in public but not in the privacy of their homes (Matt 6:5). Fostering is a tangible way to live out what I believe. Rather than being a rogue, deafening cymbal drawing attention to my “radical” beliefs, I prefer that my words be on beat with the ordinary activity of my life.
7. The Presence of Children Is So Enjoyable
The reason that the abandonment of children exists—both before and after birth—is because parents view their children as an inconvenience. This same attitude was prevalent in Roman culture and even picked up by Jesus’ disciples. Counterintuitive to this attitude, Jesus welcomed the children with joy to come to him. He blessed them and prayed for them. Scripture teaches that children are to be valued as one’s inheritance and wealth and that a house filled with them is replete with happiness (Ps 127:3-5). Our materialistic culture views children as a costly expense rather than a valuable asset to invest in. Unfortunately, many Christians, like Jesus’ disciples, have unwittingly deemed children an inconvenience by seeking to have as few as possible. I often hear from individuals who desire to foster, but their spouse is not interested. Of course parenting is not always easy, but the sheer joy of children in the home completely overwhelms the difficulty. People say my daughter is so blessed to have us, but we are so incredibly blessed to have her in our home. She fills our home with an indescribable joy. We should be willingly sacrificing our time, space, resources, comfort, ease, leisure and pleasure to have more blessed “inconveniences” in our homes because, unlike those things, children are of inestimable value. I want to have a reputation like Jesus—someone who enjoys children and can say, “Let them come to me.”
8. The Gospel Opportunities Are So Infinite
Naturally, fostering brings extra people and attention into your life. People notice when you have a lot of kids or when a few of them do not look like the rest of your family. A handful of people now become a regular part of your life—the biological parents and extended family, the Department of Child Services, a county social worker, possibly a social worker from a foster family agency, attorneys, judges, and of course, the children. Instead of shying away from all this, I see it as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others—a platform for the Gospel. When people ask about my children or what motivates my family to be involved, I get to share with them about the image of God and why I value life. I get to share with them about how God cares for the fatherless. I get to share about how God has saved me from my suffering and has adopted me as his own child. I get to share about others in my church whose stories of fostering and adoption compelled me to follow in their footsteps. And most importantly, I get to share with the children in my home about Jesus. Their time in my home, however long, is a special grace, for it may be the only time in their whole lives they hear about Jesus’ love for them.
If any of the above reasons resonate with your heart and soul, I would encourage you to pray about and consider serving God, vulnerable children, and your community by becoming a foster parent.