Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world–Jms. 1:27.
She came skipping down the driveway at 1:30 in the morning, her hair an oily mess from the coconut oil treatment she had received at the Department of Social Services. Her sister was sound asleep in the caseworker’s arms and refused to wake up to greet me.
“What’s your name?” She asked sweetly, running through the front door and past my husband as though she had lived here all her life.
“Katie, and welcome to our home.”
She immediately began to rummage through the toys in the living room, as excited as though she had just entered Disney World. She could barely contain her eagerness to touch and see everything our home had to offer her.
The caseworker had us sign the contract that said we agreed to take the girls and attached a sticky note with their names and birthdays on it–no other information. And then she was gone, and we were thrown into the unknown waters of foster parenting.
When you decide to foster, you are required to take so many hours of training every two years. But they can’t really train you for what happens when two little girls enter your home and disrupt the family harmony.
When our children had gone to bed on Saturday night, they were part of a family of five. When they woke up, they found two additional sisters. Two very needy, clingy, whiny, demanding sisters. What rules would they have to follow? How strict should we be, considering their circumstances? What should we expect from our own children?
Within five minutes of arriving in our home, the oldest child was already calling me, “Mama,” despite the fact that I was trying to get her to call me Katie or even Mama Katie. But my husband was non-existent for the first couple of days. They were afraid to refer to him at all for the first day. Then they started to refer to him as “him”–“Where is ‘Him’? When is ‘Him’ coming home from work?”
My husband sought to connect with the girls and decided to give me a break by pushing me out the door on Tuesday night to get together with a friend. But knowing that the girls hadn’t connected with him yet made me miserable to leave and caused me to have an anxiety attack. The pressure to take care of everyone was overwhelming, and the stories the girls shared with me were heartbreaking.
My oldest daughter struggled to make them happy, which sent her into her own bit of panic. Her people-pleasing mentality overtook her, and she was losing precious toys left and right in an effort to be the best “big sister.” Once I sat her down and told her she was allowed to say no, she seemed to be able to breathe a little bit better. But the adjustment was hard the first few days.
As we began to set boundaries and to get back into a normal routine, the girls seemed to begin to fit in our family a little bit better each day. They started understanding that they had to clean up after themselves when they played (although that is a continuous learning experience for all the kids!). They started to learn that they have to eat the food that is put in front of them, including the vegetables and fruit, or they will be sent to bed. They are learning boundaries. And they have started to realize that my husband is safe and have started calling him “Daddy,” despite our efforts to get them to call him “Jamie.”
Bedtime is the most difficult time of day. They miss their dad. They want to know when they can call him. They want to talk about their family. The tears start to flow. But each night, the tears are fewer, and the nightmares don’t come as often.
We have had them for one week, and they will not be in our care much longer because we are a temporary foster home. They are going to be placed this week, probably, in a long-term foster home. They will leave us. One little girl already worries about not seeing us anymore. The other one is too little but is extremely attached to us. Our hearts will break, and tears will be shed. But this is what God has called us to at this time. We can’t do long-term care at this point.
As we have taken in and learned to love two strangers in such a small amount of time, we are overwhelmed by what they have seen in their short, little lives. God is a novelty to them, and Jesus is a complete stranger. How do you share the Gospel with a five-year-old when she has no idea who this Jesus is? She doesn’t even believe that she’s a sinner. How do you tell her that she is in need of a Savior when she doesn’t think she’s a bad girl? In fact, she told me that she wanted me to be her savior! Yikes!
Sadly, their story is not all that uncommon in an area of the country where there is a church on every corner! We are willing to send missionaries to the farthest corners of the world, but we are missing the innocent ones who live down the street from us. We now have churches hosting Vacation Bible Schools for a fee, leaving out those children who can’t afford to pay to hear the Bible. We feed children during the school year with free breakfasts and lunches, but we send them home for the summer to fend for themselves. Is it any wonder that the summer months are filled with horrific stories of accidents that are happening to these children? Of parents who are so overwhelmed, they do the unthinkable?
We the Church have started slacking off. We don’t want to inconvenience our own children, so we ignore the ones who need our help. This week alone, we have received two more calls to take in four more children, and we had to say no. We are at the maximum limit we are allowed by law. I heard of one family who has had six out of eight foster children lodge complaints against them, yet they are still allowed to take in children because there are too many kids and not enough homes.
What needs to be done to get the Church to start paying attention again? What do we need to say for the orphans in China who are aging out of the system because no one will take in an older child or because financial costs are too much? Who will save the orphans in Africa? What will happen to the children of America? Who will answer the call?
We have been foster parents for one week. And we’re just respite and emergency care at that. It’s a tough world to enter into, and the emotional and psychological parts of it threaten to overwhelm me and knock me off my feet. We may not even be able to do this for very long. But we have to try. And despite the darkness that surrounds these children, they are quick to love, desperate for hugs and kisses, eager to touch and interact and be a part of our family. Each child just needs to be loved.
The people who foster long-term are the true heroes. They are the ones putting all of their faith in God and stepping out on faith to have their entire worlds turned upside down. They are the ones investing months and years into these children. But they are exhausted because they feel so alone. They are beaten down because no one wants to come alongside them and help them carry the burden. People who were once their friends and babysitters will no longer take their children for an evening. One foster mom I have come to know and love told me that her own parents said they would watch their biological grandchildren but refuse to help with any foster children. They think someone else should carry that burden. And the more foster families I get to know, the more I am hearing this same sentiment.
These children need you. They need a safe place to come home to at night. They need someone to kiss their boo-boos, praise their accomplishments, and, yes, make them eat broccoli. If you are a Christian and you are not participating in orphan care in someone way, then you need to spend some time with God and find out what God would have you to do. Even if you can’t take in children yourself, you can come alongside these families who are adopting or fostering and help to lighten the load. The friend I previously mentioned goes to a large church in town that has a large orphan ministry, yet she and her husband haven’t been able to get a sitter in 18 months, since they began fostering. It just doesn’t make sense to us, so that’s why we went through the training and home inspections. We want to be able to give them a break.
So what are you going to do? The time for action is now–before it’s too late for these children. There are over 130 million orphans in the world, and that includes over 500,000 children who are in foster care in the United States. Summer is here, and God is calling the Church to action.
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few–Matt. 9:37.