By Brittany Lind
Over two and a half years have passed since my husband and I received a phone call one chilly March morning informing us of a six pound baby boy that had been born. He was two and a half weeks old and ready to be discharged from the hospital. A home was needed for him to be placed in for a few days, possibly a few weeks, until more permanent arrangements could be made with family members. Little did we know, those weeks would turn to months, and the months would turn into years. His first steps we thought we would never witness, we were able to joyfully cheer on. We have been able to teach him his first words and how to count to ten. This little boy is clever, quick, and always planning his next endeavor. We couldn’t imagine our days without his toothy grin or his deep belly chuckles, and now we don’t have to.
In September, a two and a half year chapter in this little boy’s life will close, and a new one will begin. He will go from being one of the estimated 510,000 foster children in our country to being our son. My husband and I will have the privilege of swearing under oath before God, the family court judge, and our friends and family, to officially (and finally) make him a part of our family forever. We praise God for the hard-working social workers and the long hours they have put in to get us to this point. Though we appreciate them, we are grateful that this court date will mean no more monthly social worker visits, no more permission needed to travel out of state, no more name confusion at doctor appointments, and most importantly, no more fear of goodbye like we dreaded just over a year ago. Now, Lord willing, we will have the joy of kissing him as he starts his first day of school, heads off to college, gets married, and beyond. Such a gift we are being given.
The journey to get to this point has not been quick or easy. Over the course of the last three years, our hearts have broken over the things we have seen. We have anxiously awaited phone calls after court dates. We have nervously braced ourselves to say goodbye to our baby on numerous occasions. We have cried over news of birth parents dropping out of rehab. Most recently, in November, we wept as we watched our little guy’s birth parents kiss him goodbye (for now). I have said it before, foster care is a messy and complicated process, filled with messy and complicated emotions. The road is usually long and even treacherous at times for the hearts of all involved, but there is such need within the U.S. foster care system—and the Church has an open door to be involved.
America’s Orphans and the Church
Orphan and foster care in America actually began as a Christian effort. Caring for these orphans began in the U.S. in the early 1850’s when a minister by the name of Charles Loring Brace made efforts to help thousands of homeless children in New York City. He is known as the father of the foster care movement and went through great efforts to place children in Christian families. Today, by definition, foster children are those whose birth parents are unable to care for them at the present time and need someone to care for them for a week, a month, a year, or permanently. Some have been abused or neglected, but others have birth parents who simply need some time to get back on their feet. The goal in foster care initially is to reunify children with their birth parents or biological family members if possible. If in time it becomes clear that this will compromise the child’s safety or well being, the goal is changed to adoption. As Christians, we have a God who cares for the orphan and for those who cannot help themselves (Psalm 68:5; James 1:27). Foster children are such orphans. The church has an opportunity to continue the work of Charles Brace by opening our homes to the many children in need today.
I was recently informed by our social worker that in my home city, Louisville, KY, there are approximately 1,200 children in foster care but only 242 foster homes available at the time. It is important to note however, that “available” doesn’t necessarily mean “open” for children. Our home for example, is one of these 242 homes but not technically “open” due to our son’s pending adoption. So in reality the number of available homes for these 1,200 children is likely far less than 242. Furthermore, most of these homes prefer children under the age of three, making older children, especially teens, nearly impossible to place. Statewide, cafe.org estimates that there are 6,979 children in the Kentucky foster care system. They also cite that there are approximately 6,859 total churches in the state. Granted we don’t know the exact health of these churches, but in theory, if one family in each church were to take in one child, and a few took in two children, there would be no more foster children in the state. Obviously it is not this simple given the fact that many of these children are sibling groups that shouldn’t be separated if possible, but the numbers are still fascinating to consider. There really is something the Church can do to help.
Foster care doesn’t have to be “plan B”. My husband and I did not pursue foster care because of an inability to have biological children. We also didn’t do it because we are special or possess a unique ability to remain unattached from children that come into our home. Our plan from the beginning was to get “too attached” to our son whether he would stay in our home or not. The path of foster care is not safe for the heart but we embarked down this road, and hope to do it again, because there are children who need homes and because we have a Savior who has loved us like this. He willingly laid down his life in order to welcome us into his family forever and though we are imperfect in our love, this is what we want to aim to do for our children. Our road has involved many twists and turns, tears and sleepless nights, but we don’t regret for a moment our decision to venture down this path. As we celebrate our son’s upcoming adoption, our hope and prayer is that other Christian families would consider stepping out and venturing down this path with us. Most assuredly you will have many questions, fears, and hesitations, but God will go before you and meet you as he has for us.
In some of his final words to his disciples in John 14, Jesus assures them to not let their hearts be troubled because he will not leave them as orphans. He promised the Holy Spirit to come be their helper and also promised that he will return one day to bring them to himself. He explains that in his Father’s house there are many rooms, and that through his death he would open the doors for those who believe in him to live forever with him. As Christians we have been adopted and given an eternal home, made possible by the blood of Jesus. May we be implored therefore, to open our earthly homes for a week, a month, or all of our days on earth to the many children in need. As we do this, may we point them, their birth parents, and others to Jesus—the one who welcomes us into his home and family forever.
For more information about getting involved in foster care, go to your state’s website and search foster care or find an organization in your city that works with foster children. In Kentucky, you can go to adopt.ky.gov and find all the information you need to know about the process.
Brittany Lind (@brittanyklind) and her husband, Joel, live in Louisville, Kentucky. Brittany stays at home with their two children and enjoys working on the side and writing for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).
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