Ever since we started foster care, we have consistently heard the phrase, “You just need to do what’s best for your family.”
This often comes both from current foster parents and non-foster families when they speak to someone considering saying “no” to taking in a child with challenging behaviors or putting in their 30-days’ notice on a current placement.
It’s meant as an encouragement to avoid large risks to your family, but its context, I think, is often short-sighted.
Foster Care Is Inherently Risky
When we began fostering, we were naïve in many ways, but one thing we understood was that bringing a traumatized child into our house invites with it certain risks.
For example, it is estimated that roughly 70% of children in foster care have been sexually abused. With few exceptions, they have been physically and emotionally abused or neglected, and in nearly every case, an adult has failed the child.
This history is part of their story, and they bring it into our home. That’s terrifying.
We have experienced kids raging for hours at a time, kids who have acted out sexually, and an infant that screamed bloody murder at any male who tried to hold them, likely because some male before us had violated them in some manner.
We’ve dealt with kids who cannot dare trust us fully after years because their natural instinct is to distrust those in authority. My biological daughters are in the midst of all this, and it’s risky.
God Took A Risk
In a more profound way, God hazarded the same type of danger. God sent His Son to die for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).
We posed a threat, yet He beckoned us to Himself anyway, even in spite of the enormous cost. All so that He could adopt us and call us His own.
We are called to the same sacrificial love.
Throughout both the Old and New Testaments, we are commanded to love the widow and the orphan. We are told that when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, and care for the sick, that we have done this for Christ Himself (Matt. 25:31-46).
Children in foster care are all of these things.
Reframing The Phrase With Eternity In Mind
Given this information, I think it’s appropriate to take a different angle on the saying. Instead of focusing on the short-term risks of foster care, we should look at it with eternity in mind.
By fostering, we have an opportunity to witness to children who might otherwise be strangers. Additionally, we are often asked why we began foster care, and this almost always leads to an easy segue into the Gospel.
Surprisingly, we have found that foster care has actually been one of the most beneficial things our family has ever undertaken.
For example, if we listened every time we were told to just do what’s best for our family, we would have four less children. It has taught our kids, in a tangible way, that people are important and worth fighting for.
They now have a heart for the hurting. Some of them want to foster when they grow up and all of them constantly beg us to take in more children. In fact, the last time we asked them if they were willing to take in another child, they all cheered as though we just announced a trip to Disney World.
The truth is, they put us to shame in how deeply they care for the marginalized.
I say all of this fully recognizing that, sometimes, it really is appropriate to move a child out of a home. Sometimes a child poses a risk that simply cannot be properly mitigated by the foster parents, and in those cases, parents should not forsake the children already in the home (foster, adopted, or biological) for another child’s sake.
Our personal rule-of-thumb is that, if we wouldn’t move our biological child out for X behavior, then we won’t move any child out for it.
To Be Like Christ, We Must Also Take Risks
So I think it’s clear, if “doing what’s best” means not taking big risks, then no one would continue fostering. Instead, we must begin to think of “doing what’s best” with an eternal mindset.
God took the ultimate risk on us and His Son voluntarily died so we might be called sons and daughters. If we are to emulate Christ, we must be willing to take risks as well.
And like us, it might surprise you that consistently accepting strangers into your home, or sticking with that difficult child, will turn out to be one of the greatest endeavors your family will ever experience.
If you enjoyed this blog, be sure to check out Adopting A Family: Loving the Biological Parents