USA (MNN) — May is National Foster Care Month.
Being a foster parent is a special calling. It’s a job that often requires the strength of Hercules, the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job, and a heaping dose of a “good sense of humor.”
Andrea Harrison is the foster care program director for Buckner Children and Family Services in Dallas, Texas. “We really try to work with our families on different techniques that they can use, different ways they can really talk to our kids about the love of the Father, because when they think of that, they’re thinking about their own biological father [and] that they came from an abusive background.”
For Harrison, the message of foster care is sharing the wealth of love. Real love goes beyond good feelings. It’s a commitment enveloped in sacrifice, forgiveness, and understanding. First, she describes the kids they help. “We serve the children that are going into foster care through Child Protective Services, so the children we serve are abused and neglected.” Those issues bring their own challenges, but there’s already something in place to answer them. “We believe that, as a Church, we should be able to step up and be able to help and be able to care for those kids.”
Harrison clarifies: followers of Christ are already commanded to care for widows and orphans. The vocabulary may have changed over the years, but not the mandate itself. “When we think the old terms, we think of orphans as children that have no moms and no dads. But the current terminology for orphans is any kid that’s in foster care.”
What is fostering? It’s a familial response to support other families that are struggling, to protect children from further harm. “When they’re in a family, you’re really able to work with their self-esteem, their confidence, understanding forgiveness, understanding being able to move past some of the abuse that they’ve had and to really process the abuse that they’ve had.”
The difference between living in a foster care home and an institution is vast. Start with the impersonal level of care. “All the kids are in different rooms; you have houseparents that are coming in and just doing shift work. When you think of that, it’s not really a family-like setting,” says Harrison. In spite of the State’s best efforts to build a child protection system, “It’s not something where the children feel connected and loved and part of a family to be able to process the feelings of hurt and rejection that they’ve had from being abused.”
Because Buckner Children and Family Services wholeheartedly believe this to be true, they’ve expanded from their focus from one to nine locations. In Texas alone in 2014, Buckner’s team served over 800 children in the foster care system. However, the surge in care for children largely is due to an increase in the number of families who volunteered to serve as foster or adoptive parents.
What changes in a Buckner family? The worldview orientation: the overwhelming majority of Buckner foster and adoptive parents come from churches. Love is their baseline. Harrison explains, “The first step in being able to share the Gospel is the fact that you’ve taken that step forward to become a foster or adoptive parent. You’re showing commitment; you’re showing love for the least of these.”
Harrison shares another advantage of fostering in a home setting. “You get to pray with your kids, you get to talk to them about Christ, you get to take them to church. You get to expose them just like you would you biological child. Buckner tries to stand there with you and help you process those things.”
In essence, foster parents are change agents. They’re families responding to a call to make a positive difference in a child’s life. Are you hearing that call? Click here to explore more.
Maybe fostering isn’t for you, but you can pray for the families. Click here for details.