Wednesday, April 9, 2014

fostering hope

I recently heard some CRAZY statistics regarding foster care numbers in our area, so of course I'm about to try and blow your mind.

If you're like me, you probably assume that bigger cities have the biggest problems when it comes to child neglect and abuse, and by sheer number you might be right. However, per capita, Greene County's numbers exceed those of several other counties in Missouri, including those encompassing St. Louis and Kansas City.

Here are the most current numbers (from December 2013) related to Greene County, according to the program director at the Missouri Baptist Children's Home:

Child abuse/neglect reports: 311 (that's 10 per day in Greene County alone)
Children entering foster care: 12
Children entering other placement types (adoptive homes, relative homes and group homes): 20
Children in foster care: 331
Total children in care (foster care and other placements): 518
Number of licensed foster care homes: 112
Number of foster homes in use: 86

Furthermore, these numbers reach into the THOUSANDS in our extended area, leaving hundreds of children out of foster homes because there are not enough homes available. Instead, children are placed in group homes where--as you can imagine--it's much more difficult for them to feel secure, special, and loved (try as the directors might).

This is more than a shame; it's a tragedy. We need more people willing to put a child's heart before their own hearts.

Some people say they just can't do foster care; it's just too hard. Their excuse usually sounds something like this (and I may have been guilty of using it at one point in my life): "I will love those kids too much and then have my heart broken when they leave."

I would imagine that when a person who IS a foster parent hears this, they think: "You don't think WE love those kids? You don't think WE have had our hearts broken for them over and over again? You don't think WE care for the kids by waking up in the middle of the night to receive them into our home and then taking them to visit their birth families, only to see them go back to heartbreaking situations? You don't think we cry when we think about losing them or about their uncertain futures?"

Foster parents do all of that, and they do it while knowing their hearts might get shattered at any point along the way.

Foster love is deep love. It loves kids it doesn't even know, and it loves them so fiercely that it just wants what is best for them. It loves children out of hard spots. Sometimes it just loves children through hard spots, only to have to send them back into the hard spots. Foster love is messy. Foster love accepts children as family while recognizing that forever might not ever happen. Foster love might hope to be forever-family love, or it might be a brief blessing during a time of family crisis. Foster love gets its heart broken over and over again. And, even then, it usually goes back for more.

Because foster love wants to help children so badly that it puts its own agenda aside and hopes to mend little broken hearts that don't understand what's going on. (Or, even worse, those broken hearts do understand what's going on.)

Foster love recognizes the many risks involved, but it thinks little hearts are more important than potentially huge heartbreak.

I recently met a woman who had hosted over 120 children in her home through foster care. If you don't think her heart was broken at least that many times, you are probably somewhat delusional. However, her persistence and passion for the mission of foster care leads me to the conclusion that foster love will tell you it's worth it.

Today, please pray for the foster families you know and the children they are loving, far and wide. Please ask God to hold them and bring them peace, and ask him how you may help.

And be ready if he tells you to risk the heartbreak of it all to be a loving family to a child who needs one.