Guest Column

A challenge for the pro-life movement: Make room for foster care

adopt foster

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

It’s not clear exactly when my husband and I felt the call to become foster parents. We had been looking into adoption after my first couple of pregnancies left me with long-term health consequences, but never did we think our journey would lead us to foster care. It wasn’t until we realized private adoption could be more expensive than a down payment on a house, and then found out that such an extreme need existed in our community for foster parents, that we decided to take the plunge.

Our story

In Arizona, which we call home, there are currently 14,000 children in foster care, but only about 4,500 licensed foster homes. Similar gaps exist nationwide. Perhaps more disturbing is the number of children who disappear from foster care each day (55), with no one to notice that they’re missing. Alongside that number is the growing number of children being trafficked straight out of the foster care system (up to 60% of underage victims). It’s an ongoing tragedy.

Desiring to open our hearts to more children, and seeing this enormous need existing, my husband and I decided to pursue licensure. After a year spent in training and preparing our home, our license was approved just before last Christmas. A few weeks later, a baby boy, born at 33 weeks, was placed with us. But nothing could have prepared us for what came next.

We were surrounded by more love and support than I could have imagined from our community. We’ve received bundles of preemie clothes from complete strangers who saw we had a foster child and wanted to help. We were gifted a complete nursery makeover from an incredible nonprofit. A local photographer gave us a newborn session so we can document for this baby’s parents the early weeks that they are missing. Our daughter’s school sent her home with soup for us the day they found out we have a foster baby. Friends and family brought us food for weeks. I could go on and on.

That level of support made me think. If others were supported like we have been, how many more would feel that they could be foster parents, too?

So many people think foster care is only for the bravest and the most sacrificial among us. A lot of people have told us we’re crazy for doing this.

As a culture, we think that everything must be set up perfectly before we welcome children into our lives. This applies to biological children but even more so to those considering foster care. 

An everyday act of mercy

There’s a lot of room in the pro-life movement for more focus on the need for good foster parents. If we truly believe every life is precious, then we need to step up and not just support the pregnant women in crisis (although this is a crucial aspect of the pro-life movement). We need to be witnesses to and affirm the dignity of each child, regardless of their background. 

What if we saw taking in a child with no family as an everyday act of mercy, rather than an extraordinary event set apart for only a few? How would that change things for the forgotten children among us who are hidden in plain sight?

Scripture is full of admonitions to protect the fatherless. We are commanded to “[d]efend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.” (Psalm 82:3) James 1:7 says that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress […]”

READ: Love Them Both: 7 ways to support families investigating the adoption or foster care process

In the modern world, the words orphanages and orphans have been replaced with foster care and the foster children trapped inside it. Most of us hide these orphans away and pretend they don’t exist, if we even know about them at all. But they do exist. They’re in our neighborhoods, our churches, our children’s schools. 

As a mother of young children, I can’t be doing the more visible pro-life work like praying outside of abortion clinics, sidewalk counseling, or volunteering at pregnancy centers. But I know this is an area where I can make a difference. And I know I’m not alone in my ability to help this way.

If you are feeling a tug at your heart to do more, to help the vulnerable among us, to be a haven to children in need, I encourage you to pay attention to that. 

If you feel like becoming a foster parent is too much, consider the myriad of ways you can help children in the system, or other foster families in the trenches. You can help foster children directly by becoming licensed as a respite care provider, donating resources or time to organizations that support foster children and families, or by volunteering as a CASA (court-appointed special advocates). You can help foster families in your community by organizing a meal train, running errands, sending a cleaning service or offering to help with household chores, or offering to babysit.

Regardless of what you yourself can do, I want to challenge all members of the pro-life movement to normalize foster care. Turn upside down the idea that taking in someone’s child is crazy and inconvenient. Raise awareness of what it takes to become licensed foster parents. Talk to your pastor or local elected representative about hosting foster care informational sessions. Educate yourself about the needs of your neighborhood and spread the word.

It will take an entire community of people to make the concept of an unwanted child unthinkable. Let’s continue to move toward that goal by opening our homes to the orphans among us.

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