What To Do When You Feel Like You Can’t Do Anything
It’s Foster Care Awareness Month—four weeks that weigh heavy on my foster-mama heart. It’s a month in which we intentionally think about “backyard orphans,” the more than 400,000 kids in our neighborhoods who don’t know what a real family feels like.
My husband and I have been foster parents for a little over a year now, with a placement in our home for the past six months. We took on this role because we felt undeniably called to it—but so, so many have different callings. It’s hard to witness a month devoted to the orphan crisis and question what your place in it all could be, particularly if you don’t feel called to open your home to foster children, or if your current situation prevents you from logistically becoming a foster parent.
Before I jump into ways to get involved, I want to challenge those who read the words “foster care” and noticed a skip in their heartbeat. If you even have an inkling that maybe—just maybe—you should look into this whole foster-parenting thing, look into it. I promise you’ll be forever changed. And I also promise you that the Lord will sustain your every step.
I’ve been sharing all over my personal social media accounts about our experience in the foster care world, and I’m starting to realize that—though it may be helpful to other foster parents—it probably sounds a bit “wah-wah-wah” to those who aren’t in the thick of it. But guess what? James 1:27 says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” It’s not a suggestion. So jump in.
For the Artist
As we left church on Easter Sunday, my good friend Kaitlyn stopped our little hot mess of a family and asked if she could take a picture of us. She’s an amazing artist, and it’s her passion. But the fact that the three of us stood in a line, were able to wrangle our toddler, and sort of smiled for a picture, is such a gift to us. She used her art to bless our family.
If you’re a writer, write about the orphan crisis. If you’re a painter, provide a residential facility with beautiful art for their walls. If you’re a creative, volunteer to lead craft time at a daycare for low-income families. If you’re a musician, record some lullabies for kids struggling to sleep in new homes or teach music to older kids in foster care. Whatever your gift is, find a way to use it.
For the Defenders
The court system is an ugly place. It’s full of weird motives and confusing lingo and inescapable heartache. When lawyers step up to be the voice of vulnerable children, I see a sliver of hope in an otherwise scary place.
Guardian Ad Litems are attorneys appointed by judges to speak for the best interest of a child. They stand up in court and say, “He can’t speak, so I will.” Because of Guardian Ad Litems, foster children are heard.
For the Advocates
It doesn’t take a law degree to be an advocate in front of a judge. Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) do a similar job as Guardian Ad Litems, but they’re trained volunteers. For example, our CASA worker is a teacher. She leaves her full time job to visit us—she pushes our foster son on the swing set, engages him in conversations about school and home life, and she always asks us how we’re doing. As a foster parent, we so badly want to be advocates, but we legitimately have no say in foster care cases. So, when someone with power and authority genuinely cares about our opinions, we count them high in our book.
For the Counselors
A friend of mine who has been a foster mom a year or so longer than me has been such a rock in our journey. I go to her with the random questions, and she always has an answer. She told me once to seek out the friends with whom you feel comfortable unloading the downright ugly thoughts, but make certain those friends are ones who won’t say, “Are you sure you want to keep being a foster parent?”
There’s not much more a foster family could need than a listening ear. The state drops a child off on a foster family’s doorstep, tells the family the three to four known facts about the child, and leaves. And that leaves questions that need to be processed and pains that need to be articulated and fears and doubts and “did-we-make-the-wrong-decision” and “are-we-crazy.” Foster families need friends who are willing to simply listen and love and direct us to the One with the answers.
For the Doers
Oh you doers. We love you. My good friend (and co-assistant editor on this blog!) Taylor brought flowers and a Mother’s Day card to me yesterday. Four of our best friends have been fingerprinted and background-checked to provide respite care for us. My very best friend comes over after long days and plays with our foster son when all I need is another adult nearby. When our foster son was first placed in our home, we had meals, toys, clothes, and hugs at our front door at all hours.
There is so much to do that sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. And that holds a lot of people back from starting. So—even if you don’t know a foster family well, or you’re sure they’ve got enough clothes, or you don’t want to impose—do something. I will never forget the faces of those friends the first few days of our placement, nor will I forget or take for granted those who have walked alongside us every day since.
For the Prayers
Cover these children, these families, these biological parents, and these communities in prayer. Pray for reconciliation, safety, health, otherworldly joy, protection, and peace. Pray for judges and Guardian Ad Litems and CASA volunteers and social workers and all the other hands that touch these cases. Pray for justice.
Pray that the God of all peace will soon come to bind the brokenhearted and heal the hurting. That the name of Christ—the Savior of the world—would one day be on the lips of foster children who just need an ounce of hope.