Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

Kids in foster care are craving this 1 primary thing

Unsplash/Arleen wiese
Unsplash/Arleen wiese

In 1988, the U.S. government issued a proclamation in recognition of National Foster Care Month, to be held annually in May, to show appreciation and gratitude to foster parents across the country. On any given day, there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Children enter foster care for varying reasons. According to Buckner International, on average about 63% of kids in foster care are removed from their homes due to neglect and 34% are removed due to parental drug use.  

No matter the circumstances, these precious children have one thing in common — it's not their fault. They need a safe place to live while their birth families work toward stability, rehabilitation and reunification. Foster children didn't ask to be in a “system,” yet they find themselves there, feeling scared and alone. Their childhood so far has included an unfair amount of trauma and insecurity. They’re often guarded and conflicted emotionally. 

What these kids need most of all is to experience unconditional love. 

Get Our Latest News for FREE

Subscribe to get daily/weekly email with the top stories (plus special offers!) from The Christian Post. Be the first to know.

Occurring in the same month as National Foster Care Month is Mother's Day, which can be devastating for both a biological mom and her child who is in foster care. On a day when every mother should feel loved and cherished, she’s feeling failure and defeat.  

It’s a tremendous honor to serve as a foster mom to a child any day of the year, but this time of year, it’s not lost on me that there’s another mama out there who is hurting because she doesn’t have her children with her. Foster care is like being in a constant game of tug of war. It’s an immense honor to be a part of a hurting child’s life, to keep them safe and give them love, but all the while you’re keenly aware that it’s only because of sad circumstances, brokenness and hurt. 

The number one goal of foster care is always reunification. The process can be very difficult, because sometimes the child’s birth parents aren’t succeeding; maybe continuing a lifestyle that’s detrimental to the child. Kids often get stuck waiting in the middle. It doesn't matter what you or I think about the mom's addiction, dad’s abuse or whatever their situation is — when a child is removed from their home, it’s the worst day of their life. No matter how unhealthy their home life might be, this is their mom and dad. This is their home. 

Unconditional love is everything

My family has served as a foster home for many children over many years. We’re not special in any way. We’re a normal, imperfect family that has humbly accepted God’s calling to open our home and care for this often-overlooked population. Foster children don’t need perfect families — they just need a safe place to land at their lowest moments. 

The first foster child we welcomed into our home was 4 years old. We loved on her for a little more than 18 months before she was adopted by a family member. She came to us having experienced a lot of trauma and carried a lot of anger toward her birth mom.  

She was able to have regular supervised visits with her mom. It never failed that following those visits, her conflict of emotions would spill out as violent outbursts towards me. She would physically hit me or bite me, and then fall apart and say, “Mommy, I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you ...” For her, I was the mom figure who was there and would get the brunt of her resentment and anger.  

I had young teenage sons at the time who would say, “Mom, why do you put up with this? She doesn't need to still be here; she can’t keep hurting you.” But our home was the fifth place she had lived that year, and we were one of the only options left before she would be sent to a facility. It didn’t matter how many times she would act out, throw things and put holes in my wall. I knew God called us to foster care in part to teach our entire family more about His unconditional love.  

I told my sons, “This little girl needs to experience unconditional love. She thinks she can behave so badly and have so many fits that eventually somebody's going to say she can go back home to that unhealthy place. She has all these confused motives inside of her, and at just 4 years old, she can’t sort it all out. She's going to experience unconditional love in our home because we're not going to give up on her, just like Jesus just didn't give up on us.” 

God is good and today she’s a totally different child. I’m sure we didn’t do everything perfectly, but by the Lord’s grace, the unconditional love we were able to offer made a huge difference. Never underestimate the tangible difference of love and hugs and patience in the lives of these precious children of God who have been dealt a tough hand in this broken world. 

Foster care is not always pretty, but offering a safe home that offers unconditional love is one of the most powerful things you can do. One child’s situation is rarely like the child before them. You’re dealing with behaviors, tears and wounds, seen and unseen. But these kids need us to walk with them through the hard things.  

Foster care exists first and foremost to keep children as safe and loved as possible, but it’s also a vehicle for God to work in miraculous ways, to bring reconciliation and healing to these wonderful children He has entrusted to us. 

Sometimes the littlest things make the biggest difference

Often, these precious kids are removed from their home quickly and must leave most of their belongings behind. For this reason, philanthropic programs like Reclaimed for Good, for whom I serve as Director, work year-round to curate “Love Luggage,” repurposed suitcases full of essentials and fun items for foster children. Brightly painted with uplifting phrases, these bags replace the garage bags often used to transport belongings and serve to bring a smile to this child’s face on a really hard day. 

Last year, my family walked through a particularly tough weekend with a child who was leaving her home rather abruptly. It was heartbreaking and gut-wrenching, to say the least. She received a piece of Love Luggage, filled with essentials and special items that got us through the first couple of emotional days together. On such a tough day, to see her face light up as she sorted through the contents of the baggage is something I’ll never forget. 

Foster care is messy. It’s hard. It’s also one of my greatest honors in life. Many people are fearful of becoming foster parents because it would be too hard to say goodbye. They're right — it’s beyond hard to say goodbye, especially when you’re not certain the home they’re going to is a healthy environment.  

If you’re doing foster care “right,” you’re creating positive attachments and bonds with the children and yes, you’ll become an expert on loss. It will hurt your heart when you have to let go of their hand as they leave to settle into a home that’s not your own. That little one will forever be a part of your heart, and forever part of your family’s story. You’ll rest knowing that you made a difference in the life of that child and that’s what will get you through. You know you gave your very best to help them heal. 

When the best-case scenario happens and reunification with the birth family becomes a reality, many people worry that it would be too hard to say goodbye. The truth is, they were never ours to keep — but we were called to stand in the gap until these children could go back home. 

As National Foster Care Month continues, will you prayerfully consider whether God has called you to either serve as a foster parent or support organizations that are doing so? 

Jennifer Kritner is Vice President of Retail and Company Culture for Unclaimed Baggage, the nation’s only merchant of unclaimed and?lost airline baggage and its contents. Kritner is also responsible for leading the People and Culture departments and serves as the director of the retailer’s charitable foundation, Reclaimed for Good. She is passionate about the company’s purpose “to redeem the lost, unclaimed and rejected for the glory of God.” 

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Most Popular

More In Opinion