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The Church’s support might just keep a family from foster care


Nearly 400,000 children live in US foster care. That’s 400,000 vulnerable children whose lives have been turned upside down by circumstances entirely out of their control. These 400,000 image-bearers of Christ deserve the Church’s best effort and support. 

The Church needs to celebrate recent victories for vulnerable children. Roe’s been overturned, and states continue to enact new life-saving abortion restrictions allowing more children to be born, and not snuffed out by abortion. This is beautiful, but even as we celebrate, the pro-life community must acknowledge that more children are likely to enter the foster care system because they are born into impoverished situations with parents who are ill-equipped to parent. 

The underlying reasons children find themselves in foster care are complex. Yet, the encouraging news is that Christians all around the U.S. can help provide safe and loving homes for these children. While foster care and adoption are vital solutions, we also must help prevent children from entering the system in the first place. This National Foster Care Month, our country’s at-risk children need believers to prioritize the type of support that keeps families together from the start. 

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Children are placed into foster care mostly due to some form of serious neglect. While it’s unfortunately true that some biological moms and dads won’t ever be in a position to parent, much more commonly, they simply don’t know how to parent well. Poverty in its various forms — financial, relational, and spiritual — can leave loving parents unprepared, and you may be surprised about who they are. She might be a single mom trying to make ends meet who leaves her child at home alone while she is at work out of desperation. He might be a new dad struggling with substance abuse who wants to break the cycle of addiction, but the only friends he has are an influence to continued poor behavior, as opposed to a bridge to healing.

In these instances, the simple presence of a church community can make all the difference. Vulnerable families, who need help with childcare, benefit greatly from a few new friends in the church who are living godly lives, or a mentor who can pass along parenting wisdom. And when the need is bigger, church members with more capacity have an opportunity to step in and help preserve a family all for the glory of God.  It has happened time and time again. 

Several months ago, an expecting mother named Mona reached out to our organization, Lifeline Children’s Services, for pregnancy counseling. Alone and with no support, Mona faced incarceration for multiple traffic violations. She wanted to provide for her unborn child while she served her prison sentence, but also knew the reality that her family was unable to care for him. Mona was crippled with the fear of permanently losing her new son to foster care.

Through Lifeline’s Harbor Families ministry, Mona linked arms with a host family from a partnering church who cared for her son for 10 weeks while she served her prison sentence. During her incarceration, the host family created a scrapbook of her son’s early days and arranged video calls so she could see him. Mona joined a Bible study in prison, giving her heart to Jesus as a result. Later, Mona and her son, who were reunited, moved into transitional housing where she received community support, as well as continued mentoring from our organization and her son’s host family.

A few months of support changed the trajectory of Mona’s life and her son’s future. One family was able to avoid permanent separation. This is how the Church puts the Gospel on display.  This is the “whole-life,” pro-life approach that our nation so desperately needs to embrace. 

Serving as a foster parent is not the only meaningful way the Church can serve America’s foster youth. There are countless ways we can all make a positive difference in a vulnerable child’s life, and no matter our capacity, we should all find a way. This work is messy, but God calls us to the broken places in the world to shine His light. 

Seek opportunities to support vulnerable families. This could look like volunteering at your local crisis pregnancy center, having coffee with the single mom who recently started going to your church or offering to babysit for the struggling dad you know who just had to pick up another job. 

The Bible clearly states that Jesus loves children. How will vulnerable children know the love of God if we don’t tell them and if we don’t show them? May we start in our own homes by throwing open our doors, clearing a space at our tables, and inviting some of the most vulnerable in.

Herbie Newell is the President of Lifeline Children’s Services, the largest Evangelical Christian adoption agency in the United States. The organization serves vulnerable children and families through private domestic and international adoption, family restoration, and pregnancy counseling. Herbie is also the author of Image Bearers: Shifting from Pro-Birth to Pro-Life.

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