so, i know it’s easter, and that’s a wonderful wonderful thing, but i don’t want to blog about that today. i mean, really, my whole life is affected by the reality of what happened on easter, and so i guess this blog is related indirectly if you want to think about it like that.
anyway. last night i was at a wonderful benefit (this post is also not about that, sorry friends) and the man who was speaking said one thing sort of in passing asking if anyone had ever been so passionate about something that you talk about it so much you annoy your friends.
i am actually self-conscious about how much i talk about foster children. i know i annoy some people. conversation topics typically shift away from it… mostly because i think most people don’t have a whole lot of understanding or experience with foster care, and i think it’s sort of an uncomfortable topic. it may also have something to do with the fact that i talk about them all day every day.
and i haven’t really blogged about them yet. how unfair and disproportionate!
there are currently approximately 500,000 children in state custody in the united states. that is 30-40% more children than there are homes for. that translates to about 150,000 children for whom there is nowhere to go- right in your backyard. most of these children end up in group homes, institutions, or overcrowded foster family homes. group homes are state run institution like homes for foster children, usually of the same gender and approximate age range. these homes are not an appropriate or healthy situation for children to grow up in.
most foster children are in care for almost 5 years. in that time, most of those children will change homes several times. in one study i read, in an 18 month period, one little boy changed homes 15 times. a little 11 year old boy.
most foster children end up in foster care because of abuse, neglect, drug abuse by the parent, family homelessness, or death of the parent. abused children have a 3 times greater chance of dying than children from healthy family situations.
studies show that foster children consistently have mental health issues and identity development issues. they show that foster children have low educational achievement and few plans for their futures. they have lower incomes, and 25% of the homeless population was at one time in foster care. 20% of the prison population was in foster care at sometime.
but studies also show that the one commonality among ‘successful’ foster children is having one stable relationship with an adult. this is usually either a biological parent, a mentor in the church, or a foster parent who sticks it out with them. studies also show that foster children who get adopted or who end up in stable foster situations have dramatic improvements in school performance. many of these ‘successful’ foster children name specific foster parents as the reason for their success.
yes, the system for taking care of maltreated children in this country needs to change. but while that battle is being fought, there are children suffering stuck in the system. while this country needs a new foster care system, while we have the one we have, this country needs good foster parents.
you can be a foster parent. in most states, you need to be 21, have an extra bedroom, go through about 30 hours of training, and have enough income to support yourself. you can be married or single, gay or straight, renting an apartment or owning your own home. you can still go on vacations, have pets, and work a full-time job. most importantly, you need to have love and patience. abuse in foster homes is a very real thing, and some people are not called to be foster parents. if that’s you (and you don’t have to be abusive to not be called to be a foster parent), then you can work to fight the battle in congress to get these kids the care they deserve.
as christians, we have a responsibility to look after orphans. that doesn’t just mean aids orphans in africa- though those children are every bit as precious to Jesus as american foster children are. foster children as a whole, however, are largely overlooked by the american church, and it is something that needs to change.
if you want to hear me talk about this for hours, ask me about it. if you want to hear someone else who loves foster children talk about it, especially with the idea of what christians are called to do in response to this challenge, listen to this podcast. if i’m already annoying you, i’m sorry.
Jesus’ heart is breaking for these children, and he’s given me the amazing opportunity to be a part of their stories. i hope you can discover what he’s given you to be passionate about as well.