“So, tell me what you know about foster care.”
My mentor on the TFI staff asked me this question on the first day of my internship.
I have to admit, I didn’t have much to tell her, but since then, I’ve had my eyes opened to new truths surrounding this incredible community.
I’ve always been interested in adoption, and I’ve expressed interest in the foster care system. Last summer, I went to a youth conference put on by Christ In Youth, and one of the focuses of the week was on foster care. I was moved, and at the end of the week, I received a card that challenged me to serve in a foster care ministry at my church. It was the push I needed to start getting plugged into the foster care community!
I had vaguely heard of TFI. I knew that they partnered with my church, so I reached out to learn more and ended up pursuing an internship. It completely changed my view of foster care!
To be honest, I didn’t know how ignorant I was about foster care until I started. I didn’t realize how challenging the foster care system was or how beautifully it displayed redemption. It truly is one of the strongest communities I have ever encountered.
To those who don’t know much about the foster care community, I want to share four truths I have learned at TFI that combated my original thoughts about foster care.
Parents whose children cannot live with them are not “the bad guys.”
I learned that just because children are taken away from their parents doesn’t mean that the parents are bad people. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love their children, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t trying their best to clean up their lives so they can bring their kids back into their home.
We are so quick to judge the birth parents of kids that have to go into foster care, and label them as the “bad guys.” We have no right to judge because we are all messy humans ourselves, AND we don’t know the whole story. We must view these parents the way Jesus does: with love and grace. It’s important to keep in mind that the primary mission of foster care is to reunite parents and children so that they can be a happy family again!
People who work at foster care agencies are not “the bad guys” either.
Someone has to make the hard decision for a child’s safety, and agency workers help make that decision.
I learned just how hard the agency workers in my town work to help all the kiddos that desperately need it. Social workers in my community are working far more cases than they should have to, but they do work hard to help the families. It’s easy to overlook how stressful an agency worker’s job is and how great of a toll it can take on one person. They deserve respect for laying down their lives and their time to serve the vulnerable children in our communities.
In truth, the real “bad guy” in foster care is the brokenness in this world. Thankfully, we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, that redeemed all of the brokenness in our world. The foster care system exists because of broken situations and broken people. But, the foster care system also gives meaning to redemption. Countless stories have been told of children that have risen out of their circumstances or of parents that have been reunited with their kids. It’s important to remember that no person is the “bad guy” and that we look upon everyone in the foster care system with grace, love, and respect.
Fostering a child is not picture-perfect, even though it can seem that way.
(Foster parents, I know you’re probably laughing at that statement 😂)
It’s quite the opposite of picture-perfect. I didn’t realize to what extent foster care stretched people until I was surrounded by stories of people who had been through it.
I have been around foster families before, and it’s so easy for us to think that the family has it all together and that things are going peachy. What we don’t realize is that sometimes foster placements in homes fail. Sometimes, the child displays behaviors that are really challenging. Sometimes, families have to say goodbye to a foster child they loved, and they experience grief. Sometimes, children who experience trauma struggle to know how to cope with its devastating effects.
In reality, it’s hard to be a foster parent, and being in foster care is not a situation any child should ever have to experience. Despite the hardships, foster families keep offering their homes, their love, and themselves to foster children out of love and compassion. Despite the hardships, foster children continue to rise from their past and strive for a good future.
I’ve heard testimonies from adults that grew up in foster care about how Jesus pursued them as hurting and broken individuals and redeemed their lives. It is truly inspiring. Every day, God promises to help His children. The Bible tells us in Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” He is faithful to this promise by strengthening these foster families and foster children that trust in Him, even though the road is hard.
There is brokenness and need in my community.
I never realized how great of a need there was in my community. You probably don’t see all of the brokenness either, and the extent would most likely surprise you! I didn’t know that there would be so many times when my area’s TFI Advocate would have to run a bed to a family so they could keep their child off the floor. I didn’t realize how many children in my area experienced abuse. I didn’t know how many children in my town had to transition into foster care. I didn’t even realize foster kids went to my school! It’s so easy to miss or turn a blind eye to this reality, but we can’t afford to do that. God desires for us to help those that are in need and to show His Love.
The Bible says that Jesus gives us a new commandment to love each other just as He has loved us (John 13:34). It’s not “someone else’s job.” It’s mine. It’s yours. Ask how you and others around you can bless a foster care ministry like TFI in your town. A great first step is to become aware of needs in your community and share those with others around you! I’m sure you would be surprised where that will take you.
My experience at TFI has opened my eyes to a great need in our world. I realized just how difficult it is to be involved with the foster care system, but also how crucial it is for many children’s well-being. Jesus has shown me how He has not forgotten all of these kids, families, and parents. He continues to strengthen foster families. He continues to rescue foster children and rewrite their stories into happy endings. He continues to put compassion in the hearts of people to reach out to those in the foster care community.
The powerful love and resilience and redemption that the foster community portrays has been truly inspiring to me. To the foster care community, I say this: Thank you for caring for the vulnerable, even though it is difficult. God has not forgotten you. He sees you and will take care of you.
We cannot turn a blind eye to the needs of this community. As I was challenged by a youth conference, so I challenge everyone who reads this: Go and ask how you can serve the foster care community wherever you are!
Regan is a graduated senior from Normal Community High School, and she got to intern at TFI National this year through the internship program at her school. She is passionate about caring for children, and plans to study children’s ministry at Moody Bible Institute where she will attend after high school.
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