"God strategically and intentionally puts us in positions that we cannot handle without Him. That’s mercy. It constantly reminds us of our need for Him."
Jason Johnson shares highlights from his new book, Reframing Foster Care: Filtering Your Foster Parenting Journey Through the Lens of the Gospel, to encourage us, whether we are in the trenches of foster parenting, considering becoming foster parents or trying to better support foster families. This is an episode full of hope and will remind you that you are not alone!
Reframing Foster Care: Filtering Your Foster Parenting Journey Through the Lens of the Gospel is a collection of reflections on Jason and his family’s personal foster care journey and is designed to help foster parents and those considering becoming foster parents find hope. Based on his blogs and reflections on his own family’s experience in foster care, the book speaks to the universal experiences that foster families can relate to, with the goal of reminding them that they are not alone in their journey, sharing truths that all foster parents need to be aware of and processing it all through the lens of the gospel.
Constantly inspired by others’ journeys as he travels around the country, Jason finds himself in awe of and encouraged by the stories other foster parents share. “It helps to interact with people who are walking that path,” he says, and sharing truths that are relatable to everyone, no matter where they are in the process reminds him of God’s faithfulness, and even of those fears that are common but often never come to pass.
The truth is foster care is hard and messy—it takes you out of your comfort zone. Many people question, why do foster care if it is so hard? That question is one that foster parents and potential foster parents continually ask themselves. Jason shares that, at this point in his family’s journey, it feels less like they’ve chosen foster care and more like foster care has chosen them. “We now feel compelled to do it. Once you’ve seen behind the curtain, you can’t unsee or unknow what you’ve seen and now know.”
Ultimately it comes down to whether a child experiences love and the knowledge that someone cares about them—even if it is for a short time. To provide that love and care for a child is reason enough to get involved.
Highlights of the Foster Care Journey
Although there is a lot of chaos and uncertainty in foster care, there are moments of clarity and calm. One of those moments occurred recently for Jason. His family is learning to live life with an 18-year-old girl and her son, and the girl, who has been in foster care since she was six years old, mentioned that she wants to go to college and become a social worker. She said she’s grown up with a lot of bad ones and knows that kids in the system need good ones. “It was so encouraging to hear her speak of taking the experiences of her past and making something good out of them. That’s redemption,” says Jason. “We told her that it would be a powerful thing for her to be able to be a caseworker and be able to say to a child, ‘I understand.’”
Invitation into a New Story
Foster care is as much pulling a child out of a broken story as it is being pulled into their story. Their normal has been exchanged for ours and vice versa. Working together, creating a new normal. The thing is, once you’ve seen their world, it changes your world—you can’t unsee what you’ve seen. Often times, foster parents realize that their “normal” is a mirage—when their normal confronts yours, your perception of the world and your community changes and you’re compelled to do something.
Along with changing our perception, the reality of their world and situation, and the realization that this is “normal” for thousands of kids, breaks down the dividing walls and barriers between us. The most compelling truth about this exchange of their hard for our comfortable is its similarity to the gospel. The truth that Jesus came into our space in the flesh, into our story and for our good, is the most compelling reason to get involved in foster care.
How Will Foster Care Affect My Kids?
Whether you’re in the trenches of foster care and are a seasoned veteran or are just considering stepping out in faith to become a foster parent, the very relevant question of “how will foster care affect my biological kids (or the kids already in my home as permanent members of my family)” is a valid and legitimate question. We generally think of the potential negative effects, but Jason encourages us to reframe that thinking and consider, instead, the beautiful opportunities that foster care affords the children already in your home.
At this point, with his own children, he’s more concerned about the effects of not doing foster care. “Foster care has given our daughters a gift…one we, as parents, would have never been able to give them.” He points out that it has opened their eyes to a different world view and allowed them to see hard things. It hasn’t been easy, but the experiences have made them better.
“We want our kids to feel the weight of this [foster care], but we don’t want them to resent it. It’s a very fine line,” Jason says. But they are also cognizant of the times that their family needs to take a break, to say no to a placement. He shares the story of when one of his daughters began feeling cramped and overwhelmed with the situation their family was in, and after that had changed, they, as a family, decided it was time to take a break. “It was important for her to know that even if she were the only one who needed it, we would still take a break.”
You Don’t Have to Be the Hero
Most foster parents struggle at one time or another with the thought of “it’s not enough—I’m not doing/being enough to make a difference.” Everyone who gets involved in foster care wants to make a difference. In fact, Jason says, “I have yet to meet people in foster care who aren’t passionate and a little bit crazy.”
The problem is that the Enemy wants us to believe that we have to fix everything. “The Enemy wants you to believe that if you’re not doing everything for this kid or family, then you’re doing nothing. That’s a lie,” Jason says. The Enemy shifts our gaze to the wrong target, especially when we feel that we have to be the “hero.” The point is, we really can’t be the hero—we can simply be faithful to what God has called us to do and in all of it, the good and bad, we can point to Jesus.
“His sovereignty is our sanity and our faithfulness is enough” is a statement in Jason’s book that was actually based on a very personal experience. Jason had to come to the place where he trusted that truth. “I originally wrote that as ‘His sovereignty is my sanity’ because I have to believe God is in control of this or I will literally lose my mind.”
Even times when foster parents struggle should not be felt as weakness or failure. Jesus’ suffering and death seemed like failure, but it was part of a bigger story. His sole objective was to go to the cross on our behalf—it was his faithfulness that led him to the garden where he sweat blood and to the cross.
Reframing times of anxiety or struggle through the lens of the gospel shows us that these times are not signs of weakness or failure, but of faithfulness. “Jesus says ‘I want you to follow me and trust me with the outcome.’ So the ultimate success in the kingdom of God is faithfulness. This shift of perspective allows foster parents to be free from the burden to be something for these kids that only Jesus intended himself to be.”
Dealing with Guilt
Another issue people face is the guilt—either of not doing “enough” or not being able to do what others do. Jason is quick to point out that everyone has the unique capacity to make a difference in their own way. We can all do something; we don’t have to do the same thing. There’s no “just” or “only”—everyone can do something that makes a difference. “God strategically and intentionally puts us in positions that we cannot handle without Him. That’s mercy. It constantly reminds us of our need for Him. We are all uniquely capable to do something. The challenge is to find your something,” he says.
Again, reframing can take place: reframe the guilt into gratefulness. Feel grateful for what you can do instead of guilty for what we can’t or don’t do. “There’s no role that’s less important,” Jason explains. “Stop feeling guilty for what you can’t do and feel grateful for what you can do. Just do your something.”
RESOURCES FROM TODAY’S SHOW
Hopefully, this episode has helped you right where you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal. If you enjoyed it, will you tell others?
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Meet Our Guest
Jason is the Director of Church Ministry Initiatives with Christian Alliance for Orphans. He speaks and teaches at churches, conferences, forums and workshops on church-based ministry strategies and best practices as well as encouraging families that are in the trenches and those that are considering getting involved in orphan and foster care. He and his wife Emily have four beautiful daughters. The Johnsons are currently a licensed foster family in the state of Texas.
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