March 15, 2021

LifeDate Spring 2021

by Pastor Michael Salemink

The United States observes May as National Foster Care Month. President Ronald Reagan first designated it so in 1988. It calls attention and appreciation to the blessings and necessities of children.

Foster families provide safe and caring temporary homes for children whose birth parents cannot currently care for them. Foster parents receive state certification before beginning their service and government funding to support the arrangement. Courts retain legal responsibility for the children and supervise their foster residency.

Foster care operates best as a short-term situation while pursuing permanent placement. It has as its objective the healthy reconciliation and safe return of children to their biological families of origin. When this cannot happen, extended family represents the preferred choice for adoption. Kinship care, where relatives foster the children, accounts for a substantial and increasing proportion of foster homes. About half of foster children reunite with their family of origin, and about a quarter get adopted.

Nearly 700,000 children receive foster care nationwide in any given year. About a 125,000 of these are awaiting adoption. And, of course, adoption must proceed cautiously in the interest of protecting the children. The median age of children receiving foster care is 7.7 years old. A quarter are two years old or under, and about a third are teenagers. The median duration of foster care is 13.3 months—a quarter only require less than six months, and only a further quarter require more than two years.

Studies show children benefit most from living with both married biological parents. Separation from this context causes significant trauma, in addition to the trauma that causes the separation itself. The majority of children beginning foster care have experienced neglect, and seventeen percent have suffered physical or sexual abuse. Naturally, research indicates that foster children have higher rates of behavioral disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADHD, homelessness, incarceration, and suicide.

A common claim maintains that the foster care “system” is “broken.” Abortion advocates especially lament how foster care failures result from “unwanted” children. Extreme examples of abuse occurring in foster homes or shuffling from one placement to another certainly ought to cause us concern and grief. However, these tragedies also take place in biological and adoptive families. Most homicides of young children are committed by family members through beatings or suffocation. Many, many little ones—and the vast majority of foster children—have stable homes and loving families because of foster parents’ sacrificial compassion. And the available anecdotes and testimonies of children whom foster care has rescued and raised into well-adjusted adults immensely outnumber reports to the contrary.

No child goes unwanted.

The Christian Church sees to that with the Gospel.

“But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God’” (Mark 10:14). “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37). Foster care actually indicates how our culture and government cherishes children. And foster care failures tell us more about the shortcomings of grown-ups than about the deficiencies of kids.

Of course, if even a single foster home fails one child, we must advocate and act for improvement. But killing the children will not solve the problems. In fact, reported cases of child abuse have increased—dramatically—in the years since Roe v Wade made abortion access mandatory. While this may result from greater accounting of child abuse, we definitely cannot conclude—as abortion supporters do—that making abortion more available reduces the incidence of child abuse, especially since the overall birthrate has declined across our country during the same time period. Actually, we ought to oppose abortion for the same reason we oppose child abuse: it inflicts violence upon the most vulnerable among us. Should we not expect that the same cultural attitudes that allow (and even applaud!) harm to children before birth might very well expose them to it after birth also?

Fostering and adopting undoubtedly deserves greater public funding. We can begin by asking the children and their parents what they need, instead of imposing what celebrities and activists want. Let’s also recruit, instruct, and support more couples and families toward opening their homes to serve children in need. Multitudes—majorities, even—of foster families and adoptive parents confess Christ and consider themselves for-life. More foster parents—not fewer children—seems the most praiseworthy solution to foster care failures. And those who can recognize those failures just may make the most excellent candidates for the vocation!