He came to us neglected and abused. A skeletal survey revealed multiple fractured bones and brain bleeds. When he entered our home at 13 months old, this precious baby boy – who finally became our first son after living in our midst as our foster baby – was in dire need of a stable life. We loved him fiercely and advocating for his needs became our mission. That’s why my husband, Scott, and I were thrilled when the adoption went through, allowing us to be his forever family after 26 months of being his foster parents.
A decade later, Scott and I have added five more children to our fold through adoption via the foster care system.
Fostering children – and adopting those who need a family – has become our life’s calling. Sadly, only three percent of practicing Christians step up to foster a child in need of placement, according to Barna research. This number is staggeringly low when you consider that almost 400,000 children are currently embroiled in the foster care system nationwide.
This month we celebrate National Foster Care Month, and we must turn our attention to this plight, better serving and advocating for those living in this space. But our charge to advocate for this vulnerable population extends well beyond the month of May. As the Church, it is our duty to continually care for the orphans, to be the hands and feet of Jesus by helping to provide families to those without close family connections, as Psalm 68:6 promises God will do.
In California, where I live, I was shocked to learn that 80 percent of those currently incarcerated were at some point in the foster care system. Furthermore, almost 40 percent of people who are homeless in the United States are under the age of 18. Perhaps most surprising of all – the average foster youth lives in 13 homes before the age of 18.
These are unacceptable statistics. As followers of Jesus, we must do a better job of providing caring foster homes for kids and, ultimately, opening up our homes and hearts to these children through the beauty of adoption.
If just one family in every church in America opened their door to a foster child, we would solve the foster care system crisis in this country.
It’s doable. It’s attainable. And, it’s within our reach.
The redemptive story about our first son is that his biological mother has come to Christ and is now an integral part of our lives as a result of our family’s actions. The entire situation is proof that God can take the most volatile of circumstances and restore them – if we are listening to his calling in our lives and if we pay attention to the needs around us.
In addition to being a foster and adoptive mom, I also work with foster kids through my role as a staff associate at Young Life ONE, an organization that seeks to introduce teenagers living in the foster and juvenile justice systems, as well as homeless or trafficked youth, to Jesus Christ. In that capacity, I get to build relationships with these amazing young people by going into shelters, group homes, prisons, foster homes, and churches to serve them, get to know them and let them know that God loves them.
It’s a privilege to meet these amazing teenagers and mentor them. Last month, for example, we took a group of students to a baseball game. It was an outing that several in our group had never experienced. They were thrilled to be introduced to the magic of the ball field. One simple act meant so much to this group who is often overlooked.
I recognize that not everyone has the capacity to become a foster or adoptive parent, but we can all do a better job of reaching out to and coming alongside children in this space.
Christians can and must step into this need.
If your own life, marriage and family unit is stable, consider becoming a foster parent. Or, if you know of a family currently fostering, ask how you can serve them. You can also look for a foster care ministry at your local church and see how you can plug in. If there is no ministry, consider starting one yourself.
James 1:27 offers a bold statement, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
The New Testament is clear. The verse in James is not merely a suggestion. God directly calls us to serve the orphans in our midst.
Let’s step into this space as believers and change the statistics. We can make a difference – one child at a time.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Nastco
Aubrey Ashford is a staff associate at Young Life ONE in Orange County, California.