We get it. It's awkward and uncomfortable to think about money and care. The instinct is to want to place deeper protections for children who have already experienced adversity, so when we think of people profiting off of it, it sounds wrong. The truth is that we cannot definitively say that everyone who fosters is in it for the right reasons. What we can say is that our Foster Carers are motivated by genuine love for children, empathy and a deep sense of God's call to foster. It is appropriate that those who do the incredible work of fostering are compensated in order to facilitate this. But finance is not the only way to support carers. We give our carers full access to professional support 24/7. We pray with and for them as staff, and we have fun outings such as the Cornerstone holiday which sees our families gathering to have fun.
The concept of "forever families" is meant to reflect our carers' commitment to a child. To see them as a member of the family forever, even when they have formed their own families. This reflects the unconditional eternal love we have experienced in God through Christ. We have been adapted into a heavenly family, and given the gift of calling God Abba, Father. Now we too open up the boundaries of our families to include others forever. Sometimes a child's situation means that they might not need long term care from a foster carer. There are short term placements where the foster carer needs to help the child prepare to reunite with their family, go onto kinship care or go onto another long time placement. Whatever the case, we give all our love for as long as God grants that the child be with us.
If you think about it, the very nature of family is that it often expands through the inclusion of those that we are not biologically related to. Through things like marriage and friendships, our inner circle grows and changes throughout our lifetime. Fostering does not sever the ties a child has to their family, rather it increases the support network that the child has. Foster carers are skilled and equipped to help meet the child's needs, and create an environment in which the child can grow and develop. Next time you interact with a foster child, be sensitive to their relationship with their biological family and consider that they may have ties to them. Think inclusion, rather than replacement.
Did you know that one of the reasons why people don't want to foster is because of the children's biological parents? People are afraid of the interactions with the family and in some cases, they dislike the parents because of the situation that led to the child being in care... I've come to learn that one cannot foster without having incredible empathy and a statement like this communicates a lack of empathy and grace. As Christians we are recepients of God's incredible love and grace. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) Christians should therefore be the first to show incredible grace. Grace for our foster children as they navigate life in a new environment, grace for their family who have complicated histories that contributed to their child being in care, and even grace for foster carers as they do the incredible work of fostering, with all it's pitfalls and joys.
We have all been through transitions in our lives. We therefore know that they often elicit a mixture of emotions. With change comes grief of what was, anxiety of what will be and sometimes uncertainty of what is present. A child in care has had every aspect of their day to day life altered. From their family to their school, home, neighbourhood and friends. This all takes time to process. So the expectation that they should feel "gratitude" is unfair and fails to recognise the complexity of their situation. Regardless of their past, we need to show grace and empathy for the journey they are on and to allow children in care to adjust at their own pace.