Interview with Fostering Hope
Updated: Jan 30, 2019
How did Fostering Hope begin?
Early in our marriage, my wife and I faced the trial of unexplained infertility. This ultimately led us to pursue adoption as a means of growing our family. After adopting our oldest child out of the foster care system, we decided to become a foster family. As children in foster care began to come through our home, our perspective completely changed. Children in foster care were no longer statistics in a category or a mere societal group; they were real kids with real needs who needed real love.
As we studied the issue in depth, we were heartbroken by the extent of the need and the shortage of families. At the same time, we discovered the many ways in which our faith compelled us to move toward the vulnerable and marginalized including children in need of homes. As I considered all of this, an exciting realization dawned on me. The need for temporary foster families or permanent adoptive families could be met if people of faith would open their hearts and homes to care for them. Compelled by the need and convinced after much prayer, we officially formed Fostering Hope.
What is Fostering Hope's vision for the ministry and its people?
Our vision is that every child in foster care has a family to care for them. We call this Project ZERO because we believe that ZERO children should be waiting for a family. We are committed to helping so that instead of children waiting for families it is the families who are ready and willing but waiting for a child who needs them.
We deeply believe that caring for children in need of homes is not an option for the Christian community but rather a mark of faithfulness. Toward that end, we catalyze the Christian community to raise up and support foster and adoptive families by creating sustainable cultures within their church communities. To attain Project ZERO, we need more families to enter into foster and adoptive care and we need to reduce the high turnover rate. Our model addresses both areas.
Why do you believe it is important as foster parents to identify with a community of other foster parents?
One of the reasons for the high turnover rate among foster families is a lack of support. Friends and family may be well-intentioned but they often fail to really grasp the unique stressors that foster and adoptive families can face. Having a network of support from others who are walking the same path provides a safe space to be vulnerable with people who truly “get it”. It is a context that offers advice, support, and a non-judgmental listening ear along with helpful resources. Home for Good’s vision to create this context within the faith community is vital for long-term sustainability of the emerging culture.
What is the best way people can become involved with Fostering Hope?
Our sweet spot is working with churches and networks of churches to create sustainable cultures of foster and adoptive care. One of the keys to creating a culture is offering a variety of entry points for people who desire to engage the foster care community. From low-commitment service projects to being a part of a support team to becoming a foster parent, there are many ways to make a difference.
Are there any stats about this industry that you believe are important or moving?
The number of children in foster care has jumped dramatically over the past 6 years from around 400,000 to 460,000. There has not been a concurrent increase in foster families to care for them. This means too many children end up bouncing around from home to home, in congregant care, or aging out of the system at the age of 18 or 21. We need more families!
The good news is that nearly 38% of practicing Christians have considered either foster care or adoption and 3-5% have actually done one or the other. This is better than the general population and justifies a strategic targeting of the Christian community.
At the same time, we have to more effectively support the families who are serving. The turnover rate for foster families is 30-50%. A majority only last a single placement or a year. 30-35% think often or very often about quitting. If we don’t do a better job of supporting families not only will we fail to keep pace with the need but it will hinder efforts to invite more families into this space as they hear negative stories from those who had bad experiences. Thankfully, we can directly impact two of the main causes for the high turnover rate: lack of high-level, trauma-informed training and lack of personal support.
What are some common misconceptions in this space?
I think this space is filled with misconceptions. I’m sure too many to address but here are a few:
· "Children are in foster care because they are bad kids. "
o Kids are in foster care at no fault of their own due to bad things that happened to them (abuse) or good things that were kept from them (neglect). Each one is an image bearer of God who possesses dignity and value worthy of our care.
· "The only way to make an impact is by being a foster or adoptive family."
o The phrase “sustainable culture” is very important to us. We believe that caring for children in need of families is an authenticating mark of genuine faith (Is. 1:17; James 1:27). That being the case, ministry in this space cannot be reduced to foster and adoptive families. As Jason Johnson says, “Not everyone can do everything or the same thing, but we can all do something.” We must have a shared commitment to serving children in need of homes and a willingness to play a role whether it be prayer, support, financial gifts, encouragement, awareness and advocacy, service projects or, yes, fostering.
· "I can’t do foster care because my heart will break when I have to say goodbye. "
o As Christians, our faith system centers on a God who loves us at a great, sacrificial cost to himself and this changes everything about the way we engage the people and problems in the world around us. Yes, foster parents feel the pain of attaching to a child, watching them experience healing in their family, and then saying goodbye. But, that emotional pain is nothing compared to the pain that the child is experiencing. The starting point should not be how it will impact my heart but rather the needs of the child. Further, as difficult as it may be to say goodbye to a child, safe restoration with their family is the highest good and should be our first priority. While we may mourn the relational loss, we can be thankful for the small role we played in reunification.
· "Birth parents are bad people."
o It is easy to have a negative attitude toward birth parents…at least I did…until I got to know some birth parents and realized that things are never as simple as they appear. Birth parents are image-bearers of God and worthy of respect as much as any of us. Most of them have heartbreaking stories of their own. Most of them love their children but have a lot to overcome and need support to get there. As our movement matures, we need to discover ways to more effectively support birth families in order to promote family restoration. As much as we celebrate adoptions for children in need, we should celebrate to an even greater extent when a child is reunited with his/her birth family.
Home for Good Network exists to educate, encourage, equip, and engage the church in caring for vulnerable children.