One Thing We Should Stop Saying to Foster Parents

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

Yesterday was Orphan Sunday which is one of those Sundays you hope doesn’t come around while you’re uber-hormonal. I’m sure I had those around me wondering if I’d been orphaned based on the emotional outpouring I displayed. Not an orphan. Just pregnant. I left with a headache from clenching my jaw to hold in the sobs.

Orphan Sunday is also one of those uncomfortable Sundays that makes you squirm a little in your seat or tempt you to crawl under the pew and hide, for fear that the preacher is going to suddenly make eye contact and shout, “YOU! Have you run out of excuses yet?” Because really, hardly any of us have a very good excuse.

There are so many ways to look after orphans other than adopting or fostering. But when it comes to fostering a child, there seems to be one common, acceptable excuse: “I could never do that. I wouldn’t be able to give them back. It would be too hard. I couldn’t handle it.”

I used to think this same way. But if we can be honest for a second, can we admit that this is just an excuse for our own fear and selfishness?

Let me tell you about Katy and Jonathan.

Katy and Jonathan decided a couple of years ago to begin the process of fostering-to-adopt. When they received their first phone call, their own boys were 4 and 2. They had signed up to take one child, preferably 0-12 months. The social worker on the other end of the line was asking that they take two children, 2 (2 months younger than their youngest) and 15 months. 0 for 2 on that one. Committed to keeping the siblings together and feeling God’s urging, they said yes. A few months later, the mom had another baby. To make a long story short, a year later, after an attempted and failed reunion with mom, Katy and Jonathan now have five kids 5-years and under in their three-bedroom house.

And it’s been hard. Having five small children, three of whom are not your own and need you in a different and exhausting capacity is backbreaking, soul-searching, cry-out-to-God kind of day-to-day work. And there’s a chance they might go away again. And that will also be hard, just as it was the first time and the second time. The chaos will be replaced by a heart wrenching, questioning, haunting kind of stillness. The absence will soon be filled up with new faces that will require fresh, uncalloused love.

Now, don’t tell me that Katy thinks this is easy. Don’t tell me that she doesn’t question God both in the mayhem of five and the unsettling quiet of two. To say that we can’t do it because it would be too hard for us, that our hearts are just too soft, that we would love those children just too much, discounts every tear she has cried in the name of those babies. If it’s not too hard for her, it’s not too hard for us. We are no better or more feeling or more loving than she is. So let’s stop telling ourselves WE are not able.

Katy would be the first to tell you that she, alone, on her own two-feet is not able. She isn’t capable of making it through every day of every tantrum, of every phone call, of every parent meeting, of every drop-in visit, of every load of laundry (can you imagine?). She decided a long time ago that her flesh was worthless. But she believes God called her and her husband to this and promised them that they would not have to do this alone.

Valid reasons do exist. I am not saying we are all supposed to do exactly what Katy and Jonathan have done. But I am saying that if “I would love those children too much to let them go” is your reason not to, maybe that’s not a good enough one.

Don’t we want someone willing to invest their whole heart in these children? Don’t we want THAT kind of person to take on such a harrowing responsibility? Wouldn’t we want those raising them up to be so captivated by them that they were devastated upon separation? The kind that would love them like they were their own? That would share with them the love of Christ so that at least in one way, they would no longer be orphans?

As a fellow non foster or adoptive parent, allow me to step off my soap box and hypocritically ask that you stop making excuses, pray earnestly, and listen with an unbiased heart.

Loving too much, having a bleeding heart for these kids, these are reasons to DO something. Not excuses not to.

So please. Take a note from Katy. Love them too much. Cry when they leave. Your heart will surely break. But more importantly, that child’s heart will be filled by those tears. By the realization that he is wanted, known, cared for. That finally, she is loved.

** To follow Katy and Jonathan’s journey and read some raw, genuine thoughts on faith and fostering, visit **