05 Jan How Are the Children?
A few years ago I heard a former judge speak about the state of foster care in Texas. She told a story about the Masai, an African tribe of fierce warriors and how they greeted one another with “How are children?” to which one would reply, “All the children are well.” This greeting emphasized the importance of taking care of the youngest Masai members and the need for the whole tribe to participate in that care. I think of that greeting often. Unfortunately, if we were to use that greeting today, we would have to say “all the children are not well.”
How not well are they? In Travis County alone, there are over 11,000 cases of neglect or abuse reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) a year. Try to wrap your head around that—that averages out to 30 suspected reports of abuse or neglect per day in Travis County alone! Almost 400 kids a year are removed from their home due to CPS investigations in Travis County (You can go here to check out the statistics in your own county.), and there are almost 900 kids in Texas in need of a forever family. Our children are not well.
It’s one thing to see the statistics, but look at the sweet faces of the kids in Central Texas who need a forever family and are in the Heart Gallery of Central Texas. The Heart Gallery is a roving photograph exhibit that highlights the need for more foster and adoptive families in our community. There are lots of families who want to adopt babies or toddlers but once a child is over 10 years of age, a child’s chance of getting adopted drastically decreases. The Heart Gallery helps find adoptive families for older children, children with special needs and family groups who would otherwise age out of foster care with little connection. Unfortunately, not every child reaches adulthood with a forever family. And so we are clear, adulthood is defined as 18 years of age. Imagine your kids—or yourself—being on your own with little to no adult support at 18 years of age. These kids who age out of care disconnected from a family unit often end up much worse off—
One in five end-up homeless after age 18.
Half will be unemployed by age 24.
Less than 3% will earn a college degree.
25% will be incarcerated within 2 years of aging out of foster care.
As followers of Christ, we are called by God to lean in to brokenness and sorrow, not to be saved but because we are saved. We have an opportunity to mimic Jesus when it comes to kids in foster care.
He chose us when we were dead in our sin. We can choose to love kids in foster care, their biological parents and CPS workers in the same way.
Sometimes it’s overwhelming to know how to support these kids and the system in general. Just like we are not all called to go overseas on mission, we are not all called to be foster parents. After one permanent placement and a great deal of prayer, I realized that at this point in my life I am probably a better foster aunt, than a foster mom. I’ve gotten to baby-sit and provide respite for lots of kids who all hold a tender place in my heart.
Like we are all called to support missionaries, we are also all called to support foster kids & parents too. How? Here are a few ideas—
Get to know foster parents. That’s right—just call them up and take them dinner or out to dinner or on a date to the park. Do not ask them what they need. They are probably too stressed to know. Out of the blue, a friend of a friend brought me baked goods with a note that said she hoped this would be breakfast for a couple mornings. It was such a blessing that I didn’t even know I wanted or needed. And she quickly became my friend too.
Host the Heart Gallery. Partnerships for Children who oversees the Heart Gallery of Central Texas is always looking for places to display the portraits. You can host 1-30 photographs for one day or one year to help increase awareness about foster care and adoption. And yes—there are people who have been so moved by a child’s photo, they ended up adopting that very child. The Heart Gallery has been in physician offices, hair salons, government buildings, malls, restaurants, churches. The options of where to place photos are endless. Just go here to host the Heart Gallery.
Be a mentor. Partnerships for Children also oversees the YES Mentor Program for foster kids who are 15 years of age or older. These kids desperately need to connect to a trustworthy adult. The program specifically focuses on financial literacy and even helps these kids set up their own bank account. To learn more, click here.
Babysit for Foster Kids. Baby-sitting for foster kids is a little more complicated than in sounds. In Texas, babysitters must get a background check and apply per agency. Once you get to know some foster families, they will be more than happy to help you get approved to baby-sit for their specific agency. The process for getting approved to babysit can be long and slow. Don’t give up! Check in with the foster agency you’re going through so they know you’re eager to serve in that capacity. Baby-sitting will bless you, the foster family and the foster child.
Pray. I often pray through the kids in the Heart Gallery on the website or through the book that is published annually. I pray for them to be adopted by a forever family, and more importantly by our Heavenly Father. I pray that we could honestly answer “all the children are well.” Honestly, beyond those prayers, I often struggle to know how to pray for foster families and kids, even when I know them well. I’m grateful “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26).
*Amy Brandes is a former foster parent, current respite care provider and foster care babysitter. She is on the board of Partnerships for Children and is a passionate advocate for the children who need forever families in Travis County.”
Courtney, M., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K., & Vorhies, V. (2011). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.