Category: The church and foster care

Who are the kids in foster care?

With over 21,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, it is important to stop and reflect on who these children are and what help they need.

Why are they in foster care?

The number one reason children come into care is neglect (85% based on the latest report).  This means lack of appropriate food, supervision, and shelter.  Children also come into care when they experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.  Often times children who come into care because of neglect later disclose that they have also been physically and or sexually abused.

How old are they?

The largest percentage of children in care are between the ages of 1 and 5 (approximately 33%) followed by the ages of 13-17 (21%).  When foster homes cannot be found for these children, they are placed in shelters and group homes.  In Arizona, approximately 1 out of every 5 children in state care live in a group facility.

How long do they stay in foster care?

Children can come into your home for as short as a few days and as long as a few years.  Many factors affect the amount of time in care, but 50% of the time their stay lasts between 1 and 12 months.  56% of children are eventually reunified with their parents.

What behaviors do I need to be prepared to parent?

Behavior is the language of children.  As such, children will display a wide range of behaviors such as tantrums to express frustration, hording to express fear of starvation, lying to express fear of abuse, and bed wetting from night terrors.  They need loving foster parents who will not personalize or shame them for these behaviors but rather hold their hand through the healing process. Foster parents need a good support team and behavior management skills in order to meet this challenge.  Behavior and behavior management are addressed at length during the 30 hours of pre-service training.

What resources are available?

Children come fully insured with Arizona’s comprehensive medical and dental program (CMDP).  CMDP covers a child’s need for dental, health, and behavioral care.  There are also many non-profit organizations ready to help with clothing, educational resources, and access to scholarships for extra-curricular activities.  Arizona also provides WIC services to children under five and the free lunch program to school aged children.  Children in state care also qualify for financial assistance in enrolling in day care or before and after school programs.

Godly, patient, and loving foster parents are needed to care for these precious children as they wait to re-unify with their birth families or to be placed in an adoptive home.  Who are the children in foster care?  They are real children, with real needs, and real stories.  If you feel God might be calling you to this task, please consider attending an orientation to find out how!

Not ready to foster?  Here are five ways to help now!

Shared Parenting: Connecting Foster Families and Birth Families

This is the fifth entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

“Shared parenting” is a term that often shocks many prospective foster parents when they first hear it.  Essentially, shared parenting is the building of a positive alliance between foster parents and birth parents on behalf of children in foster care.  This can include simple acts such as passing along report cards, printing photos, or sharing updates.  It can also be more relational and include meeting for meals or play dates at the park.  It is important to note that foster parents will never be expected to put themselves in an unsafe or inappropriate situation.  Each case is unique and will be approached with an individualized plan.  Though it might seem daunting at first, shared parenting is a very important part of the foster care process.

Shared parenting helps birth parents do what they need to do to reunify with their children and allows children to remain connected to their birth families while they are in foster care.  It is a common belief, and misconception, that most foster children do not return home to their families.  Consider the following statistics from the latest available 6 month period:

Number of foster children leaving DCS custody by reunifying with their parents: 3,102
Number of foster children leaving DCS custody by being adopted: 1,576
Percentage of foster children with a case plan of reunifying with their parents: 55%
Percentage of foster children with a case plan of adoption: 20%

A majority of foster children actually return home to live with their biological families.  This means that foster parents do their best to help support and teach biological families while their child (or children) live with them.

How does it work?

Shared parenting will look different based on the specifics of each case, and will be determined by an assessment of safety issues.  At a minimum, foster parents are expected to support the positive aspects of the biological parents, and will be expected to refrain from berating the birth parents in front of the child.  This level of shared parenting could be as simple as telling a child that they have beautiful eyes like their mother, or sending a note to the birth parents to let them know how their child is doing.  In a best case scenario, you could build a strong relationship with the birth family and include them in holiday celebrations or even a weekly family dinner.

Is this really a good thing?

YES!  Absolutely.  Foster children will come into your home with strong attachments to their birth families, and it is important for foster children to retain appropriate contact with their relatives (unless their case plan requires no contact of any kind).  Children in care are comforted, and more easily attach, when they see biological and foster families working together.

As Christians, this is a very special opportunity.  Foster parenting is not only a ministry to children but also to families as a whole.  Developing relationships with birth families provides the opportunity to share the gospel, model healthy parenting, and effect change in the lives of a child’s family.  We would do best to take advantage of this special opportunity.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity” (Col 4:5).

To find out more about becoming a licensed foster parent, visit our licensing page today.

Source: http://www.azcourts.gov/Portals/99/docs/SemiAnnual-Child-Welfare-Reporting-Requirements-4-15-9-15_FINAL-Revised.pdf

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the types of children that are in foster care and how we need to approach parenting a foster child.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

Keeping the “Merry” in your Merry Christmas

The holidays are intended to be a very exciting time of year.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas there are two months of family gatherings, feasting, gift giving, and family traditions.  This is also the time of year when it can be very fun to be a parent.  We are excited to share with our children the joy of the season and to capture a little bit of the magic that is childhood.  As foster parents, we often times come in with even a little more gusto!  We can’t wait to share the joy of the holidays with these precious kids.  Who is not more deserving of joy than children such as these?

However, we must be careful.  Good intentions, especially when it comes to traumatized or neglected children, have a tendency to blow up in our faces.  If you want to keep the “Merry” in your Merry Christmas, it is important to approach the holidays with a plan.  Here are five easy steps toward achieving just that…

  1. Expect a change in behavior

A time of year intended to bring happiness and joy can be extremely uncomfortable for a child who has experienced trauma, neglect, or abuse.  Often times, childhood trauma leads to a negative self-image.  Healing takes time.  LOTS of time!  Despite prayer, counseling, and love, your precious children might still have a feeling that they are not good and do not deserve good things.  When we introduce them to happy situations like Thanksgiving or Christmas, expect that your child might unconsciously need to restore their equilibrium.  They will do this by soliciting negative behavior.  Don’t be shocked.  Take it as a reminder that your child is still healing and will need to be introduced to positive experiences slowly and with care.

Holidays also trigger past memories.  The season will provide them with plenty of reminders that their life is not traditional and the reality is not Hallmark.  Even if your child is in safer, happier, more loving situation, there is still room for sadness and grief.  Grief expresses itself in behaviors.  Expect a change in your child’s behavior and be prepared to meet the needs they are expressing.

  1. Make a family plan

Holidays mean a change in routine.  Children need routine.  Plan the season with your children, prepare a calendar so they can visually see places you plan to go and activities you plan to participate in.  Let them participate in the planning.  Is there a family tradition they want to share with you?  Is there a special food they would like to help cook?  Mold the season together, do not just plan the holidays and throw your child into the mix.  This needs to be a family experience, and as a newer member of this family, let them provide input and help create new traditions.  Giving your child a voice will give them a sense of control.  Control will help calm their nerves and ease behaviors.

Also be aware of sensory overload.  During this season our senses are assaulted on all fronts.  The sights, smells, and sounds of Christmas might bring us joy, but are a nightmare for a child who has trouble processing their environment.  Bringing a child with limited sensory processing to a crowded shopping area or a loud party is a recipe for disaster. Pay attention to your child’s triggers and adapt your schedule as needed.  Understand that they may be more easily triggered because they are already over stimulated and “on edge”.

  1. Lower Expectations

This can be difficult.  We enter this time of year with so much hope and anticipation.  We want to provide the very best for our foster children, that’s partly why we’re here!  But save yourself the grief and lower those expectations.  Provide the very best, but expect less.  This is a hard time of year for many children.  There will be behaviors.  There will be ungratefulness.  There will be tears or screaming or fighting.  There will be these things because there will be feelings.  And where there are feelings, there are behaviors.  You can help with your child’s stress by lowering your expectations and meeting their true needs.  They need to feel safe.  They need to feel secure.  They need to feel loved.  And love doesn’t mean you show up with the coolest bike on Christmas morning.  Love means when they are raging on Christmas Eve, you’re right there with them.  And you could care less that you are missing the family party.  Remind yourself in those moments that love is allowing that child to express their feelings, and love is letting them know they are in a safe place to do so.

  1. Help foster connections

Make sure to honor your child’s connections throughout the season.  Do they get to see their biological family?  Help them make gifts and cards.  If safe and approved, invite them to holiday events like the church’s Christmas play or a tree lighting ceremony.

Make sure your child has opportunities to give back.  Many people want to give to our children this time of year.  While this is kind, it can also be hurtful.  We don’t want our children to see themselves as needy or as takers.  Help foster connections by making them givers!  Help them make cards and presents for the important people in their lives, whether that is their biological mom or a teacher at their school.  Everyone has connections.  Help your child stay connected to theirs.

  1. Share, teach, and demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas

This is the most important step.  The meaning of Christmas gets lost.  Somewhere in the smell of sugar cookies, the mountain of presents, and the lights on our tree is the true reality of this holiday.  The reality that our savior was born in a stable and placed in a trough.  The reality that the king of this universe was born so that he could one day die on a cross.  But why death?  So that there could be life.  That is a powerful truth.  That is reality.  Don’t let it get lost.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us, “For us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Is that not everything our children need?  Is it not everything we need?  Our counselor, our mighty God, an everlasting father, and the Prince of Peace!  It is so powerful, so healing, and so true.  Keep this truth at the center of the holiday season and you will surely keep the Merry in your Merry Christmas.

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

To read more articles on what it means to be a foster parent please visit our blog page and read see FAQ to find out more about fostering in Arizona.

A Practical Prayer Guide for Foster Care

People often ask how they can be involved in foster care; the number one way to be involved is to pray.  Acts 1:14 explains how the disciples were “joined together constantly in prayer”.

If we, the Christian Church, seek to step in and care for these orphaned then we need to be “joined together constantly in prayer”. This is no light task we have taken on, but if God is for us who can be against us? When we look at the broken system that is foster care today we should be deeply moved to go before our Father in prayer on behalf of all those involved.

Let’s take the first step in caring for these children, would you join in praying today?

Biological Families

  1. Pray for the biological families of these children to come to saving faith in Christ and be transformed in how they parent. Pray that God would send Godly mentors and friends to help them on their journey
  2. Pray for them to receive the help they need
  3. Pray that they would be treated well and loved by the Christians they encounter through the system
  4. Pray for Godly foster parents to show them Christ’s love and partner with them in working towards reunification

Children

  1. Pray that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior
  2. Pray that God would heal their wounds and hearts
  3. Pray for them to be safe from abuse while in foster care
  4. Pray for them to find a forever home either through reunification or adoption
  5. Pray that God would send them someone who can speak truth into their lives and help them to heal from the trauma they have encountered.

Foster Families

  1. Pray for more laborers in the field
  2. Pray that God would continually encourage them and strengthen them on their journey
  3. Pray for boldness and opportunities to share the Gospel with these children and their biological families
  4. Pray for their marriage to remain strong and united
  5. Pray for biological children living in the home, and for foster children moving in, to transition well

Adoptive Families

  1. Pray that they would not be discouraged as they wait
  2. Pray that their marriage would be unified through this time
  3. Pray for them to love their child as God loves their child
  4. Pray for them as they raise their children to have wisdom and guidance

The Workers

  1. Pray that God would draw Godly people into the field of social work
  2. Pray that they would be encouraged in their job and not grow weary in doing good
  3. Pray for Godly judges, therapists, support staff, ect. to be involved in this process
  4. Pray for them to boldly live out their faith daily and for opportunities for them to share the Gospel

Please feel free to print and share this post as a tool for guiding your prayer time.

The Ministry of Foster Care

This is the fourth entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting. To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.


The bruises and sores are finally starting to heal.”

It was prayer request time at our small group.  And the report wasn’t on someone who was recovering from a car accident.  She was describing two young children in the foster care system.

When children are removed from their homes by DCS, they carry many burdens.  They have often been subject to neglect, physical abuse, or sexual abuse.  Instead of being nurtured and cherished by their caregivers, they have been sinned against.  This has a drastic effect on the psyche and spirit of these children, and more than anything, they need healing.  These children need healing for their broken relationships, healing for their broken bodies, and most importantly, healing for their spirits through the gospel.

“And it came to pass on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, who were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them” – Luke 5:17

The power of our Lord knows no bounds.  He is capable of healing any child, no matter how badly they have been abused.  They can be healed of the burden from their past abuse, and also from the unrelated burden of their own sin.  This spiritual healing comes through the gospel and the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit.  As Christian foster parents, we have a unique opportunity to share the facts of the gospel, and to model the fruit of the Spirit for children in our care.  Whether we have them for a couple days, or adopt them and have them for the rest of our lives, we have the great privilege of sharing the message of the gospel with children who have probably never heard it before.

“How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?” – Romans 10:14

There are many secular foster homes that can monitor and facilitate the care of children.  There are many secular foster homes that can provide a safe place for bruises and broken bones to heal.  But as Christians, we alone can offer the power of the gospel.  We can provide something infinitely greater.  The question is, will we?

To find out how you can be involved please visit our FAQ page and contact us today.

“Jesus bears with him power to heal; this is His honour and renown.  He has the eagle’s eye to see our sicknesses, the lion’s heart bravely to encounter them, and the nurse’s hand gently to apply the heavenly ointment; in Him the three requirements of a good surgeon meet in perfection” – Charles Spurgeon

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the topic of shared parenting.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

The 17,000

17,000. The number is remarkable.  Over 17,000 children in the care and custody of the state of Arizona.  The number is staggering, the need is great.  The state has contracted with twenty-nine agencies to recruit and license foster parents for this crisis.  Of those twenty-nine, six list themselves as faith-based.  Six.  That’s just 20% of the state’s contracted agencies targeting their recruitment at Christians.

That means that 80% of families are recruited from among the general population. The very children we are responsible to rise up and care for.  The children we will hold an account for when our days are done, are not being cared for by us.

This is no easy task.  This is no easy calling.  But we will not be measured against its difficulty, we will be measured against our willingness to obey.  And there is hope for this generation of children in state care.  The first step toward foster parenting is an easy one!  Simply attend or host an information meeting.  These orientations are one hour long and will give you valuable information about becoming a licensed foster parent.  Orientations are held monthly and listed on our calendar.  They can also be privately scheduled for your church or group.  Contact us today to find out more!

The Broken System

*Writers Note: The following article contains links to news and data related to this topic.  Please take the time to educate yourself on the crisis in Arizona and then pray about where God would use you to move on behalf of children and families in crisis.

Spend any amount of time in social services and you will inevitably hear the phrase, “The system is broken”.  In fact, the “broken system” has become such a norm that we never really pause to think about it.  It is a widely accepted fact that we simply must work within.  It’s broken, but we do our best.

But the question must be asked:  Why is the system broken?  And more importantly, can we fix it?  With over 17,000 children in Arizona Foster Care, can we really afford to do our best with something that doesn’t work?  Children born to broken homes, handed to a broken system; the irony is palatable.

I’ve meditated on the issue for the past ten years as I’ve worked in and around foster care and adoption.  I have spent a decade with this system and her children.  Watched its attempts at success, and had front row seats to its failures.  It was broken long ago, and it will crumble with these rising numbers.  The current system of foster care will not sustain 17,000 children.  It will fail.  That failure has a cost no child should pay.

Children failed by the system have multiple moves, caregivers, schools, and homes.  They are over medicated and under schooled.  They are sexually assaulted, physically abused, and lose their lives under the rubble of this system.  These traumas have life long consequences.

And Christian, it is important to note, that we are the ones holding the sledge hammer.  The mess and failures of this system belong to us.  It is not the state’s fault that the system is broken, it is the fault of the Christian church who handed it to her.

The government is not designed to raise children.  It is not designed to heal broken families.  So it should be no shock to us that it is not possible for the government to successfully play this role, no more than we would expect an elephant could climb a tree.  It is outside of its design, structure, and purpose.  The government plays this role not because it is best fitted for the job, but because it must.  It must protect its citizens and the most vulnerable of its people.  It must play this role, because the church has not.

The reality of this truth is painful.  The truth that our Lord and Savior tasked us with the care of the widow, the orphaned, and the oppressed.  The truth that the job of the foster care system was not intended for a government but for the Christian church and her people.  This fills me with so much shame as I look at the disaster it has become.  It is so terribly broken, Christian, and the blame belongs to us.

This conviction is not meant to chain us down with guilt.  It is meant to awaken us.  It should sting, but let that sting cause us to open our eyes!  We may have failed in the past.  We are definitely failing right now.  But praise God we do not have to keep on failing.  We need not stand in the refuse of the system and keep trudging forward.  We don’t have to come up with programs or funding and try to rebuild a broken building with broken bricks.  We are not a government or another human institution.  We are the people of a Holy Church and worship a Holy God.  The God who tasked us to care for the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed only asks that we step forward to do the job.  He is the one that will supply the tools, resources, and structure.  He is the one who will repair it, we need only show up to work.  Will you show up to work Christian?  Church, will you rise up and take back your job?

The question has been asked:  Why is the system broken?  And more importantly, can we fix it?  The system is broken because of us church, but praise God, Yes, it can be fixed!

To find out how to get started please visit our FAQ page and Contact us to get started.