In my 27 years of working for Children’s Homes Inc., I have had the privilege of seeing hundreds of children cared for and raised by loving, nurturing and dedicated Christian foster and adoptive parents.
There just never seem to be enough families for the number of children in need.
I have no doubt that Christian childcare agencies across the country get calls weekly – if not daily – from state agencies asking if they have any foster homes available. I dread those phone calls, when I know the answer I have to give is, “No, I’m sorry, we don’t. All of our foster homes are at their capacity.”
The need for Christian foster parents continues to increase. At the same time, the total number of domestic adoptions of infants is on the decline, according to the most recent edition of the “Adoption Factbook,” published by the National Council for Adoption.
For Christian couples who have struggled with infertility, miscarriages and failed domestic infant adoptions, this statistic may seem disheartening. Many childless couples would naturally prefer a healthy newborn but find themselves unable to afford the expenses. Others resist the “openness” that is so common today in domestic adoptions between the birth family and the adoptive family. International adoption is an increasingly popular option, but fees can easily reach $20,000.
So, what other options are available to Christian couples who desire a child — or more children?
Christian agencies across the country have worked for years to recruit members of Churches of Christ to become foster parents, adoptive parents and houseparents for their residential programs. Recently, there has been a strong push to increase our number of available foster homes for the many children removed from abusive and neglectful situations. Some of these children eventually become eligible for adoption.
“We need Christian families who will foster-adopt,” said Ray Crowder of Shults-Lewis Child and Family Services Inc. in Valparaiso, Ind. “We can’t respond to these babies because we don’t have the families to foster.”
“Foster-adopt” means a family is willing to commit to adoption at the onset of foster care placement if reunification is not possible. These placements are ideal for the child but can be risky for a family whose ultimate desire is to adopt.
When a child is placed in foster care, the initial goal is reunification with the biological family. Many of the infants testing positive for drugs at birth may enter foster care only until a suitable relative is located or until the biological mother has completed drug rehabilitation.
Predicting the future outcome is impossible at the point the phone call is made to the foster parents. Parents who agree to this arrangement may get a phone call like this: “There is a 3-day-old ready for discharge from the hospital, tested positive for meth. Little is known right now about the biological family. Can you take the baby?”
Foster parents are well aware of the fact that a child may only be with them for a few days or weeks. For parents who truly want to adopt, taking in a foster child — especially an infant or toddler who later is reunited with its biological family — can tear at the heart, resulting in the same feelings of loss and grief that they experienced dealing with infertility or a miscarriage.
So why become foster parents? Because of the enormity of the need for Christians to “step up to the plate.”
Doug and Laura Larimore of Hot Springs, Ark., have been foster parents for almost three years. Their 6-year-old son, Ben, was adopted as an infant. The Larimores have a strong desire for more children.
The Larimores have cared for several infants and toddlers — all of whom they would have loved to adopt, but all of whom were returned to biological family. But they continue on as foster parents, believing that one day a child will be placed in their home who will stay forever.
“We have seen children who have never heard of Jesus, except as foul language, believe in him, pray and trust in him,” Laura Larimore said. “Despite living with us a short time, the children leave stronger, healthier and exposed to a loving, heavenly father who cares for them no matter where they are. As foster parents, our faith and dependence in our heavenly father has increased as well.”
Over the years, I’ve heard several comments from people asked to consider foster parenting. “It would just be too hard to give them up. I just couldn’t do it. I’d get too attached.”
I can assure you that the attachment between foster parents and foster children — even if it’s temporary — is as strong as any parent-child attachment. Foster parents exemplify the true meaning of Christianity, and the results are seen in the smiles and sparkling eyes of the children placed with them.
Laws, licensing regulations and state policies vary significantly from state to state. However, there is one thing that remains the same nationwide and worldwide — children grow best in Christian families. LORI VANDAGRIFF is a licensed social worker and supervisor of child placement for Children’s Homes Inc., based in Paragould, Ark. She is the mother of two teeenage daughters and attends the College church in Searcy, Ark. For more information on foster care and adoption, see the Christian Child and Family Services Association’s Web site.
Oct. 1, 2007