“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”
For me, it sank in at one of our first training events. I remember it very well as we walked down the hallway of Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview, Texas. Every ten feet or so there was an easel. On each easel was a poster with pictures on it. Pictures of kids. Kids that needed a home. Their names were listed at the bottom. There were so many, and this wasn’t the half of it.
We walked on into the conference room, signed in and settled into a table for the main speaker. At the time we weren’t familiar with his name, but that would soon change. We weren’t familiar with the town he came from, either. Who names a town Possum Trot, anyway? Do Possums actually trot? We never did get the answer, but what we did receive a few minutes later was one of the most moving stories I’ve ever heard. We learned about how Bishop W.C. Martin, his wife Donna, and their church adopted 76 children from the Texas foster system.
76 children. 76 lives changed. There were more stories underneath that story, but the thing that stuck in my mind was the pastor looking around, up and down in this very nicely appointed room and he said, “This place is nice. You folks must have some money! What you need is to adopt some kids!” I’ll never forget it.
His candor was infectious, his passion inspiring, and his resolve like no one I have ever seen. He understood James 1:27. That was the moment, for me at least, that I knew we were on the right path. We wanted this to be our story as well.
At the time, we had two families in our church fostering and we would make three. The kids on those posters needed homes. Period. We had to help.
We had begun our journey to find our first placement. It wasn’t long until we were invited to an event. By an event, I mean a play day at a petting zoo ranch for foster kids who were ready for adoption. A group of prospective adoptive parents just like us were given notebooks with the kid’s pictures and names. Our job was to play with them, talk to them … and decide if we thought we could take some of them home. I looked out over the field at all the children, some young and happy to have a play day, oblivious to the ulterior motives. Some were teenagers and all too familiar with the process.
Some years later while watching a Hallmark series with my wife it hit me. This was our version of the orphan trains just before and after the turn of the 20th century. The trains would come through town and the children paraded in front of a town meeting where residents were asked if they could take a child home. If not, back on the train they would go. This problem isn’t new.
It wasn’t long that everyone in our church was involved in some sort of a way in the fostering game. Some adopted, some fostered, some babysat while others still helped financially or in other ways. Practically the entire church came out for CPR and First Aid training so we could all help each other out in a pinch. They even put us on the news. It was no Possum Trot, but it was beautiful.
We were firmly convinced that anyone and everyone could “get in the game” to relieve pressure from the foster care system. I saw this on an infographic on Facebook a few days ago and I couldn’t have agreed more. It went something like this.
n August 31, 2017, there were 29,803 placements of children in foster care. Their average number of days in care on that date was 554.8. On the same day, 7,236 children were waiting to be adopted. The math is staggering. If you can’t adopt …
Not everyone is prepared or even able to permanently make someone part of their family, I get it. However, they can be foster parents. Foster parents provide a much-needed resource for these thousands of children, providing safe and secure home environments as their families hopefully work their services before the children become additions to the 7,236. If you can’t foster …
I have yet to find the non-profit organization caring for these precious children who couldn’t use a little help. You will need to be screened and trained and vetted and all the usual stuff, but in the end, you can help change a life by rocking babies, making quilts, packing lunches, filing papers, all sorts of things. Simply Google Foster Care Volunteer and start looking for opportunities to make a difference. If you can’t volunteer ...
Sponsor / Donate
There are myriads of agencies and groups doing some really great work helping care for children who come from hard places. This work is expensive. Do your homework to be sure the agency or group is reputable, but monetary and material donations can be the difference between a child having enough clothes to last the week. You can also donate directly to families if you have a relationship with them. If they need a baby bed right away, you could make that happen! If you can’t sponsor or donate …
One of my favorite things to do is share the heart of being a foster / adoptive parent with people who really don’t understand what a joy and privilege it can be. I also enjoy putting people at ease about the process of fostering and adopting. Many people actually can’t do any of the other things on this list, but they can tell others how great it is to be so near to the heart of God. They can be a trumpeter of the value of helping these precious children find forever homes.
There is an overwhelming misunderstanding regarding involvement in the Foster System. Society thinks adopting or fostering is the only way to impact this issue. It isn’t. From helping with meals, doing some laundry, paying for a trip to the ice cream shop, babysitting, volunteering at a special camp … I could go on and on and on with ideas of you, yes you, can get some skin in the game for the almost 30,000 children in our foster care system in Texas alone.