My wife and I have been foster parents for right around 6 years now and in that time have loved 19 children as our own for as long as they have been in our home. It is often an overwhelming mission that we find ourselves on. The level of brokenness in the world is, quite simply, profound. At times, I feel guilty even being happy as a foster dad. How can I be happy to do this work when I know it is at the cost of a brokenhearted biological parent?
The truth is, I have never met a biological parent that isn’t devastated over the fact that Child and Family Services has gotten involved with their family. If we have learned anything over the past 6 years it is that a parent’s love runs deep and that as soon as CFS is involved, or a child is apprehended, something is broken and that usually includes a parent’s heart. And yet, there is hope in the work that we do.
For example, we have been able to meet many wonderful parents who simply need help, and were willing to receive it from us. Let’s be frank, parenting is a huge job! It is overwhelming for all parents from time to time, and when teenager’s become mom’s or parent’s have life-controlling addictions, or struggle with mental illness, the opportunity for overwhelm is that much higher. We have loved getting to know the parents of our foster kids. We often tell them how lucky they are to have two mommies and daddies who love them so much! We help the kids in our home to love and respect their parents, even when their parent’s brokenness has put them at risk. We do this because even if a child remains in care permanently, the biological attachment to their parents will never be broken; and we celebrate that!
One of the most rewarding experiences my wife and I experience is when we are able to stay in contact with biological families after their children leave our home. We have even been called on for advice because they precious moms and dads know that we care about them and their children. And we genuinely do. This gives me hope.
Second, we have also met many wonderful social workers. Wow, they carry a heavy load! And I get it! They are human beings who make mistakes. And the stakes are very high when we are talking about children and families, but to think that they don’t feel the weight and severity of those stakes is simply naive. They do. Perhaps our experience is just different, or we’ve only met the rock-stars of the CFS world, but we feel supported and that we are part of a team pulling together for the good of the kids in our care, for their families and for our family. This also gives me hope.
Third, we have been driven to our knees in prayer. There are so many things that simply cannot be understood on a human level and our relationship with Jesus has grown in-depth and breadth as we seek His promised wisdom when we need it most (James 1:5). There is hope in that promise.
Fourth, we have discovered the heart of the Gospel as we have worked with CFS. In fact, I believe we have encountered the very heart of God because of it. One day when Jesus was being initiated into ministry He happened to be at the synagogue and reading from the book of Isaiah. These are the words of Isaiah that astonished the crowd that day, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” Isaiah 61:1 (NIV)
“Bind up the brokenhearted…” Jesus came to address our brokenness and that work continues today through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). Think about this though, there is no “binding up” if no one is brokenhearted. There is no proclamation of freedom if there are no captives. There is no release from darkness if no one is in darkness! And we are offended at the very thought!
“Who are you to say I am broken?”
“Don’t tell me I am captive!”
“How dare you suggest I am trapped in darkness!”
Look, the hope we have found working with children from hard places and their families is the hope of Christ’s promise! It is a Christian hope. And although some may think that I am talking about other people’s brokenness here, I am not. I mean that as we have worked with CFS, I have encountered my own brokenness and Jesus has met me in it and brought light to the darkness in my own life.
The sadness we often feel is real, the brokenness is complex, but the hope of Jesus Christ is also real and profoundly simple.
“When the lies speak louder than the truth
Remind me I belong to You
When I can’t see past the dark of night
Remind me You’re always by my side.”
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