I can't do it by myself.
I can't be a father to 50 plus children (biological, adoptive, foster parent), have a career as an author and speaker, be a husband to my wife, and everything else on my plate without relying on one thing for strength. That one thing?
Perhaps the best way we as foster parents can help our children in foster care is by taking a knee and lifting up our children and our concerns to God through our prayers. For many of these children, they have never had someone pray for them before they came into care. Indeed, they may not even be aware what prayer is.
Helena's Romanian parents were killed when she was 9, and she was adopted by a family in New York, who told her that they would teach her English, be her family, and love her unconditionally. After 6 months of sexual abuse, they un-adopted her, and gave her back to the state's child welfare system. Then, a family from Pennsylvania adopted her, telling her that they would teacher her English, be her family, protect her from harm, and love her unconditionally. After one year, they un adopted her. At age 11, she was then adopted by a family from Georgia, who told her that they would finish teaching her English, protect her, and love her unconditionally. You guessed it; after 6 years of living with them, they placed her into the child welfare system. Then, this 17 year old, who was in so much emotional pain, came to live with us. As you can imagine, she came to us with a tremendous amount of distrust. Indeed, why should she trust us, after her three adoptive families, and her birth family, had in her eyes abandoned her. When Kelly and I spoke to her about unconditional love, she would often question us about it, telling us that she did not believe in it.
Helena was enrolled in the school I was working at during that time. As we were walking out to the car one afternoon, she asked me if she could go out on a date with a teenage boy from another school. I told her that I would discuss it with Kelly, and that the two of us would pray about it.
"Do you pray about everything?" I could hear the level of disdain dripping in her voice.
"We surely do," I replied to her, with a smile on my face.
"Why?" she asked.
I was a little taken aback by both her question and her attitude. She clearly was upset. Whether it was because I did not say yes to the potential date with the young man, or because of the fact that Kelly and I were going to pray about it, I was not certain. "Well, Helene," I began, "Miss Kelly and I look to God for all of our decisions, and we look for wisdom from God. It helps our marriage, and it helps us make better decisions."
"I think that's crazy," she responded.
For Helene, prayer was a new concept for her, and one that she simply did not understand. The Romanian teenager had only known betrayal, pain, and mistrust since her family biological parents were taken from her when she was much younger. Like her, so many children enter into care never having experience the power of prayer, or even who Jesus Christ is. Like me, I am sure you have answered questions from your foster children about who Jesus is, why you go to church, and maybe something as simple as why you pray at the dinner table, or at the end of the day. As a foster parent, these are important questions for you to answer, and need to be done with compassion, understanding, and indeed prayer.
At the same time, it is also very important that you respect any religious differences your foster child has. Allow your foster child to practice his own religious beliefs, and honor those difference and beliefs, as well. It is also very important to remember that your foster child's birth parents and biological family members have the legal right to choose their child's religion, or lack of, if they so desire. After all, it is possible that your foster child's birth parents will not want you to take their child to church with you. This can be quite a difficult situation for you. Simply because a child is placed in your home does not give you permission to force your religion upon a child, or to ignore their own. If you have questions in this regard, contact your child's case worker, and discuss your concerns with them.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 13 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 45 children come through their home. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several foster care books, including the brand new book Love and Mayhem: One Big Happy Family's Story of Fostering and Adoption. Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John, He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website.