May 25th, 2012 by Kristi Stephens
This week Focus on the Family, the Cry of the Orphan, and Show Hope are calling for a prayer vigil for children in the foster care system and we have been focusing attention on this issue throughout the week. I pray you have been as blessed by reading the testimonies here this week as much as I have!
Today I asked my friend Tara to share with us a different kind of story relating to praying for children in the child welfare system, because she lived this in a different way. After growing up in a very broken and abusive environment, God has brought beauty from ashes in her life – I’m excited for her as she finished her degree in social work just a few weeks ago and is continuing on into graduate school! I so appreciate her sharing her perspective on how we can minister to and pray for foster children.
I was never really in the foster system, but I grew up in a dysfunctional and very abusive home. I was continuously surrounded by drugs and alcohol. I started using drugs and alcohol when I was in third grade. I was in the social welfare system for about a year and a half and by the time I was 17 I was removed from my mother and became a ward of the court. I was placed in my grandparent’s custody.
Growing up in a home like this made it hard for me to know how to maintain healthy relationships and make good choices. I believe that had it not been for the Godly examples of people I had in my life I would have never gotten out of the bad lifestyle I was in. Because God placed so many people in my life who showed me love and His mercy and His grace when I would mess up, I believe that it helped me understand what love really meant.
The ﬁrst thing that I would advise someone who is taking in or working with foster kids is to be open to being used by God. Next, pray and ask God to use you to make an impact and/or difference in the life of a foster child or children. For people who are not able to foster, pray how God can use you to impact them. So many times kids grow up without family privilege. Family privilege is deﬁned, in short, as the beneﬁts (mostly invisible) that come from membership in a stable family. So many kids in the foster system have never learned to operate within the safety of structure and boundaries.
Another thing I feel is important is relating to kids on a personal level. If you are able to personally relate to their situation let them know and this can help you ﬁnd common ground with them. But you also have to be sure that you have your own personal boundaries and comfort level. Also, help expose kids to healthy environments as well as healthy and positive people. This is important because many kids who are in the system do not realize that there is another way of life besides the life they are currently living or have lived.
Pray for children who need a foster home. Pray for children to have a Godly inﬂuence in their lives. Pray for healing for children who are in the foster system. The majority of the time their is a lot of brokenness in the lives of foster children. Whether its from being placed in one foster home or ten foster homes. The ﬁrst broken heart is when they are separated from their families. Even when this happens when they are babies, it hurts later and they feel abandoned.
Pray for the spirit of forgiveness for the foster child, that they would be able to forgive their parent or those who have hurt them. Don’t give up on kids, more than likely they have already had several adults give up on them. Remember time is precious! Do what you can while they are in your care. Don’t make promises you cannot keep! Keep in mind that if they are in your foster home or if you work with them in some capacity, you can help make a difference in their lives.
Help guide and teach them the skills they need for survival and communication. Teach them life lessons and skills that they can use if they have to go to a different foster home or if they are going to enter the “real world.” I can’t help but think about the people who taught me about time management, anger management, money management, and communication skills and boundaries and how much it has helped me as a adult, especially in the working world.
Involve kids in church. A good friend of mine had abusive foster parents, but they took him to church. He realized by hearing the Word that there was something bigger and stronger then the abuser. He realized that help comes from the Lord. I was introduced to church by a friend but had I never gone to church I may have never come to know the Lord. I would have never realized that what Christ did for me and how much He loved me,also how He was so much more powerful then the abuse I was enduring.
Another piece of advice that I would offer is allow time (lots of time) to notice change in kids’ personalities and actions. Sometimes kids act out because they don’t how else of get attention. Or they may be afraid that no one will want them, especially if their parents did not want them. Or they may be tested you to see how long you will stick with them.
Keep in mind whether your a foster parent, work with kids who are in the foster system, or maybe you know someone who has foster kids; whichever category you fall into, you have the power and opportunity to inﬂuence the life of a foster child. It could be small things like a smile,helping them with a project, spending time with them, or building rapport with them. Or it could be by simply praying for them. Remember you don’t have to personally know someone to make a difference in their life! Praying makes a big difference! Finally, be creative with kids and don’t be afraid of them. Love is so much more powerful than fear!