This is the way, walk in it. Or, how God moved us toward foster care. {Part 1}

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Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

Last November (yes, we started this process almost a year ago… we are slow people as a general rule!) NP and I found ourselves sitting in our second weekend of foster parenting classes. As everyone settled into the overly quiet and bare white room, juggling early morning coffee and prepackaged muffins (why do those muffins always leave  that strange film on the inside of the plastic wrapper?), the nice couple next to us turned to us and asked with big smiles on their faces, “So, why do you want to be foster parents?” NP and I looked at each other and hesitated, and then laughed out loud and said, “we don’t, really!” The other couple’s reaction betrayed the fact that they didn’t find our inside joke that funny.

It was something we had said we’d never do. We really, in all honesty, didn’t want to walk this road. Sometimes I still don’t. But we sat there in full confidence that it was where the Lord had led us. We laughed because like it or not, God was directing our paths.

God had worked on us both individually for several years.

In his professional life, NP had some first hand encounters with “the system” that were heart-wrenching and weighed on him in ways that I have seen few work-related things do. “The system” was no longer an abstract concept. Kids in foster care were no longer faceless statistics.  What was happening was wrong, and it was breaking his heart.

Meanwhile, I frequently found myself intersecting with stories of people who had fostered, adopted from foster care, or who had been in foster care themselves during their childhoods. The question began to fester at the back of our minds… is this something we should do?

And like we usually do when God is calling us far, far outside of our comfort zone, we ran away. We found excuses. We hid behind the very real issues and fear and possible probable heartache that come from this broken “system.” We were saying no, but God was still working.

My understanding of the issue of human trafficking continued to expand, and along with all of the other horrifying statistics that go along with this epidemic, the connection between trafficking and foster care began surface more and more. Polaris Project cited a 2007 study conducted in New York State which revealed that more than 85% of identified commercially sexually exploited children in New York State had prior child welfare involvement.

Why? They’re the most vulnerable. They disappear, and they don’t have families who will turn their lives upside down to find them.  ”Aging out the system, runaways, throwaways, histories of sexual abuse and abandonment are just a few of the causes that lead to later sex trafficking. The bottom line? Foster children are the most vulnerable children around the world and pimps are readily available and waiting to provide them with food, shelter, money – and exploitation. The cycle of terror, subjugation, and victimization then begins.” [source]

The most vulnerable children. Right in our backyards. In our schools. I’ve heard estimates of 1.7 million children engaged in the sex trade right now in the United States. If 85% of them had backgrounds in foster care, we’re looking at almost 1.5 million children who have fallen through the cracks of the “system.” Who’s looking for them? And if they happen to be found… where is home, anyway?

The facts were startling and chilling and uncomfortable. They still are.

I’ve heard a lot more Christians (including myself) speak out about trafficking. What if we were there for the kids who entered the foster system to begin with?

The question hung in my mind.

And God kept whispering.

{To be continued}

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