When Folks Don’t Have the Stomach for Foster Care

Warning:  This blog post is a little gross.  If you have a delicate gag reflex, proceed with caution.

If you’ve ever considered yourself part of the Christian community as a college student, there’s a good chance you have participated in, or at least witnessed, a crazy or uncomfortable skit as a part of a ministry meeting or camp environment. It’s just one of the things Christian college students do in addition to eating lots of cheap pizza and learning to play the guitar.

One of the most unforgettable skits I’ve witnessed took place at a day camp I helped to staff after my sophomore year of college.  Some of the college students were introducing themselves to a gymnasium full of elementary and Jr. High kids at a housing project in Louisville, Kentucky.  I don’t remember who all was in the skit for sure and what they said exactly, but this will give you an idea of how this generally went down:

Standing in a line across the gym floor each college student introduced themselves by saying something like “Hi!  My name is Hannalies and I like Ho Hos”.   

Hannalies would then take a bite out of a Ho Ho, chew it up, and spit it in a cup.  She would then pass it to Liz.

“Hi, my name is Liz and I like LEMONADE.”  Liz would take a drink of lemonade, swish it around her mouth and spit it in the cup that she just got from Hannalies. She then passes it onto the next person.  You get the idea.  It goes down the line, the cup being filled at each stop with increasing disgustingness.  And then the cup gets passed to the guy at the end named Andy.

“Hi, my name is Andy and I like ANYTHING.”  Andy then takes the cup and proceeds to drink its contents entirely (I warned you).

There was a kid near the front of the bleachers named Darrell.  When Andy drank the contents of the cup, his eyes got huge and his hands flew over his mouth and he jumped up from his seat in the bleachers and sprinted to the bathroom across the gym.  For most everyone in the gym (including me), what Andy had just done was nearly unbelievable. In fact, I was telling my kids this story recently and I realized that Andy did something that day I am convinced in my heart of hearts I could never successfully pull off.  I would simply not have the stomach for it.

If you are a foster parent, there are likely people in your life that kind of view you the same way.  They are convinced in their heart of hearts that you are pulling off something they could never do. They believe with certainty that they don’t have the stomach for it.  They even tell you so when they say “You do foster care? I could never do that.” They have put you in a category of someone willing to subject themselves to a reality that they could never imagine themselves being able to withstand.

So how do you convince people to do something they are convinced they could never do?

Here are three ways (and only one of them is advisable):

  1. Peer pressure.  If enough people tell you enough times you ought to do something, will you eventually do it? Maybe.  But there is a good chance you will hate it and resent those around you for the unwanted pressure.
  2. Shame. Often, people are made to feel like lesser Christians if they don’t foster or adopt.  While sometimes this is self-imposed, we can be proactive about promoting other vital ways that everyone can be involved beyond foster care and adoption.  We need to celebrate all of them because they are all vital.
  3. Prayer.  In recruitment, we must continually remember that God is the one who moves hearts.  He is the one that convinces people that are convinced otherwise. And when He does, it sticks.  If our recruitment of families is not firmly rooted in prayer – in talking to the One who has the power to move hearts and change minds, then we recruit in vain.

The truth is that no amount of peer pressure or shame could make me do what Andy did that day.  It would most certainly take an act of God.

So it is with your recruitment efforts.  There are a lot of kids that need families in the county where you live.  There are a lot of families that aren’t sure they have the stomach for it — for the trauma, for the loss when a child returns home, and for the frustrations of the bureaucracy of an over-taxed system.  They are convinced they could never do it. The truth is, it’s going to take an act of God to convince them otherwise.  So let’s ask Him for that.

May our recruitment be rooted in prayer and our trust be planted firmly in the Defender of every child who needs a family to step in for a little while or for the long haul.

This post originally appeared in our Foster Roster e-newsletter which is delivered each Friday. We keep it short and sweet and fill it with practical articles, videos, blog posts and other tools for leaders like you working to help kids and families in foster care.  To sign up, go to http://bit.ly/1rwn6eO.