Foster Care Activity VS Foster Care Movement: Competition VS Collaboration (Part 2 of 6)

Foster care activity and the faith community’s involvement in that activity has a long history in this country.  In recent years, however, a new kind of faith-based, grassroots effort has emerged from communities across the U.S.  Though the word “movement” is admittedly over-used in our culture, these efforts are best described as “local foster care movements.”  This is the second of a six part series on the difference between foster care activity and foster care movement

  1. Foster Care Activity VS. Foster Care Movement (Introduction) — Last week’s post
  2. Competition VS. Collaboration — this week’s post
  3. Strategies VS. Vision
  4. Adjustment VS. Change
  5. Agency Led Programming VS. Community Led Advocacy
  6. More VS. More than Enough

Foster Care Activity is Characterized by Competition

We all understand the place healthy competition has in business and sports, but what place, if any, does competition have in the non-profit and church world?  I have heard it suggested that competition between non-profits is healthy because it spurs organizations on to better, more impactful work. When I’ve heard this sentiment over the years, I’ve had to wrestle with what I believe about that.  I do believe that when we see someone else doing good work it inspires us to do good work. But is competition necessary for that to happen?

Ultimately, I have come to believe that competition, in the arena of helping others, has a far greater likelihood of doing damage than doing good.  The problem with welcoming competition into our work on behalf of children and families is that it necessarily begins with a misunderstanding of who our opponent is.  If I am competing with you for donors, church partners, families, state contracts, or recognition we both lose in a couple of ways. First, I am trying to get things for myself that would help you thrive (and vice versa).  Second, it will take each of us a lot longer for us to accomplish our shared objectives which are to help as many children and families as possible. We can do that better together.

It’s the difference between seeing someone as the other team and seeing someone as a workout partner.  When “they” are the other team, we think in terms of competitive advantage. We think in terms of out-running and out-scoring them.  We think in terms of trying to do things better than they do them. We think in terms of winning.

Foster Care Movement is Characterized by Collaboration

But what if “they”, instead, are my workout partner?  That changes everything. Their success still drives me to be better, work harder and to excel but in a completely different way.  We then start thinking in terms of how to encourage each other. We think about how to get our partner to do one more set. We think in terms of both of us getting as strong as possible instead of just trying to get a little stronger than the other guy.  

Not only do I think this is a more biblical way to think, I believe it’s better for kids and families who are fighting generations of addiction, abuse, neglect, poverty and hopelessness.  And, by the way, If you’re looking for an opponent to fight, those five things are a pretty decent start to the list. Those are just a few of the things our true enemy is using to bring destruction to the families in your community.  You want to fight? Good — grab your workout partner and start fighting your real opponent . . . together.  

Local foster care movements throughout the country include various advocates, organizations, agencies and churches with a common vision and a commitment to building trust with one another.   They set aside some of what they don’t agree on to focus on the things they do agree on. They understand the problem is too big to solve alone and that only the foolish try to do so. Collaborative movements are defined by an atmosphere of generosity and a relentless commitment to resolving conflict biblically and looking beyond differences.   If you are waiting to collaborate until you find someone more like you, you are missing the point of collaboration. Our kids and families need you, but they also need someone who has gifts and perspectives that you don’t have. That is a big part of what makes collaboration work. Some of us believe that collaboration is morally valuable but not practically beneficial.  Certainly we can all point to collaborative experiences that didn’t produce good outcomes, but collaboration done well can change everything.

Foster care activity built on competition will produce some good things for kids.  But if we believe they deserve more, we’ll need to build foster care movement together.


NOTE: If you want to be a part of building a local movement that provides more than enough before, during, and beyond foster care in your county, get started by taking the 10-minute church foster care engagement assessment at  More Than Enough is a collaborative movement facilitated by the CAFO community.

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