The word trauma is only six letters long, but it is so much more than just being in a car crash. It’s more than seeing someone whose been shot, or even being shot. While all of those are traumatic experiences, most trauma is carried on for months maybe even years. That’s certainly the case of working with kids in foster care. Most of them have never been in a wreck, but many of them have years of trauma.
A is a girl who has suffered severe drug abuse. Her mother would shoot her up with heroin. “Bug,” hates being called by her real name because it reminds her of all the times her mother prostituted her out to men. L is a girl who was raped multiple times and was beaten by her family for speaking about it. All these girls have traumatic experiences that go back four or five years. Their hatred is deep, and they don’t trust anyone.
Working in foster care is difficult. Being a Christian who works in foster care is even harder. These children will go through countless hours of therapy, be exposed to hundreds of milligrams of medication, and exposed to all kinds of worldly philosophies in the months and sometimes years they are in the foster care system. They are taught to rely on themselves and to recognize their “triggers”, so they can live productive lives in society.
You may have noticed that these kids are not taught about the depravity of man, the grace and mercy of Christ on the cross, the adoption of sons and daughters through faith in Christ, or any other gospel truth that would be taught to them by the local church. Instead they’re taught that they have the power to be a good person and change their life with their actions and their words. They’re taught karma and treated differently based on what they might have done to a coworker that is lost. All of this plays a crucial role in understanding what it’s like to be a Christian who works in foster care.
What’s the biggest difference? Four practices: Prayer, intentional listening, the gospel, and love. These four practices separate a Christian who works in foster care from everyone else. This is the every day life of someone who works in foster care.
Let’s begin with prayer. Prayer is a necessity for any believer to make it through the day. A Christian foster care worker prayers for a few things. First, they pray for themselves, they repent of sins, ask for strength, and ask that the Lord would use them to impact the lives of the kids they are entrusted to care for. A Christian who works in foster care prays for specific needs of the kids, that they would be able to reintegrate with their families, and that they and their families would come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. It can be difficult to know what to pray if you don’t know what’s going on in the kids lives. That is why it is vital that we, as Christians, listen to what these kids are telling us.
Ask any kid who is currently in foster care and they will tell you, “no one listens to us.” So, when they find out that Christians not only listen to them, but they are interested in getting to know them on a personal level they are shocked. Even workers who are not saved are in shock, they’re mesmerized at the thought that they’re more than just a number on a case load. Sometimes listening is difficult, it causes the worker to hear things they might not want to hear. Listening to stories of abuse and the lack of trust that comes along with it is hard. It’s even more difficult when you hear of someone who claims to be a Christian is the one who has been the perpetrator of the abuse. It hurts your heart, and in same cases makes you angry. So, after listening, you’re able to get into gospel conversations from there.
The gospel is good news, and its only Christians who share this news with the world. A Christian who works in foster care attempts to get into intentional gospel conversations daily. They might not be able to get through a full gospel conversation every day, but sometimes all it takes is a Christian telling the kids they’re praying for them. Other times the Christian is able to work all the way through the gospel, and it is received well. Foster care amplifies the gospel. It changes the Christians perspective when Jesus promises his disciples that he will not leave them as orphans (John 14:18), and all the other times God promises to care for the orphans.
Why pray, listen intentionally, and share the gospel? Love. We do this because we love those who are hurting. We care for the widow and the orphan in their times of affliction (James 1:27). We love them because the love of Christ compels us to. We love because we have been shown love, and we give it in return. The three topics mentioned above are all done out of love. We pray for these kids by listening to what they say, with the hope that they will receive the gospel, and we do this because we love Christ and love those he has created.