James writes that true religion, is one that cares for widows and orphans in their distress and keeps oneself from being stained from this world. Currently, there are over 7,500 children in the care of the State of Kansas, temporarily or permanently orphaned, with only ~2,500 households to take them in. We live in a broken world, where the results of sin surround us, yet, if you are like me, this statistic penetrates the soul a little differently.
Recently, Julia and I, were able to attend the RE: Conference (Real Encouragement) for foster and adoptive families. We were asked to write a little summary with some takeaways we had that may be helpful for you as well. Before we get into that, we feel that it is wise for us to admit that we are still in the process of becoming licensed foster parents in MO, so for this blog, we are functioning more as advocates for foster and adoptive parents and are going to frame this from a bird’s eye approach, more so than getting caught in the weeds, so that it can be helpful for as many people as possible. Our goal is to show one way to get involved in the foster care system, and two ways to encourage those who are in the trenches.
Encouragement, it was the theme of the whole conference and honestly, it is the biggest take away we got from it. So how exactly can we encourage those who are fostering or adopting? Generosity and hospitality.
One breakout speaker jokingly mentioned how it was ridiculously hospitable and food and money were thrown at everyone. Showering money definitely is generous but it isn’t the only way to do this, meeting needs, however large or small they are, is a huge way to be generous. In the context of this conference, there were needs that were met, a woman received a new purse after they found out hers was stolen, a family was given a few hundred dollars to Walmart (a family of 7+ kids), and for everyone, there were unlimited snacks and free meals, they even had a free pampering station for haircuts/massages/nails/etc.. All this to say, use whatever God has gifted you with to meet their needs, whether it is your skills, wallet, or time. It will go a long way!
On the other side of the same coin is hospitality. As we’ve all learned through the hospitality season, it requires a type of generosity, especially with our time and resources for obvious reasons. While there is some overlap with generosity, we’d like to focus on the unique ways that hospitality encourages. In most ways, it encourages a foster family in the same way it would any other family, it provides fellowship, a time to be heard, a time to laugh, and, to be honest, one less meal to worry about. It is a chance to tell the other family that they are not alone, that they have support, and they’re loved. Ultimately, it is time to encourage one another in the gospel!
Maybe you want to get involved with fostering but you don’t think parenting is in the cards, well we want to make you aware of a special position in the foster children’s life. Have you thought about becoming a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). We want to highlight this a bit because, it is not as well-known of a position within the system, but still can have a tremendous impact on a child. A CASA is appointed to a child to be an advocate for them and they stay with that child for as long as they are in the care of the state (oftentimes relationships remain well after adoption or reunification). They tend to overtime be the most consistent person in the child’s life, they typically have a detailed knowledge of the child’s case and story (sometimes better than caseworkers and foster parents) and prove to be a huge resource and partner in the process for families and caseworkers because of these things. We’ll leave a link below as to finding out more info about CASAs or becoming a CASA. We think that this is an awesome window into showing the love of Christ through the foster system other than being a foster parent!
You can find a bunch of videos and articles about this role online, but here is a video that does a great job summarizing the role: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfbPW19vgk0. And here is their official website: Be a CASA Volunteer.