HOH created a systematic approach to recruiting, training and retaining foster parents to nurture and care for children who cannot be cared for by their biological parents. New Jersey churches became our partners in this process.
It is an unfortunate reality that too many innocent children become the responsibility of the government. Many of these children have this status quo due to having been victimized by the hands of their own family members – those whom society expects to be their primary protectors. However, not all children who become entangled with child welfare are victims of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Some children cannot remain with their natural families due to circumstances (i.e. financial hardships, mental health diagnoses, physical health conditions, or substance abuse issues) that result in their neglect, or a family’s inability to provide for their physical (such as housing and food), medical, or educational needs. Regardless of the reason for their entry into foster care, these children are in need of a nurturing environment where they can receive love, support, encouragement, and protection. The Church is a prime candidate for helping create this nurturing environment due to the basic Christian principles on which it is founded, including love, sacrifice, and benevolence. The HOH model is intended to demystify foster care and to train individuals how to create that nurturing environment within your church.
Pure & Faultless Religion
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
The duty to care for orphans and widows was first introduced in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 10 when Moses was handing down God’s commandments to Israel. Moses begins in verse 12 by commanding Israel to respect, love, serve, and obey the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:12-13), and he provides several reasons as to why God is worthy and deserving of such worship and honor (Deuteronomy 10:14-22). Moses identifies God’s unbiased and steadfast nature amongst the reasons for which God ought to be praised (verse 17). To illustrate the limitlessness of God’s impartiality (verse 18), Moses uses the example of how God “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow in their distress.”
These two groups, the orphaned and the widowed, were regarded as vulnerable even during Moses’ time. Without full protection under the law, access to property rights, or a surviving male figure to protect them, fatherless children and widowed women were subject to the perils of society (poverty, exploitation, abuse, etc.). But even in their low regarded status, the Lord remained faithful to the least of these and set an example of impartiality for our earthly behavior.
The importance of this duty is reiterated in the New Testament in James 1:27 when James describes the type of religion that God deems acceptable. James describes this type of religion as being selfless, putting the needs of another (to care for, look after, and visit), seemingly one less fortunate (those in distress) than one’s self (the orphaned or fatherless and the widowed), before one’s self.
The greatest example of this selflessness and sacrifice was demonstrated by the crucifixion and death of James’ half-brother, the Son of Man, the Son of God, the one and only Jesus Christ, the one to whom we owe our lives and our salvation, the one whose life example of love, acceptance, and sacrifice we have vowed to follow as Christians.
As Christians who live to seek God’s eternal approval, we must submit ourselves to the only form of religion that God will accept as pure and faultless. We must posture our hearts and minds toward children who originate from broken families so that they do not grow up to become broken adults. We are commanded to do this because it is what God does for each of us through His unmerited grace and mercy. If it were not for the Lord’s unfailing love adopting us into His sonship through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we would not be entitled to nor would we have access to God’s goodness. May the works of our hands and feet glorify the Lord for what He has done for us all because of His infinite and unfailing love.
“So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:7
What is the Unique Contribution a Congregation Can Make to address this Crisis?
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:37
Throughout the United States there are 437,000 infants, toddlers, young children, pre-teens, and teenagers in need of a place to call home for a few months, or for the rest of their lives. You may be asking, “As a church, what can we do?”
There are more than 330,000 churches in America. Think about how many churches there are in your state or city.
If every church had a foster care ministry committed to developing JUST ONE loving and safe home for a child, consider how many children could experience healing from their past trauma within the safe context of loving, Christian homes.
The congregation can make a substantial contribution to child welfare in this regard. Not all may be called to open a home to children in foster care, but there are numerous ways to become involved by supporting and serving those who are. Who better to meet these family and community needs than the church? Your foster care ministry will educate your congregation about the needs of these vulnerable children, and that will help to bring awareness in your community. Through this awareness, your church ministry can recruit and train potential families for these children who need loving and nurturing homes.