If couples who plan to foster or adopt can enlists the support of their own parents, they will have a greater degree of connectivity with the kids coming into their home. Stated differently, foster or adopted kids feel a greater sense of attachment with the family they are joining if they can connect with multiple generations of that family. Grandparents provide foster or adopted kids a greater sense of belonging than any other relationship. So, parents who plan to bring kids into their home should develop a multi-generational parenting partnership with their parents.
The influence and joy of grandparents is noted in the Old Testament. In Genesis 48, Jacob looked to Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh and blessed them as a testimony to his love for Joseph. In Psalm 128, the poet describes the faithful Israelite man as one who is blessed in his home and his participation in Israel. The psalmist concludes with the benediction that his readers would see their children’s children (Ps 128:6).
The degree of commitment grandparents may wish to offer in this partnership may be high or low. Whatever the circumstances, potential foster or adoptive couples should court their parents and patiently give them a vision for multigenerational influence. Many couples fear that their parents will discourage them from fostering or adopting. This is a legitimate fear. In fact, your parents will likely try to talk you out of it! They have likely heard horror stories and they want to prevent harm in your home. You may even find that your parents will question your motives and ability to bring kids into your home. Don’t expect balloons and streamers when you approach mom and dad—but approach them anyway. Their involvement, even in small ways, can help your kids feel connected to you—and that is what you need. So, be confident as you inform your parents about the ministry God has called you to fulfill. Don’t be defensive if your parents initially fail to support you as you would wish. Trust me here: most grandparents warm-up to foster or adopted kids over time. Your parents first reaction will likely be their worst reaction. Be prepared and get it out of the way.
Some grandparents hesitate to support their children’s desire to foster or adopt because they know that their family might become multi-racial. Likely so. Compared with the population at large, there are a disproportionate number of minority—especially African-American—children in foster care. In Until Every Child is Home (Moody Publishers, August 2019), I note that foster care and adoption provide the church a platform for addressing racial tensions in our culture. And it may be the case that God would use your minority-race kids to help your parents see the racial bias in their own lives. Would not be the first time.
Though asking your parents to support you in your desire to foster or adopt might be downright scary, it will be worth it in the end. Let me offer three specific ideas for developing a multi-generational parenting partnership with your parents:
1. Share with them early in the process. If you are talking with friends at church about your plans to enroll in foster care class, you would do well to be talking with your parents too. Even if you feel like your parents will not be supportive, make an appointment to speak with them. The last thing you want is for your parents to find out second hand that you are planning to bring foster kids into your home. Yikes! Try to have a formal, sit-down meal or meeting with your parents and share your heart. Allow them to ask questions. Don’t get defensive. Don’t feel like you have to have all the answers. Be confident. Be calm, patient, even teachable.
2. Involve your parents in the process and at special events. Grandparents will begin to warm-up to God’s call on your life as they become informed on the process. Once they start to see profiles of neglected and abused kids, most grandparents see why their kids are responding to God’s call. So, keep your parents in the loop on classes, certifications, and specific kids who are available to be fostered or adopted. Talk with your parents about their expectations. Might be good to give them a copy of Until Every Child is Home or Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life. Introduce the kids to your parents at the earliest convenient opportunity. On move-in day, have parents participate in whatever ways they would feel comfortable. Let your parents know of birthdays and activities that the kids are involved in and inquire of your parents how they might want to participate.
3. Facilitate opportunities for your parents to disciple your foster or adopted kids. If your parents are believers and supportive, encourage them to pray for your kids and look for opportunities to engage them in spiritual matters. If possible, have a time of scripture reading and prayer when your parents are visiting. For Christian grandparents, few opportunities bring more joy than evangelizing and discipling their grandkids.