This post is part of a series by Todd Chipman. Read Part I and Part II.
Most Christian couples who foster or adopt do so because they want to glorify God in the world through their parenting. Some couples sense a call to foster care or adoption ministry because they are not able to have biological children. Their desire to parent runs parallel to the Great Commission. Foster care or adoption seem just what God would have for them and for needy kids. Other couples already have biological children. They are compelled to foster or adopt because they want to glorify God by parenting children that do not come from their bloodlines.
Parents who enter foster care or adoption ministry with biological children already in the home will face specific challenges and I want to address those here. This blog is the third entry in a series of five posts FTC is running at the outset of 2019. My goal is to equip FTC readers that are praying about foster care or adoption ministry this year. I suggest that couples who wish to foster or adopt in the next few months can set themselves up for success by cultivating five parenting ministry partnerships even as they wait for a child. First, parents need to see each other as partners in parenting ministry. Spouses who view parenting as a ministry partnership will be ready to endure the attacks that will come upon their marriage covenant. Second, prospective foster or adopt parents need to develop a parenting ministry partnership with their local church. Connecting with a pastor, small-group leader, and nursery, children’s or youth staff will help the church participate in the foster or adoption journey with you. Your kids will be their kids.
Third, parents who have children in the home need to develop a partnership with those kids as they prepare to welcome more children through foster care or adoption. Couples who have children in the home—whether biological children or previous foster or adoption placements—need to recognize that adding more kids to the mix will completely change the lives of the children they are already parenting. So, to the degree that those children are able, they should be involved in the process of welcoming new siblings. Let me suggest three principles for developing a parenting ministry partnership with children already in the home:
1. See foster or adoption ministry as discipleship—yours and theirs. Parents who are discipling the children already in their home will notice that sharing a desire to foster or adopt will not seem strange. Orphan care is commended and used as a spiritual metaphor throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, God’s concern for the weak serves as the motivation for His people to join Him in caring for the orphans among them. In Deuteronomy 14:29, Moses commands Israel to provide for the orphan just as they would the Levites who had no portion of land. Old Testament prophets like Isaiah express a similar worldview of caring for the weak. Isaiah begins his prophesy by indicting Israel of their sinful ways and calling the nation to repent. For Isaiah, orphan care is a part of that repentance. “Learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the ruthless, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17), he writes. Reading of God’s concern for orphans and His call to His people to join Him in caring for the needy helps parents and kids already in the home understand James’s statement that pure and undefiled religion includes orphan care (James 1:27). As parents lead their children to read Scripture, participate in the life of their local congregation, pray for missionaries, and stay informed about the needs of their communities, the topic of orphan care will surface regularly.
2. Date the kids you have—and continue to do so. Your kids need to know that you will yet be there for them when the new kids arrive, and next year too. Before the new kids arrive, mark the calendar with specific activities you will do with kids already in the home, one-on-one dates or trips to their favorite stores or events. And be sure to fulfill that commitment. In doing so, you will show your current kids that you are devoted to them. Help them to see that they are not losing you as a parent. Give them a vision for expansion, not contraction. As they see you expanding your parenting to include the new kids in your home, while yet devoting yourself to them, they will be ready to expand their capacity to be a brother or sister to the new kids God has given you.
3. Evaluate with your kids along the way. Partnerships rise and fall on the fulcrum of communication. So partner with the kids in your home by including them in the evaluation process of how the foster or adoption ministry is going. Inquire of their perspective, how they feel about the process and about the new kids sharing their living space. Be honest in your evaluation of the good, bad, and ugly. Your honesty will help them be transparent about their perspective. These will be some hard, sweet conversations.