Christians are strong supporters of adoption and foster care, and they adopt and foster at a higher rate than the general population. A survey from the Barna Group (2013) found that 5% of practicing Christians have adopted, compared to 2 percent of all Americans. Similarly, 38% of practicing Christians have seriously considered adoption, compared to 26% of all Americans.
In regard to foster care, the pattern of findings is similar. Three percent of practicing Christians have fostered, compared to 2% of all Americans; 31% of practicing Christians have seriously considered fostering, compared to 11% of all Americans.
Reflecting God’s Heart
Why do Christians adopt and foster children at a higher rate than the general population? Part of the reason may relate to Christianity’s strong emphasis on caring for vulnerable children. In Christian adoption circles, we often talk about James 1:27 (BSB), which says, “Care for widows and orphans in their distress.” Even though not every child who enters foster care or who is adopted privately or internationally is an orphan by definition, the value of looking after a child in need relates to many situations.
Another aspect of adoption and foster care that is incredibly beautiful is that it mirrors God’s relationship with us. The core message of Christianity is about that reconciliation and redemption. This perspective also speaks volumes to our children’s journey. We can often feel as though their current behavior defines their future. We feel this way because our daily interactions with them can leave us exhausted and dismayed. We also see our children’s frustration with how things are going. The combination can lead to hopelessness. But because of grace, no one needs to be hopeless, including our kids. And if you decide to engage in adoption or foster care, know that you are engaging in deep, holy work that is close to the heart of God.
A Complex Journey
Christian families who adopt or foster often feel a strong call from God to enter this journey. They often have a huge passion for loving and caring for children and a longing for them to be part of a safe and healthy family. Stepping forward often means making huge sacrifices—giving of their time and finances, taking on additional stress—to bring children into their home.
Then the problems mount. Adoptive and foster parenting are not your average parenting gigs, which most of the world does not understand. Children impacted by adoption or foster care have often experienced trauma that drives their emotions and behavior, whether they remember it or not. Their symptoms are the truth they are not yet able to speak and describe. Difficult behaviors or reactions such as hoarding food, aggressive behavior and running away are often the result of past trauma. Some children may have difficulties attaching to the parents, and the normal positive reinforcement that parents usually expect (hugs, snuggles, “I love yous”) may not happen.
I saw children embarrassed to let others know they were in foster care, like it was a secret that needed to be kept. I saw biological children affected by the trauma of their new sibling and feeling overlooked as their parents needed to give more time and attention to their healing child.
Marriage relationships may also hit a rough patch because of all the added strain, and single parents may get exhausted because they have to be “on” 100% of the time. Feelings of grief, anger and disappointment can emerge because what they hoped their family would be like (for example, affectionate, well-behaved) is far from their reality. This journey is complex.
These experiences can disrupt one’s relationship with God, which is normal. We all go through fluctuations over time in how we experience God. But this particular struggle can be exacerbated by a deep misunderstanding of God and what God promises us.
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SOURCE: Charisma News, Jenn Ranter Hook