No Place To Call Home
What would you do if you saw a homeless child? No bed. Scared. Anxious about tomorrow. Our hearts would break and, most likely, we would inquire if there was anything at all we could do to ensure that he or she had a warm bed and a place to stay even for the night. Traditional homelessness in America exists, but did you know that there is another kind of homelessness plaguing the child welfare system? There are kids without beds. Scared. Anxious about tomorrow. Are our hearts breaking? Have we inquired about what we could do? We may not be seeing them face-to-face, but the harsh reality exists that we have children experiencing homelessness within the foster care system.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times. We see a day where there are more families waiting for children than children waiting for families. It sounds nice, doesn’t it? It’s a grand vision. It’s an audacious goal. It’s a God-sized dream. It elicits an amen from most people when they hear it because kids need families. We know this much to be true.
But when you hear that kids are waiting, what do you imagine? Where are they waiting? If you’re picturing a foster home, that’s true. Many kids stay years upon years in a foster home waiting for an adoptive placement. If you’re picturing a group home, that’s also true in some cases. What we bet you aren’t picturing is an office building.
Yes, there are children across the U.S. spending the night in child welfare offices waiting for families, even temporary ones.
When a child is removed from a perilous situation, case workers first look for stable homes within the biological family. If none are found, they seek placement in a foster home. If there isn’t an available foster home who can meet the more specialized or intense needs of some children, group homes are approached. If group homes are at legal capacity, a case worker is left with a child in tow and nowhere to go.
Let us paint the picture in numbers for you.
We know that “everything is bigger in Texas.” The homes, the malls, the gas stations, and the foster care crisis. “Children without placement” is what they’ve labeled this particular crisis. The term refers to children who spent at least one spell (a consecutive number of nights) in a child welfare office or another unsuitable location because there simply was no foster home or group home for them. Between August 1, 2020 and March 21, 2021 there were 399 children who experienced at least one spell without placement. On average, 10-35 children (ages 4-17) were without placement per night within that period of time. The average spell without placement lasted nine nights.
It’s not a Texas-only crisis, however. These situations are faced in every state year after year. Oftentimes there are indicated barriers that make certain children “hard to place.” Such barriers include physical aggression, psychiatric hospitalizations, running away, juvenile justice involvement, and more. The kids who need the most stability have the greatest barriers to it. Clinical psychologist, Russell Barkley, said it this way, “The kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways.”
Church, our goal isn’t to scare you into action with numbers and stats. We do, however, want to compel you to action with the truth!
Let us remind you, we weren’t called to comfort but to combat when we said yes to God. We cannot become so overwhelmed by the problem that we don’t become part of the solution. James 1:27 doesn’t let us off the hook when it says, “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 (NIV).”
The reality that there are kids without beds in our backyard (in our states, cities, and counties), should be enough to spur us to action.
So how can we help?
1 | We can pray.
The greatest weapon we possess this side of Heaven is our prayer. The enemy sets out to destroy families, but the heart of God is to restore them. The enemy aims to pervert the hearts and minds of young people, but God wants to redeem them and use them for great and mighty things. Prayer shouldn’t be our last resort, it should be our first response. That’s why we list it first. It’s not, “I guess if you cannot do anything else then you can just pray.” No! Prayer is powerful, and necessary for the “war” we are in on behalf of hurting children.
Here’s what we can pray for!
- Pray for the children without placement to find healing and home.
- Pray for the child welfare workers who are faced with the immense responsibility of finding homes for kids, and spending sleepless nights in an office until they do.
- Pray for government and agency leaders to gain wisdom on how to address the foster care crisis in their areas.
- Pray for foster families to be strengthened and multiplied.
- Pray for support families to wrap around those on the frontlines of orphan care.
- Pray for biological families to find the healing and the support they need to welcome their children back home.
- Pray, “God, how would you have me be a part of the solution? What part can I play in helping hurting children find healing homes?”
2 | We can support.
The primary reason families quit fostering is a lack of support. We also know that families are more bold to step into the challenge of foster care when they have a support system willing to wrap around them with donations, meals, childcare, prayer, and encouragement. Just because you may not be in a place to start fostering, does not mean there is not a place for you in foster care ministry! There are families who could say, “yes” and provide their home for a child if they knew there were people like you to support them.
If your church has an orphan care ministry, perhaps now is the time to jump in and join the support team! If your church is not involved in orphan care yet, could you be the catalyst to start one? Click here to introduce your pastor to us! We’d love to connect with him or her.
3 | We can open our homes.
The undeniable truth is that we need more foster families. We won’t sugar coat it for you. There are kids sleeping in office buildings because there is nowhere to place them. But while we won’t sugar coat it, we also don’t believe that guilt is a pure motivation (James 1:27). No, we don’t jump into orphan care out of a place of guilt. We enter into orphan care out of a deep gratitude for our own adoption through Jesus Christ (Romans 8: 14-17).
Is God prompting you to open your home for a child? If your church has an orphan care ministry, contact the leader and let him or her know! They can help you get started in the process. If your church is not involved in orphan care yet, we can help! Click here to introduce your pastor to us! We’d love to connect with him or her.
The problem may seem overwhelming, but God has designed the Church to be the solution! If we start one church, one family, one child at a time, we will see a day where there are more families waiting for children than children waiting for families!
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