About a decade ago when we at Christ’s Church of Oronogo began exploring what it would look like to take a more intentional step into the world of foster care, I was hesitant and I had an endless list of questions. Where would we start? What could we even do? How would we work with the government? Isn’t foster care . . . messy?
As our team began meeting with case workers and foster parents, and as we listened to judges and attorneys tell the stories of our community, I knew there was no turning back. My heart was captured by the opportunities in front of us and I began to see the ways in which God could use his church to redeem brokenness and restore families in incredibly beautiful ways.
We started to see that it not only was possible for us to be involved, but that the local church was uniquely equipped to meet most of the needs at hand.
Stable and loving families? Check.
Supportive communities? Got it.
Space for events and trainings? Done.
Over the last 10 years, we have explored several opportunities within the foster care system:
• We’ve hosted “Foster Parent Nights Out” where foster families can drop their kids off at our church for a night of pizza, games, art projects, and fun while foster parents enjoy a few hours of alone time.
• We’ve provided training opportunities for foster parents to gain more knowledge about such topics as trauma and attachment while they earned credit hours required for maintaining their license.
• We’ve created meal trains for foster families every time they take in a new placement.
• We’ve hosted weekly supervised visits between kids in foster care and their biological parents in our Children’s Ministry space, and we’ve trained volunteers to serve as supervisors for those visits so the case workers and foster parents don’t have to.
• We’ve held informational meetings for anyone in the community interested in becoming a foster parent.
We’ve also partnered with an incredible local nonprofit organization called Fostering Hope, which seeks to bridge the gap between the community and the foster care system. Fostering Hope has several amazing church partners doing similar things in our community, among them:
• Carterville Christian Church hosts a graduation party every May for all the seniors in foster care. The graduates are given baskets full of gift cards, a computer tablet, and other gifts to celebrate their accomplishment.
• Fairview Christian Church provides space for the Caring Closet, a resource for local foster parents to get everything they need for the kids in their care—clothes, diapers, car seats, and toys—completely free of charge.
This type of ministry is rarely simple. The situations are complicated and the answers are never easy, but it’s been an incredible honor as a local church to be invited into families’ stories, a privilege to witness restoration firsthand, and a gift to be called into foster care . . . beautiful, messy foster care.