Well, certainly generated a lot of discussion... definitely more than any of my previous posts. A few families even contacting me to say they are attending an informational meeting at DSS next month. That's absolutely wonderful!
Unfortunately, I was also blasted by a few people here. Such hateful responses indicate those readers weren't even part of the intended audience, and I'm sorry that type of negativity distracted from the key point: we desperately need more families in Harford County to become licensed for foster care. And because God commands Christians to care for widows and orphans, foster care is a natural way to obey those commands.
At least it appears I got some people thinking... and if even just one child gets a loving home because of my post, then it's all worth it.
To those of you who have shared my post and/or contacted me about getting more information, thank you! I am so encouraged by your desire to help these kids!
Before I put this whole thing to rest, I do want to address a few of the frequent comments/questions my letter received.
"Not everyone is called to care for orphans."
While it's true the Bible says some are called to teach, others to preach, others still to heal, and so on (Ephesians 4:11), it is very clear that all Christians are commanded to care for widows and orphans. This is *not* a calling, but a command. Two completely different things. (Some people get callings, but everyone gets commands). I was not *called* to care for orphans. Five years ago, I felt the same as most of you about it. But after repeatedly reading verses like James 1:27, Psalm 82:3, Deuteronomy 24:19-22, Isaiah 1:17, and Matthew 25: 39-46, I could no longer ignore the command. After praying about it, we initially looking into adoption, but ultimately decided the need for foster care in our community was too great to consider otherwise.
"Foster care isn't the only way to care for orphans and widows, you know."
That is absolutely correct, and I'm sorry if I insinuated otherwise. There are lots of ways to help. For example, some adopt, many choose to sponsor orphans in Africa, while others may purchase goods made by widows in Bangladesh. But today in the U.S., foster kids are pretty much the orphans of our time. So, any way we can support their care is definitely honoring God's command for His church.
"I just am not able to bring a foster child into my home (for whatever reason). Please don't judge me for that."
Seriously, my post was not intended to make anyone feel condemned. Convicted, sure. Condemned, no. I completely understand not everyone is in a position to open their home to strangers. Really, I get it. But, with less than .01% of the families in our county doing foster care, I suspect there are some Christians who are ignoring God's prompting in this regard. The numbers speak for themselves here. And statistically, we only need 7% of professing Christians worldwide to care for kids like this, to wipe out the need completely! But if you have prayed about it, and feel certain God isn't calling you to support foster kids, then I'm sure He'll show you another way you can care for widows and orphans. I then only ask you to join me in praying that those who are supposed to help in this way, do.
"There's too much red tape (or mean people) at DSS. If they made it easier, we'd do it."
As I said, I wasn’t born with this passion, nor did it come easily. It came after hearing and reading God’s commands (countless times) to care for orphans. He doesn’t say to only care for them if the process is smooth, the workers are kind, or the kids are easy to love. It just says to do it. At one point, we had a very trying situation with a difficult worker (who is no longer with the department here). That could have dissuaded us from continuing, but we felt we would be ignoring God’s commands if we turned our backs on these kids just because it was hard. As the saying goes, sometimes the hard thing and the right thing are the same thing. Please don't give up!
"Foster care and/or adoption costs too much. I can't afford it."
All states in the U.S. give monthly stipends to families caring for foster kids. On average, that stipend is about $25/day, and covers things like clothing, food, transportation, school supplies. Each child receives medical care through the state, so you don't have to pay out of pocket for that. If you budget appropriately, the monthly stipend is adequate to meet the financial needs of the child, so he or she does not put a financial burden on your family. Adoption from foster care is FREE! That's right - if you adopt a child from foster care, you typically pay nothing (unless you choose to hire a private attorney at your own expense). I know many families who would have otherwise been unable to adopt, do so through foster care. They end up with beautiful families, full of love and laughter, without the financial strain of traditional private adoptions. In addition, in many states (including Maryland), you continue to receive the monthly stipend even after the child is adopted - up to age 18! This means there is little reason to say no, at least financially speaking.
"I don't have enough room."
Well, maybe you don't, in which case I'm sure God will show you another way you can help. But here are the only official requirements for the state of MD:
- Applicants must be 21 years of age.
- Applicants may be single or married.
- Applicants may live in an apartment or house.
- Applicants are fingerprinted for a criminal background check.
- Every member of the household 18 years or older must be fingerprinted for a criminal background check.
- Applicants must be able to meet family's financial obligations.
- Applicants are requested to submit an initial medical examination and reexamination every two years for every member of the household to determine their physical and emotional ability to care for children.
- Applicants are requested to provide three references regarding their parenting ability.
- Applicants are required to complete a minimum of 27 hours of pre-service education.
- The applicant's home will be inspected by personnel from the health department for safety and sanitation, and by the fire department.
- A minimum of two visits to the applicant's home is completed by the approval worker to discuss the types of children most appropriate for them, the proposed sleeping arrangements and the family lifestyle.
- A child support clearance must be conducted.
- Applicant must agree not to use physical punishment.
If you made it through this post and the last, thank you! I encourage you to share these posts with others, because the more people who hear about this great need, the more chance we'll be able to start meeting it. After all, doesn't every child deserve a loving home?
P.S. As a reminder:
Upcoming informational meetings for Harford County are:
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
All meetings are held from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Harford County Department of Social Services
2 South Bond Street, Bel Air
3rd floor, Conference Room
(Park in side “permit only” lot. You will not be ticketed after hours.)
For additional dates or questions, please contact
Billie Ferguson at 410-836-4922 or firstname.lastname@example.org