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Why Foster Care is a Pro-Life Issue

Why Foster Care is a Pro-Life Issue

“I have nowhere to go tonight. Can you help me?” The voice on the other side of the phone sounded desperate. As I frantically googled places for her to stay, I felt powerless before the immensity of her needs and began to ponder how supporting foster care is a pro-life act. This young lady, Lisa, who three years earlier had aged out of foster care, was now homeless, having just had her newborn child removed from her care. She was struggling with addictions, an unhealthy relationship, no family ties, and a baby now in foster care in a different county. Besides finding her a place to stay for the night, I struggled with figuring out a way to really help her. How had she fallen through the crackshomeless, addicted, separated from her baby, and alone?

Many of us pro-lifers are not fully aware of the cyclical nature of foster care. 71% of women who age out of foster care become pregnant by age 21. Many of these young women will have abortions, which will cause them psychological, spiritual, and, perhaps, physical harm. Of the ones who do choose life, unless they have a positive role model or community that regularly pours into their lives, many are at risk of losing their own children to foster care. And so, the cycle continues. More addiction, more homelessness, and more people going through life without a family.

Expanding Our Understanding of Pro-Life Issues

My husband, Greg, and I have been committed pro-lifers for many years. We regularly go to the March for Life in Washington D.C., have prayed in front of abortion clinics, have been involved with pregnancy resource centers, and even had a chance to speak at this year’s Walk for Life West Coast. But up until twelve years ago, foster care had never been on our radar as a pro-life issue. That is, until we were struggling with infertility and felt called to grow our family through adoption.

Our Foster-to-Adopt Journey

As we researched the possible avenues for adopting, we learned about the option to foster-to-adopt. While the primary goal of foster care is to reunite a child with his or her birth family, there are times when it is unsafe for a child to return home. When it looks unlikely that a child in care will be able to return home, he or she is often placed with a foster-to-adopt family.  While the foster family continues to support the plan to help reunify the child with his first family, if that plan doesn’t work, the child will become eligible for adoption.

As Greg and I decided to explore this path, we started taking foster parent classes. Our eyes were immediately opened to the vast needs of the children in foster care. How had we been unaware of the over 391,000 children in the U.S. foster care system? Or that each year, over 23,000 youth age out of foster care with nobody to look out for them? Without a family, many of these young adults end up homeless on the streets, addicted to substances, and incarcerated. Desperate for love, they are easy targets for sex traffickers. Recent statistics show that up to 90% of children who were victims of sex trafficking had been involved with child welfare services, which includes foster care.

Discovering Foster Care is Pro-Life

The more we learned, the more we felt responsible for sharing the plight of these children and their families with the pro-life community. Yes, it is pro-life to speak up on behalf of the helpless hundreds of thousands of children who are being aborted each year. It is pro-life to walk with abortion-vulnerable women in unplanned pregnancies. It is pro-life to offer parenting classes, provide diapers and formula, and help mothers get on their feet after having a baby.

But it is also pro-life to continue to walk with mothers and fathers who never had a positive role model and don’t have enough emotional support to raise their children well. It is pro-life to speak up for vulnerable children in foster care—and not just advocate for them but also open our hearts and homes to them. And it is pro-life to know that if we ourselves are not called to foster, that we can still have a life-changing impact on children in care by supporting a family who is called to foster.   

Restoring Dignity, Restoring Life, and Being Pro-Life

The pro-life movement is a powerful force that fights for the protection and recognition of the inherent dignity of every human being who has been created in the image and likeness of God. Now is the time for us to expand our vision of what it means to be pro-life.  

It is imperative that we in the pro-life community see the connection between unexpected pregnancies, abortion, foster care, homelessness, imprisonment, sex trafficking, and addiction. Whereas we may have considered these issues far too immense for us to have much impact, fostering provides a key touchpoint to intervene in the life of a child, a mother, and a family at risk.

A foster family impacts not only the lives of the children they foster but also has a unique opportunity to encourage and help restore dignity to birth families. Many foster families establish an ongoing relationship with birth families that continues in some capacity whether the child returns home or not. To see this in action, watch Kristina & Josh’s Story: One Big Family. This intervention can literally change the course of countless lives for generations to come.

Signs of Hope

So many people who grow up in generational cycles of dysfunction go on to repeat the same cycles because they don’t know of any other way to live. Pro-lifers can be a light to those living in the darkness of abuse, addiction, and family upheaval by getting involved with foster care. What we have to offer children in foster care, as well as their parents, is our hope in Christ, along with a new vision of what life can be.

It takes one person—whether that is a coach, a mentor, a pastor, or a friend—to reach out to these children and their parents, believe in them, and invite them into their family.  Through the encouragement of one person, a life can be transformed by the love of Christ.  Helping someone feel loved starts with a small step of recognizing the needs around us.

What Can You Do to Help?

What small thing can you do to help support a child in foster care or a young person who has aged out of the system? How can you support a family in crisis or a foster family? Perhaps you can develop a relationship with a hurting former foster youth like Lisa. This can be as simple as taking her out to coffee once in a while or texting her to see how she is doing. Or you could bring a meal to a foster family or offer to watch their children so they can have a date night. And let us not forget the power of prayer! Consider spiritually adopting a child in foster care and praying regularly for him.  

It is encouraging to see foster care ministries becoming more prevalent in churches around the country. These churches are committed to supporting children in foster care and walking with families who are fostering or at risk of losing their children to foster care. This type of support can make all the difference in the lives of those, such as Lisa, who have never known self-sacrificing love.

Caring for Lisa

I am currently trying to help Lisa to know God’s love for her by checking in on her regularly. She’s in rehab now, and when I asked her this week what she needed, she responded, “Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.” As a busy mother of four, I don’t really see how I can do anything big for her, but I can certainly bring this girl some body wash! Hopefully, this small gesture will help her begin to see her dignity and come to know that she is loved by God.

Let us be inspired with the hope that Christians can make an impact in helping hurting children and families involved with foster care. In the words of Mother Teresa, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

©2024 Kimberly Henkel. Used with Permission.

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