We've all heard the stats - in the United States the most likely victims of sex-trafficking are runaways and kids who've been pushed through the foster care system. Though there is some debate about it, a simple Google search of "foster care and abuse" indicates that most studies show a higher rate of child abuse in foster homes than in the home of the biological family. A home environment, whether foster or biological, may be so bad that a child feels anything would be better than staying in the abusive situation. In fact, one girl caught in the sex trade says that to this day she would choose the life of a trafficked victim over being in a foster home where "at any moment a man could walk in the room and start touching me and I had to call him dad."
For this reason, it is my strong belief that the best action step the Church can take in the prevention of sex-trafficking in the U.S. today is for strong families to become foster and adoptive families. After all, what is the central message of the Gospel? Love. What does love do? Restores. Reconciles. Sacrifices. Heals. Comforts. Provides for. Protects. James reminds us that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress..." How are we doing, Church?
Of course I don't pretend fostering is easy, and if your spouse isn't on board (yet) then don't do it (yet, but you can pray for a heart change...it happens). Before you even think about fostering you need to examine yourself. What are you hanging on to that needs to go? What issues in your marriage need to be resolved before hosting a child? My suggestion before you take steps toward adoption or fostering is seek out a personal and marriage therapist to work on things you've been unwilling to let go of or change. You cannot help heal and restore ANYONE if you have not allowed God to work healing and restoration into your own life first.
Okay, so you've examined yourself and you feel ready to start moving forward. What next? Ahhhhhh...yeah...the foster and adoption laws/process vary, sometimes dramatically, from state to state so here are my suggestions for getting the ball rolling:
- Pray. Always. In everything, pray.
- Start reading foster and adoptive parent blogs. You will learn waaaaaaaaaaaay more from them than probably any other source.
- Find a good agency! Your agency is everything. I cannot stress this enough. I've had quite a number of friends foster in the last year and a half and it can be a HUGE headache if your agency doesn't have its act together. So don't just settle on the first agency you find; do some research, talk to some other families who've used the agency/ies you're considering, and pray, pray, pray for direction.
- Be real with what you can handle. Special needs are special needs and we're not all special enough to handle them on a 24-hour basis. There are many decisions to be made when bringing any child into your home, such as age, special needs, and longevity of the child's stay. Above all, when considering these questions, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND WITH YOUR SPOUSE. You're not a bad person if you know you can't take on an autistic child (or ADHD, or HIV-positive child, etc.). You're a much better person if you admit to what you can and cannot handle. Parenting takes a lot, and fostering even more so. It's no easy road; it is, however, much easier if you are honest from the beginning.
- Get trained. There are a lot of resources out there for foster and adoptive families. A good agency will direct you toward some of them, but go on Amazon and buy books, do a Google search of trainings in your area, meet up with people who've already walked the road and can advise you.
- Good luck! You'll do fine. Parenting of any kind is heartbreaking, difficult, risky, and will stretch you to your limits. I came from an incredibly sheltered, homeschooled, conservative background and once we reached adulthood half the kids raised with me turned out to be dope-smoking, single-parent atheists. Just saying...sewing your own seed and raising them in a box is not a guarantee they'll turn out how you like. Parenting is not an issue of control...it's more like a grand experiment in trust. Trust God. He knows.