by Dr. Robert G. Miles
You have never heard a child truly cry until you have to explain to him that he will no longer see his biological parents. On the other hand, you have never seen true joy until you have witnessed a child being matched with a family that is able to care for him and love him the way God had intended. This is the painfully beautiful process of foster parenting.
As you can imagine, providing this type of care for a child can be a daunting task. The reality is that there are more than 408,000 children in the United States that will spend time in the foster-care system this year, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
Foster care provides a temporary home for children while their biological parents seek the necessary treatment needed to provide a safe and loving home for their child. If they are unable to make improvements and the home is no longer safe, the next step is determining whether adoption is the right option for the child.
What might prompt a family to consider fostering or adopting a child? Ask the Gehms, members at St. Lorenz Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, Mich. Dave is president and CEO of Lutheran Homes of Michigan. He and his wife, Elaine, became foster parents through Lutheran Child and Family Service of Michigan, established in 1899 and a Recognized Service Organization of The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. Their journey to becoming foster parents wasnt always easy, but the reward was great. This past spring, Dave and Elaine adopted their foster child, Rebecca.
Dave reflects on why they became foster parents. The decision was for us a natural expression of our faith. God has blessed our marriage and family, and we were motivated to give back. We had prayed about it for a long time, and as our three biological children reached young adulthood, we felt it was now the time. So, with two in college and one in high school, the Gehms received training and waited for their first foster child.
Rebecca joined them in December 2008 and quickly became part of the family. She enrolled at St. Lorenz Lutheran School as a third-grader and immediately began to excel in her schoolwork. It was clear almost immediately that this was a child who had significant gifts and talents, and we were just excited to see her begin to realize that, says Elaine. Early on, we all went through an adjustment period; Rebecca had been through a lot and needed to trust, heal and love again. In time, we witnessed all that and more.
After nearly two years of on-again, off-again interaction with her birth mom, the decision was made that it would be best for Rebecca to find a loving, adoptive home. We did not enter the foster-care system to adopt, but when things changed for Rebecca, we did not have to think about it for even a moment, says Dave, reflecting on that transition time. The adoption was official in March 2011. The following month, with family and friends in attendance, Rebecca was adopted into her eternal family through Baptism. We love to say that Rebecca got two forever families in two months! What a blessing to us all, Elaine says.
Now in sixth grade, Rebecca loves her life, plays the flute, sings in choir, dances and excels at school. Her future is bright; she wants to be a veterinarian. This past July, she was a bridesmaid in her brothers wedding. Its been a long, hard, difficult, rewarding blessing of a journey, Elaine continues. Probably the hardest thing weve ever done as a family, but worth every ounce of energy it took.
The urgency of this situation cannot be overstated. The Gehm family took a leap of faith and was amazed by the blessings that God has given them. Being a foster parent is difficult, but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences a family can have. Families have the opportunity to share the love of Christ and the message of hope with someone who is seeking love, consistency and a place to call home.
Additional Resources available at CPH
Adopted and Loved Forever
When children have questions about adoption, adults want to give them truthful answers children can readily grasp. This book explains what adoption means and why adopted children are special. It offers the Christ-centered message that we are all adopted members of Gods family.
Adoption: Finding a Family for a Child
We immediately think of adoption when we hear of friends or family members who are experiencing infertility. What a wonderful solution! But it is so much more. Adoption is not just about finding a child for a family who cant have a child. Its also about finding a family for a child who doesnt have one.
Christ and Adoption
Adoption is not always seen in a good light. Even well-meaning Christians may contribute to the problem by saying, What mother would give away her baby? The perception is that adoption is abandonment, a bad or unloving choice, but looking at it in the light of our adoption in Christ changes everything.
God Blesses Families – Bulletin Board
Use this bright bulletin board set to remind your students or Sunday School class that just as God blesses families from the Bible, so also He continues to bless families today. The set includes six pictures of families in the Bible as well as frames so students can display their own family photos.
> Email the Gehms with questions about foster care or adoption.
> More than 408,000 children in the United States will spend time in the foster care system this year.
> If you are looking for information on an agency in your area, visit www.lutheranservices.org.
About the Author: Robert G. Miles is president and CEO of Lutheran Child and Family Service of Michigan.