M has quickly gone from foster kid, to permanent custody of the state, to on a trajectory to be adopted by the end of 2016! It's been a crazy fast, uncommon experience. But he is normalizing in our family and Lord-willing is going to become a Thompson in November and have a forever family. The little lullaby I sing him when I'm putting him to bed simply says "You are loved. You are safe. And you are home." I'm praying that will continue to sink in.
As I think about our foster son and the hard road he's been on and the hard road still to come, I start to get fired up.
520,000 children in foster care nationwide.
Over 23,000 in Ohio.
The county with the most children in foster care in my state is my county, Franklin County.
Studies suggest that 1/3 of the homeless population in the country spent time in the Foster Care system.
Not only that, but 1/4 of all those incarcerated in the country spent time in the Foster Care system.
Not only that, but the case workers who are meant to be advocates for these children from vulnerable places are quitting in droves. Annually 20% of the case workers are leaving their jobs.
Now we can gripe and complain about the system...about what it keeps producing. Sometimes, I feel like that is what the church does best. Identify a problem and then yell at it or boycott it and then get louder when the problem doesn't evaporate.
The government can not fix this. Annually, we are throwing north of 5 billion dollars toward this foster care system that is clearly not solving much. That equals out to about 40,000 per kid in the foster system.
So we can shake our fists in hopes that proper legislation gets passed or we can stop waiting God or on government and own up to the fact that God is waiting on us. We pray, "God fix the system." And I'm growing increasingly convicted that God's response is, "I'm asking you to do the same thing."
I was talking with a colleague and friend today and he said the same thing I said for a long time. "We just haven't felt God's call for us to do this." My life changed because of one line in a book. It said something along the lines of "People are waiting for a neon sign for adoption and foster parenting. The Bible is your neon sign. It says to look after orphans and widows in their distress." In other words, we need to stop waiting on God to give us the green light and instead go confidently and courageously toward the things that are close to God's heart until he gives us the neon sign to stop.
You want to change the world? Reduce homelessness? Keep people from going down a road that leads to prison?
Offer the gift of stability. You don't have to have it all figured out. You just have to have a conviction that children matter deeply to the heart of God. And if that is true then they must matter deeply to His people. Foster. Adopt.
I'm not sure I can fix the system. Many who are smarter and more strategic than me have tried and failed at that. But I think I can move the needle in my city. Maybe you can help me knock Franklin County off the top of the foster care charts. I am going to lead City Campus Church toward that end.
We should be the ones singing over the scared, the lonely, the abandoned and the unwanted: You are Loved, You are Safe, You are Home.
Because we have a God who sang it over us first.
Join us. We can laugh together, cry together, support each other. It is brutally hard. Most things of value are. We are going to have a Next Steps opportunity in October. If you're wondering what options are out there, where to begin, what's the best fit, is it something you are capable of, then I encourage you to take your next step and join us in singing a better song.
Change Starts Here.