As we write on the topic of foster care, I’ve been doing some research to understand the issue better. The results have been shocking.
In 2012, there were approximately 400,000 children in the foster care system in the U.S. In that same year, almost 23,500 children were ‘aged out’ of the system. That’s 23,500 children who are going out into the world with possibly no support system—50% will never graduate high school and up to 45% will be homeless at some point. In Illinois 80% of the prison population spent at least some time in the foster care system growing up. 
In some ways the statistics are numbing, but what if I told you there was a 45% chance your own child would be homeless or in prison at some point? Most of us would do anything in our power to stop that from happening.
Where’s the outrage? Where’s the righteous indignation? There are many causes that deserve our attention, but I have never heard a sermon or seen a facebook post decrying the fate of these children. I don’t think I need to tell you how many times the Bible talks about orphans, the fatherless, or the needy. (Here are a few, anyway, to jog your memory: Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 82:3, James 1:27) These are children that are immeasurably loved and valued by God, but have more or less been ignored by society. These are kids that may have never felt an ounce of love in their entire lives. It should break our hearts, because I know it breaks God’s.
When I think back on my life, I cannot imagine what it would have been like to not have a family growing up. No loving mother to run to when I hurt myself. No father to play baseball with me in the front yard. No siblings to play with, even if we fought more than we should have. I can’t imagine graduating college if I had not known where I was going to sleep over school vacations or if I would have enough money to eat every day.
I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that 80% of prisoners come out of foster care. Look at your own life, would you have known right from wrong or the powerful truth of Christ without your parents? I know I wouldn’t have.
Now, I want to make something clear. Despite what I have said about the foster care system, I do believe that people are trying their hardest to help and love these children. The social workers that sometimes give up their nights and weekends to help these kids find a home are heroes. There are families that open their homes and hearts to these children. There are organizations and churches that are doing their best to help these kids.
But the problem is too big. The social workers and organizations don’t have enough money, time, or energy to help every child in need. That is where we are to step in. This is where we are called—to find the kids that are falling between the cracks and bring them in and love them as Christ loved us.
Over 236 million people, nearly eight-in-ten (78.4%) adults, report belonging to various forms of Christianity. That’s around 594 Christians per child. Think of how much good we could do if we came together as the body of Christ and committed to loving these children. I think it’s time we take up the calling of the Bible and begin to care for the fatherless, the orphan, and the oppressed. Whether that is through adoption, becoming a loving foster parent, mentoring, or supporting ministries that help children in foster care. Otherwise, when we stand before Christ, and He asks us what we did “for the least of these,” how will we respond?http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport20.pdf
http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-1.pdf Image courtesy of USAG- Humphreys / Flickr.com