The following article by Julene Noles is copied by permission from the October 1993 issue of 21st Century Christian Magazine.
Before It’s Too Late
I’ll never forget the day fifteen-year-old Cindy rushed into my office and exclaimed, “Please get me a Mama and Daddy before it’s too late.”
Cindy had been a part of our residential program for a number of years, and she was aware of our foster care program. Cindy wanted a foster home.
Soon, an older couple expressed an interest in being foster parents, and their application was carefully reviewed with Cindy in mind. When they were approved, Cindy became their foster daughter. At last, she had a mother and father of her own.
Cindy lived in this foster home the last three years of high school. At her graduation, she had proud parents, just like the other boys and girls. After graduation, she obtained employment in another state, but she maintained her relationship with her foster parents.
Cindy’s story has a happy ending, but this is not the case with all the children. Sometimes courts return children to their former environment much too soon. Others are so emotionally scarred that foster parents can do very little to help them have a normal life. There are others for whom a suitable foster home cannot be found.
Boys and girls of all races and ages need foster care. They come from all socio-economic levels, but mostly from poor or deprived backgrounds. Many children accepted into foster care have never had a stable, secure home.
The purpose of foster care is to provide a temporary home for a child who is unable to be with his or her biological family. A foster home may be needed for various reasons – abuse, neglect, lack of financial resources or the death or illness of a parent.
Foster parents may be married or single. They may or may not have children of their own. Applicants are screened to determine character and suitability to be foster parents. They are fingerprinted and have criminal records check. Medical exams must be completed on all family members. The house is studied to insure that it meets the minimum standards of the agency.
Foster parenting is not a money-making process, therefore the foster family must be financially independent of the board payment received for the child.
Rewarding, challenging, frustrating and gratifying – all are descriptions of foster parenting. It’s challenging to get a child to make good grades, to tell the truth, to learn table manners. It’s frustrating when a child doesn’t want to change. It is also frustrating when a court sends a child back home when the family hasn’t changed.
It’s gratifying when you can make a difference in a child’s life. It’s a great joy to help change lives – teaching a child to take care of his or her body, to do chores around the house and to love and worship God.
Foster care is loving, caring and sharing. Children need the warmth and security only a family can provide. They need people who will give their time and understanding when no one else seems to care. Foster parenting is a commitment to help a child through a difficult period. It may be the toughest and most rewarding job a person has ever undertaken.
Foster parents provide food, clothing, shelter and protection. They arrange for his or her health care. They encourage a positive relationship between the child and his or her natural parents. They discipline by setting fair rules. They help the child grow, through educational, cultural and social experiences.
The length of time a child stays in a foster home varies, depending on circumstances, parental effort and available resources.
The God of the Bible is a God of compassion. His compassion extended to the whole human race as he gave up his Son to save us from our sins. All who call themselves God’s children should cultivate this compassion and mercy.
What better way to show compassion than to care for homeless children? “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep themselves unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
“I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus how he said it was more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
If you can find a place in your heart, if you care enough to open your home to a child who needs the warmth and security of a nurturing family, consider being a foster parent. Dedicated families who will devote themselves to long-range foster care are needed. There will be problems, but foster parents can have a lasting influence on a child. The goal of foster care is to see that each child receives spiritual guidance, love and care, so he or she can grow and develop into a mature, responsible Christian.
I will always be grateful to the couple who took Cindy into their home and hearts. Through their loving care, she was able to have “a Mama and Daddy” before it was “too late.”