They Cage the Animals at Night

by Dr. John DeGarmo

2016, New Hope Publishing
Amazon: Kindle $5.58, Paper $14.99

Are you a foster parent? Have you considered being a foster parent, or do you know someone who is currently fostering children? The turnover rate of foster parents in the US is 30-50% each year. Dr. John DeGarmo, a foster parent for twelve years writes to inform and encourage those fostering or considering fostering children. At the time he wrote the book, he and his wife had 6 biological and adopted children and 5 foster children.

After a brief history of the foster care system in the US, Dr. DeGarmo tells why he and his wife decided to foster. Foremost he believes it is his responsibility as a Christian to follow through with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:35, 36. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Many foster children fit this description.

The book is an easy read and gives an accurate assessment of fostering. Dr. DeGarmo recounts the positives, for example feeling one is fulfilling their purpose in life, as well as the challenges that come being a foster parent.

One of the highlights of the book is the actual stories from foster parents and foster children. For those who have never been involved in fostering these give insights from two different perspectives.

Dr. DeGarmo gives advice to foster parents about being too busy and not having time for self or one’s spouse, and the reality of burnout. I felt Dr. DeGarmo and his wife could not say “no” when asked to foster. Even when they had as many children as they felt like they could handle, when a call came they responded by taking more in. At one point they had 9 foster children and the author admits they could not even schedule a date night. It seemed he was not practicing what he advised.

A highpoint of the book is the sixteen ways one can pray for foster children. These could be used by parents, children, childcare agencies or anyone who has a heart for children and fostering.

His practical suggestions of how churches can get involved in foster care could be helpful to classes, small groups and ministries in congregations looking for a way to serve. These include:

  • prepare a mal at the building, feed foster families and then take care of the children, giving the foster parents a reprieve
  • coordinate family visitation at the church building for children in foster care
  • provide respite care -adopt foster children during the holiday season
  • provide a new or gently used suitcase for foster children
  • provide mentoring for those who have aged out of the system

The book ends with several pages of helpful resources, including (1) foster care offices by state (2) national organizations (3) faith-based organizations.

I believe the book could be used by Network 1:27 agencies as a resource for families who are fostering or considering fostering. Or perhaps, it could be used by a staff member, gaining ideas to share with foster parents or perspective foster parents.