USA (MNN) – May is National Foster Care Month. This year’s theme is “Honoring, Uniting and Celebrating Families.”
Kim Offut, herself a foster mom, is also the National Director of Foster and Adoption for Bethany Christian Services. She says the month is set aside not only to acknowledge foster families, volunteers, and others who help children in foster care stay safe, but it’s also a time to talk about getting involved.
According to the U.S. Children’s Bureau, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care. Says Offut, these children are traumatized and emotionally fragile.
“Our kids are removed from their birth families because of abuse or neglect. In so many ways, we’re looking for families who are open to loving and helping these kids really heal from some of their hurts.”
Routine is a new ‘normal’ that helps a child feel safe. Normal family life is involved, she says, like the typical parent things. ”Getting kids to their doctor’s appointments, getting kids to school, helping them with homework. You’re doing everything that a parent would and should (do).”
The goal of Bethany’s Foster Care program is to provide temporary care for children with the ultimate aim of reuniting them with their biological family. What kind of people make good foster parents? Offut says they’re looking for people who want to provide a loving home for children and provide them with ample space to grow. They need to have positive parenting skills, patience, stability, maturity, and a love of children.
As she shares the need for more foster families, a question often comes up about the challenges posed by integration. Yes, there are horror stories, admits Offut, but that’s why she focuses on the positive stories.
“You don’t hear about that child who never knew a safe touch before, and now is a wonderful loving adult and parent. You never hear about the kids who never had any type of education and now are excelling in school, or the foster families who just love these children—the ‘failure to thrive’ kids who come in…and now they’re thriving and being successful!”
Having experienced all the ups and downs of being a foster parent, Offut says that a consistent faith walk makes a big difference to the kids. “I remember one child that I fostered. He was 13 years old and he was Buddhist. He had grown up in the Buddhist community. We still celebrate with him when he gave his life to Christ and got baptized. It wasn’t because we just took him to church, but we lived out our Christianity and he wanted that.”
That’s part of what Bethany Christian Services hopes to do: disciple and mentor these kids from spiritual hurting to healing. How often does the Gospel come into play? She responds, “Daily. I say that with the utmost surety because I know that the kids that I’ve opened up my heart and my home to, may not have even known about Jesus, and daily, we’re living that out for them.”
Imagine what could change if more people stepped up to love these kids into wholeness. Right now, says Offut, “30-percent of our kids end up homeless or incarcerated, on the streets, on drugs, having babies and the cycle continues.”
You can make a difference, even if it’s only to one child.
She asks more one question to consider at the close of this story: “It can change generations. If not you, who? And if not now, when?”