USA (MNN) — May is National Foster Care Month across the United States.
"The campaign raises awareness about the urgent needs of these young people and encourages citizens from every walk of life to get involved: as foster or adoptive parents, volunteers, mentors, employers or in other ways," observes FosterCareMonth.org.
For ministries like Bethany Christian Services, this month of awareness makes May a perfect time to share about the needs out there, and the way Bethany is working to meet them.
Bethany is an adoption and foster care service that works with families all across the globe. A significant amount of their work in the United States is focused on the foster care system. Meredith Smillie says the need for foster families is immense.
"In the United States, we have thousands of children that are waiting. Exact numbers are really hard to calculate. Some children are returned home and still part of the foster care system. Some children are waiting for an adoptive family. Some children are currently in adoptive placement, but they are still technically in the foster care system," Smillie explains.
The need is tremendous and finding people to meet that need is not easy. Bethany needs families to step up and take kids in, but foster parenting is more than just providing food and shelter, notes Smillie.
"It's really easy to come forward and say, ‘We want to care for these kids.' The reality is, these kids come with a lot of trauma in their suitcase."
To be good foster parents, notes Smillie, "it really is a mixture of having the correct expectations and having real passion to help children who are really struggling."
And as it happens, says Smillie, foster care is even more than just helping that one child. Since the goal of foster care is always to reunite a child with his or her biological family, the most successful foster families are those that understand that enough to commit to a whole family, not just a child.
"Foster care works best when the foster family can engage with the birth family and provide some mentoring and support, and the child can really see that the foster family is supportive of their history and their connection," Smillie adds.
It's not easy work, especially for families thinking about fostering for the first time. But that's where Bethany comes in. Bethany not only provide case management for the birth parents and the child, but they also provide educational programs for foster parents in order to prepare them as best they possibly can for the challenges that will come.
More than all of that even, Bethany is dedicated to embodying Christ in the work that they do, opening doors to the Gospel, and providing multiple opportunities for birth families to learn more about the Lord. Many foster parents not only raise the children in a Christian home and take them to church, but sometimes also pick the birth parents up to come to church with them. Opportunities abound for this connection to be bound eternally through Christ, despite the temporariness of foster care.
Bethany Christian Services is one of many agencies seeking to serve the Lord by taking care of children in need. To learn more about becoming a foster family through Bethany, visit Bethany.org.