The smoldering spark burst into flames when I saw the infographic on a friend's Facebook page.
It listed monetary ranges for adoption costs in the United States, with the "cheapest" option being Foster Care Adoption at $0 - $2,500. It progressed through Private Agency Adoption, Independent Adoption, and International Adoption ($7,000 - $30,000+).
I've been musing and praying about the very topic of foster care adoption for(ever) weeks as my foster son's court hearing approaches on November 23, and that simple graphic on Facebook set off a firestorm in my heart.
I am thankful for the promotion of adoption, and I am glad for infographics that demonstrate simply how foster care adoption is a no cost option for adoptive parents. At the same time, there is so much that this graphic did not take into account. Simply, the more you pay out of pocket, the likelier you are to "get what you want". It may be financially free but foster care adoption does not come without a cost.
Foster care comes with a price tag. Always. But if you just open your heart, you may receive the most amazing gift.
First and foremost, I must say I have no criticism of adoptive parents or birth parents who go the private or international adoption route. Far from it; I am proud to know and love many compassionate people who have either given their child the world by placing him or her for adoption, or who have received a child into their family through the amazing miracle of adoption. If God directs my family to adopt through private means, we will follow His leading and rejoice in the gift.
However, unless a parent asks us directly to adopt their child (or God directs us to adopt in a specific way), Eric and I believe we should elect to adopt the children who are truly the orphans among us. As a foster parent, I can say that the children in foster care may have living "parents", but they are often the most unwanted children in society.
Newborn babies from healthy birth mothers are prized; there often are not enough such babies to meet demand. Any adoptive couple with enough cash can plunk down the money and walk away with a baby if a birth mother chooses them from the notebook at the attorney's office. Do I agree with all aspects of this method of adopting babies, particularly preventing lower classes from adopting by prohibitive cost structures? No. But the fact remains that private adoption is almost guaranteed for a newborn child born to a mother who is willing to place her baby; I know of no shortage of prospective parents. And that is truly a good thing for the children and their birth mothers, regardless of how (im)moral agency prices may be.
On the other side are foster children who are usually not "perfect", whose genetic background is often unknown, and who may suffer from PTSD. These kids are no less in need of parents and a loving home than the sweet newborns adopted out of a hospital, but they don't have well-to-do couples queuing up for the privilege of being their parents. These kids often bounce around from home to home, back and forth from negligent/abusive birth parents to impersonal foster group houses. If children are blessed enough to be placed with loving foster families, their experience can be night and day from another foster child's tragedy.
We as a society risk making spiritual and emotional "orphans" of children simply by not stepping up to provide a stable, secure, compassionate anchor for traumatized foster kids. And why not? Why are we so scared of being foster parents or supporting foster families or promoting foster care as a ministry?
Among the many statements I have personally heard that give me a clue:
"I am too old. My kids are gone and I'm getting ready to retire."
"I'm so glad you are called to do that. God has called me to other things."
"Why would you take in a kid whose background you know nothing of? What if they do something dangerous or are sick?"
"I always wanted to foster/adopt, but I just couldn't convince my spouse to do it."
And the most common answer:
"I could never do foster care. It would break my heart to have to give the kids back."
Well-meaning people have said this to me without realizing the full implications. Many of them are spiritually mature, faithful Christians, and yet they have placed their own feelings over the needs of a child. Even worse, they have unwittingly refused the incredible gift of the power of Christ working through them to His glory for the sake of the least of these. I'm sure they have other practical reasons not to foster, but when that's the first one blurted out, it's hard to ignore the sentiment.
I don't want to lose my baby, either. It will break my heart if he goes back after his hearing this month. But God has promised that He will work all things for good, and I will cling to that promise even in my heartbreak. It's not easy to imagine my little man leaving forever, and it sure doesn't seem right - because it's not. In a perfect world, this precious boy shouldn't have been separated from his biological mother at 9 months of age, either.
The foster care system is a wimpy band aid in a broken world. There is only one remedy for what ails us all: the magnificent power of the blood of Jesus Christ that covers all sins.
And that power is why I love being a foster parent. God has given us the difficult, heartbreaking, challenging, exhausting opportunity to see Him work in the life of our family, including the life of our son who may not ever be a legal Versluys.
I want to cry most days, either because my son is shrieking at the top of his lungs after a disruptive visit with his birth mom, or because one of the other kids is acting out from the shrieking that is getting on their last nerve, or because my once-pristine house is buried somewhere underneath a stinking slew of diapers and broken crayons. And yet, I can look back on the past 18 months and say it has been very good. God has blessed us. I don't know why or even mostly how, but He has. He has taken this terrible situation of a baby being involved in a traumatic episode and turned it into good.
It's a lot more work than adopting a newborn in most cases, because you have paperwork up to your ears and a million people poking their noses into your life and your foster kids usually come with the grand prize of PTSD or worse. But it is good. It is good.
That is the power of Christ working through foster care. What an amazing gift we have been given in our time with our foster son, and it didn't come wrapped up in a neat little receiving blanket from the maternity ward.
My prayer - every day but especially now during National Adoption Month - is that more people would look less at the numbers, set aside their desire for a perfect family, surrender their wish for a biological child, and open their hearts to the great possibilities of foster care and adoption. This month, in honor of little people like my son, please take some time and read the stories that are peppering social media and Christian news sites about the miracle of adoption and specifically fostering to adopt. And then please pray for the families in the stories. We need your prayers!
No two cases are the same, and many people sacrifice tremendously to follow God's call to foster and adopt - including several brave families I know. But the Lord has blessed them, and will continue to bring good, because they are living "true religion"; they are caring for the orphans, the unwanted, the unloved. I am trying to follow in their footsteps as we all walk the road blazed by our King, and I pray many more will join us on this journey for the sake of little ones like my son and, ultimately, for the great glory of God.