Who are the players in an adoption or a foster care situation? The term “triad” is typically utilized to describe the main actors—the child, the birth parents, and the foster/adoptive parents. But a crucially important player is left out if only a triad is involved. The overlooked fourth party is the community at large. Why is the community in the picture? Because the child is a member of the community, so the village should play a role in his upbringing.
A judge before whom I regularly appear for adoption finalizations routinely thanks adoptive parents for taking on the “awesome responsibility” of raising the child being adopted. He notes that this action is a benefit to society and a blessing to the parents. But why should society merely benefit by having the financial, legal responsibility or hands-on responsibility for a child transferred over to the foster/adoptive parents? Is it appropriate for society to simply wash its hands of responsibility and have nothing further to do with the child’s welfare and care because foster/adoptive parents are in the picture?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of October 20, 2017, 430,000 children and youth were in foster care. Governmental authorities remove children from parents who are deemed to be neglectful or abusive, and the children are taken and placed in foster care. Young children do not comprehend the operation of the legal system; even older children who might have some understanding of what is happening to them are still being separated. Thus, removal from a parent, even a poor one, is a traumatic occurrence. That’s a huge number of hurting children.
Clearly, children in foster care or who have been adopted from foster care need love and help and not just from their foster/adoptive parents. What can society do? Not all of us can be on the frontlines, serving as foster or adoptive parents, nurturing and caring for a child directly. But there are still ways everyone can assist with helping out these young, vulnerable members of society.
One church has recognized the need for community involvement in caring for foster/adoptive children. The foster and adoptive parents support team at Crosspoint Church in Niceville, Florida, puts its faith in action through a ministry to foster/adoptive families. Team members recognize that, while not everyone can be a hands-on care provider, everyone has the capability of pitching in to support foster caregivers/adoptive parents and their precious charges. Members of the support team are quite diverse—teenagers, single moms, older adults, etc., but all team members have a common denominator: a desire to show love to and help kids in need.
Crosspoint’s foster/adoptive parents support team is an outgrowth of the church’s annual Orphan Weekend services each October where the needs of vulnerable children in the community and around the world are highlighted. After putting on this event for several years, Crosspoint began getting feedback from people who really wanted to be a part of the foster care/adoption community but who could not open their homes to provide care. Brainstorming ideas followed, ultimately leading to the creation of the foster care/adoption support team.
Leading the support team are Crosspoint’s missions pastor, Tyler Fuller, and his wife, Leslie. The couple is passionate about adoption and foster care, having firsthand experience with both. The Fullers adopted three children through the foster care system with a fourth child’s adoption finalization set in September; therefore, they have a good grasp of the challenges facing and the needs of foster/adoptive families.
Face to face meetings are not required for Crosspoint’s foster/adoptive parent support team’s activities. Members are linked online where they can be notified of current needs of foster/adoptive families in their community. Throughout the year, the team collects frozen meals which can be delivered to foster families when they take placement of a foster child; the foster family thus has more time to focus on the child when kitchen duties are lessened. Ten dollar Walmart gift cards are also gathered to be given at the time of a new placement. While government stipends are available to foster parents, there is typically several weeks delay for these funds to be received. Gift cards allow immediate material needs to be covered following a placement.
Foster and Adoptive Family Fun Days are also hosted by the team. These events offer a no-cost opportunity for foster/adoptive families to enjoy time together and to connect with other families in similar situations. Supportive relationships are built with others who have faced or who are facing the same types of issues. Practical assistance is given by the support team as well. Yard work and cleanup services have been provided. Bunk beds have been built, and rooms have been painted for foster/adoptive families.
The time commitment for a team member is within that team member’s control. Help can be as simple as buying a gift card when one is out doing his own shopping or cooking an extra casserole while preparing dinner. However, it can also involve several hours of time if one volunteers to help with building or cleanup projects. Helping can even be fun such as passing out pizza or snow cones at a Family Fun Day event.
The goal of raising any child is to have him or her grow up to be a responsible, contributing member of society. Therefore, society has a stake in every child, including foster/adopted children. Participation in a ministry like Crosspoint’s foster/adoptive parent support team is a concrete and simple way for those outside the traditional adoption/foster care triad to make a positive impact on some of the community’s most vulnerable children.
Forget the adoption triad and become the fourth corner of the adoption/foster care picture. Get your community involved in activities similar to those of Crosspoint’s foster/adoptive parent support team which help and encourage foster/adoptive children and their caregivers/parents. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.