For over 30 years, May has been recognized as National Foster Care Month. It is a time to celebrate the incredible gift given by families who choose to open their hearts and homes to children in need, as well as those working and volunteering in foster care. To the estimated 400,000 U.S. children whose lives are touched by this experience each year, these families, professionals, and volunteers can be true heroes in a time of desperate need.
One of the most important things to know – and often most misunderstood – is that foster care is a support to families, not a substitute for parents. The default goal in foster care is to heal and reunite families of origin, and for most youth in foster care, this is what happens. When that’s impossible, we work to place youth with extended family members like a grandparent, aunt, or uncle, and provide them with the help and support they need to heal and grow. This can mean special training, family therapy, and around-the-clock crisis support, or it can be something as simple as helping them child proof the home or purchase an extra bed.
Sometimes we must look beyond the family to find a safe and welcoming home. Usually that’s only temporary, but sometimes it is for a forever home. That’s when we turn to the individuals who have trained and planned and prepared to respond on behalf of children, to the families who are ready to show compassion and care during a tumultuous time. These are people who are willing to step up in the face of incredible uncertainty, never knowing when a placement could happen, how long it will last, or what the unique needs will be of each child. It is one of the most selfless, loving acts I can imagine.
Naturally, I also want to recognize our Good Shepherd team for the tireless work they do to help foster children. They step up in an emergency – day or night – to find the perfect placement for a child who’s struggling. They work tirelessly to support families in what may be the most difficult time of their lives, supporting, advocating, and sometimes crying with them, too. They maintain a stockpile of items like toiletries, socks, or underwear for children who arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs. They connect with donors who can help get items like toddler beds or car seats, and they work with volunteers to do laundry, grocery shop, repair homes, or babysit… all in support of the children and families in our community.
The efforts put forth by the Good Shepherd team, foster parents, and our volunteers are a constant affirmation of God’s love and I’m thankful for all of them not just in the month of May, but every day.
Yours in Christ,
Michael P. Meehan, Ph.D.