By Woody White
With a burgeoning congregation that includes hundreds of families with school-age children, it’s no surprise that The Mill sees a new opportunity to support foster and adoptive families. A group of six members has launched the Foster Adopt Care Team (FACT) to help others learn how to respond to such a calling. Bonnie West said the new group will hold a kickoff for its ministry Sept. 24 with lunch in the CLC after the 11 a.m. service.West said she and her husband Brian have been foster parents to at least a dozen children over the past 6 1/2 years while raising their four biological children who are between 5 and 15 years old.
She said their family’s decision to take in foster children came “as we were praying how to serve the Lord outside the church. It seemed like every opportunity we looked at would take us away from our family, and it was just hard for us to do that. So we started looking at foster care, and we thought it would be a way for us to serve these children and the Lord.” In South Carolina, the Department of Social Services governs foster care, from licensing and regulating non-profit agencies’ involvement and setting standards and guidelines for families that provide homes for foster children.
Licensing requirements for prospective foster parents include:
– Competing 14 hours of training
– Checks of criminal background, abuse and neglect, and sex offender registry
– Enough bedrooms in the home to accommodate children in foster care
– Personal references, financial information and medical reports for family members
– Fire, health and lead inspections of the home
Foster parents receive a monthly stipend for each foster child placed in their home, according to DSS. The rate depends on the age and special needs of the child. Medical insurance is provided through Medicaid and there is a clothing allowance. DSS says that the goal is reunite foster children with birth parents or relatives, if possible. If the child becomes available for adoption, foster parents may apply to adopt. West said that foster parenting comes with challenges that were outside her experiences of raising her own children. Foster children, she said, “have been exposed to a lot of behaviors you don’t normally see. These children often come from such traumatized backgrounds” with their biological parents more often than not dealing with drugs or alcohol addiction.
“Because of that, they neglect their children,” she said, adding that the foster children her family has served ranged in age from 3 months to 15 years. “The goal of foster care is to have the children reunified with their family,” West said. “So you really hope that the parent will work hard to turn their life around.” West said she envisions FACT being both a support group for foster parents and an information source for prospective foster parents. The group, she said, is especially guided by Exodus chapter 17, verse 12: ” But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.”
“This is what we want this ministry to do for foster/adopt families. We want fellow church members to come alongside these families and provide prayer support, encouragement, resources, and respite,” West said. “These foster/ adopt families sacrifice so much to care for these vulnerable children and it is easy to feel burdened and burned out. Having support and encouragement will help these families in a big way as they minister to these children on a daily basis.” But West said it isn’t just the foster children and their families that have been blessed. She said God has opened her eyes through her family’s experiences.
“It has really challenged me, really caused me to see the sin in my life in areas I didn’t even know existed. Because these children bring into your home such a darkness because of what they’ve come from, you have to deal with issues you wouldn’t normally be exposed to,” she said. “Another thing that foster care has taught me is that serving the Lord always brings sacrifice. As much as I want to enjoy my earthly blessings, and all God has allowed me to enjoy the way that I want to, I know He has called me to a higher purpose. I have been given much so that I can share what I have been given with others. God has been teaching me that in order to be a true follower of Him, I have to give up my comforts, my wants and desires at times in order to serve someone else.
She added: “My family and I have decided to serve the Lord in this way at this time in hopes that we can share the love of Jesus through our love for each other and the care and protection of these children. We may not see the fruit of what we have planted in our lifetime, but we will continue to obey what we have been called to and trust God with the rest.
By Woody White