Not to long ago I attended one of our foster/adoptive mom support group sessions. Let's be real, these meetings are held in a corner booth of the best Mexican restaurant in town and conversations happen over cheese dip, tons of chips, and margaritas. I've had the privilege of getting to connect with some amazing women during these meetings. Since we have moved, I'd happily drive over an hour to sit with them and spill my guts. During our last group session one of the seasoned foster moms who has been an amazing voice in the foster care community said something profound... that, let's face it, shouldn't be so profound.
Hang with me as I bring you up to the point of her statement....
In Biblical times, children always had care within the context of family, often a large extended family. Thinking about the significance this dynamic must have had on the family unit, I like to believe there was never any need for a system such as foster care. Children were rarely out of reach of familiar, loving arms, and authority they could depend on. This is not the case at all today. Many times children are ushered into the foster system because of a lack of safety, neglect, or abuse and rarely are these kids surrounded by an army of family members as in Biblical times. However, it is family that keeps many children out of the system. Family members that never expected to take on the role of caregiver or guardian for a family members child/children find themselves trying to provide all the needs from basic to unessential.
I imagine, during Biblical times, that nothing could be much worse than being left as orphans, isolated, forgotten, or alone. Wait...I can't imagine that even now. The reality is though, that almost every single child in foster care, has a living, breathing biological family who loves them. Somewhere. Still alive. As we all know, love does not always equal safety, protection, or the ability to care for. Still, the love is there and the family is there, sometimes seemingly gone, but still in the world none the less.
I once pulled one of our adopted babies biological grandmother aside to tell her just how much I loved her grandbabies. It was the one thing we had most in common. I loved them. She loved them. They were not alone, forgotten, or isolated. They were simply little ones who had been taken out of a bad situation and put into a safe place. These babies of ours that were in our care are like so many others. They were placed in a system that was supposed to be designed to protect them. They were not orphans.
And that is what my friend said..."I really wish people would stop calling them orphans."
See, we both have started organizations to help foster children and we both have dreams to do more. What we run into on a regular basis is a misconception.
These children were not given up.
These children were not given away.
These children were not orphaned.
These children were taken.
These children were wanted.
These children have families.
This misconception plays out in conversations so many times with people who genuinely want to help, but the nails on the black board word that is used far too often is "orphan".
Because that's what the Bible says we should do, right? Help the little orphans. So, people reach out with their kind gifts or monetary donations and say "This is for the orphans." Fortunately we know what they mean or we might stand there and go "Who?"
Jesus assured His disciples, when they began to fear the worst about their future with Him "I will not leave you as orphans: I will come to " (John 14:18) His divine love finds its fullest realization when foster homes open up, doors swing wide, and His love is shown through kindness, love, and patience. The story of this divine love in the Bible reveals a "being there", quality that should be passed along to all of God's children.
They are not orphans in any manner of the word because they have families who may or may not be capable of taking care of them and Christ is available, always.
In the USA, where over 437,465* children are in foster care we must be careful about saying these children are orphans. Actually...
Stop saying these children are orphans.
They are not. They are children who have families. Actually, there are almost as many foster children who are placed with a relative than there are children with non-relatives.
These children do need our help. They first need safe places to land. Their needs are very basic when they first cross a threshold and as days progress their needs do as well. We need more communities willing to wrap their arms around the entire family, both foster and biological. This world is hurting, it needs Jesus.
The underlying message we need to give every child in foster care is that they are NOT ORPHANS and never will be because of Jesus.
See also Deut 6:1-9, Ps 127:128; 139 Ezek 16:20,21 Matt 18:3