Four ways to help waiting foster families
Serving families in the difficult waiting phase
By Bob Bruder-Mattson
Let’s be honest: Waiting is hard. Whether you are waiting to hear about medical test results or waiting for a new child’s birth, waiting is hard. For instance, when my wife Sue and I followed God’s leading to apply to graduate school, our preparation time seemed endless. But the worst was the waiting. We wrote our essays, completed applications, and had letters of recommendation written for each of the eleven universities we applied to. Then we waited. We had to trust that our applications were being reviewed, that we would hear back eventually. After that, while waiting, we wondered: Would we experience rejection and go through the process with new universities? Would we have multiple universities from which to choose? We had to trust God would guide us.
Waiting has seemed especially hard during times like this – times when I have stepped out in faith to follow God’s leading, and what I have planned for, prepared for and prayed for has not happened on my timeline. Looking back, it has been during these times of waiting where my relationship with Christ and faith in a good heavenly father has grown the deepest. It was five months of waiting before we heard back from the universities. And God provided us with clear answers on where we would go.
In Isaiah 40:31, God’s word tells us the benefits of waiting:
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
During that time of waiting, God was strengthening, equipping and preparing us for the work that he has called us to do. He continues to do that today! God does not waste anything. Waiting is an important part of obedience to God’s calling on our lives. In fact, this lesson is especially true for individuals and families who become foster parents.
The third phase of fostering: Waiting
After all the home studies are done, the mountains of paperwork are all filled out and signed, and the licence has been approved, foster families wait! Some families receive a call the very day they are licenced. Some will wait weeks, and others may wait months for children to be placed in their homes. We have found that the length of time to wait is connected to the county’s needs in which a family lives, combined with the preferred age, gender and the number of children they are willing to take. The narrower the parameters, typically the longer the wait.
This is another opportunity to encourage your families to prayerfully consider how God leads them to help answer some of the foster care system’s biggest needs. Across the nation, there is an overwhelming need for foster parents willing to take sibling groups, older children and teens.
People often take on more if they know they will have support. Do what you can to make sure support is “on the ready” for your families. Doing this tells them that they are still answering God’s call even if there are no foster children in their home. Just being ready and able is already contributing.
Ways to serve foster families
This “waiting” phase offers all kinds of opportunities to serve and celebrate families in the “in-between.” Here are a few:
- Celebrate. Just like commissioning a missionary in your church, you can publicly pray over and honour newly licenced families.
- Check in. A quick phone call or message to ensure families that you are there for them in the waiting.
- Provide support. Offer childcare for date nights or deliver gift cards to remind them they are not alone in their waiting.
- Build community. Connect them to other waiting and active families. Or help them attend a conference or training to keep their hearts and minds engaged.
These are just a few ideas – the possibilities are endless. A small gesture can go a long way. According to one family,
“Our ministry team leader brought a card and a gift card to our home with a reminder that we are foster parents even in the waiting. It helped us not to be discouraged while we were waiting for a placement.”
Helping families gain perspective
Waiting is frustrating. These families have just finished a long journey filled with hard work to get their licence, and now they wait. This is a great opportunity for everyone involved in this process – an opportunity to be encouraged and reminded that God is working even in the waiting. Through it, he might teach you, your foster families and those who support them much – teach everyone about patience, trust and the fact that he is in control over all things and you are not.
We can all agree that it would be wonderful if foster care was no longer needed. The waiting phase can help us remember that to have children placed in their homes, something tragic must take place. The tension of desiring to help these children and knowing what they will go through for that to happen is a reason to pray for foster families’ hearts and postures towards biological families and the bigger story surrounding these children.
Finally, the waiting phase is a time to remember that God has many good things in store for foster families as he prepares them for challenging and wonderful things in the phases to come.
The five phases of fostering
FaithBridge has recruited, trained, licenced and supported more than 1,000 foster families. We have observed that each foster family experiences a cycle of five different phases during their journey. Those phases include considering, preparing, waiting, fostering and transitioning. Working in collaboration with pastor and author Jason Johnson, FaithBridge has developed training and materials called Phases of Fostering to equip churches to support individuals and families during their fostering journey.
With more than 300,000 Christian churches covering every community in the U.S., FaithBridge Foster Care believes the local church is the answer to America’s foster care crisis. We partner with local churches to recruit, train and licence foster families: recruit them to provide community-based, short- and long-term traditional and therapeutic care for foster children in Georgia. Our vision is for every foster child to experience the hope, healing and unconditional love of Jesus Christ.
Bob Bruder-Mattson is the president and CEO of FaithBridge Foster Care, the largest Georgia-based and Christ-centred child placement agency in the state. His more than 30 years of leadership over a variety of organizations includes the American Cancer Society and Bluewater Nonprofit Solutions, Inc., which he cofounded. He and his wife Sue have been married 37 years and have three grown daughters and one son-in-law.
© 2020 Bob Bruder-Mattson. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Originally published at FocusOnTheFamily.com.