Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Good Drawback: The Complications of Reunification and Evangelism in Foster Care

It is often said that reunification of families is the goal of foster care and that Christian foster parents should pursue restoration, not only by loving the kids, but also by sharing Christ with the birth parents. 

This is a good goal, and easily achievable in a imperfect-perfect world (one broken enough for foster care to exist, while tidy enough to make the task simple). The real world of foster care is a bit messier than that.

Foster parents often see more clearly than anyone the dangers of pre-mature or hasty reunification. They know their foster children well, and they quickly get to know (through personal experience and public social media accounts) the child's birth parents, perhaps even better than state agencies, who frankly seem less adept at “private investigation” than concerned foster moms. Concerns for the child's well-being often arise from this knowledge and experience, and not usually because the birth parents are bad people (like most outside the foster system assume). More often, birth parents are loving, but simply unable to provide adequate childcare for one reason or another. Still, foster parents may have legitimate reasons for concern when it comes to reunification in spite of that stated goal.

These concerns result in an internal conflict for foster parents who mentally affirm the goal of reunification while holding (at times) serious reservations in their hearts when considering the welfare of the child. It is hard to love a child and not adopt a “child's best interest” mentality over against the “family's best interest.” I challenge anyone to try it.