The Bible tells us that “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…”
It’s easy to read this and think to yourself “Okay, we do that” but examine your life and your church. Do you really do that? If so, great! Keep it up! However, if you find that in your honest inquisition into your life this is not true then something needs to change. Simply ignoring God’s Word is not acceptable.
Before we get too far please understand that I am not saying everyone has to be a foster parent, adopt a child from Ethiopia, or even take in a widow. But I am saying that there is SOMETHING you can do and do regularly. Here are four areas you can help right now!
1) Become a licensed foster parent.
Now I know what you are thinking… Didn’t you just say you don’t have to become a foster parent? Yes, I did. But that doesn’t take away from the desperate need that is going on in your state. Arizona alone has 21,000, yes TWENTY-ONE THOUSAND, kids in the state’s custody. Many of these children are without homes. Group homes are overcrowded, children are sleeping in DPS offices, and siblings are separated from each other.
You don’t even have to accept a regular placement to be a licensed foster parent that is making a difference in the ever growing problem. You can become a Respite Provider. Many times, foster parents need a break or have something come up where they have to be gone for a short time (such as a funeral in another state, etc.). Foster Parents are not allowed to leave their children for more than 24 hours continuously and that can create a challenge at times. As a Respite Provider, with your foster license, you can take these children for very brief periods and return the children to the regular foster parents when they are back.
2) Volunteer at a group home.
Every state has them. They are VERY easy to find. A simple “Youth group home” Google search will pull up dozens in your area in a matter of seconds. These group homes often run at or over capacity and resources are thin. Many of these homes are designed for certain age groups but with systems being overcrowded and underfunded these homes have children well out of the age range intended.
You don’t even have to give your money if resources are tight. Volunteer your time! Go sign up to lead an art class. Play soccer with the kids. Clean a toilet if that is what they need. Just get involved! These kids need to know that there are people out there that love them and don’t just want to sweep them under a rug.
3) Donate to organizations that provide special gifts or opportunities to children in foster care.
In Arizona there is an incredible organization called Arizona Friends of Foster Care. This organization helps pay for foster children to go to Disneyland, get tutors, participate in martial arts and sports, go to camp, get a bicycle, etc. It’s an amazing resource for foster parents.
You can also donate directly to licensing agencies. The agencies are the first line of support for foster parents. They answer questions, provide resources, and are there to help in any way they can.
4) Get in touch with a foster family and ask them how you can help.
Fostering is a long journey and often times goes unthanked. Most foster parents knew that before going into it. That’s not why they do it. Many are even too proud to ask for help. That shouldn’t stop you from asking anyways.
Personally, I feel incredibly guilty asking for a babysitter so I can take my wife out to dinner once a month. Yes, I even feel guilty asking my own family. I know my girls and they have to be on a strict schedule or the world seems like it is coming to an end. I know I am not the only one out there that feels this way too…
Ask if you can babysit for a couple of hours so the foster parents can go on a date or even simply take a nap on a Saturday afternoon (and ask regularly so we know it’s not just a courtesy ask and you really mean it). Donate clothes, toys, or books to a family with a placement. Make the family a dinner. There are thousands of ways you can personally help someone who is in the ministry of foster care.
In short, don’t simply brush off this command from the Bible. Truly reflect and help the orphans and widows regularly. You will find it not only blesses the orphans, but the people helping take care of them, and the organizations striving to give them a chance!