Why my church is providing support for foster parents
Irmo, South Carolina is a special place to me. It’s the place where, four years ago, my husband and I were assigned on Call Day at the Seminary to Hope Lutheran Church. It’s where we brought both our daughter and son home. It’s where I now call home and where I have been blessed to be part of a congregation that is on fire to serve its surrounding community.
But our church had a problem that many churches can experience.
While we wanted to serve others around us, we were missing a straight-forward, accessible, and meaningful approach for serving our community.
We came together as a congregation and decided we wanted to do three things:
- Serve an underserved group of people within our community on a monthly basis
- Provide service opportunities for our congregation members to volunteer their time and/or talents
- Follow God's command to serve those around us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
The congregation was notified there would be a meeting to choose which direction we wanted to go. During the meeting, we quickly found that there were several underserved groups in our community. It wasn’t a matter of who needed us more, but rather who we as a congregation were most equipped to serve. Ultimately, we decided upon supporting foster families and, like God does, He already opened a door.
Why our church decided to support foster families
My husband and I had previously spoken at an adoption forum (our son is adopted) in March 2019. There we met Haley Huff, the recruitment director for Epworth Children’s Home, the local foster home. She shared some statistics with us that were hard to hear:
- Close to 5,000 children are currently in foster care in South Carolina.*
- While there are almost 3,000 foster families, there is still a need for almost 2,000 more.*
- Over 1,000 of these children have been in foster care for over 2 years.**
We at Hope Lutheran decided to move forward with the decision to support foster families. This was an exciting and new venture for all of us, and the Lord made it clear to us that we had made the right choice:
- Epworth Children’s Home Foster Care Program was not currently being served on a regular basis by any church despite being a staple in the community for over 100 years and being located in the Bible Belt of the nation.
- Their needs were monthly, manageable, and consisted of the “bread and butter” many churches have the ability to offer—a space, meals, and childcare.
- Supporting foster families would allow us to meet people’s physical and emotional needs and would also open doors to proclaim the gospel!
Providing childcare allows foster parents to attend support groups without distractions.
After deciding upon Epworth, two individuals took the lead to organize, manage, and advertise these service opportunities to our congregation. They worked with Epworth Foster Care Program staff to plan their annual Christmas Party and host it at our church as a kick-off event to get foster families used to visiting our church building. We also held an informational meeting for our congregation where Haley was able to give everyone a history of Epworth Children’s Home, the current status of foster care in South Carolina, and an overview of how Hope Lutheran could serve Epworth foster families and the children in their care.
How our church supports foster families
Haley and a few individuals from Hope then met to nail down exactly what this partnership would look like. We wanted to make sure that we were serving their needs in a way that was beneficial both initially and in the long run. Currently, we serve Epworth and foster families in two capacities:
- Each month foster families gather at Hope for a support group. Members of Hope provide the meal and childcare while Haley orchestrates the support group portion of the evening. Individuals from the congregation can sign up to volunteer or certain groups such as the women’s group, teen group, small group Bible study, etc. can sign up as a team.
- Individual members of our congregation are also in charge of the organization of Epworth’s resource closet. This closet provides clothing and other items for children and young people who currently live on the residential campus at Epworth or reside in the homes of Epworth foster families. This closet has also given our members a great place to donate items.
As Christians, we’re called to, “Look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27) and to help, “The least of these.” (Matthew 25:40) Churches are uniquely equipped to spread the word about the needs of these vulnerable children and provide support for foster and adoptive families. If not us, then who? – Epworth Children’s Home - Columbia, SC
This was a quote from the very first brochure I ever read from Epworth. I had never thought of all the ways God can equip His people to aid foster children, foster parents, and adoptive families. If we don’t open our homes, how can we uplift those who do? These families deserve to be served, supported, loved, and encouraged. Simple acts of service make a big difference. At Hope, we offer support for foster parents the their children by providing them with a safe space, yummy home-cooked meals, and showing love and care to foster children while their parents attend the support groups.
Julie Lindloff lives in Irmo, South Carolina with her husband and two children. She is a stay at home mom and works part-time as the Children’s Ministry Director at Hope Lutheran Church where her husband is the pastor.
What could it look like to incorporate this ministry idea at your church?
*South Carolina Department of Social Services
**Annie E. Casey Foundation