Supporting Birth Families: More than a Safety Net
FaithBridge believes that communities make us stronger. As a result, we work with churches to create Communities of Care® within their congregations so that everyone can partner together to support children in need. These children do not exist in isolation; they have entire families attached to them. Foster care is designed to be more than a safety net. It’s more like a safety trampoline that catapults families in the direction of hope, healing, and unconditional love. The church’s role in this connection cannot be understated.
Heather Price decided to join her church’s Community of Care team at Four Points Church about eight months ago as a Ministry Team Leader (MTL). As a foster parent, Heather works very closely with other foster parents in her church who share a unique, organic, and missional desire to support birth families.
“It’s awesome to see our families love and demonstrate God’s grace to the entire biological family,” Heather shared. “It is a gospel-motivated desire to see transformation in the lives of all family members.”
Four Points Church has five active foster families and one respite family. For a congregation of about 500 people, these are great numbers! They have about five of the birth families joining foster families at church each Sunday! Church volunteers know them by name and recognize them every week.
WAYS THE CHURCH CAN SUPPORT BIRTH FAMILIES
“It is about forming genuine relationships and recognizing that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We all need the gospel and the salvation of Jesus. There is a need for transformation. If we don’t reach out and love [birth families] how can we really impact them? We must recognize that parents need grace just as much as their children.”
Providing for Some Basic Needs. Heather explains that there are simple things that the church can do to support birth families. She mentioned that there was a time that she invited a birth mom for a clothing closet. Women brought clothes and the birth mom was able to get new clothes for herself and take clothes back to the shelter where she lived for other women. Also, when the birth mother got an apartment, the church was able to throw a house warming party for her by asking church members for support.
Offering Babysitting Support. One foster family had a sibling group of two girls for only a couple of weeks but decided to maintain a relationship with the birth mother, who was pregnant again. They volunteered to babysit the girls when the mother goes to the hospital. Other families continue to provide respite for birth families and babysit during breaks.
Sending Care Packages. There was even a time when the youth in the church created care packages for the birth families. Providing gifts to former foster youth who have gone home is also a way to support birth families.
Creating New Communities of Care. Heather explained that it is helpful if the church connects birth families to people in the same community to reach out to them if they needed or wanted that type of support. This would allow for a separate party that is not involved in the case to offer needed support. Almost like having their own Community of Care.
Mentor and Support the Parents. Heather explained that she is able to serve in a mentor-type role for one of her families. The birth mother calls her whenever she has good news and she needs someone to support her to get healthy and to get her kids back. Heather keeps her informed on the child’s life so that she doesn’t feel like she’s missing anything. “This birth mom has missed her child’s first steps and first words. So I try to share pictures and videos so that she can feel connected,” Heather explained.
FACING THE CHALLENGE
Although supporting birth families is something that the families at Four Points Church feel passionately about, Heather explains that this is not always easy.
“There are apprehensions at first, so you have to start off small… maybe visitations with families in the community and continuing to have phone conversations,” Heather explained, “It can be an emotional roller coaster. It is not always clear what type of relationship to pursue with the family but it always helps to show grace and jump back in.”
It is important to remember that God is in control of the situation.
“Trust God. Know that He is sovereign and His plan is in place. God is there,” Heather shared, “None of our children, birth or foster, are our own. They have been entrusted to us for a season. Foster children have parents and we do not make the final determination for their lives. We must trust the Lord. God is sovereign and He loves the children more than we do.”