What is a Christian approach to foster care?

When Christians engage in the foster care system, in any role or at any level, we align ourselves with the very heart of Jesus.
By James Pruch
January 29, 2024 • 7 min read

Throughout the Bible, the compassionate nature of God towards orphans and vulnerable children jumps out at us on every page. God identifies himself as the “father to the fatherless” (Psalm 68:5) and acts justly on behalf of the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 10:18).

After Jesus’ life on earth, the first Christians followed in his love for the poor, hurting, and marginalized. The New Testament teaches us that genuine faith in Jesus leads believers to actively work alongside in ministry to the orphan and widow (James 1:27, 2:17), two of the most vulnerable groups in the ancient world.

The reality is that the early Christians believed they were the answer to the brokenness they encountered in their world.

Do we still believe that today?

How does God’s compassion inform our approach to foster care?

Moving from the ancient world of the Bible to the world today is a giant leap. But our commitment to compassionate ministry to the vulnerable is based on God’s character and activity, not the culture or time we find ourselves in. This ancient commitment has moved many Christians to be involved in foster care.

While not every Christian can or should become a foster parent, collectively, we, as God’s people, have good reasons to be involved in the lives of children who temporarily need a safe home in the foster care system.

Here are five:

  1. Foster care reflects the love of Jesus. Engaging in foster care allows Christians to embody the love of Christ in practical ways.
  2. Foster care supports and preserves families. By participating in foster care, Christian families contribute to preserving and supporting families experiencing difficulties.
  3. Foster care is a mission field within your home. Foster care provides an opportunity to view one’s home as a mission field, where the gospel is demonstrated with actions and declared in words.
  4. Foster care is pro-life. Supporting foster care aligns with a pro-life stance that goes beyond just caring for babies in the womb. It advocates for the well-being and protection of every child at every age.
  5. Foster care brings healing and restoration to a broken world. Engaging in foster care contributes to the healing of the brokenness in the world, offering hope and restoration to vulnerable children.

Foster care is a part of discipleship

The need for foster care is immense, and as Christians, recognizing the call to make a positive difference in the world is crucial. Biblical invitations, such as James 1:27, underscore the responsibility to support children in foster care.

Understanding that in the gospel, believers were once orphans adopted by God, Christians are encouraged to model this truth and extend compassion to “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40, 45).

Foster care serves as a daily reminder of the gospel’s significance, showcasing the impact of sin, brokenness, and trauma–not just on individuals but on innocent children

It provides a tangible way for families to live out Jesus’s commands and be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13–14). Foster parents play a vital role as difference-makers, changing the world for the children they care for.

When we engage in the foster care system, in any role or at any level, we align ourselves with Jesus’s examples of compassion, acceptance of children, and the command to love neighbors as oneself. Additionally, it fulfills God’s commands to care for the orphan and the disadvantaged (Psalm 82:3; Isaiah 1:17).

All of this is an essential part of Christian discipleship. What is discipleship? In a nutshell, it’s simply connecting people to Jesus and helping them understand what it looks like to follow him.

Foster parents do that every single day with the children in their care. Even those of us who aren’t foster parents can help in this discipleship effort when we serve someone in or connected to the foster system.

Foster care is one way for us to be connected to vulnerable children and families who, just like us, need to be connected to Jesus. Any approach to foster care should be thoroughly discipleship-focused.

One big caveat of any “Christian approach” to foster care

All of this doesn’t mean that foster care is a “bait and switch. We don’t just do some “good deed” to help someone physically, emotionally, and mentally, just so that people believe in Jesus.

It’s easy to think that our “spiritual life” is more important or even at odds with our physical and emotional lives. But the Bible doesn’t paint that picture. We are whole people who exist as spiritual-physical-emotional beings.

It’s why Jesus touched, ate with, talked to, walked with, and healed people. Even people who never ended up following him.

That leads us to say that foster care is a good thing even if children or parents never come to faith in Jesus.

Our privilege as disciples of Jesus is to help people find meaningful belonging to a loving community before they believe in Jesus–even if they never believe in Jesus.

Really? How can this be?

There’s a principle in the Sermon on the Mount that can help us. When Jesus taught about enemies, he said, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44).

Not so that they’ll come to church with you. Not so that they’ll pray a special prayer. Not so that they become a good person. Not so that they love the God you love.

Love your enemies, Jesus says, so that you may be children of your Father, who loved his enemies by sending his only Son.

God calls us to love enemies without expecting anything in return.

The children and parents we serve in foster care are hardly our enemies. Not in the least. They are the marginalized and vulnerable and oppressed people for whom God’s heart breaks.

How much more then should we take that approach with these precious children and adults in the foster system we have the privilege to know and love?

We love them for who they are, whether or not they ever decide to love and follow Jesus. They aren’t a project. They are people, made in God’s image. And when we love them unconditionally, we grow even deeper into the likeness of our Father and his Son.

You can be involved in foster care in Nebraska

God’s love and mercy to the vulnerable should lead Christians to not just being involved in foster care, but leading the way in the world. When government agencies and other organizations ask, “How can we change the future of child welfare in our community?” we want them to look to the church.

Christian Heritage has been providing care for children for over 40 years and we rely on people like you to advance our mission. It really does take a community to help vulnerable children flourish. You can live out God’s call to extend care and compassion to the vulnerable in many ways:

  1. Spread awareness. Talk to your church leadership about meeting with Christian Heritage to kickstart mobilizing your community around the needs of foster children.
  2. Serve with CH. Become a licensed foster parent in Nebraska with our 10-week training and licensing process. Not ready to be a foster parent? There are so many other ways you can serve a foster family or with CH in other ways.
  3. Support financially. Christian Heritage depends on the generosity of God’s people to do this ministry. While the state of Nebraska provides funding for foster care services, it’s not enough to cover all the expenses for our organization to care for foster children. Give a gift to help us continue to provide exceptional care to children and training and support to families who serve.

FAQs about the Christian approach to foster care

Should every Christian be a foster parent?

No, not every Christian should be a foster parent, and that’s a good thing. The Scriptures are clear that everyone has different gifts and it takes many members to make the body of Christ work. Being a foster parent is a unique role in caring for vulnerable children, but not the only role. In Nebraska, there are about 3,800 children in foster care. There are many more Christians than that! Foster parents also need support in many ways, so if you aren’t called to be a foster parent, you can still be involved in helping vulnerable children flourish.

How do I know if I should be a foster parent?

Deciding to become a foster parent is a big decision. But there’s no secret sauce that some people/couples have but others lack. Through prayer, reflection, and evaluation of your situation and desires, you can discern if God is calling you to be a foster parent. We’re here to walk alongside you in the process. Reach out to start a conversation.

How can I avoid having a “savior complex” as a foster parent?

Have you ever heard a Christian involved in foster care say, “We need to save these kids”? We have. The reality is that only Jesus saves. But we can be ambassadors of healing and support in the lives of vulnerable people. We don’t do the saving, but as ambassadors, we represent our Savior, who is pleased to invite us into his ministry. Remember that Jesus saved you and you are in just as much need of God’s grace as the children you serve.

I want to be a foster parent, but my church doesn’t know much about foster care. What do I do?

It’s a long journey for a whole church, its leadership, or even just one pastor to be “all in” on foster care. That can leave church members who are ready to serve in limbo. First, remember that your passion and readiness may be one way God helps your church learn about and get involved in foster care. Watch for opportunities to share with church leaders about the need in your area and how your church can actively meet that need. Second, if you serve with Christian Heritage, we will help you build a community of people in your church to rally around you as you care for children. Finally, as always, be patient. For churches that are unfamiliar with neglect, abuse, poverty, or other kinds of trauma, it will take time. Don’t give up. God has you there for a reason.

I know about God’s heart for the vulnerable but I don’t know much about trauma or hurting people. Can I still be involved in foster care?

Yes! Our most successful foster parents didn’t know everything when they said, “Yes!” The best foster parents are teachable, dependable, and compassionate. They’re willing to learn about trauma and how using different parenting styles for children with trauma can be effective and healing. They also know they can’t do it alone and are ready to ask for help when needed.

James Pruch

James is the Marketing & Development Director at Christian Heritage. He and his wife, Carly, are former licensed foster parents. Before joining CH, James worked as a pastor, college minister, and CPS investigator with Nebraska DHHS. He and Carly have four kids and live in Lincoln.