Can I take my foster children to church? This is a question often comes up when I am talking to potential foster parents. The answer involves a bit more study than just a quick yes or no. Personally, I am a person of faith. I attend church every Sunday and try and live my life according to my beliefs. I have a rule in my household that states, "If you live in my house, then you attend church." This rule tends to drive the teenagers in my household crazy because they are in a rebellious stage of life in general. The topic of church is often their favorite form of ammunition. Despite their objections, I apply this rule to anyone who happens to be in my house on Sunday morning. This includes any friends who have stayed the night, my biological children, my adopted children, and my foster children. I am sure that you can tell I have fought many battles and given my rule a lot of thought. Some of the first battles on this subject began when I wasn't sure if I should take my foster child with me. Immediately my biological children stated that if they had to go so did the foster child! I called up my social worker to ask if this was appropriate. The answer I received became the rule I live by. If the child is in my home and the birth parents have no objections then we all attend church. If the birth parent is against the idea of their child attending church then I request visitation during that specific time. My family attends church and the child gets to spend time with their parent. This method has worked out just fine for all involved.
Faith often plays a role in people becoming foster parents. Some people have told me they feel called to do the work by a higher power. Of course, faith is not the only reason people become foster parents but for many believer's it is important. There is a growing organization called Faith Communities Coalition whose primary goal is " to create a wider safety net to help recruit, support and contribute in large and small ways to the well-being of foster children and families" (http://www.saveourchildrencoalition.org/). One of their goals is to spread the word among church congregations about the urgent need for foster parents in Michigan. Current foster parents, social workers, potential foster parents and anyone else who has an interest share their ideas and learn from speakers and each other at SOCC meetings. Anyone can take this information to their own churches and spread the word. It is exciting for me to see the success this organization is having here in Michigan. Anyone can attend SOCC meetings and it is a great place to learn more about fostering children. See the website for meeting locations and dates.
I have found that when I take my foster children to church that there is an interest in what I am doing from people at my church. Many times the children in my care have received gifts at Christmas or clothing donations from my church. People want to help in anyway that they can and donations of time or goods are a valuable resource to the kids in the system. My foster kids have also found new friends at church in the youth groups. Foster children are often desperately in need of new friends and kids at church have the potential to be positive role models. At this point I feel it is important to state that I do not force my foster children to attend church or youth organizations against their will. I encourage them to do so but I also provide an acceptable alternative. For the record, an acceptable alternative is not hanging out at a friend's house or laying around watching television while the family is gone. This logic is in place mainly for older children. Younger children like to join in with everything the family is doing. Do not be nervous or afraid to ask if your foster child can go to church if that is what your family does. A foster child needs to become part of the family to heal and to grow. My recommendation is to include the child in all the things that your family does.