A while back, I blogged about an idea that Gary and I were tossing around - basically, we were wondering if we could get a foster care license, just in case any of our students were ever removed from their home. The idea is that in the midst of a traumatic situation, our student would not have to be thrust into a house of strangers, but could legally come stay in a familiar, trusted environment until the situation was resolved.
Well, Gary and I have taken the next step in that direction. Last week we attended a meeting with Contra Costa County Children & Family Services, to find out more about the process. For one of three monthly meetings, I was surprised to see how many were in attendance - probably about thirty (though most were interested in adoption as opposed to foster care).
Some of the things I learned:
-In Contra Costa county alone, there are about 1600-1700 children in the foster care system at any given time. About half will stay with extended family, and the other half need placements.
-The county highly values permanency for the child, and the time frame is fairly short (6 months for a child under three years of age, 12 months for a child over three) before they seek to adopt a child out into a permanent family situation.
-There are a number of ways to do foster care: emergency placement, long-term, concurrent (moving towards adoption), or respite care for other families.
-The main requirements to be a foster parent are: over 18 years of age, and a spare bedroom available to the child, and completion of a 21-hour training course.
So, Gary and I now begin the next phase: filling out the application, and going through the training. Once these things are in motion, it should be about 4-6 months before we are fully licensed.
While this enterprise may seem a little unusual, especially for a couple who aren't in a hurry to have kids of their own, I really feel like it's a good way to honor God. This is really the modern-day, American version of 'looking after the orphans in their distress'.
As a long-time foster parent shared her experiences at the meeting, it really hit me what a great ministry it is to be there for a child in possibly the worst moment of their life. To show them love, a healthy family situation, and a vibrant relationship with God, there is such opportunity for significant life impact, even in a short period of time.
So, that's where we are for now.