The Works of Mercy are charitable actions by which we come to the aid of our neighbor in his spiritual and bodily necessities. Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently. The corporal works of mercy consist especially in feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying the dead. Among all these, giving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God. -CCC 2447
When I asked a friend of mine the names of all her kids, they rolled off her tongue. They were short, sweet, and simple. A few weeks later, I asked how a certain one was doing, and with a smile she told me, “She was a foster child for us. She’s returned to her family. Meet Molly*.” And just like that, we talked about this precious child who would be joining their family for an indeterminate amount of time.
Another friend, who I love very much, introduced me to her “bonus daughter” during a gathering on the Fourth of July. With being close in age to her other daughter, they can be mistaken for twins.
Fostering a child is not easy, but it is worth it.
You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be a Foster Parent
It’s easy to believe we have to be perfect or have everything together to be a foster parent, or to advocate for children in the courtroom like a Court Appointed Special Advocate. Those kids don’t need perfect. They need us as we are.
When we look at the Catechism and the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy, there is not a caveat that this is only for the perfect man or woman. It is lined out for everyone who has ears to hear. It is a work of justice to be present to and available for these kids.
We know that St. Thérèse of Lisieux was a whiny, tantrum-prone child. Still, however, she became a Saint through her Little Way. St. Catherine of Siena was bold. St. Thomas the Apostle doubted. These are humans, doing the extraordinary in the ordinary by listening to the calling that God and God alone has placed on them.
How to Support Foster Families
There are many ways that we can be involved, whether our call leads us to fostering and adopting, advocating, or just being good friends to those in our community who do these things.
Supporting each individual foster family can look very different, depending on our relationships.
I bring coffee to these wonderful women. I pray over their children and their various appointments, meetings, and struggles.
I try to visit them as they are, realizing that sometimes, mess happens, and there is a grace that is indescribable in accepting scruffy, bumpy, slightly sticky hospitality. After all, it is sometimes a much larger struggle to displace your biological children and your foster children into someone else’s house due to the unspoken fear that they will be left here in this strange place again.
Please, with this in mind, realize that it is going to be easier and better to uproot your family into their environment for a visit than meet outside of their home.
Donating to Them First
Many foster children have unspeakable baggage in their own heart, and little physical baggage. Things get lost, broken, or forgotten. When you are going through your own items and considering donating, please reach out to your friends who foster and offer them first dibs. You never know when someone will get the call at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning in the dead of winter to bring in a new child and discover all of the clothes they own are a size too small and two seasons behind.
Being There for the Ones Who are There
It will never be easy. It will never result in accolades.
What it will result in, ultimately, is the phrase one of my friends who advocated for 15 years once told me her child told her: “You were there for me when no one else was. When I changed schools, or I moved some place new, you were there for me. You believed in me, and you gave me a familiar face. I always knew that I could count on you.”
That is what being heroic and being the face of Christ can be in our world today. You don’t have to be a superhero; you just have to care.
How do you support the foster families in your community? If you are a foster family, what other ways are helpful in receiving support from others?
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Breanna Scott is a mother of two daughters on earth and three children in Heaven. Military spouse, theology major, and lover of all things winter, she resides in Indiana. You can find out more about her here.