By MANDY BUFKIN
Why foster care is worth overcoming a 4-letter word
When I first moved back home from overseas ministry, I had no idea what I was doing. The only thing I knew was that I needed a job. After a few Google searches, I found out Methodist Children’s Homes needed some part-time administrative help. Perfect.
As I began the role, I approached it with the thought of something to pay the bills until I could get back to the real thing I was called to do (which the Lord would reveal in due time). Fast forward six years, and after transitioning to full time and changing job titles more than once, I’m still here.
The Lord had already told me where I was meant to be; I just wasn’t listening. “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
One of my favorite parts of my job is getting the opportunity to tell the stories of children and families in foster care. The story I most often tell is a happy foster care placement, one that usually ends in adoption. But what about the ones where the placement fails? What about the moms and dads and biological children who are left in a house which suddenly feels much quieter without that foster child?
You’ve probably heard the stories of heartbreak. Someone you know, or a friend of a friend, had a terrible experience with fostering, and that’s what keeps you away. Fear. Fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of your life being disrupted.
But what if that was the only life you’ve ever known? Pain, fear and loss are some of the primary emotions a foster child knows. You lost your parents after going into Child Protective Custody. You ache to know stability. You don’t know if anyone cares, because it seems like no one wants you. The children I serve, the ministry God called me to, is full of heartbroken children trying to figure out how to survive.
They were abused and/or neglected to such an extent, the state has decided it would be better for them to be removed from the family home. Then this child is taken to a foster home full of strangers. Quite often, they are young and don’t understand what is going on. So they use past behaviors to help them survive their current situation. But these learned behaviors are usually inappropriate.
Such behavior is what helped that child make it through being abused or neglected. It is the only coping skill they know. No one has taught them how to manage their emotions or what behaviors are appropriate. But when that child is having their third meltdown of the day, all we see is a “bad kid.” In reality, that child is hurting, scared and flailing to find solid ground.
As Christians, it’s easy to get compassion fatigue. There are so many hurting, broken people in our lives, our country, our world. So quickly our compassion-meter is empty, and we begin to grow apathetic. Which is what has led us here. We know the verse about taking care of widows and orphans, but someone else is doing that. Surely your church is doing something, right?
In Mississippi, there are more than 4,000 children in foster care. There are also more than 9,000 churches. See where I’m going with this? If one family out of every two churches fostered, foster care in Mississippi would look totally different. And guess what? When you have a church family behind you, fostering seems a lot more manageable.
But what about the pesky four-letter word we talked about earlier? F-E-A-R. It is the perfect weapon to keep Christians immobilized. When you’re frozen from fear, you’re no longer advancing the Kingdom of God.
Be brave. Answer the call of the children and teenagers in foster care — and give hope to a child who desperately needs to know the love of God.
Mandy Bufkin is a Jackson native and Belhaven University alumna. As Community Engagement Manager at MCHS, she oversees volunteers, communications and marketing. Outside of work, Mandy enjoys reading and spending time with her husband, Craig, and son, Ezra, at their home in Fondren.