May is Foster Care Awareness Month and Catholic families are encouraged to consider fostering or adopting one of the many children who need safe, stable, loving homes. The Diocese of Orange has teamed up with FosterAll, a Southern California nonprofit that provides guidance and support to families or individuals who feel called to foster or adopt a child.
The needs of foster care children have long been the concern of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange. “This is our first year partnering with FosterAll, but we have previously worked with the County of Orange and Olive Crest in raising awareness about foster care needs in our county and connecting Catholic families to opportunities to become foster families or support foster families in our community,” says Linda Ji, director, Office for Family Life in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange Pastoral Center.
Through a campaign called “Love Has No Limits” FosterAll is working with approximately 1,000 faith communities—including those in the neighboring Diocese of San Bernardino and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles—to educate parishioners about the process and practicalities of fostering a child. “FosterAll will reach out to our parishes to help raise awareness about foster care needs, recruit families to foster, and provide opportunities for parish communities to assist and care for local children and foster families,” explains Ji.
Fostering and adopting fits naturally with Catholic belief and values. “In this Year of Saint Joseph we would be remiss not to mention that our Lord Jesus himself was raised by a foster father, Joseph, who is a quiet hero of our Catholic faith,” points out Greg Walgenbach, director of Life, Peace and Justice at the Diocese of Orange. “One of the most basic—and widely repeated—commands God gives us in the Hebrew scriptures, our Old Testament, is to care for the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. Foster youth are among the most marginalized and at-risk persons in our midst and require our attention and accompaniment in whatever ways we are able.”
Children are removed from their homes for a variety of reasons—they’ve been subjected to neglect, abandonment or abuse—and they are frightened and confused. To give these children a chance to thrive in a loving, supportive home and form a lasting bond can be a gratifying and even transformational experience for foster parents. Experts say that fostering can strengthen a marriage through the shared goal of raising a foster child, and even create a positive ripple effect in their communities.
FosterAll addresses common questions about fostering or adopting. Can a single or widowed person foster a child? Yes, as long as that person is on stable financial footing and is adequately housed. Can you be too old to foster or adopt? No there is no age limit to being a foster parent. Isn’t fostering a child expensive? Not necessarily—adoptive parents receive a monthly stipend to cover some costs.
Still, the practical and emotional challenges of fostering or adopting a child may seem overwhelming, and that’s where FosterAll comes in. Not only do they help individuals and families navigate the system, but they provide ongoing support so that no one has to face the challenges alone.
What if you’re not a position to foster or adopt but still want to help? “There are many ways for us as a loving community to wrap our arms around these children and their families,” says Ji. “We can attend to the needs of children in group homes as they wait to join a family. We can support foster families in our midst, helping them secure needed materials—furniture, clothes, food—when a child joins their home, or providing spiritual and emotional support to foster parents as they navigate the challenges of fostering.”
Faith communities can also support at-risk families before their children are placed out of their homes. They can help to keep families together and children out of the system, Ji adds.
“For example, Holy Trinity parish in Ladera Ranch has a Safe Families ministry where host families temporarily provide a safe place for children to stay while their parents overcome a crisis, after which the family can be immediately reunited,” Ji explains. “Saint Irenaeus in Cypress is part of a network that uses CarePortal to identify and donate toward concrete needs—beds, meals, diapers, car seats—of vulnerable families so they can keep their children out of foster care.”
But when children do need a foster family, Catholics can learn in this month of May how to open their hearts and homes. “Fostering or adopting a child aligns with our belief in the dignity of life of all persons and puts into action our recognition that all children need and deserve a safe and loving home from where they can learn about the love of Christ,” adds Linda Ji.