Religion

What Are We Doing about Foster Children in America?

David Scotton in I Lived on Parker Avenue (trailer image via YouTube)
A call to love

More than 442,000. That’s roughly the number of children in foster care in America. Many of us go about our days not thinking about them. Others among us open hearts and homes to children who need loving permanency. Earlier this month, I was with one of those children, Sarah Zagorski, now a mother of her own. We were screening a short, powerful documentary, I Lived on Parker Avenue, about its implications for churches, the pro-life movement, and common-ground efforts to help the vulnerable, including the unborn child in the womb and her scared mother.

Zagorski told us about some of the time in her home with her mother — fighting for food at five years old, among other things — some of the terror-ridden circumstances that placed her in foster care in Louisiana for almost eight years. She has a surplus of gratitude and compassion for her birth mother, who suffered deeply and yet had the courage to have her when abortion was more than an option. She also talked about some of her siblings who were not as blessed as she was to get settled within a loving, stable family. When you look at her today and hear from her, it’s hard not to be drawn to pray for the five-year-old Sarahs in family situations they shouldn’t be in, or in the foster-care system when they should be with a family who can love and provide for them.

Of those over 442,000 children in foster care, more than 100,000 are adoptable, eligible for placement in “forever families.” We’ve got some 330 million people living in the United States. This can be done. These Sarahs can be in loving families. These Sarahs should be given a fighting chance.

I don’t know who makes these declarations, but November is National Adoption Month, and I’m grateful it is, because it’s an excuse to rally to the cause. It obviously coincides with the start of the “holidays” season that traditionally brings families together. So what about the kids who don’t have food, family, or fun? What about the children who have no sense of normal? Or their normal is something, like Sarah’s story, that maybe we don’t want to know about, because when we do know, we have to do something about it? And what about when we are at our best, celebrating Christmas for what it is? At the heart of the story is a baby and a family — and a foster father who makes a leap of faith and beyond all worldly concerns accepts what he believes is the will of God — that this child be born into a family of a mother and a father, despite the unusual circumstances.

We screened I Lived on Parker Avenue — about a boy who almost wasn’t born and his overflowing gratitude for his birth mother for the gift of life — on just about the most important street to in New York City. We watched it at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, which happens to be next to a Planned Parenthood clinic — sharing a wall — yards away from Margaret Sanger Square. Recently, while leaving the Sheen Center, I was surprised by abortion. I, of course, know they perform them at the Planned Parenthood next door. I’ve even prayed outside this clinic many times — and just about every time I’m on the block — for precisely that reason.

But this time, I was confronted with clinic escorts and pro-life sidewalk counselors. And then a young couple who looked as though their dreams had died. She looked like life had been sucked out of her. Which is, of course, exactly what had happened. Walking right past the doors of the Sheen Center, human misery was on display — and as we are winding down a year that began with the governor of New York State expanding abortion and celebrating his radical doubling down on death, on the most intimate violence there is, by lighting the Freedom Tower, a building that should be a symbol of resurrection, in an obnoxious display of executive power.

So what are we going to do about this all? The Christian Alliance for Orphans has a More Than Enough campaign, which is rallying people behind the conviction that there are homes for children in foster care, and more than enough of them. This should be true and will be true if religious communities, in particular, step up to the plate. Christians, in a particular way, believe that we are adopted children of a merciful Father, the Creator of the universe. Both the New and the Old Testament emphasize God’s care for the widows and orphans. We must do as He does! And an important part of the message of this or any other similar initiative is: We all have our roles. There’s more than enough for all of us to do, including being practical supports to families with foster and adoptive children, often with a lot of trauma history and even mental illness.

It’s a whole different column, but I appreciated a talk that Florida senator Marco Rubio delivered at my alma mater, the Catholic University of America, recently. He talked about our duty to the common good. “The common good” is not just a civic and philosophical phrase; the common good has faces. That’s why I’m so grateful that Sarah tells her story, to advocate for children who can’t come to Bleecker Street and say, “Help me. Love me. Save me.”

There’s the particular tragedy, too, of abortion. And couples want babies! Occasionally, I hear a story about a couple who stands outside an abortion clinic saying: “We’ll love your baby.” This needs to be ubiquitous in our culture, making it a culture of life and love when it seems the very opposite some days. More Than Enough: Let’s make it all so.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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