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The Least of These...
Photo: Anouar Aziouzi
Two days before Christmas I phoned a girlfriend to ask if she had her shopping done. “Well, I DID,” she exclaimed, “but our social worker just called and she’s bringing us a four year old girl today. I have nothing for her!” Knowing that my friend was already caring for a baby, a toddler and five-year-old twins, I was quick to sympathize. “I just cleaned out our game and toy closets,” I happily informed her. “Some things are almost new. Come over tonight and choose what you want.”

Finding temporary homes for neglected and battered children has become an urgent need in our society. More parents than ever are unable or unwilling to care for their children. And because of the many emotional and physical needs of displaced children, host families are increasing difficult to find. Yet all children deserve to be provided with the most basic necessities for life –  safety, love, a roof over their heads, nourishing food, and clean, adequate clothing.

According to the Pew Commission on Foster Care, there were more than 523,000 children in foster care in the United States in 2003. Some of these have been adopted; some will be moved from home to home. Unfortunately, a few will continue to be neglected or even abused. Many, however, will find the stability, acceptance and love in foster homes that every child needs.

Childhood Memories

My own parents cared for foster children while I was growing up. Over the years 16 kids – babies to teens – shared our home. Some I barely remember, as they stayed only a day or two. But I will always remember Hazel, and how she squealed with delight when we played ball. The new little dresses my mother sewed for her brought more smiles and laughter. I remember rocking baby Timmy, and climbing trees with Danny and Sandra.

Not all my memories are pleasant. When Judy came her back and legs were a mass of bruises from being kicked by her older brothers. I cannot forget the haunting pain and shame in Alice’s eyes when she fearfully glanced at us, nor the hateful anger that spewed forth from Adrian after her father’s tragic death and her mother’s abandonment of the family. I will never forget the terror that wrenched 16-year-old James’ face as he sat up late in our living room while my parents tried to assure him that his father would not come in the night to kill him.(James’ fears were not ungrounded. He stayed with us only one night before being moved out of the county for his safety.)

Indeed, foster parenting is not for the weak of stomach nor those emotionally ungrounded. But for  families who are stable and mature the gift they can give foster children is immeasurable. “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).

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By Brenda Dickerson. Copyright © 2006 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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