Take Care of the Children First
By Brent McDougal, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church Knoxville
I was a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer with my wife, Jen, for many years. This gave us an inside look at the dynamics surrounding foster care and the challenges that children face when their parents are unable to care for them.
For three years, we served as advocates for two high school boys and two elementary-age girls, all from the same family, as the mother tried to comply with the court's requirements for reunification. The girls lived with three different relatives over that period of time, while the boys had four different placements. We saw how scared they were to move to each new place. We began to understand the anxiety that comes with new schools, constant changes, and an uncertain future.
Sometimes the kids needed clothes. In one placement, the boys didn't have enough food — the family was stretched thin in caring for their own children. The mental health issues of the children presented a constant necessity for services.
I often wondered in working with the children: what was their experience like? What did they feel from the inside of a situation that they did nothing to cause? When I would leave a meeting with the children, I usually felt sad and disconcerted. Sometimes they seemed happy, but I know that peace and happiness were always a fragile thing.
Jesus said, "I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid" (John 14:27, TLB).
All children should be able to live in a safe and peaceful place. Every child should have enough resources of food, clothing, and other basic necessities, so that the regular challenges of education and peer relationships can be navigated with success.
Adults who step up to be foster parents provide more than a roof and a hot meal each day. They provide at least a modicum of peace. In a chaotic situation much like a hurricane, foster parents help to bring calm in the eye of the storm. CASA volunteers, churches that provide supportive care, neighbors, and other volunteers can help, too.
The goal is peace. Peace of mind. Peace of heart. For every child, every day.
My friend recently shared an insight that stuck with me. He reflected on how his five grandchildren often came over with his daughter or son-in-law to have a meal or spend the night. There was always a lot to do: mouths to feed, baths, brushing teeth. Even though his daughter and son-in-law needed food and love and attention, too, his philosophy was this: take care of the children first. Focus on meeting their needs first. Everything else will fall into place from there.
You can make a difference in the life of a child. You can be a peacemaker. You can do your part in taking care of the children first.