4 things we have learned in the uncertainty of foster care

June 3, 2020

In light of the coronavirus, we are all more familiar with living in uncertainty than we were a few months ago. Things that used to feel in control suddenly feel wildly opposite. For foster parents, this feeling of uncertainty strikes a familiar note. For many of us, we are living in a daily tension of loving where we are and preparing for an unknown future. 

This is National Foster Care Month. Throughout our five years as foster parents, my husband Ben and I have become more comfortable with the tension that we live in. While we still have moments that paralyze us because they catch us off guard, there are four things that we have learned about ourselves and God. These four lessons have helped us ride the crazy waves of this life we have been called to without feeling like we are all falling out of the boat (most days). 

1. We proclaim that God is in charge: We understand more fully that God made everything and therefore, is in charge of everything. 2 Chronicles 29:11 says, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.” That includes the beautiful humans that we share our homes with for a time until they reunify with family members. I have to admit that we stole the phrase “God is in charge of everything” from our preschool program at church. It’s a mantra for our children, but it resonates deeply with me. 

It has been a little scary, but also strikingly important, to remember that our biological kids are not promised to us forever. I have beautiful friends whose children have not grown into adulthood. I am not promised a specific length of time to have any child in my home, but my job to disciple them remains true just the same. Life as a foster parent has taught me to love and serve more deeply each day, although I do not get it right nearly enough.

2. We do the next right thing in light of eternity: Foster care has taught us the importance of simply doing the next right thing and living for eternity, rather than constantly trying to manipulate or control things to go my way. Truth be told, I have struggled with this for as long as I can remember. I don’t do any of this through my own strength but constantly return to God for more grace, more strength, and more wisdom to make the next right decision or action. 2 Corinthians 9:8 says, “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” 

Returning to him reminds me why we started praying about doing this in the first place. We don’t know the end of the story for each of the children who have passed through our home, but we do know the end of this world’s greatest redemptive story. We aren’t doing this because we are “good people” or superheroes. We are doing this for the ultimate end to the most epic tale. We’re doing this out of the deep affection that we have for God and to bring glory to him.

3. We rejoice in our affliction: As referenced above, foster care has revealed ugly parts of me—the need for control and the lack of peace I have when things aren’t in my control. Although sanctification is not why we entered into the world of foster care, God is still using it to sanctify me. We have learned that all of the valleys of foster care have ultimately led to the greater hope that Paul references in Romans 5:3-5, “We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance products proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

When I give myself over to anxiety, I am missing out on or forgetting the chance to grow in endurance, proven character, and hope. A passage that has ministered to me is John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The peace he gives is above and beyond any comfort I can feel from “being in control” of a situation or trusting human decisions about a foster care case. And because of Christ, we can rely on his peace and rejoice in all things. 

4. We trust God with timing, placement, and reunification: Finally, our family knows and values that the goal of foster care is reunification. People ask all the time if we know how long children in our home will stay. Although we carry a dual license for adoption, our family only does foster care. We primarily receive emergency placements, so we don’t know whether they will be with us for two days while they locate family members or if they will be with us for two years. We have had 20 placements, and each one has been different. 

And yet, regardless of the timeline, we believe that each child is in our home on purpose, for a reason. God’s timing is perfect, and even if it feels inconvenient or like our time together is too short, I know it matters to him. Out of all of the homes in our county, we get the privilege of receiving that placement call, for that specific child, and we trust that our heavenly Father knows best. After all, Scripture is true, “The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psa. 145:9).

Will you join us?

If the unknown side of foster care is what has been holding you back from starting the process, I hope these words encourage you, for there is truly beauty in the uncertainty. And do you know who faces the most uncertainty? The children. The precious children who have been removed from all that feels familiar are the ones who are affected the most. 

My husband and I are convinced that if children who have experienced unspeakable trauma have to walk through days and weeks of unpredictability, then we can walk through seasons of unpredictability as well. If this speaks to your heart, contact your local foster care agency and see how you can get involved.

If foster care isn’t right for your family, consider other avenues of getting involved. Think about pursuing a matched adoption of children whose parents’ rights have already been terminated (typically older children or sibling groups). Or perhaps consider getting involved with organizations that work hard to keep families intact (Safe Families). Or, you can get involved in respite care to come alongside foster families. There are dozens of ways to care for children in foster care, their biological family members, and their foster families. And God will give you grace and display his glory in all of it. 

Sarah Clift Allen

Sarah Allen is a freelance business consultant and an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University. She and her husband have had the honor of having 20 delightful children who are in foster care live with them over the last five years. In her extra time, she leads a home group with her husband; … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24