Overcoming four objections to foster care

July 10, 2019

Foster care is probably the most difficult thing my family and I have ever done. It’s more difficult than completing a Ph.D., moving several times across the country, making friends as 30-somethings, and remodeling a kitchen (don’t underestimate the magnitude of that task). 

Foster care is hard. But you should still do it. The Old Testament is replete with commands about caring for society’s most vulnerable—the orphan, the widow, the poor, and the immigrant (see Mal. 3:5; Isa. 1:17; Deut. 10:18, 14:25; Exod. 22:22-24). These were the people most likely to be taken advantage of and to struggle in a society based on family relationships and family property. God, therefore, takes special care in commanding his people to care for those who would otherwise be destitute. 

The New Testament continues in this same vein, with James even stating, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (1:27). The principle is exactly the same: New Testament believers should care for society’s most vulnerable.

American culture differs from that of the New Testament and ancient Israel in that we have several governmental programs to care for society’s most destitute. However, that does not negate the Christian responsibility to care for orphans, widows, immigrants, and the poor beyond simply paying taxes. And, furthermore, state governments rely on individual people to provide a home for the children in government care. Thus, Christians can demonstrate God’s heart toward society’s most vulnerable while also being a blessing to our state by loving children in foster care. It’s not easy, but it’s a practical way to live out our faith.

I hear a lot of objections, whether out of fear or discomfort, to foster care; here are some of the most common ones and why I think they shouldn’t keep you from serving these children who need our help. 

1. I couldn’t bear to let a foster child go back home.

Put my name on the list of people who thought this. When my wife and I first started talking about foster care, I had this grand view of myself—that I would be an amazing foster dad who fell in love with every foster child at first sight. Andrew[1] has been in our family now for more than 18 months, and I can say now that I love him deeply, as if he were my biological son, and I would be devastated if he left our family. He’s a wonderful kid, full of life and energy, and he smiles this wonderful smile and laughs out loud when he eats strawberries and Cheetos. He’s amazing.

But I didn’t start out feeling this way about him or seeing all of the life that he brings to our family. When Andrew first came to be with us, all I could see were the extra diapers, the (many) sleepless nights, and the ruckus that adding another child to the mix brings. It was really hard, and there were a lot of times when I found myself angry at his biological parents because they should be comforting him in the middle of the night, and they should be teaching him how to trust other people. I’m embarrassed to admit that, at that point, I wanted my foster son to go back home because he made my life inconvenient.

 I hope you’ll have a different experience than me—that from the start you’ll be able to show Christ-like, sacrificial love toward a foster child. Now that I’m on the other side of those difficult first months, I can’t imagine my family without Andrew. Despite the frustrations, I urge you to foster anyway, because I think the pain of being without our foster son—should that happen—will be eclipsed by the joy and hope and life he has given us.

2. I couldn’t love a foster child like I love “my” kids.

This one is a bit trickier and takes some guts to admit out loud. I think this is true for a lot of people, and it was certainly true for me—for a long time. The good news is that this isn’t required of you. Foster children are typically in your care for a limited amount of time.. They need love and support, of course, but they aren’t your children. 

The goal of foster care is always reunification, and the role that foster parents play in that goal is to provide a safe, loving environment for the children while the parents work out whatever issues need to be addressed so the family can be reunited. However, approximately a quarter of the foster care population is eligible for adoption, meaning that reunification with the biological family won’t be possible. The reasons for failed reunification vary, but that population of children are eligible for adoption. 

I’ve found that approaching foster care understanding this framework freed me to love our foster son well because I saw myself as one part of the larger goal of redeeming a broken family. If reunification ends up not being possible, then trust God to cause you to love that child as your own. After all, God is good at loving adopted children.

3. My own children are too young right now.

When Andrew joined our family, our oldest son was just barely two years old, and our youngest was two months, so I understand this concern. I still laugh out loud at the absurdity of welcoming a two-month-old child into our family at that time in life. It was absolutely bonkers. All I can say is that the Lord was in it, and we survived.

But much more than simply surviving, our family has thrived with Andrew in it. He has brought life and infectious laughter to our home. He’s not simply someone we care for; he contributes significantly to our family dynamic. 

I’m certain this is not always the case—all foster children are dealing with some level of trauma, even at six months old. But, foster care is about providing love, safety, and stability to someone who needs it, not about our own comfort level and the difficulties we may face.

4. I don’t want my biological children to get hurt.

This objection often relates directly to the previous one. I’m no expert at foster care, but we should definitely consider the safety of all the people in our homes. My family decided to only foster children who were the same age or younger than our youngest son for this very reason. Of course, that means we now have two kids just a few months apart, but it also means that we could ensure the physical safety of our whole family while also fostering another child. Also worth noting is that social workers and the state want to ensure the foster child’s and your family’s well-being, so they take into account age, gender, and trauma when placing children in your home.

There’s also the question of the emotional safety of the kids already in your home. That’s a tough one, because no one wants their children to experience grief or loss. I know our two biological sons would be devastated if Andrew left our home. I also know that God is faithful and trustworthy, and he has called us to care for orphans (extended to foster children in today’s context). Sometimes that means the people closest to us will experience grief and loss of their own, but that also provides them (and us) with the opportunity to learn that obeying God is sometimes difficult. Very difficult. But it’s always worth it. 

Having a foster son has shaped my family in ways that I didn’t imagine. We have struggled together, laughed together, cried together, rejoiced together, worried together, and gotten angry together. God has softened our hearts toward parents whose kids are in foster care, and he’s given us (slowly but surely) the ability to love a child not our own. It’s hard, but we’d do it all over again a million times. 


  1. ^ Name changed to protect privacy.

Russell L. Meek

Russell L. Meek (Ph.D., Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is a speaker, writer, and professor who specializes in the Old Testament and its intersection with the Christian life. You can visit him online at RussMeek.com. 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

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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

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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

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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