One of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities to practice the corporal and spiritual works of mercy is the experience of foster parenting. Foster parenting is a very special calling. It means giving young people the care and support they need at a time when they need it most.
Foster families provide temporary care for children removed from their birth families because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. They help these children in crisis situations by providing a loving, stable home until they can be reunited with their own family, placed with a relative, or adopted.
Foster parenting is a chance to provide mentoring, teach valuable life lessons, build a stronger community, and provide positive home experiences to a child in need. Many of these children and teens have experienced trauma, and they desperately need the care and nurturing of a loving foster family so they can heal and become productive citizens.
Foster parenting is not easy. Not all foster children are perfectly behaved. It takes some time for the child to adjust to the new environment, to grieve losses, and to learn the rules of their new foster home. Some of these children have been rejected many times, and to be loved and accepted is a new experience for them.
There is a constant need of strong and caring foster families who can meet the challenge of parenting children with difficult backgrounds and multiple needs. The rewards come from serving a vulnerable human being and bringing them into a productive life.
Every child should have a safe and loving home where they can be supported, guided, and accepted. In the state of Texas, there is currently a severe crisis of a lack of sufficient foster families. As of December 31, 2016, there were 28,600 children in custody of the state, with 910 of those in the area of the Diocese of San Angelo.
In our area of West Texas, there is such a lack of foster families that 82 percent of the placements are out of the county where the child lives. Fifty percent are out of the region. This makes our region one of the least responsive to the need for foster care in the entire state of Texas. When a child has to be placed far away, it is more traumatic, because they have to change schools and often have to split up siblings.
In order to become foster parents, there are some basic requirements by state law. Foster parents may be single or married. They must be at least 21 years of age, financially stable, and responsible, mature adults. They undergo a criminal history background check and an abuse/neglect check for all household members age 14 and older. Both parents in the home must be in the country legally, but they do not have to be U.S. citizens.
Foster parents must not have more than six children in the home, including the biological children and the foster children. They must agree to a non-physical discipline policy. They are expected to attend twenty or more hours of training each year.
The state of Texas pays a daily amount for each foster child in the home, but the amount paid is generally not enough to cover all the expenses. Being a foster parent is not about making a profit. It is about making a genuine difference in the life of a child in need.
Foster families can specify criteria for the children placed in their home, such as age, race, and religion. There is a need for families who speak English, as well as for families who speak Spanish.
With foster care, the goal is for the child eventually to go back to their parents, except on rare occasions. Usually, a foster child is eventually reunited with their parents. If that does not happen, then the next course of action is to look for relatives who can become their caregivers. If that is not a possibility, then the child may be a candidate for adoption.
Parishes can also take on the role of providing a support system for foster parents in the congregation. This generally makes the foster experience more successful. For example, in some churches, a meal is brought to the foster family once per week, and a number of families in the parish take turns providing that meal. Any parish that would like more information in order to explore the possibility of providing this kind of support network may contact Tony Rastetter of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in San Angelo at 325-657-8833 or 325-262-1987. His e-mail is
Any individual or couple who would like more information on becoming a foster parent may contact Jessica Neader of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in San Angelo at 325- 657-8944 or at
To find a calendar of the upcoming foster parenting informational meetings in San Angelo, Midland, Odessa, Abilene, Brownwood, or Big Spring, go to
and click on the Foster Care Link and then the Information Meeting link.
For those who are willing to pray about the possibility of foster parenting, here are some Scripture passages that would be helpful for reflection: Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 10:13-16; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; James 2:18-26.