By Gabriel Stovall
Emily Yeager will tell you it was her youthful exuberance that initially drew her family into foster care.
“I remember sitting church, little naive, 11-year-old me, and a video came on in church talking about foster care. I looked up and asked my mom and dad, ‘Why aren’t we doing that?’” Yeager said.
Twelve years and 15 foster kids later, the Yeager family now knows Emily’s inquisitiveness was really a calling from God. Now, Emily says the COVID-19 pandemic is an ideal time for individuals and families to consider the “mission field” of foster care.
“Everybody can have a place in foster care,” she said. “Even if you don’t want to keep kids in your home full time or it’s hard for you to consistently interact with the kids directly, you can adopt a foster family and help them with any support they need. Because of everything going on, people can really take this time to determine how they can get involved in foster care and meet the needs that are arising.”
Those needs, according to Lynette Ezell, host of Send Relief’s Adopting and Fostering Home podcast, have increased in fostering households.
“The unprecedented COVID-19 shutdown has proven to be very difficult for foster families, children in the foster system and young souls who are struggling in difficult environments.” Ezell said.
Because schools and daycares have closed, Ezell says at-risk children are missing those extra sets of caring eyes.
“Many times, it’s a teacher, coach or daycare worker who notices that a child may be experiencing neglect or abuse in their home, and they will make a call to social services,” she said. “As the world remains on lock down, hurting children are at a very high risk of not receiving the protection and services needed to keep them safe.”
That said, Ezell believes that these difficult times are a clear call for Christians to step up and see the fostering world as a true mission field.
“Foster families and vulnerable children need the Body of Christ to put fear aside and answer the call to truly carry one another’s burdens,” Ezell said. “The urgency for prayer and community has never been more essential than during this global health crisis. Everyone involved in fostering needs a little extra care and tangible support, so hurting hearts can heal and come to know the love of Jesus.”
Since age 11, Emily Yeager has enthusiastically embraced fostering as her personal mission field.
Long before the pandemic, it was that desire to show Christ’s love—combined with strong support from their church family at First Baptist Woodstock—that moved the Yeagers to embrace fostering as their own personal mission field.
“Being involved in a fostering home gave me a great example growing up as to how to live my life on mission in a different way,” Emily said. “I wasn’t necessarily the church kid that went on every mission trip, but fostering definitely allowed me to discover my mission field. My mission field was right in my house, 24-7, and I loved it being that way.”
Because Emily was a pre-teen at the time, the Yeagers set an age limit for kids they’d take in.
“We made it age 1 through 11,” Emily said.
Because most of the 15 kids were younger than Emily, and all except one have been boys, the youngest Yeager eagerly embraced life as a big sister.
“It was great, because it was like, me being close to their age allowed them to trust me more,” she said. “Some of them maybe had issues with adults, so it gave me the chance to bond with them rather quickly. It definitely taught me lessons of sacrifice from middle school all the way through high school and even my first year of college at Georgia State. I missed a few parties and hanging out with friends, because if you make a promise to those kids, you have to keep it.
“If they beg me to put them to bed one night, that’s what I had to do.”
The relational sacrifices never paid off more than when Emily and her family got to see kids give their lives to Jesus after being in their home.
“I think we’ve seen three or four of our kids actually give their lives to Jesus and get baptized,” she said. “That, of course, is the happiest ending. Our main goal with fostering was always reunification with the birth parents if possible. But we also made sure the kids went to church, knew God, knew the Bible, and even some of their parents would come along with us as well.”
Now, Emily is a student at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. She’s working toward a bachelor’s degree in human services, and while she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her degree just yet, she knows that fostering will be in her future.
“I want to be a foster parent one day,” she said. “And beyond that, I just want to get people more aware of what fostering is and how it can truly be a ministry for a person or a family. If you’re willing to give God the ‘yes’ through fostering, it will be a blessing to everyone involved.”
Ezell wants to spread that same awareness, especially with May being Foster Care Awareness Month. And for her, part of increasing awareness is assuaging the common fears that make people hesitant about serving God through fostering.
“Entering the life of a hurt soul changes everything,” Ezell said. “Jesus isn’t calling superheroes to engage foster care, but faithful servants who will show up and be brave enough to love someone else’s child. He simply invites us to trust Him, share our lives with a wounded lamb and allow Him to work. We bring our small loaves and few fish, and He brings the miracle.”
Are you feeling God’s tug on your heart to serve kids in the foster care system, or even fostering families? Remember, everyone can do something. Learn more from the following resources:
- Learn how your family and church can minister to current foster families during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Check out The Adopting and Fostering Home Podcast to learn more about fostering.
- Help pastors and ministry leaders adopt by giving to the Adoption fund for Ministers.