Do NOT Become a Foster Parent

by | 23 Nov, 2018 | 20 comments

Don’t do it.

Don’t adopt either.

You will thank me. This I promise.

The System is painful.

Okay, that’s a lie. The System is excruciating, frustrating.

Light yourself on fire and extinguish it with a ball peen hammer. Punch yourself repetitively in the genitalia until it stops hurting. Fling yourself down a flight of concrete steps into a kiddie pool filled with thumbtacks.

Okay, I’m being dramatic, sort of.

We pursued our son, Tevin, for years. He was 13, a resident of a group home, and had been in foster care for most of his life. We wanted him. He wanted to be adopted. It took nearly three years to make it a reality, three long years of absolutely critical developmental time, missed.

Two of my sons, brothers, had also been in foster care for most of their lives. They were our foster sons for four years before we could adopt them, four years of uncertainty, trepidation, and angst…for them and for us.

Overworked and underpaid, DCS workers manage intense caseloads and as with any system, there are good ones and not so good ones. Their bottom line is placement, not profit. At the end of the day, they have to get the kid placed, somehow.

          He’s healthy, sure!

          He’s well-behaved, no red flags at all.

          He is just the nicest young man.

I’ve spent enough time in court, we actually recognize repeat offenders. No joke. And each time, it’s the same. We expect the judge to issue the decisive ruling we’ve been waiting for aaannndddd, “Let’s hold off and set another court date in three months.” Hear me sighing.

Mountains of red tape, frequent and inconvenient supervised visits, ungrateful and sometimes even hateful birth families: expect this and more. Did I mention the hours and hours of mandatory classroom training?

Don’t do it.

Spare yourself. Trust me.

Not to mention that the kids are bad.

They are. You just won’t believe it.

They lie without hesitation. They take whatever they need with no qualms. They have unsafe premarital sex. They smoke anything they can get their hands on.

We’ve been cussed at and cussed out. We’ve been threatened. We’ve been stolen from, repeatedly. I own nothing of value and haven’t for many years and don’t intend to for this very reason.

Get the fairy tale out of your head. I know what you’re thinking. You’ll just love them so much that they’ll fall in love with you and everyone will just live happily ever after. Puppies and rainbows.

It’s a ruse.

What will happen is you will love them, pour into them, give of yourself with no guarantee of reciprocation. In all likelihood, they may hate you. Doesn’t make sense does it? None of it does.

Here is what will actually happen.

They will leave.

And it will hurt you.


A friend of ours was gifted with a beautiful foster baby. For nearly three years, they loved that baby like no tomorrow and it looked like she would be theirs. At the 9th hour, a biological parent surfaced and the courts sent her home.

Our friends were beyond devastated. They were crushed.

They System errs on the side of the biological family as it must, to the point of insanity. Reunion is almost always the primary goal and biological parents are afforded every single opportunity to get their children back.

This is right. This is good, but it’s at your expense. Oftentimes, you must send the children home to a situation you know is not good, that you know is lesser.

We had two young girls for a couple of weeks before we had to send them home to their birth parents, a couple of local meth-heads. Well, at least they had their pit bulls to keep them safe.

Listen. You have a nice life. Go ahead and turn that spare room into a man cave. It’s what you really want to do anyway. Imagine a sweet 88” HD hanging on that wall, maybe a kegerator.

You don’t need this hassle.

Do NOT become a foster parent.

Do NOT adopt either…

…unless you want to obey God.

God doesn’t mince words.

Care for the orphan. Make disciples of them.

Take them into your home, love them as your own, and bring them up in the ways of the Lord that when they are older, they will not depart from it.

God is a God of justice, a Father to the fatherless and He commands justice for the fatherless. He commands it! What else could he mean by justice for the fatherless…than a father? The fatherless did not choose their plight, it was given of them by the sins of another. God speaks clearly, from Genesis to James, care for the orphan.

A true disciple of Jesus follows His commands, obeys Him, up to and including the willingness to deny self, to even suffer on behalf of the name.

The fatherless suffer at the hands of a cruel and unrelenting world. They grow into afflicted adults with little hope for advancement and most of all, they will likely never know Christ.

The biblical mandate is clear, much more clear than you’d like to acknowledge.

Otherwise don’t do it…

…unless you want to practice Christ-like love.

The love of Christ is this.

In eternity past, He set His affections upon His people. He decided to love a people who did not love Him and He died on the cross for their sins, that they might be reconciled to Him. He gave them new hearts that they might believe Him and love Him, but still they betray Him, every single day.

Still He loves them.

What could be more Christ-like than setting your affections on one not yours by birth, deciding to love them, even if they are unlovable, just as you were when Christ died for you?

Could you love one who offers you nothing in return? Could you love one who returns your love with hate?

Foster care and adoption fully demonstrates the heart of Jesus to the fatherless. Imagine being betrayed by those who were supposed to love you the most. What a bitter pill it must be, so imagine the surprise, the fear even.

You have nothing, no one, and then all of a sudden, you do.

What an amazing witness to the orphan.

What an amazing witness to your biological children.

As I seek to make disciples of my own children, perhaps nothing has better demonstrated for them the heart of Christ than our family’s ministry to the fatherless. I fail daily. I make mistakes, damage my witness with them, but the fact of adoption perseveres.

My greatest testimony resides in my daughters’ love for the orphan as all are active in caring for the fatherless.

What an amazing witness to the world, a world that has cast aside the powerless and left them at the hands of those who would exploit them.

So definitely do not foster…

…unless you want to change a life.

Drive-by ministry makes me want to vomit. Truly.

I despise ministry which costs men nothing. We must be willing to pay a cost, to sacrifice, to give of ourselves. Caring for the fatherless demands sacrifice. It cannot be done on the cheap.

But if you truly want to change a life, foster. Adopt.

Decide to love a child and then pour the grace, mercy, and love of God into them, as you ought your own children. It will change their lives. Irrevocably. Irreversibly. It has to.

At a minimum, they will be safe from the hands of those who would exploit the helpless and powerless. Maybe they’ve never had that, never had a home or a family. Maybe they’ve never actually been loved.

They may even reject your love, but nothing can change the fact that they will have been loved, they will have seen Christ in your love. No amount of rejection, hate, or affliction can diminish that.

Adoption and foster care will definitely change their lives, but most all, it will change yours.

You will never be the same…and that is a good thing!

Or you could just carry on as you have. It’s probably best that you do. Besides, I’m sure someone else will do it.


  1. Carol

    Every word true. I was a foster parent for many years and adopted 2. Almost adopted others that fell through. God gives grace to go through it somehow. I can only hope they look back and remember love…both mine and Gods

  2. Love comes from within

    I understand that you mean well, but what you are telling kids in foster care that read this is that they are bad to the point of being unlovable, and that they are so undeserving of love that the only way that they can be loved is by the command of God himself. This may very well be the most horrific thing I’ve ever read by a foster parent. No wonder your kids continued acting out so very much. You made them feel like this!

    • Laura

      Funny I read the story as, it is going to be hard, but well worth it and rewarding. People want to adopt the children because they fall in love with them and couldn’t imagine their lives without them.

    • kristen

      i agree… i think there were good intentions here, but the tone is off.

      • Bradford Smith

        Sometimes I get it right and frequently I miss the mark.

    • Jennifer

      Amen Sister. You also can not take the wird of GOD out of context and use it for your benefit.

  3. Minnie

    Coming from a foster youth alumni, this made me feel like a worthless piece of shit. Regretting this read.

    • Bradford Smith

      Ma’am, this was certainly not my intent. I must’ve communicated poorly. My intent was to describe the reasons that people do NOT become foster parents and then to encourage them to do so.

    • Holly

      Minnie, as a former caseworker, GAL and newly licensed foster parent, this was upsetting to me to read as well. I can only imagine how you must have felt. I’m sorry you stumbled across this post, and I hope you know that whatever your circumstances, you are worthy of love and kindness and understanding. We all are, even the author LOL. You are so not a worthless piece of shit. Be kind to YOU!

    • Jenn

      I’m sorry so you read the article this way Minnie. Personally, for me, who has been considering becoming a foster parent, this article completely convicted me and has made me want to pursue becoming one even more. I just wanted you to know that. I’m sure none of this article meant to hurt anyone’s feelings…but it absolutely spoke to me and I was the target audience. I hope you don’t still feel crappy x

    • Helen

      You arr not. We fostered 2 babies, one was reunited with his 1/2 brother and is in a good place and the other we adopted so clearly it is not always how the writer wrote it. It is just their view…

  4. Khadijah

    I’m in awe of the sequence from decisive and generative title (Particularly in the wake of separations at the border, #DoNotCollaborate with a system designed to rip children from their families and delude yourself into thinking your saving orphans), to dehumanizing families who come under the gaze of the child welfare apparatus by declaring the kids are bad and reunification is nonsensical followed by Jesus.

    There’s like a stand alone appreciate for this incredible feat of mental acrobatics to center the experience of white saviors in an argument while omitting the intentional, profitable and systematic harm hisyotixally driving families of color and low income into the system paired with Norman rockwell inspired photos of white heteronormative families.

    I hope any adoptee that stumbles into this inanity knows they are so much more than an object for someone’s reluctant missionary project. I encourage people to search #adoptees on Twitter and elsewhere to see the voices of those who ought to be elevated instead

  5. Michelle S

    While this may be painful to read,… The TRUTH HURTS! I say Preach the truth! Love is Painful and if people come in expecting puppies and rainbows, they will be Deceived! And if foster kids think they have any higher ground to stand on than “birth kids” then are wrong! This Same article could be written about birth children too. Many Many parents sacrifice much and get their hearts broken in the end. Parent (foster or birth) Is TOUGH! I am Both and both are unique privileges with Immense sacrifices. Both are worth it!

      • Linda

        I’m a foster parent of 30 years who adopted 8 kids. We could have used this article to repair our rose-colored glasses when we started out as foster parents. I’m commenting though, as a social worker who trains foster parents and writes home studies. I wish all potential FPs would read this first. We sometimes train families who fall apart during their first or second placement and resign, never to foster again. FPs need to know what to expect and you accomplished that in your article. You could easily have used more tragic examples: Foster kids who molest or injure other foster kids or your bio children or your pets. Adopted kids who abandon you once they are adults, and treat you like you are nothing to them. These things happen. You wrote a clever and helpful article. You cannot control the audience of your posts. I’m sorry for the excoriating responses you are receiving. As a foster and adoptive parent, I’ve also read articles by former foster kids or adoptees that paint foster and adoptive parents as horrible. I did not take offense. It’s okay to have our own points of pain and points of view. Thank you for the article.

        • Bradford Smith

          Ma’am, thank you for this feedback. Yes, this was a bit of a sanitized account and having spent 22 years in the Army, a little excoriation is not a huge problem 🙂 God bless!

  6. Alan Cook

    Why are the Nelsons pictured in this article?


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Bradford Smith

Bradford Smith

Author - Founder

Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).


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This is a powerful read in a small book. The subtitle hits the mark with its description of, "A Biblical Treatise on Adoption." The author poses a challenge to the reader to stop reading the book upfront if the reader does not want to be moved to action.

   Janice S. Garey  

The call that sounds for the incredible need of emotionally and physically abandoned and orphaned children and one that when answered manifests the love of Christ.

  Anne Rightler

This book is a must read for anyone affected in any way by addictions. So many of the situations in this book seem hopeless, but as Brad so clearly points out, Christ is the solution and the only hope of man. As long as there is breath, there is hope!

  Scott Doherty

In Scourge, Brad offers us more than cold statistics or a cautionary tale. Instead, he offers us the solution - faith backed by action - to overcome this insidious problem Insightful and provocative, Scourge is a warning flag, guide post and rally to hope for all of us.

 Chad Chasteen


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