The Catechism of the Catholic Church is quite clear that children are gifts from God who have “the right to be respected as a person from the moment of … conception”(CCC 2378).
This requires an understanding that children have the right to a healthy childhood and upbringing. At times, biological parents are unable to properly care for children, and that’s when generous people are called.
Spouses, the catechism says, “can give expression to their generosity by adopting abandoned children or performing demanding services for others” (2379).
Examples of this generosity and “demanding services for others” are detailed in this issue of the St. Louis Review. The Living Our Faith section features a story about foster care, and how one parish — Sacred Heart in Valley Park — serves the needs of foster families in general and a foster family couple in particular.
Parishioners at St. Joseph in Manchester, Marie and Ron Peters have fostered 193 children over the past 40 years, after adopting five children through Catholic Charities of St. Louis. They’re in their 80s now, but they still perform “demanding services for others” by fostering 2-year-old twins.
With the Fostering Faithful Families program, Catholic Charities’ Good Shepherd Children and Family Services raises awareness about the needs of foster children as well as the need for new foster parents. According to the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division, Missouri has more than 13,000 children in foster care with more foster parents needed.
The Good Shepherd program also encourages support of foster families, through giving material goods, gift cards and more. The Knights of Columbus at Sacred Heart Parish also have helped the Valley Park Foster Closet, which provides foster families with free resources, such as clothing, diapers and other baby items.
Reunification of biological families is the goal of Missouri’s foster care program, which dovetails nicely with the catechism identifying the family as “the original cell of social life.”
In families incapable of taking responsibility for their young, the catechism states, “It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way,
society to provide for their needs: ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world’(2208). The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family” (2209).
Foster families fulfill this duty and help support families, giving children a loving, safe environment free from trauma, neglect or abuse they might be experiencing otherwise. Children are innocent victims of family trauma, experiencing and seeing things which no one should. Instead, they should be respected, honored and cared for as children of God.
>> Becoming a foster parent
Good Shepherd Children and Family Services’ foster care program works with youths from birth to 21 years old who are in Missouri’s foster care system. The program provides a safe home where they can receive care, while working toward strengthening and reuniting families and/or linking youths with permanent, safe and loving homes. Good Shepherd is seeking new foster families. There is a special need for families for older children (over 10 years old) and sibling groups. Foster parents may be married or single and may have other children in the home. New applicants go through an assessment and training process to become licensed foster parents. Other requirements include:
• Must be at least 21 years old
• Have a safe house or apartment with adequate space
• Be in generally good health and financially stable
• Be able to provide a positive role model to the youth in your care
To learn more about becoming a foster parent, call Good Shepherd at (314) 854-5704.
Fostering Faithful Families
The Fostering Faithful Families program raises awareness of the needs of foster children and supports the families who care for them. The program, sponsored by Good Shepherd Children and Family Services, works with volunteer ambassadors to raise awareness among parishes in the archdiocese and identify opportunities to support foster families, including providing respite care, donating gift cards or clothing for families and adopting foster families at the holidays. For more information, call Cora Taylor at (314) 854-5716.