How MLK's Words Inspire and Challenge Me As a Foster Parent
As I was reading through speeches and sermons of Martin Luther King Jr , I was struck by how much of what he said is relevant to us as foster parents.
First, the subject of racial injustice and inequality is relevant to everyone involved in
foster care. Any foster parents who are not already aware of these issues need to
commit to learning.
The sad reality of the child welfare system is that children who are racial or ethnic
minorities are disproportionately represented . There are many reasons for this, ranging from the fact that there are higher rates of poverty among minority families, to implicit bias, to overt racism. Whatever the reason, minority parents are more likely to be separated from their children and minority children are less likely to get permanency. This is a tragedy.
We, as a nation, clearly have not fulfilled Dr King’s dream, because people are still
“ judged by the color of their skin,” not “by the content of their character .” Let us as foster parents demand justice for our children and not give up. Let us commit to his words from his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, “No! no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”
I also found encouragement in many of Dr. King’s speeches when he urges people to
serve , love, and never give up. In his 1967 Sermon “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” he discusses the biblical parable of the good samaritan and what loving and serving should look like:
The first question that the Levite asked was,
“If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan came by and he reversed the question. Not "What will happen to me if I stop to help this man?" but "What will happen to this man if I do not stop to help him?" This was why that man was good and great. He was great because he was willing to take a risk for humanity; he was willing to ask, "What will happen to this man?" not "What will happen to me?" This is what God needs today: Men and women who will ask, "What will happen to humanity if I don’t help?
Foster parents are people who are less focused on “What will happen to me (or my
family) if I help this child,” but instead are concerned about “What will happen to this
child if I don’t help?”
Dr. King’s words about love from his 1967 sermon “Loving Your Enemies” are so
relevant when we struggle with hate or bitterness toward our children’s parents:
The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape...agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return...And this is what Jesus means, I think, in this very passage when he says, "Love your enemy." And it’s significant that he does not say, "Like your enemy." Like is a sentimental something, an affectionate something. There are a lot of people that I find it difficult to like...love is greater than like…
Dr. King’s words are a challenge to us as foster parents. Even when we don’t like our
children’s parents, we can still seek to love them with agape love and extend
redemptive goodwill to them.
Foster parenting is hard. Some days we are motivated and feel like we can make a
difference, other days just the little tasks of daily life feel impossible. Be encouraged by these words from Dr. King’s "Keep Moving from This Mountain" Address at Spelman College in 1960.
“...we must keep moving. If you can’t fly, run; if you can’t run, walk; if you can’t walk,
crawl; but by all means keep moving.”