April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. I’ve spent over half my life being acutely aware of the serious abuse that is often faced in our foster care system**.
Because foster care is about reunification, sometimes children return to a home where they experienced abuse before. After their parents have completed the necessary work to push forward to reunification, they move back home. Supports will sometimes stay in place and the ultimate goal for me as a foster parent was to help as I could while acknowledging they were healing their family.
These healing families need support still, but they often will not receive as much as they truly deserve. Today, as I’ve done with prayers for waiting families and prayers for foster care and adoption, I want to share another side of the picture to pray for over a family while it is healing.
They find support from people around them.
Foster care involvement can bring forth two types of people in your life; ones who stick around and ones who run for the hills. Join me in praying that healing families find the prior. Agreeing with mistakes made in the past is not necessary. But they do need support now. The children being reunified, the parents working diligently to make sense of this new reality. They are in tremendous need for love, support, and helping hands. The church has been known to pull back from these families. May we pray that they find church families and friends to lean into and these churches and friends stay present.
The abuse is left in the history and does not reoccur.
I am struggling with a kind way to say this, not because there is anger or hatred in my heart, but because I think this is something some people really struggle with. Abuse is very rarely a single generation occurrence in families. Very rarely is it as simple as wanting to hurt someone else. I have seen abuse as a continuous and never ending round and round. I have seen it in coexistence with addiction. There have been cases where the abuse is saturated into the family dynamics. This is why it can be so hard to walk away from it. Lift up these healing families and speak peace and healing over them. Pray God creates a new way.
Education and tools to avoid future abuse.
In those continued prayers for the abuse to be left in the history, pray that education and tools to avoid future abuse are presented to these families. Pray that if the abuse is generational wide or complex, the children in the situation are kept safe and the adults willing to work are able to find their own resources.
Healing, forgiveness and renewal for the person who suffered the abuse.
I feel like this is a pretty straight forward one! Praying for healing for the people who are in the midst of having their souls and bodies renewed. I encourage you during this month to pray for all those who have experienced childhood abuse. Pray for them whether they are still children or teenagers or are old men and women. Keep them all in your prayers. But especially, in this week of praying, keep the children being reunified with adults who may have abused them.
A revival of the soul and change of identity for the perpetrator.
As Christians, we are all about becoming new. We cannot preach the gospel without recognizing renewal, restoration, and revival are at the center of it. In the same sense, we must be willing to pray for others soul and identity changing moments. This may be a process a person goes through over years…it may be a moment when it clicks and they are never the same again. Regardless, pray over the abusers in these situations. I know that can be hard to do. We want to hate them because we can never understand them. But if you bring to God the prayers that they someday will no longer understand how they did it either, that new heart may take over. It may not come naturally, but I urge you, spend one night this week praying for them.
Protection over those involved.
It hurts me to say, but reunification is not always the best. In some cases the abuse will not stop after reunification. We are living with a very flawed system. Use tonight to pray for the protection over children or adults in the situation when abuse is not over. Pray for the protection over all involved.
Continued support and awareness from the state.
I’m going to jump back up to my comment above and reiterate, so many of these parents do not know why what they do is wrong. If you grew up being slapped across the face for any rude remark, you think that’s the norm. Pray that the state and institutions stay involved in lifting these families up. As older children return home, pray that the state, schools, and churches step up to help teach these teenagers who will someday be parents become good ones. Keep in prayer that these families do not fall below the radar. We lose so many children who could use the help because it is a very flawed and overworked system.
Praying for healing and reunified families may not be your immediate reaction when thinking of the foster care system, but it is a very real situation for many involved with the system. Prayers shouldn’t be saved for the ones we believe are “worthy” of our prayers but for the ones who need it the most. If you find these prayers hard to do, I encourage you to bring your own heart to God and ask Him to breathe mercy and love into it.
Abuse is completely unacceptable.
We must fight to take the reality of it away from the over 400,000 children in foster care each and every day. Prevention begins with the most vulnerable of our society. Prayer is only one way to get involved. As a Christian, I am completely believing in the power of prayer. As a former foster parent, I encourage you to find hands on ways to help as well. Become a parent mentor or advocate. Volunteer as a birth parent advocate with the foster care system and help educate these adults on parenting techniques that are appropriate. Encourage your churches to offer parenting classes.
And join me in prayer for the entire month of April for those who have been abused. They deserve them whether they are still only 8 or 80 years old today.
**I must use this space to recognize and acknowledge not all children in foster care have suffered from abuse**