May is Foster Care Awareness month. When children are no longer able to safely stay in their homes with biological parents, they are often placed into foster homes with families who open their hearts and doors to children in need.
The children have likely been neglected, abused, exposed to drugs and violence, or experienced other trauma. Not to mention, they’re being taken away from the only family they know and told they will be living with strangers. Unfortunately, at no fault of the child, those factors can result in emotional, developmental, health, and behavioral challenges.
The children often need an abundance of care and support from their new foster families. And even though foster families willingly take on the challenge, it can be overwhelming. These foster families need support too. That’s why Kingdom Workers started the Foster Support Program—to assemble volunteers to assist families who are helping the most vulnerable in our communities, families like Keith and Mandy Knollenberg, members of St. Luke, Watertown, Wis.
The Knollenbergs have adopted four children through the foster care system. Two, now ages 10 and 3, they picked up straight from the hospital and brought home as newborns. The other two—brothers, ages 9 and 7—lived with them for a while as foster children until their biological parents’ rights were terminated. The Knollenbergs adopted them in October 2020.
Mandy says, “We’re a normal family in a lot of ways, but we’re also not normal in a lot of ways in what we deal with at night going to bed, what we deal with every morning getting ready, and what we deal with during the day like picking up a child from school because they’re having an outburst.”
Keith and Mandy say the Foster Support Program volunteers from St. Luke have been a big help. Volunteers bring meals on nights when the children have therapy, offer to spend time with the kids to give the parents a little break, sit with the kids during church so Keith and Mandy can worship, as well as provide emotional and spiritual support.
The Knollenbergs believe this program can be beneficial to other foster families as well. “There would be more foster parents in the world, which are needed, if they had support,” says Mandy. “Knowing that they have the support of their church would be huge. So many foster parents burn out because they don’t have enough support.”
Kara Witthuhn, foster support coordinator for Kingdom Workers, says this is exactly why the Foster Support Program was started. At a time when more foster families are needed than ever before, approximately 50 percent discontinue fostering in their first year.
“The Foster Support Program provides education and insight into what this system looks like, who these kids are—broken and scared and hurting—and how to build up the foster families who have opened their hearts and their homes,” says Witthuhn.
She continues, “Even if people can’t provide 24/7 support as a foster parent, we’re working to equip people to provide all the other things that are needed to keep households running and to give foster parents the energy and the stamina they need to provide love and support to these kids.”
Witthuhn currently works with volunteers in at least nine states. Last year, nearly 100 volunteers served about 130 people through the Foster Support Program. But with over 650,000 children in the foster system at some point every year, the need for more volunteers is great.
“Children in the foster care system have experienced heartbreaking trauma and need a safe and stable home that can meet their physical and emotional needs. But more important, they need to know that Jesus loves them,” says Witthuhn. “Working together, foster parents and support volunteers can, we pray, share the message of Jesus with more children who desperately need to hear about God’s love.”
Learn more about Kingdom Workers’ Foster Support Program at kingdomworkers.com/about-us/our-programs.
Volume 108, Number 5
Issue: May 2021