by Moira Cullings
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — One morning, while Susie Boster and her husband Jay were looking after three children in respite care, the youngest said something that took Boster by surprise.
“This little boy said to me, ‘Susie, when I get old and go to heaven, I’m going to find you and give you a big hug,’” she said.
“Those little kids are out there to give us a big hug,” she added.
Boster, a parishioner at Church of the Nativity in Leawood, shared part of her foster care story at a Thrive! foster ministry luncheon and seminar at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, Nov. 16.
Men and women from more than a dozen parishes across the archdiocese attended the event.
They heard from members of the archdiocesan Foster Care Task Force about how their parishes can get involved with foster care ministry.
The event began with a Mass celebrated by Father Mark Ostrowski, associate pastor at St. Joseph Church in Shawnee.
Participants then shared lunch before hearing from multiple speakers.
Tim Chik, director of Savior Pastoral Center, talked about how critical foster care ministry is.
“Archbishop Naumann has said to be truly pro-life, we must make sure that every child has an environment where he or she can thrive,” he said.
“It’s sad to say that there are a number of people in our community . . . who are not able to be in an environment where they can thrive,” he continued, “because of something that has disrupted their original family.”
Chik and his wife Stacey have adopted children out of foster care. A prayer offered by Stacey started the couple’s journey.
“She said, ‘Lord, break my heart for that which breaks your heart,’” said Chik.
The couple was living in St. Louis at the time, and they eventually became overwhelmed by the number of children in need of a loving home.
“It broke our heart, we opened our home and we became foster parents,” said Chik.
What was missing for his family, he said, was support from the Catholic Church.
The archdiocese has made strides in recent years to fill the need, said Chik, and a major element of that is making individuals aware of the many ways they can help.
“There are a ton of really wonderful people in our Catholic parishes who really want to do something but don’t know what to do, don’t know how to do it or even know sometimes that there is anything to do,” he said.
Chik said two tangible ways are to share foster awareness videos at parishes and create small communities of support for foster families.
Boster said those efforts can make the difference for families who foster.
“Foster families generally stop fostering after a year,” she said. “But foster families that have a support system and feel part of a community often continue another year or another two years.
“It is really important that they feel Christ’s love in [their] battle.”
Boster launched a foster care ministry at Nativity in 2020, and her story is proof that one individual can make a big difference.
She said her personal experience providing short-term care for children, who often come through police protective custody, has also been powerful.
“Nothing moves your heart quite so much as being that first contact [for a child],” she said. “It’s the hardest and the most rewarding, because you’re the one there to say, ‘Everything’s going to be OK.’”
How to help
During the archdiocesan Thrive! event, Deacon Bill Scholl, archdiocesan consultant for social justice, provided next steps for those in attendance.
“We have a saying in ministry that if the Lord’s putting something on your heart and you don’t know where to begin, just start somewhere,” he said.
Deacon Scholl recommended the following tips:
1. Study and learn more about foster care and what churches are doing to help.
2. Recruit a fellow parishioner to join you in your journey to get your parish involved.
3. Approach your pastor about starting a foster care initiative. Ask who in the parish or on his staff might be able to help.
4. Gather a team of people and meet regularly to plan and promote a foster care awareness event. Set a date, time and place.
5. Host the event and meet with your team after to debrief and create next steps.
For resources and more information, visit the website at: archkcks.com/foster.
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