Religion While in Foster Care

Thoughts on foster parents incorporating religion into the kids lives. At what age should they be given the choice to attend religious service with the foster parents ? Asking because (not the blog writer but from the original post) – I have an acquaintance fostering who is heavily involved in their congregation and really wants to have the kids in their care also be involved at least to the extent of attending service on Sunday’s.

One response – If their families of origin are not religious, no. It’s wrong to impose religion on that child without their birth family’s consent. Sunday makes the perfect time for visitation with their family.

Another – it really depends on the situation. Both my husband and I are church goers. Our younger kids come with us, but part of that is because that is also their family’s preference. We made sure to talk to their family before we brought them with us. Our older kids do not have to come. We had one who suffered religious abuse and chose not to come. We try to be very respectful of their beliefs. The only thing we have refused is when they ask to be baptized because they want to be dipped in water but they don’t actually believe in God or go to church. We did say at that point baptism would not be appropriate. You have to work with a child and family. We do not hide our religion but we do not require participation. If we had younger kids who absolutely could not attend services – my husband and I would alternate.

Then, this advice – your friend needs to ask her caseworker about this because there actually might be legal guidelines around it. If the child is 0-9, then their parents should choose religious activity (or none at all) and 10-18 should make the choice for themselves (without coercion, which is easier said than done.)

In response –  if family of origin chooses something different/nothing at all, is there a respite or option so that the foster family can continue to worship? I know the point is that it’s about the kids and not the family, but I know that some individuals find strength from being able to worship. It might be worth considering that this could be a learning opportunity for foster parents, if their religion or denomination differs. Personally, I enjoy seeing how each service was a bit different.

(blogger’s note – as a child we were allowed, even encouraged to experience a variety of religions – therefore, when I need to go to a church (rarely) I am always comfortable there.)

Some options:

-If a 2 parent household, parents go to services at different times or switch off weeks so one is home with the child;

-Hire a babysitter during worship activities;

-Express to the caseworker that they only want to be placed with children / families who are open to their church attendance;

-If the church has a nursery that doesn’t teach about religion but just provides childcare (maybe the option for the 0-2 crowd?) that may be an option to ask caseworker. Note – I’m not sure if that type of childcare is allowed for foster children as I never fostered a child under 8 and I do not attend a church.

Another person writes – A child should be given a choice and not be made or coerced in participating in religious activities they are not comfortable with. Furthermore, if the child’s family religious beliefs differ from that of the foster parents, it is the foster parents responsibility to facilitate attendance for the child to the church of their choice and assist in helping the child follow various practices of their faith (such as no pork, kosher dishes – these are just examples). If a child says they don’t want to attend the foster family’s church, they should not be made to attend and other arrangements will need to be made for child care, so that they don’t have to go.

From a former foster care youth – I was made to attend church and sermons, and abide by religious rules: it’s abuse of their power plain and simple. That’s not the foster parents place and it should be clear that it’s not, but then, again proselytizing is a hell of a drug.

One with experiences writes – So our oldest was placed with us at age 16. She wasn’t allowed to have any alone time (per Child and Family Services – CFS) for the first few months after she was placed with us. At the time, my husband was a youth pastor and I was heavily involved in youth group. Our daughter didn’t have a choice of whether to attend, but always had the choice of whether to participate. If we were both at the church building, then she was as well, but was allowed to hang out in one of the back youth rooms on her own during service/youth group if she wanted, or she could come be in service/youth group with us. As soon as CFS said she was allowed to have time at home alone, she was given the option of being there. She opted out of Sundays but kept up with youth group for a while, until she stopped attending that as well. We never pushed, though had lots of conversations at home about where we were spiritually, just to make sure we understood our daughter. Our younger foster son (age 3) has participated in various fun things, but we’ve since left the church we were at and don’t have any real intention of finding another one any time soon.

That experience shared – you should be honoring the faith of your child’s origin family, always. If you are a Christian and have a Muslim child placed with you, you should be giving them everything they need to practice. If the foster child wasn’t practicing anything, any and all religious activities should be cleared with the family of origin beforehand.

ALSO: if your pastor or religious leader is not supportive of your foster child practicing their own religion – or no religion – and pressures you go involve the foster child despite what the child/family wishes, find a new place to worship that is supportive of you supporting the biological family.

Another writes simply – You should continue whatever their family has established. Otherwise, its not your place to convert them. If that means you give up your church going, then that’s what you do.

From the wisdom of experience – As a parent who indoctrinated my children into Christianity gently and thoroughly from a young age (they are now teens) I recommend *not* doing it, even to your biological kids – unless it’s a matter of the child’s heritage. Consider this – 1) people should be allowed to choose their own belief system, 2) children are people, 3) all children are vulnerable to indoctrination, and 4) these are not your children.

In one foster care case, she notes – We had one placement that the mom attended church with us as well most Sundays.

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