Foster care is a beautiful thing. It is something the church should do as part of living out the Great Commission. However, foster care has some intricacies that those not in it might not understand. Many of these have to do with privacy. By honoring the authorities over foster care, there are some important privacy rules with which the church needs to comply.
Churches need to respect the confidentiality of foster children and their families. Confidentiality is defined as “the principle and practice of keeping sensitive information private unless the owner or custodian of the data gives explicit consent for it to be shared with another party. Confidentiality may also refer to the request to honor the principle and practice” (Hypr, n.d.). Children in the child welfare system have the right to confidentiality, except for in certain situations (Child Welfare Information Gateway, n.d.). This means that in the church, children should not be singled out, or named as foster children in a public setting (Priebe, 2017). Foster children should not have their faces photographed and shared in any form, whether on social media or elsewhere (Knotts Family Agency, n.d.). The stories of foster children should also not be public. Churches and their members should neither ask about these stories, nor publicize what they know. This protects the privacy of both the child and his or her biological family.
Why is privacy important? Beyond being a legal right, it is important for the safety of the child. Privacy is important for physical safety, as some children have come from dangerous situations. Having their whereabouts made known via photos, word of mouth, or other means, can again put them in harm’s way. It can also put the family and the church in harm’s way. Privacy is important for emotional safety, as children in the system may already struggle with what is known as “the spotlight effect” and thinking that everyone is watching them (Cuncic, 2021). This effect can lead to social anxiety that may detract from forming healthy relationships, something that is vital to the success of the children long term. Allowing foster children to have privacy is also a sign of respect. Respecting privacy is a way to show love and care, and also to teach children about how valued they are, by God’s people and by God Himself.
Brokenness has made foster care a necessity in this world. The church and its families can step in to help make foster care a redemptive process for children. Acknowledging and respecting foster children’s privacy is part of this. May churches and families bring honor and glory to God in the way that they protect the precious stories of the children God allows them to bring into their fold.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (n.d.). Ethics and confidentiality in child welfare.
Cuncic, A. (2021, June 25). The spotlight effect and social anxiety. Very well mind.
Hypr. (n.d.) Confidentiality. Security Encyclopedia.
Knotts Family Agency. (n.d.). 10 most surprising things you can’t do with foster care kids.
Prieve, T. (2017, May 31). 15 ways to be a foster care friendly church. Lifesong for orphans.