God Wanted Me When the Foster-Care System Didn’t

God Wanted Me When the Foster-Care System Didn’t by TORI HOPE PETERSEN for Christianity Today

I bounced from home to home before finding the Father my heart yearned for.

America claims to not have orphanages, but our group homes are actually quite similar. Growing up, I lived in one with nine other young women who had absorbed a message of worthlessness from the foster care system.

The rules were strict. Cameras watched us from every corner of the house except our bedrooms and the restrooms. The school was on the same property as the home, which meant we weren’t allowed to go very far very often. On Sundays, however, we were allowed to go to church, which at least afforded a brief respite from the sterile group-home environment.

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In fact, the pastor’s messages about forgiveness—combined with my mandatory weekly counseling sessions—gave me the first stirrings of hope I could remember. I even asked Jesus into my heart, though I didn’t understand what that entailed. I only went up to the altar because I believed it was my ticket to leave the group home. I thought that if I went through the motions of faith, I’d find relief from the pain of foster care and the continual sense of feeling unwanted.

‘Daddy issues’

As I moved through a succession of foster homes, my heart grew increasingly callous toward God and other people. During my junior year of high school, I took an honors English class where we read Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. I found the book intriguing, which prompted me to learn more about Rand’s objectivist philosophy.

Watching videos of Rand speaking and debating, I found her more relatable than the Christian women I’d met. She did not appear gentle or open. Rather, she came off as quite angry, which was how I felt. I figured I must be an atheist just like her.

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