Foster care is so easy! They just, like, give you a free baby!
It’s one of our group’s running jokes. We’ve never once heard a foster parent allude to the ease of the process. It’s by far the hardest thing most of us have ever done. It’s true that it’s “free”—sort of. It’s definitely less out-of-pocket expense than other ways to adopt. However, the emotional, physical and spiritual cost is great. So why did we chose to get on this crazy roller coaster?
Welcome to the first Dropping Anchors panel discussion.
One night in our quiet, pre-parenthood, pristine home I started researching adoption, specifically waiting children in the U.S. We had been “not trying not to” have a baby for almost a year and though not actually experiencing any infertility issues, I was getting impatient. As I scanned through the photos and profiles of kids waiting to be adopted, my heart broke for each one. I noticed there weren’t many young children and wondered why. My research lead to the answer: foster care. The process for a child to become legally free to adopt out of each state’s children’s services often takes years. By that point, many times the foster parents who have been loving and caring for the child during those years of limbo chose to adopt and the child’s photo and profile never end up on a public website. I knew one foster family when I was growing up. They had two older biological children and fostered many others, including three that they adopted. They seemed much older and more experienced as parents than me and my 20-something husband, Jason.
A short time later I followed the link from a commenter on my blog (which at the time was mostly about mid-century modern design) and discovered her blog—all about her and her husband’s journey as foster parents. They were in the process of adopting their sons. I was shocked to see that they looked like us—young, previously childless, Christians. A light bulb went off. This could be the way we become parents. I dove into researching foster care and finding as many blogs as I could find to get a better grip of first-hand experience—which was tricky because foster parents aren’t allow to share a whole lot of details of their kids’ case: not even their names or photos can be online. I contacted that blogger and she held my hand through the first steps of praying about and specifically praying that if it was something we were supposed to do that God would open Jason’s heart to the idea. I took my new friend’s suggestion and listened to the audio book of Adopted for Life by Russell Moore. I played several part of it for Jason. I kept slipping random statistics about foster care into conversation. Most of all, I prayed for direction for our family. One night from across the table after I dropped some more foster care stats, with eyes full of tears Jason said, “Why don’t you make some phone calls and find out where we need to start.”
When a dear friend suggested that we look into foster care several years ago, I’m almost positive I answered with what now is my least favorite comment ever. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do foster care. I’d get too attached.” And being the gracious person she is, I’m sure she said something like, “Of course you would. That’s why you should do it.”
Once that seed of an idea was planted, it didn’t take long for my husband and I to embrace the idea of becoming foster parents. We weren’t looking to grow our family. When we started, we had the intent to only be an emergency home providing temporary respite for kiddos coming into the system. We wouldn’t be “one of those families” who ever bought a bigger car, and we’d NEVER move homes so that we could care for more kids. We’d ONLY foster babies, and NEVER more than one at a time.
Looking back, I can only laugh at the conditions we had. Every single one of them has been broken. Smashed. Obliterated by an amazing God who broke our hearts for what breaks His.
Foster care has opened our hearts and our eyes to being His hands and feet. Through loving on our littles, our biological bigs have seen ministry enter our home. We have been stretched, often to the point of breaking. We get attached wholeheartedly and have our hearts broken into a million tiny pieces with each goodbye, only to have them mended by a Savior who feels the same heartbreak we do. But we have also felt true and complete joy in knowing we are doing what we were created to do. Is foster care hard? Absolutely; it is messy, even brutal at times. But doesn’t anything worth having come with a price?
We didn’t intend to grow our family through foster care. The reality is that our family has grown. We’ve had one child become forever ours, and are prayerfully waiting for another child. The real growth, though, has happened in our hearts. Is it worth it? Without a doubt….yes.
I basically played “foster mama” as a child without realizing that’s what I was playing. I’ve had recurring dreams as long as I can remember that people brought me babies to take in and care for. I have always had a strong awareness of and passion for injustice for children that could not be quieted [could not be ignored?]. I have held many orphans in my arms. Looking back on my life, it’s hard to pinpoint all the ways I discovered foster care as part of God’s plan for my life.
But the turning point that led me directly to foster care? I struggle with infertility, and I love being around children. So one day I realized one of God’s greatest gifts to me was my desire and ability to nurture, and to steward that gift well, I needed to be willing to give it away as much as possible. It was then that I decided to choose stewardship of love and gave my life away to foster care. For all the roads leading me here, I am incredibly thankful.
It’s a question we’ve been asked so many times. Usually it goes with other questions like, “Why don’t you just HAVE another baby?” or “Why are you going to put yourself through that pain?”, and my answer is always simple.
We are not doing it for us. We didn’t go into foster care seeking to only grow our family through adoption. We do it for the kids. We do it because EVERY.SINGLE.CHILD deserves to be loved, cherished, and encouraged to be the best they can be. To thrive. To grow. To be loved.
We live our lives in the crazy, messy, broken system because Christ called us to. This is where God has placed us. He wants us here. As believers we’ve been called to “…love the orphaned and widowed..” and Christ also tells us that “..whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” How could we possibly turn away from something that our Lord has called us to, just because it’s a scary place to be? Foster care has taught us to lean on Christ with everything we have. Teaching me, the woman who feels the need to control everything, that HE’S got this! He holds our lives, and the lives of these sweet children, in his hands, and with that how could we ever walk away from His work.
Foster care is exhausting, mentally and physically, but it’s worth it. These kids, our little loves, are worth it. And you better believe that they’d be worth it all a thousand times over.
I wish I could narrow it down to just one monumental moment of when we knew foster care was for us. However, the truth is that foster care has never been for us. It’s never felt like a safe, inviting, predictable, alluring adventure for us to jump into. We were the family that considered and researched everything from domestic adoption, to special needs foreign adoption, to fostering, to fostering to adopt. They all have pros and cons and a need for folks to step up. We knew that it was time for us to take the leap toward sharing our home with a child/children in need, but we just weren’t sure which path to take. From the beginning, there was the most trepidation with foster care out of all of the options we considered. And we still have trepidation now that we’re in it. So why did we say yes to the path that scared us the most? It’s a dark, scary, unpredictable, sometimes all-consuming world. But, it’s also a world where God is living and working and calling us all to be a part of. During those Decision Days my husband and I could both feel it deep down in our guts, that Calling. And now we know first hand… Jesus is in every nook and cranny of this brokenness. He’s shaping our hearts and our faith through this because we are so completely dependent on Him to guide us through the joy and pain of it all.
There is nothing safe or sure about any of this. And I firmly believe that’s exactly where God wants us to be. All we can do is love like crazy and have faith that He is in control over whatever happens with these children and families we so desperately love and want redemption for.
“To love anything is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it up carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” – C.S. Lewis
I can’t really remember a time where foster care wasn’t in my plans. Five days short of my 18th birthday I moved into my first apartment. Somewhere around that same time I vividly remember looking up the requirements to be a foster parent. But I think the idea originally started as a child. My step dad began sharing with me about his life. He grew up in the system, he was a foster kid. His childhood was just filled with layers of loss and abuse. Even as a kid I knew it was wrong. I guess I wanted to fix it.
Early on in my relationship with my husband, I shared with him my hope to foster. Luckily, he was onboard. We made a plan. Marriage, house, have babies, foster. I laugh now at our 18/20 year-old selves. Twelve years later our roadmap looked a lot more complicated and a less straightforward. I found myself online again and bam, there it was, foster care. I called the next day for information and within a month we were in training. I can’t explain why it took so long to find our way back to our plan. But when I look at my children, one adopted through foster care and one currently placed in our home, it all makes sense. His timing, His roadmaps, His plan.