Foster

May was National Foster Care Month, so this post is a few days late, but we just got back from vacation and have been quickly reacquainted with cottage life. In my last post I talked about some of the whys and hows of foster and orphan care. I talked about some of the more simple things that you can do and I referenced some other ways you can help. What are those other things? What are some of the practical things that we can do to benefit kids in foster care?

The first thing you could do is become a foster parent. Take the courageous risk to open your home to children who have never experienced appropriate love and affection. Dare to get too attached. Some of you have thought about it. Maybe had some serious conversations. Usually it’s the wife’s idea and she has to convince the husband. Jason Johnson (one of my favorite foster care bloggers. Read all his stuff here) says “If you keep thinking, talking and praying about it you’d probably be great at it, and just need to do it.” You’re the type of people who would be incredible foster parents. You’re the couple who understands the weight of the decision and the vulnerability and humility that it takes. Praying is awesome, and it’s the right thing to do especially when you’re unsure about a big decision. But sometimes you have to stop praying and just do it. Actions speak louder than words.

What are the next steps if you are considering becoming foster parents? Do some research into foster care in your area. Google [your state] foster care to see what the system is like in your area. Read blogs or books about foster care. Find foster parents in your church and talk to them about their experience. Talk about it with friends and family. Pray about it. Get information from your local foster care association. Fill out an application and attend an orientation class.

What if you can’t become a foster parent? You can support a foster parent. If you know a foster family in your church or in the community, find out what they need and do you best to provide that for them. It might be babysitting, making frozen meals, mentoring, academic support, or any number of things. The key is to go to them and ask how you can be of service. Speaking from personal experience, foster parents are very reluctant to ask for help, but they will usually accept help if it is offered. Foster kids often arrive with very few clothes. Hand-me-downs and gift cards for random late night Walmart trips are huge. It’s very helpful to have a freezer meal ready for those nights when the schedule is crazy or you get a new foster placement unexpectedly. Gift cards for restaurants are great because with some extra mouths to feed it can get pricey, and nobody is in foster care for the money. Respite care is another way to support foster parents. You’ll go through the same process and get the same training as foster parents, but you can use that training to help assist foster families by providing a place for their foster kids to go if they need a few nights off. It could be a couple hours for date night or a weekend getaway. For foster parents, breaks like that are essential to longevity and effectiveness. In order to be the most successful, foster parents need support just as much as the children they are caring for. The old adage ‘It takes a village’ rings just as true in foster care as it does in so many other areas.

I’ll end with a guilt trip question. Why not? If you’re not doing something to help kids in need, what is stopping you? Some of you may have very valid reasons, but I’m sure there are some of you who have been thinking and praying about it, but have been fearful to take the leap. I’m here to encourage you. Do it. You don’t have to jump right into high level therapeutic foster care, but you can learn about the foster care system in your area. It won’t always be easy, but it’s worth it to be a part of something with such eternal implications.

And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

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You Can Do It Too 

There are many aspects of working with foster kids that stretch us, encourage us, overwhelm us, and stress us out. Many people have told us that they could never do this job or bring foster kids into their private home. I understand that residential group homes or even private foster care isn’t for every family. (Although it pains me to say that because it’s AWESOME)

But. I firmly believe that the way we handle people, emotions, conflict, and a million other things  within our foster care job is how everyone should be treating everyone!

(With this focus on Foster Care Awareness month for May, we have thought of many topics to recruit all/any of you to become advocates and active Foster care families. And I will add that yes, there are many ways to support foster and adoption, but nothing can replace an actual home and family for a child. You can give all of your money and investments to a child who needs a home, and they’ll still need a family. Just saying.)

But seriously, I was thinking about all the attributes and skills Jonathon and I have needed to learn in order to live with kids from hard places. And I don’t think it’s a valid excuse to say ‘I could never do that’ or ‘that would be too difficult’. Because if you try, you can!

Do you think I’m a patient person? (I’m not) Do you think I naturally give grace to people? (I don’t) Do you think I even enjoy cleaning up the literal and figurative messes of people’s lives? Let me help you out here. I don’t!

It is hard work on a personal level to see other people’s point of view. It takes a conscious effort for  me to think of someone else before myself. I have an attitude when someone else’s choices change my plans. I get mentally and physically tired caring for others. It’s not fun to cry with people.

But every day I’m learning that is what it means to be a wife, a mother, a Foster mom, a friend, a Christ follower. That is what it takes to be who God called me to be. Not just within the world of foster care. Not just within God’s specific call for me and my family. He wants me to do that for every person I meet! God wants me to strive to be better whether I’m working with my children or a stranger. We always want to strongly encourage families to look into foster care and adoption. But above all of that, we want others to see that when you say ‘Oh that would be too much for me to handle’ or  ‘That’s a wonderful calling for your family’ or ‘I could never do that’, you’re wrong! The things we do everyday and every night for our kids, everyone needs that! The people you work with, the people you worship with, the person in line with you at the grocery store, or the crabby receptionist at the doctor’s office. They need you to be gracious, to start up a conversation, to listen, to think of them first, to move your schedule around for them.

Yes, it’s hard to do those things, and yes, it’s much easier to say ‘I can’t’.  But you won’t know unless you try. Sometimes, you try and people don’t receive it. Do you think the first time I talk with kids they open up or accept my help or don’t think I’m crazy when I cry with them? Let me give you a hint again, they don’t!

The cranky cashier won’t thank you for being gentle and gracious. A coworker might not return a favor for you. Your children won’t be grateful for the daily structure and consistency you bring. Your spouse may not recognize your sacrifices.

God doesn’t call us to act Christ-like only if we think it fits or if it’s not awkward or if someone will appreciate it. It stretches, changes, hurts you most days.

So I don’t care if you never foster or adopt. I don’t care if you never support the cause of the orphan. But please, oh please remember that being a nice, kind,Christian person takes work. Our kids don’t feel safe and comforted because we get frustrated with them and say ‘that’s too much’ or ‘I’m not changing my attitude’. Every day, every hour we are choosing to get up, put up, listen, answer, and work hard for those we serve. It’s as exhausting as it sounds. I’d much rather be laying on my couch with my beautiful puppy or watching Netflix. Trust me.

If you ask God to change you, He will. If you need something, God provides it. If you try to serve someone, it is worth your time. And you CAN do it.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45