Foster Care is Fun. 

Yes! Foster care is fun! We write a lot about the weight that it carries. But looking at our day-to-day life, fostering can be so much fun! We get to watch kids grow up and experience life with all their commentary along the way.

We get to help kids experience new things all the time. And while that can be scary for some, most of the time it brings some hilarious reactions. Kids have no filter. So whether it’s a new food or new place, kids say the darnedest things!

We get to do things like arts and crafts, building things, coloring, playing outside – those are just simply FUN to do with kids. Seeing their creativity and abilities brings us joy and laughter.

Nehemiah 8:10b says “Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

We have the privilege to raise some of God’s most precious creation. They truly are the joy of the Lord. We find strength in our laughter with children.

Example: A child saying my name over and over while I’m trying to pack the cottage for camp. I’m obviously getting frustrated in hearing them call me continuously. It’s the typical “mom. Mom. Moooommmmm. Mom mom. Mom.” To which I finally reply ‘yes. What do you need?’ Child: should I tell the boys that we need to shave our beards before we go camping?

Bahahaha! I almost instantly think  “This will work. We can do this.” The trip we packed for and planned for. It’s stressful, but it will be ok. We can get through it. Similarly, when we get more than 1 admission at once, and I’m well aware that we are causing a tornado at the doctor’s office for physicals. Then one of the children licks the patient bed in the room. All you can do is laugh. Like, what in the world is he thinking?!

These times normally come in between being scared and asking a million questions about what a doctor does and screaming because there is a strange lady (nurse) wanting to check their blood pressure. So it seems like there’s hope when they decide to show a very child-like weirdness of licking benches.

Children are such an example of the roller coaster of life and the hope that Christ brings. In the middle of  stress and chaos and tantrums comes a sweet kiss on the cheek or a small hand that wants to hold mine. God uses them to show us that He really is in our midst, especially when we don’t always feel it.

So, Foster care is fun! It’s not a deep, profound thought, but it’s a unique way that God strengthens us for the dark days. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time to weep and a time for laughter. We are so grateful to work in a ministry that is so full of laughter!

I’ll leave you with my current favorite song from a 5 year old: ‘Hallelujah. Praise the Lordt. Come Jesus, don’t tell me what to do. Don’t you tell me what to do. Hallelujah.”

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Foster Care is Hope

Unleash Your kingdoms power
Reaching the near and far
No force of Hell can stop
Your beauty changing hearts
You made us for much more than this
Awake the kingdom seed in us
Fill us with the strength and love of Christ

We are Your church
We are the hope on earth

(Rend Collective – Build your Kingdom Here)

We had a high schooler in our cottage who didn’t want to be here (to be fair, none of our kids want to be in foster care). He had lived on his own before after running away from his last foster home, and would rather be anywhere than in a group home cottage with 7 other boys, all at least 6 years younger than him. This all was after 10 years in the foster care system with 15 different foster families, a boarding school, inpatient treatment, and a potential adoption that was disrupted due to a medical emergency in the family. We had many conversations with him about living independently and we worked with him to develop his independent living skills, find a job, and get his learners permit. One day we were having a conversation about the future and he said something to the effect of “when I leave here I’ll live in some sort of slum, because that’s what happens to foster kids.”

Many foster kids feel this way, especially high school kids who are close to aging out of the system. They don’t have much hope for their future, and unfortunately, many current statistics support that. Kids that are aging out of the Foster Care system are much less likely to graduate high school or get a stable job. They are more likely to be homeless or incarcerated. Teen pregnancy is much higher among foster kids. Those are just a few statistics to tell you what you should already know: growing up in the foster care system is not an ideal situation for kids. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

We are the church. We are the hope on earth. When bad things happen, people always ask where God was and why he allowed it to happen. I don’t have an answer to the second question, but I believe that when bad things happen, God is in the church. God is in the men and women responding to the situation with a loving and helping heart. Rend Collective says here: “Jesus wants to set the church on fire, so the world can warm themselves around us and find life and safety.” We, the church, are called to be the light of the world so that when disaster happens, and all seems dark, there is a light that represents hope and warmth to all.

Whenever a child is abused or neglected, it’s a disaster. It’s the darkest times of that child’s life. It’s often something they’ve never experienced before and it’s completely overwhelming in the worst way. Foster Care brings light to the child so they can feel the warm love and acceptance of  a family. They can feel the hope that things don’t always have to be as they had been. Psalm 10:17-18 says Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them. Mere people can no longer terrify them. That’s a hard thing to say in foster care, because sadly there’s always the chance that they will be sent back in to a situation where they may be terrified again. But we trust that God knows what he’s doing, even when it doesn’t make sense to us. 

God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary. (Hebrews 6:18-19)

Foster care is a lot of things. It’s hard, frustrating, fun, messy, and so many other things all at the same time. Ultimately though, foster care is hope. Hope for children who have never experienced it. Hope for a future that may not have been possible. There is hope for foster kids. There is hope for the foster care system. That hope is the church, and the people that strive to love like Christ loved. You have the chance to be an embodiment of the hope of Christ. You can be a strong and trustworthy anchor for a child who has never experienced a secure attachment. You can become a foster parent. You can support foster parents. If you have questions, please leave a comment or use the contact us section to send us a message.

Foster Care is Frustrating

Google tells me that frustrating means to cause someone to feel upset or annoyed, typically as a result of being unable to change or achieve something. Sounds like foster care! From the application process to the actual foster parenting to the reunification of children with their families, there are many points at which you feel upset or annoyed that you can’t change or achieve something. Happens all the time, sometimes for days at a time. It’s important at those points to remember the big picture when everything else is frustrating you. Remember that the God who has the whole world in his hands, including the foster care system. An important phrase to remember is from Zechariah 4:10: Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. Every step forward is an important step.

The process of becoming a foster parent can be very frustrating. So many forms and requirements. So little communication. So much waiting and inefficiency. It’s easy to become discouraged. You have a lot of time to wait and overthink your calling and decisions. It’s easy to give up and say “maybe this isn’t for us.” But remember do not despise these small beginnings. Every form, every class, every inspection is one step closer to providing a home for a child who doesn’t have one. The LORD rejoices to see the work begin. God wants you to become a foster parent. God has a plan for you, and he has a plan for the child or children who will be placed in your home. He rejoices in every step, however small, that you take in faith and obedience to that plan.

Parenting is hard. Foster parenting is harder. I guess I can’t say that for sure, because my only parenting experience is foster parenting (8 kids at a time), but I’m sticking with it. Kids come in to foster care with a lot of behaviors, good and bad. Working with kids to unlearn negative behaviors and teach appropriate alternative behaviors can be very frustrating. They have been doing those things for a number of years without any negative consequence, so they don’t understand why they shouldn’t be doing them. No matter what you do to try and correct those behaviors, they don’t seem to get it. Sometimes you see some progress followed by significant regression. Super frustrating. They experience your consistent love and safety for weeks and months, but are still terrified to take a shower or go to bed because they’ve been so scarred by their pasts. It can make you wonder what you’re doing wrong. It can even make you start to resent the child, or wonder why you’re even trying. You get frustrated with yourself and with them until it starts to become unhealthy. (I’m not just writing, I’m confessing. This has happened to me) Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. Look for any positives, and rejoice in them. Even if it’s a seemingly small beginning, do not despise it. Progress is progress. Potty training is a great example. If they can go pee in the potty, you celebrate like they won an olympic gold medal. If a child who refuses to try any new foods nibbles a carrot, let them have whatever they want for dessert. If a child sees and believes that you care about their progress, it will motivate for them to continue improving.

The end. Saying goodbye. One of the most frustrating parts of foster care is saying goodbye to a kid you know shouldn’t be leaving. The foster care system, at least in South Carolina, pushes for family reunification or kinship care even if that seems to be against what is best for the child.  That’s just my opinion. I’ve seen it enough times to start to become bitter. I hope for the best, but I expect the worst. Of course I have seen many more times that reunification or kinship care is the best thing for the child. But it only takes one kid who was placed with a relative only to come back into care because the relative preferred drugs to kids. Just one time will make you question the system. It’s frustrating, but it’s out of your control. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin. That child might be going into a very uncertain situation, but have faith that you have begun the work in them, and the impact you made with be with them forever. One of my favorite examples of this is an old physics problem. If you shoot a rocket at the moon, changing the trajectory by just 1 degree will cause the rocket to miss it’s target by thousands of miles. Any affect you can have in the life of a child can result in big changes as they grow up. It’s not just you though. It’s not fair to that pressure on yourself. God has a plan for those kids, and he will keep working in them long after they’ve left you. If you don’t believe me, Philippians 1:6 tells us I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Every part of foster care can be incredibly frustrating, but it’s so much more than that. It’s an incredible opportunity to change a life for the better. If you’re on the journey of foster care, whether you’re at the beginning, middle, or end do not lose heart. You’re not on the journey alone. You are surrounded by a community of foster carers who wants to help you succeed. You’re supported by an ever present God who can move mountains to help you. Earlier in Zechariah 4, we’re told that It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! (Zechariah 4:6-7a) Replace Zerubbabel’s name with yours (unless your name is Zerubbabel) and have faith that your work is not in vain. Foster Care is the right thing to do.

 

Foster Care is Messy

How He Loves is one of my favorite worship songs. I love the imagery of “Love’s like a hurricane I am a tree” and “If His grace is an ocean we’re all sinking.” God’s love is an overpowering love. His grace is an all-consuming grace. But often times, especially in foster care, that grace and love manifest themselves in pretty messy ways. John Mark McMillan, writer of the song, says this about it’s most controversial lyric:

HEAVEN meets EARTH like a sloppy wet kiss

The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy. Think about the birth of a child, or even the death of Jesus himself. These miracles are both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sloppy (“gory” may be more realistic, but “Heaven meets earth like a gory mess” didn’t seem to have the same ring). Why does the church have such a problem with things being sloppy? Do we really think we’re fooling anyone on Sunday morning, especially God? Are we going to offend him? I mean, he’s seen us naked in the shower all week and knows our worst thoughts, and still thinks we’re awesome. What if we took all the energy we spent faking and used that energy to enjoy the Lord instead? That could be revolutionary!

Foster care is messy. It’s a hand and feet, in the trenches ministry that looks sin and brokenness in the face and stands tall with the confidence that If God is for us,who can be against us? (Romans 8:31b). The foster care system is a mess. Working with kids from hard places can be a mess (literally and figuratively. This picture was taken after a 3 year old got so mad playing with moon sand that he took all his clothes off, underwear included) Foster care is hard and frustrating and messy, but through it all, God is present and working miracles in the lives of our children.

As messy as it is, and as dramatic as that last paragraph was, foster care really is a beautiful mess. It’s also a pretty fun one. Jon Acuff said “Messy is a lot more fun than perfect.” It’s such a privilege to provide a secure and loving family for a boy or girl who has spent their childhood  living in uncertainty and fear. We have so much fun with our boys, especially when it’s messy, and it’s always amazing to see a group of strangers turn into a big (mostly) happy family, if only for a short time. The opportunity to serve kids in foster care has changed our lives for the better, and it will be forever changed. Once you enter the messy world of hurting and needy children, It’s impossible for things to remain the same.

We see and hear an unfortunate amount of stories about how children are mistreated, neglected, and abused. These little kids have experienced lifetimes of traumas that would give adults nightmares. It’s our job to find the beauty in the mess. To show them God in the middle of the darkness and teach them that in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 emphasis added) 

Our kids come with baggage from past hurts and experiences that is incredibly complicated, but the changes that we see in kids over days, weeks, and months of showing them consistent love and support is remarkable, and there’s only one answer for it. We like to think that it’s our systems and our love, but in reality it’s much more like the song. Heaven is meeting earth like a sloppy wet kiss. Except in our case it’s more like a 2 year old eating spaghetti or multiple conversations about why flushing the toilet is important. Messy and dirty and sometimes pretty gross, but beautiful and redeemed.