Fruit of the Spirit in Foster Care

Once I started to become invested in foster care, I began to see everything through a new lens. I did the same thing when I was a paramedic. Everything I watched, read, or heard was related back to EMS. Becoming truly immersed in a topic causes you to see everything differently. As I’ve been thinking about how to share the message of foster care, I started to think about classic passages and stories from the bible. It’s pretty easy to see that many popular passages can be used to encourage people who are considering foster care, or are in the middle of it. The fruit of the spirit is a great example.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV)


Love: “That’s because love is never stationary. In the end, love doesn’t just keep thinking about it or keep planning for it. Simply put: love does.” Bob Goff wrote that in his book aptly titled Love Does. It’s impossible to be passive in foster care. Love is an action, and foster care is a very active ministry.

Joy: Children have an inherent joy about how they live their lives. The same is true for kids in foster care. It’s incredible how much joy our kids still possess even after the trauma’s they have experienced. We can learn a lot from them. Rend Collective says “Seriousness is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is”

Peace: Peace can feel like a distant memory when you welcome a new child into your home, especially a child who has experienced trauma. John 16:33 says I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. You will undoubtedly face trials in foster care, but with the love and support of a strong foster care community, like Thornwell, you can find peace in the midst of the chaos.

Longsuffering: Most translations say patience, but the NKJV uses the word longsuffering, which I think is much more fitting when it comes to foster care. If you have kids, you know the truth to the saying that ‘patience is a virtue’. It can feel a lot like longsuffering.  Kids in foster care need you to be patient with them. They come from some pretty hard places, and need time to adjust to their new normal.

Kindness: Being kind to someone who isn’t being kind to you is a challenge. The children who you welcome into your home won’t always be kind. Sorry if I ruined that for anybody. Many times children express their past hurts through harsh words, because they don’t know how to handle all of the new emotions they are experiencing. Understanding that those hurtful words are not a personal attack can help you respond with the kindness that those kids need.

Goodness: God is good. We know this, but when we hear about some of the injustices and horrors that kids in foster care have lived through, it’s important to be reminded of His goodness. His goodness is greater than any badness that our kids experience. One of the great things about having the Bible is that we know the end of the story. We know that good defeats evil. We know that love wins every time.

Faithfulness: Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12 NLT) Whenever I’m talking to someone who is frustrated in the licensing process, I encourage them to keep fighting. Foster care truly is the good fight. Fighting for love, safety, and justice for children is always the right thing to do.

Gentleness: Kids in foster care are usually used to living in harsh environments. They’re used to harsh responses and harsh punishments. Providing calm and gentle responses can play a huge role in building trust and attachment with our foster kids. If you don’t believe me, it says so in the Bible: A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. (Proverbs 15:1 NLT)

Self-Control:  In the Teaching Family Model, this is called quality components. The ability to maintain your composure and remain kind and gentle in the face of a tantrum or hateful words from a child who is hurting, when all you want to do is yell back at them. Like many things, it’s a tough but invaluable skill when working with kids from hard places.


It’s easy to say “master these things and you’ll be perfect foster parents.” It’s true, but unattainable. The best we can do is to strive to be better than we were yesterday. As long as you’re trying, you’re headed in the right direction.

Coping Skills

We see it every day. Children who are sad, scared, and anxious act angry and destructive because they simply don’t know what else to do. They are experiencing a lot of intense emotions, and they aren’t quite sure how to handle them. They want to be helped, but they have never learned the right way to ask. All they know is that they’re scared. Kids who have born into traumatic situations don’t always have the emotional regulation and coping skills needed to make healthy choices in stressful and uncertain times. They are attempting to process adult sized issues with child sized brains. It’s really not a fair fight.

Infants in healthy environments quickly learn that crying is an effective way to get their needs met. When they are in an unhealthy environment, they learn that crying does not get their needs met, and could actually be harmful, so they stop crying. Once they are in a healthy environment, they relearn the effectiveness of crying. Sometimes, their needs are never fully met until they are toddlers or even school age children. This process often begins in foster homes after they are removed from their unfulfilling home. Once that begins to happen, they often revert to where their development was initially stunted. That means crying, or somehow being disruptive, when they have unmet needs. Over time kids (hopefully) learn better communication skills and ways to more effectively get what they need.

That’s why family teachers, foster parents, and parents in general have such an important job. Teaching social skills and coping mechanisms to kids doesn’t just help them to be successful at home and school. It gives them tools to use when they grow up and go out into a stressful world. Proverbs 22:6 says Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.  I just had a conversation with one of our boys about how sometimes we turn little issues into big issues because we’re trying to teach lessons about life that will help them when they grow up. Lessons that they probably should have learned already, but haven’t.

An incredibly effective way to teach these things to kids is through modeling. Kids are so often a mirror of what’s going on around them. If there’s arguing and yelling in their house, they are much more likely to argue and yell. If they’ve experienced sexual abuse, it’s much more likely that they will mirror that behavior with their peers. This is all they know, so they think it’s normal. They assume that’s how it’s supposed to be. That’s why the cycle of poverty and abuse is so strong. They don’t know any different. We get the chance to show our kids, maybe for the first time, how to interact respectfully with others and take care of themselves. As foster parents and family teachers our job isn’t just providing a home for children who need a safe place, it’s working to break the cycle of generational poverty and trauma that often leads to a child needing foster care.

Since I’m a non-confrontational person, I try to stay away from current event and political debates, but I have a hypothesis. What if rioting and unrest is the go-to for some people because as a child they were never taught coping skills to positively deal with negative emotions? Just like we see so often with our kids, these people are angry, anxious, fearful, and sad. Often rightly so. They want help and comfort, but they were never taught how to ask for help. So they act out. They respond with destructive behaviors, because they don’t know what else to do. They feel unheard and lost, so they make sure their voices can’t be ignored. I don’t have an answer for what’s happening now, but I believe that teaching social skills and coping mechanisms to kids can help future generations of adults better handle the inevitable hardships and negativity they will face.

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

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

Foster Care is hard

For my Family Teacher colleagues and anyone else involved in the foster care world, that title is an understatement. Especially today, especially in our cottage. There are many parts of foster care that could win the title of worst part, but saying goodbye is very near the top of the list. Often when we are talking to people about our jobs we hear things like “I could never do what you do. I would get too attached. It would be too hard to say goodbye.” Guess what folks, we get attached to the kids in our care. I don’t think it’s possible to become ‘too attached’ but if it is, we get too attached. It’s hard to say goodbye. Really hard. Too hard sometimes. But we do it.

Foster care is such a bittersweet ministry. Ideally, foster care would never be needed. In a perfect world, all children would be able to experience a safe, consistent, unconditionally loving family. Kids should always have adequate food, water, and shelter. They deserve the opportunity to get an education and have access to appropriate entertainment and recreation. Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world. Children experience things they never should, and need systems and people in place to provide what they need when their family can’t or won’t. We love being those people and we are happy to be part of that system. It doesn’t mean we are glad when a child is abused or neglected, but we are glad to be there when they are. I would tell patients on the ambulance that I’m not happy that they got sick or injured, but I’m happy I could be the one to help them. I tell kids the same thing. I’m not happy that you got taken away from your family, but I’m happy that you are here with us now.

Foster care is hard. All Heidi and I know is foster care in a group setting. I’m sure there are a lot of differences between what we do and private foster families, but there’s also many commonalities. We take care of good kids going through really hard stuff. In our house, we have of 8 kids going through 8 different traumas. That means 8 different reactions and opinions, 8 different parenting styles and attachments. It’s hard to manage. Each child is so different and it requires so much time and energy to develop and maintain positive relationships with each of them. We’re lucky to have 24/7 support if needed and scheduled time off, which is something foster families don’t always get. That has to be hard. Foster care is exhausting.

Saying goodbye is the worst. Especially when you’re ‘too attached’ to them. Especially when you’re not sure what they’re going back to. When people say “It would be too hard for me to say goodbye to them” they imply that it’s easy for us. Nope. Not even close. We had to say goodbye today to a boy who cried inconsolably when he first moved in with us because he wanted so badly to go home. Last night when he was told that he was going home he cried because he didn’t want to leave all of his friends. To quote our teammate who was charged with telling him the plan: “What do you say to a little guy being discharged tomorrow who is crying in his bed because he may never see everyone here again?” There’s no good answer. You tell him how much you love him and that you won’t stop loving him even after he’s gone. You fake excitement that he’s being reunited with his family, even when you’re screaming on the inside because you know it’s a bad idea. You sit and cry with him, telling him how thankful you are for your time together and for the impact he’s had on your life. You pray with him and ask God to protect him and for him to feel God’s love. You give him your contact information and tell him to call you whenever he needs something. You don’t know what to say or what to think. You want to be optimistic and hope that everything works out for the family. Sometimes though, horrible and selfish as it is, you secretly hope that something else happens and they come back into foster care so they can live with you again. You feel like that’s their only chance to be properly loved and provided for. Then that actually happens, and all over again you don’t know what to say or how to feel.

Foster care is hard. I’ve used 755 words to scratch the surface of the difficulty and unfairness of the foster care system. So why do we do it? Why do people like us choose to be a part of a system that often ends up harming the ones they long to protect? Why would anyone willingly enter the brokenness, frustration, and exhaustion that comes with caring for foster kids? Because that’s what Jesus did. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).” We can do hard things (like foster care) because Jesus did hard things. We choose brokenness, frustration, and exhaustion because that’s what Jesus chose. We love because we are loved.

It’s very easy to get burned out working in foster care. It’s a calling that’s incredibly physically, emotionally, and spiritually taxing. But, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). Sometimes that harvest is a kid knowing what it means to be safe. When a kid says yes when you ask ‘do you know that I love you’, that’s the harvest. It’s easy to become weary, but a random hug from a kid who’s had a bad day gives you hope that your work is not in vain. Foster care really is a beautiful ministry. It’s a system that both meets a short term need and has long term benefits. It’s the hands and feet of Jesus in the trenches of an eternal battle. It’s not glamorous or popular, but it’s needed and rewarding.

I’ll end on an upbeat note. 1 John 4:19 says that we love because He first loved us. We are so loved, beyond anything we can comprehend. Know that you are loved, and there is nothing quite like the love of God. Listen to this song and be happy because of how loved you are.

First Birthday!

Our little blog is turning 1! Heidi made the first post one year ago and we could not be happier with the response we have gotten from friends, family, and colleagues. A lot has happened in this past year, and blogging has helped us share our joy, our struggles, our challenges, and our ever changing family with you guys. “Shared joy is a double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” (Swedish Proverb) It has helped us cope with losses and it has helped us become better foster parents. I have been able to think through a lot of things and figure stuff out while writing that I probably wouldn’t have figured out on my own.

Some fun facts about our first year: We published 26 blog posts (27 counting this one) that were read 2,869 times by 1,934 people. Our blog has been viewed by people in 14 countries. The most popular post has been Uncomfortable, followed closely by Loving When It Hurts. Since we started this blog we have had about 35 kids come through Bryan Mac. Heidi and I had the chance to attend a great orphan care conference that continues to stick with us and inspire new ideas and ventures. We’ve started the process of obtaining our foster care/adoption license, and have moved from an apartment into a house closer to campus.

To celebrate our first year, we’re changing up the look of the blog. New year, new look. New look, same great blog. Heidi and I are so glad that you have enjoyed hearing from us, and we are excited to see what will happen in the coming year. Feel free to let us know if there is anything about our lives or jobs that you’d like to read more about. We’d love to hear from you!

Uncomfortable

We know that saying goodbye to kids we have loved is a part of the job. We know that sometimes we only have a few hours notice when a kid is leaving. We also know that when kids go home, there is often a great deal of uncertainty about the situation they are returning to. But simply knowing those things isn’t enough. Knowing you’re a part of a broken system doesn’t make it easier when the system fails. Yesterday was an uncomfortable day. We got about 2 hours notice that a boy we love very much was being returned to an uncertain situation with his mother. We were blindsided by a perfect storm of the foster care system. 2 weeks ago we were told that his mother was working on a treatment plan, but DSS (Department of Social Services) was likely going to recommend termination of rights. Thursday we were told that the judge did not listen to DSS recommendations, and did not see enough evidence to keep the child in the foster care system. They outlined a transition plan that would have him moving home for good around Christmas. Yesterday the judge decided to change their mind, and ordered that the child be returned to his mother later that day. Caseworkers were surprised, supervisors were surprised, and we were obviously floored by the news. So we left the training we were at, picked him up from school, and explained to him and his teacher what the new plan was. Everyone cried. Then we came home and I helped him pack his clothes while Heidi collected paperwork and toys that were scattered around the house. We got some pictures and lots of hugs. Our teammates came over to say their goodbyes. Then the transporter showed up, we loaded all of his things into the van, and then it was goodbye. Hopefully not forever, but now there’s an empty bed at our house and an empty seat at the table. While I was doing bedtime with our other kids, I called 2 of them by his name. I’m going to miss him.

Our job is often uncomfortable. Kids are uncomfortable when they first meet us because they are unsure who we are and where they are. We hear a lot of uncomfortable stories from kids about past traumas and current issues. We have to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions, and tell kids a lot of uncomfortable news. Family Teaching, and foster care and adoption in general, are inherently uncomfortable things. Children are removed from the only comfort they have ever known, if they’ve ever been comfortable, and are placed with you. Too many times they find real comfort with you in your house just to be moved to a different house or reunited with family and their concept of comfort shifts again.

Uncomfortable, as unpleasant and painful as it can be, isn’t always bad. If you are uncomfortable, that means you are aware that things are not as they should be. Feeling uncomfortable means you want something to change. The reason we became Family Teachers, the reason we are passionate about foster care, adoption, and orphan care is that the thought of children who aren’t being provided for made us uncomfortable. Just because we responded to that uncomfortable feeling doesn’t mean it went away though, if anything it made it worse. Every child that we interact with has an uncomfortable past, so we are surrounded by it and immersed in it. But the more we learn, the more uncomfortable we get, which makes us want to work harder to change whatever we can.

Even though it seems counterintuitive to do something that makes you more uncomfortable, we wouldn’t have it any other way. We don’t enjoy hearing the stories and answering the questions, but we do it because we can. I know that not everybody can do our job. You need to be a special kind of person to work with the kids that we work with. Heidi and I feel like we have been blessed with the empathy and energy that it takes to work directly with kids, and we are part of a community of like minded people at Thornwell that do incredible work every day in the face of a mountain of uncomfortability (I don’t think that’s a word). We do it because we can, and we do it because we have access to the ultimate comfort.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.[a] If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-6 ESV)

What makes you uncomfortable? It’s not the same for everyone, but everyone has something. We were at an orphan care conference last weekend, and one of the speakers pointed out that every Christian is called to do something. If you follow Christ, you have a duty to better the kingdom in some way. Is the kingdom better because you’re a part of it? Orphan care, foster care, and adoption are close to our hearts, but for you it could be something different. Figure out what that is and do something about it.

National Foster Care Month

Jonathon and I loved being able to share our passion and vision for foster care this month. A number of people have asked us how they can be involved when they can’t actually house children. There are many great organizations that can help with this! We’ve compiled a list of articles and sources to help you find out how to be a part of this ministry to hurting kids.

Lots of these organizations or websites aren’t exclusively for foster care, but kids who have been through multiple placements in this system are more likely to be homeless, unemployed, delinquent, trafficked for sex or drugs, kidnapped, raped, become teen parents. The list of things these kids are susceptible to is extensive. Sadly, the statistics are correct. The social problems and injustices kids without loving families experience is tragic. Helping them at any point along the way is still helping.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Just ideas. Look into your own county, city, state for opportunities to help.

Organizations: Google these. Look them up. Find a need. Volunteer. Apply for a job. Pray for their work.

The Forgotten Initiative. Show Hope. Love 146. Together We Rise. Royal Family Kids Camps. National Foster Care Coalitions. AdoptUSkids. Heart Gallery of America. Thornwell Home for Children. All In Orphan Care. Amazima. Arrow Foundation. Youth for Christ. Dave Thomas Foundation. CASA.

These are national companies, but look locally at food banks, teen pregnancy centers, abused women’s shelters, state department of social services (child protective services), state department of juvenile justice

Information: These are articles and facts for more about the foster care system and its effects.

http://foster2forever.com/2014/05/help-foster-child-family.html?fb_action_ids=10102408082091138&fb_action_types=og.shares

https://love146.org/three-things-ive-learned-about-foster-care/

http://learn.showhope.org/guide-understanding-foster-care

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBs6WIM33Jw

https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/resources/communities/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-marie-basile/foster-care-youth-we-are-_b_7299242.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-melcher/the-truth-about-foster-parents-and-foster-children_b_7017512.html

While we understand that our position on involvement with foster care is more extreme than most, we know without a doubt that God wants His people to be a voice for the voiceless. There are many ways to step around the real questions, but honestly, what are you doing for God’s children? Is your life comfortable and convenient? Because that is NOT what God calls us to. It is messy and awkward and confusing and emotional and a long process. It will change your perspective, schedule, priorities, and whole life. But if we don’t stand up to help, who will?

If you need more information or help finding a plan to partake in this cause, please contact us! We would love to help!

I’ve enjoyed having the excuse of posting things daily to challenge people in this area. While it won’t be as often, I will continue to preach the importance of this commission to care for God’s children!

Loving When It Hurts

Not that I haven’t been honest before, but I need to be honest. The last month has been a struggle for me. We have an especially young group of kids. This makes things fun, more energetic, a little more chaotic, but lots more hugs and kisses. Ms. Heidi is completely okay with that! But when the fun, cute part of ‘six kids 6 and under’ starts to become realistic, it can be pretty overwhelming. Not only is that a large number of car seats, tons of water for baths, lots of food to cut up at dinner, and many spills and tears; in this job, it means six kids who don’t comprehend what is happening in their family. Six little minds that are confused, lonely, and scared with no answers to soothe them. Six most precious babies that don’t want a strange lady to hold them, but only their mom. They don’t yet realize how much they cannot control their lives; that they are at the mercy of the Courts. All of these small people who need so much take a toll on this heart.

Being the empathetic person that I am, this has been particularly tough. When we had more middle school boys, the stories and trauma weren’t any simpler, but they could process it better. We could sit down and listen to their fears and questions and provide some source of comfort. They understand why their house isn’t safe or why they need to be removed. Not that age and the ability to reason helps anyone understand why people they love make bad choices, but there is some consolation in seeing why things aren’t safe. We can’t do that with our current group. We have some third graders who grasp much more than they should have to, but all the others, they don’t get it. They want their parents, their bed, their school, their familiar surroundings. All they understand is that they can’t have those. With my experience as a teacher, working with kids, and my own health issues at a young age, I’m pretty good at simplifying something in order to explain it. Give me the inter-workings of the cell membrane, the importance of thiamin and niacin in your diet, or why I don’t work right without insulin, and I can tell you. I can break it down, say it without the complexities, only tell you what is truly important to know. I would LOVE to figure that out and explain it to you! But this month we’ve had to explain why Mom didn’t call when she promised, why they didn’t have water in their house, why he wants to hurt himself at age 7, why his Dad put handcuffs on him. With older kids, they realize through our conversations that drugs make people do bad things or that being loved when there’s not money to feed them means they can’t live at home. Small children don’t get that. You can’t explain that to young kids. My non-emotional husband tried to explain to a child just yesterday that he experienced things at home that no one should ever experience. He couldn’t get it out. Jonathon couldn’t even say it without his voice cracking.

We feel the weight of their situation even when they don’t. We are so sad that we could not have stopped those horrible things or prevented the tragedy they lived through. I have always told the kids in our home that they are loved, that no matter what they do that we will be there for them. This month, this week even, I have offered myself as their Mom until they can live at home again. I’m learning that they just need to attach. They don’t need or understand the reasons. They just need someone to love them, unconditionally.

It’s all so hard to explain, but I have this great, wonderful gift from God to see His children for who they are. I rarely see our kids as the misbehaved, annoying children others see, but I see them as hurting and forgotten. I see them with great potential. I look into their lives and personalities, not just things on the surface. Hence, there are heavy burdens. It would make my job easier to be annoyed with them, to not truly love, to simply fulfill the daily tasks of parenthood. My heart would be lighter, but I would not be living out the call God has placed on my life, on our life. It sounds all very loaded and overwhelming, but it’s not. Some weeks, this week, it was. This month has been especially hard. But each day I feel absolutely and completely that we’re doing what we are supposed to be doing. Casting Crowns says it the best in their song “Love Them Like Jesus”

You’re holding her hand, you’re straining for words
You’re trying to make sense of it all
They’re desperate for hope, darkness clouding their view
They’re looking to you

Just love them like Jesus, carry them to Him
His yoke is easy, His burden is light
You don’t need the answers to all of life’s questions
Just know that He loves them and stay by their side
Love them like Jesus

Lord of all creation holds our lives in His hands
The God of all the nations holds our lives in His hands
The Rock of our salvation holds our lives in His hands
He cares for them just as He cares for you