In Need of Grace {a letter from my child}

“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Russel Barkley

I think of this quote when parenting my kids.  It is a great reminder when I’m struggling to manage the problems and issues we often face.  I have also thought of it when considering my own actions.

Sometimes, I’m not easy to love.  I absolutely admit that I can be a bit of a grouch at times.  I can put expectations on my kids that are probably too high for their level of functioning.  My feelings get hurt, I lose my temper, and I struggle showing grace – even when I am the one who probably needs it the most.

Last week at a doctor’s appointment for a recent back injury, my doctor asked me how things are going with the kids.  I sat for a minute and thought, “Do I tell him the truth that life is hard or do I grin and say things are going fine?”  The word “fine” has become the one I use when things really aren’t that fine.  It gives a simple response to questions that I don’t want to unpack.

As much as I tried to keep it in, I couldn’t.  The tears ran down my face as I explained the issues we are having and how I have been feeling and failing, lately.  The funny thing (actually, not that funny) is when you are told “maybe tomorrow will be better”, deep down you know that it probably won’t be.  Instead of offering a rallying cry to me, my doctor let me cry.  Soon, he brought in a counselor they have on staff and she also just let me cry.  It felt good to release it.  I should probably do that more often.

Fast forward a few days from this appointment to my birthday (yes, I just turned another year older).  My children were having a rough night.  I’ve learned not to expect nights without behaviors – even on special occasions.  As I opened my gifts, one of my children handed me a letter…

Dear Mom,

Thank you for sooo much for being graceful, and loving to me and for adopting me and helping me up when I’m hurt, cheering me up when I’m sad and you love me no matter what I do.  Thank you for being my mom for the best years of my life.

Did you read that?

Graceful.

Loving.

Helping.

Cheering.

Best years of my life.

I cried as I read it and looked at my child.  Soon, this child’s eyes were welling up as I opened up my arms for a big hug.  I will hang on to this letter.  I will read it over and over again during the good times and the bad.

It is hard to explain what it is like to raise children who struggle with lots of things – mental health, academics, behavioral issues, etc.  From the outside, my kids look perfect.  Their outside appearances do not match what is going on internally.  Because of this, there are false perceptions made about all of us.

Having been down a bit from the past few weeks of challenges, I have been in need of a lot of grace.  I have wondered in desperation if I was equipped to handle the arrows aimed in my direction and at my children.  I have questioned if there will ever be a relief or a miracle or something that proves the heartaches and hardships will make sense one day.

Through a child’s words, I was offered that grace.  It spoke straight to the heart.  I was given the gift of encouragement and a glimpse into why it is so important to keep going.  I was reminded of the need to offer grace, the feeling of being loved, the importance of helping and encouragement, and that (often) we parents are our children’s entire worlds.  My child’s letter thanking me for the grace I have shown actually provided me with the grace I have searched for, lately.  What a powerful moment it was.

Although my child wrote the letter, I see God’s hand all over it.  I hear Him saying, “There you go…there you go.  See?  I told you it is worth it.  You do matter.  Your children matter.  You may not see it every day, but your children do and so do I.”  

Parents of children with extra needs, moments like the one I experienced reading my child’s letter may not come around very often.  I know this.  You know this, as well.  We find ourselves not only managing the typical antics and activities of childhood, but also managing the extra stuff; the kind that yearns to siphon whatever energy or hope we have left at the end of the day.  Some days, it isn’t very much, is it?

We have to remember that we are making a difference even if we don’t see the results immediately.  We must believe that even though a miracle may not occur, our actions, stability, support and love are miraculous to our children.  It is okay to admit our failures.  It is totally acceptable to dwell in the knowledge that we are desperate for a measure of grace on any given day.

Keep going.  Keep the faith.  Even if you think no one is noticing, remember that your children are.

So is the Lord.

Praise Him for that.

 

Not a Burden (a little note on the adoption anniversary of our youngest son)

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope your day was filled with family, food and friendship.
 
A few nights ago, our oldest two kiddos were just not into it (meaning getting along, playing nice, communicating with us, etc). My awesome husband suggested I take our youngest son out to eat and that he would hold down the fort with our two older, cranky kids.
 
As my young son and I scarfed down our meal, I delighted in his whimsy. He is quite the character, says the most random things and dreams of being a rock star one day (insert my fear of him living in our basement as an adult). 
 
Anyway!! As I sat and listened to him, I realized how lucky we are to have him as our son. We hadn’t planned on adopting again but life throw us a curve ball and we chose to take the pitch. We hit the ball out of the park with this kid. I’m so glad we did.
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Five years ago today, our adoption was finalized. As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, we are thankful for being his parents. Children are a blessing, not a burden (even on the hard days).
 
P.S. I’m totally fine with him being a rock star one day as long as he can pay his own bills…
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Keep It Real {things I wish I heard prior to adoption}

As a parent to kiddos adopted out of difficult situations, here are the things I totally wish someone would have said to me prior to adoption:

1) It’s not gonna feel good all of the time.
2) Nurture is awesome, but genetics are huge.
3) You might have days where you wished you had made a different decision. (don’t guilt yourself about it)
4) Raising children with extra needs causes you to live life around a schedule of medicines, appointments, triggers, and other issues.
5) It does hurt when you are told that you are not their “real parent”. (even though you pretend it doesn’t)
6) Fear causes you to overthink…a lot.
7) There will be things that come up in your child’s life that you never had to deal with.
8) Don’t compare your own upbringing or the way you were as a child to what you expect or wish of your child.
9) Adoptive parenting can be very lonely and isolating.
10) Don’t underestimate your voice in all of it.
11) Never underestimate your child’s voice in all of it.
12) Get used to advocacy. It will become one of your best assets.
13) Adoption = loss. It just does.

I never want to paint a rosy or perfect picture of adoption – not even during National Adoption Month. Instead, I want others to know that while adoption is incredible and totally life-changing, it is also hard.

In order for us (people who work and live life within the realm of adoption) to make a difference, we need to take off our rose-colored glasses. We need to tell it like it is. We have to understand that adoption is wonderful but also challenging. The gavel’s declaration of adoption does not mean that hard stuff ends. If anything, it is just beginning.

For any of you who are parents through adoption and are struggling, I see you. I get it. I am right there with you.

Keep your chin up. Keep it real.

5 Things I Would Tell My “(pre)Adoptive Mother Self”

November is National Adoption Month in the US.  We set aside this month to focus on adoption stories as well as the plight of many children waiting for families.  I’ve been an “official” adoptive parent now for a little over ten years.  We’ve stretched out of our comfort zone, dealt with issues that we never thought we would face, and we’ve laughed…a lot.

Even on the hardest days – the ones where we have really struggled – my husband and I do not regret our decision to adopt our children.  We would have missed so many precious moments.

Ones like this, 20180607_144153_Film1 (1)

Or, this one…

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Thinking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally wish I could say that I was 100% prepared for parenting – not just parenting in general, but adoptive parenting.  I know that there are many similarities, but I also know there are many differences.

If could go back, here are a few things I would tell myself:

  1. When the gavel falls and adoption is declared, that is when the real work begins.  Meaning, adoption can get much harder.  Sure, there are difficulties getting to the place where you are on the eve of adoption, but oh boy, all of the trials we experienced during that time seem kind of trivial compared to some of the issues we now face on any given day.
  2. Don’t take it personally.  There is a special kind of guilt that seems to tag along with adoptive parenting.  It is hard to not take things personally when you witness your child struggling or when your child says things to you that take your breath away (I’m not talking about the sweet statements, although there has been some of those).  When you work tirelessly advocating for and managing your child’s life to the point of not being able to capture just a glimpse of forward movement, it is hard to not take it personally.  Just don’t.  Or, at least, try not to.
  3. Listen.  Like, REALLY listen to others who have walked in the shoes you are about to walk in.  Learn what you can about trauma (in the womb and out).  Be prepared to have a host of professionals in your life (doctors, specialists, teachers, therapists, etc).  Definitely advocate and ask questions but also choose to listen and learn.  It will serve you well.
  4. It is not going to feel good all of the time.  The reality is that parenting (of any type) can break your heart from time-to-time.  With adoptive parenting, the things that break your heart tend to be ones that you really do not fully comprehend and certainly cannot control.  I’m talking about genetic issues that come into play as the years go on.  I’m speaking of the damage done in the womb that is hard to explain to someone.  I’m thinking of the challenges that you never faced growing up but now dwell in your home because your children face them.  Nope.  It does not feel good all of the time.
  5. No matter what, don’t give up and don’t you dare second-guess your importance in the life of your children.  Don’t do it.  Never do it.  Your kids need you.  They don’t need another set of parents to not come through.  It will get rough.  You will think, “Am I really being the best parent I can be?  What if I didn’t answer that question the way my child needed me to?  Maybe, I’m the problem?  What if I tried a little harder?”  These questions have circulated in my mind a lot through the years.  They are made up of guilt mixed in with a sliver of grief.  Just don’t go there.

Looking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally thought I was prepared for all of this.  I thought I had a grasp of trauma-informed parenting, adoption issues, loss and grief, and a whole host of behavioral issues.  I totally was not.  I can’t even pretend that I was.

Yet, would I do it all again?  Absolutely.

Can I imagine a life without my children?  No way.

Without (foster parenting) and adoption, I could have missed this:

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Barrenness Hit Me Today

I glanced up towards the beverage coolers of the grocery store and noticed a pregnant woman walking by. Her skin was glowing, belly round and full, and she was beautiful. I  noticed the woman in front of me noticing her as well.

In my head, I thought, “Pregnant women really are beautiful. I bet she is so happy to be carrying her baby. I wish I could have carried mine.” 

Yep. Right there as I’m checking out, answering the cashier about my choice of a paper or plastic, barrenness hit me today.

I don’t think about it all of the time. Honestly, barrenness doesn’t knock on my door like it used to. Most days, it never even crosses my mind…most days.

Today, it did. Perhaps, it is because this week has been filled with teaching others about trauma that can occur in the womb. Maybe, it is due to explaining to teachers, who don’t know my children that well (yet), about their challenges. Or, it could be that both worry and sadness have visited me this week.

As soon as I got home from the store, I packed the groceries into their allotted space in our kitchen and headed back to our safe spot where we put meaningful items that belong to our family. I dug through the paperwork and pictures and found a copy of a letter that I had sent to a former pastor of mine many years ago.

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2008

I wrote it on the eve of my husband and I filing our adoption petition for our oldest son in 2008. The image above is just one section of a one-and-a-half page letter to my pastor. I’m not sure why I kept it but am glad that I did.

Life has a funny way of kicking us around a time or two, doesn’t it? Hard experiences like to sneak their way around our hearts a bit. They lay dormant for a while and then, BOOM, there they are. There.They.Are.

I’ve heard that, sometimes, you have to look back at where you were to appreciate where you are. I’m finding myself doing this more often than not; especially on days where barrenness seems to smack me upside the head. With regard to the letter, I read it again and felt as though I was typing it for the first time; my eyes filled up, my hands trembled a bit, and I exhaled deeply. I needed to visit the elation, promise and revelation, even in barrenness, that I found through the Lord ten years ago. I needed to take a step back and remember all of it.

I am 46-years-old and have known for thirty-five years that I would never have a biological child. You would think by now that I would be “over it”. In many ways, I’m so over it – like bye-bye. Yet, in other times, it seeks me out, dances around me, and teases me like a school-yard bully. It ticks me off, makes me feel insecure, and breaks my heart time and again.

I still look at pregnant women with awe but a sliver of jealousy. I still wonder what it would have felt like to announce our pregnancy to my husband and our parents. I imagine the feeling of my children growing inside of me and the passion I would have carried to give them the best in utero experience possible.

Yes, sometimes, you have to look back at where you were to appreciate where you are. For me, looking back at the empty space of barrenness and then recapturing the feelings of going through the motions of adoption, does my heart good. It does it so good.

Barrenness hit me today. It sucker-punched me at the grocery store when I was least expecting it. I didn’t have my boxing gloves on. There wasn’t a coach in the corner telling me how to handle it. Nope. None of that. It’s not that I have ever had that to begin with, though. Instead, I revisited a moment in time that has carried me through these past several years.

To recall the feelings of hope and love, to dwell for just a moment in the silence of gratitude, and to revel in understanding that comes from the Lord is by far, the best defense when hard experiences try to find a way to slither back into our lives.

No one is the keeper of our past, present and future like the Lord is. No one can turn devastation or despair into goodness like the Lord can. True peace and understanding comes from the Lord. It always has and it always will.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is a New Day {parenting kids who struggle}

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We walked into the parent-teacher conference today and were greeted with a sweet hello. Soon after, their faces turned grim.

“Has (this child) always been withdrawn?”

“Has (this child) struggled before?”

My husband and I did our best to answer their questions. To be honest, I felt like I was on the defensive. It was awkward. Most of all, it broke my heart. We didn’t have the same challenges that our kids do. We both did well in school, had friends and were active in various sports, etc. I’m sure our parents never had the type of parent-teacher conference that we had.

“It might be best to talk to (child’s) doctor about medication changes.”

“(This child) cannot make eye contact.”

“The issues you are describing can be a much bigger issue than what is known. You really need to talk to the doctor.”

“Has your child always struggled with interacting with others and with grades?”

As a parent to children who struggle, it takes a lot of restraint to NOT scream: “This is NOT all my child is about! My child is kind, wants to help others, and loves (his/her) family!!!”

However, at the end of the day, my husband and I know that our children must fit into this world. The world is not going to fit around them. And, to be honest, that sucks. There, I said it.

The misconception that “if you get a child as an infant, then the child will be okay“, just needs to stop. We got our children as babies. We tended to their needs. We celebrated their milestones and giggled at their curiosities. We did the best we could; like most parents do.

While all that helps, it does not (always) erase the problems that some children have. Instead, my husband and I must do the best we can…at this time…given the circumstances that present themselves.

To be honest, today was just a sad day for me. I wish I could just snap my fingers and all of these Earthly challenges would evaporate. I so wish I could exchange my children’s struggles for my own successes – to give them a life without diagnoses, social challenges and academic strife. Yet, in all of this…in all the daily junk…I know full well that the Lord has given me the exact children I am meant to parent. I know this, even on the hard days.

Parenting looks a whole lot different that I visualized it to be. My husband and I wonder what it would be like to be able to go out in the evening with our kids and not worry about meltdowns. We think about going to parent-teacher conferences and hearing, “You child is just the best student ever.” We long for our children to be given certificates and acknowledgments for being ‘good’. Yet, we also know that this is not the parenting journey that we are on. For me, my faith in Christ is what keeps me going. I know that Jesus hasn’t brought us this far to drop us on our heads. (My friend used to tell me this all of the time.) I believe it.

Today was rough. It’s not like any day is easy. The one hope that a parent with a child who struggles has is for their child to be understood and to have a life-changing breakthrough. When this doesn’t seem to be happening, it can surely dampen the situation, but it can never distinguish the power of parents whose entire world exists to create a better place for their children.

If you know a parent of a child who struggles, the best thing you can do is understand them, love on them and support them. Be a non-judgmental ear for them to pour their angst into. They know you can’t fix the issue, but they also know that just having someone who listens to them is vital. Let them cry to you. Allow them to tell you their story – even if they have to do it time and again.

If you are a parent of a child who struggles, please know that you are not alone. Seek out people who will listen to you. Don’t give up.

Tomorrow is a new day.

 

 

the “broken” system {it’s been one of those days}

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His information came to me in an email.  I opened it up, read the narrative, clicked on a video and my heart sank.  The 9-year old, Harry Potter look-a-like little boy, who my husband and I met at a birthday party over the summer, is in need of a family.

“Watch me do this!”, he said to my husband.  He giggled and played and just soaked up my husband’s attention.  We were there for another boy who was in foster care and now has his forever family.  We met this little guy by chance.

I called my husband and said, “Remember that little boy at the birthday party?  The one with the glasses?”  My husband knew immediately who I was talking about.  “He needs an adoptive family.  He absolutely adored you.”

“You are making me sad.  It’s just one of those days”, my husband said.

My husband also works in child welfare.  “One of those days” is a phrase that we have often said to each other.  I wish I could give you an exact count of the number of profiles of children in need of an adoptive family that I’ve read through the years.  A profile is a synopsis about a child in need of adoption.  One part of my job is to send out adoption profiles to my staff who, in turn, send them out to foster and adoptive families.

It breaks my heart to see repeat profiles – ones of kids whose profile is sent out multiple times in hopes of just one family that might show interest.  The majority of these kids are over the age of five, have significant trauma, and are a handful, to say the least.  However, behind their age, their behaviors and their histories, they are children.  They play dress-up.  They love Lego’s.  They still believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny.

They yearn for a Mommy and Daddy who won’t leave.

I have worked in child welfare for over seventeen years now and I still fight back tears when I fully ponder what is going on with children.  I get angry.  I threaten to walk away.  I fight cynicism.  Yet, I remain.

Having worked in the system for so long, I have heard “the system is broken” more times than I can count.  Yes, there are many things about the system that needs to be fixed.  Yes, we have a lot of work to do.  I agree with all of this.  However, when I sign people up for foster care classes knowing that they really just want a baby or I see profiles of kids in need of a family sent out over and over again, I find myself wondering if it really is the system that is broken, or if it is just us.  Maybe what is broken is our perception of child abuse and neglect, our vision of how good we think adoption should feel and our systematic way of turning our heads away from the problems at hand.  It’s easy for us to say, “Someone will step up or someone might adopt that child.”  It’s much harder for us to say, “We will step up.  We will adopt that child.”

First, let me state that there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to foster a baby.  My husband and I did this and we are glad that we did.  We got to experience the precious love of babies.  We watched them as they walked for the first time, called us “Mommy and Daddy” and began to explore the world.  We were also blessed to be able to adopt them.

Now that my kids are older and I walk every day in the struggles of their lives, I recognize that if they were in need of an adoptive home right now, their chances of getting adopted would be slim.  That reality breaks my heart.

Is the system broken?  Sure, in some way it is.  Are we broken?  Yes.  I wish that every single child and youth in need of a permanent family would find one.  I wish that more people would step up and say “yes”.  I so wish that people understood trauma better, age didn’t make a difference, adoption was understood as being hard and not rosy, and that each kid was given a chance at experiencing what it truly means to belong.

If we want to fix the broken system, then we need to take a hard look at our expectations and desires.  The kids in it are not perfect (no kid is).  They have experienced things that a lot of us haven’t.  Their brains have literally been changed by trauma (scientific fact).  They can’t change overnight.  They can’t undo what’s been done to them.  They cope the best they can.  They are often in survival mode.  They may not even realize any of this.  We can, though.

We can accept non-perfect kids.  We can learn how trauma changes the brain.  We can change our expectations of adoption.  We can empathize with children who have been forgotten and given back by too many people who promised forever.

We can understand that it won’t feel good all of the time and that a child’s history matters, but their futures matter more.

Their futures matter more.

I don’t believe for one second that God intends for children to be without families; not for one minute.  This is why after all of these years I still have days like this.  I know that Jesus leaves the ninety-nine to seek out the one.  I pray that we do this as well.  I still have hope, though.  I know that nothing is impossible and as long as there are children who need families, there are those of us who wake up day in and day out and do our best to end the scourge of abuse, neglect and children without families.

It’s been one of those days, but it will pass…until it happens again.

Six Years Away

Son,

Six years away.  This is all I can think about right now.  As you turn twelve, the thought that we only have six more years until you are a (legal) adult keeps coursing through my mind.  Oh, my.  Time fleets and flutters its way through our lives, especially when we are not paying attention.

We fought hard for you.  I want you to know that.  I don’t mean in physical words spoken out loud for others to hear.  I mean in words whispered and cried out to our Father in Heaven.  It wasn’t that our fight was just about you.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it was also about us, about our own desires to become your forever parents, for an answer to the barrenness in our lives and for the abundant clarity of it all that only the Lord can bring.  We also spoke those words for your birth mother.  Please believe this.

Six years away.  In this short amount of time, we will face obstacles.  We will deal with middle school angst, puberty (I know….SO embarrassing), first loves and high school antics.  As your parents, we will worry and fret about you becoming a driver.  We will always worry a bit about you.  Sorry.  That’s just how it is.

Son, only six more years until we release you into the world.  There are moments when my heart just can’t take it.  I think fondly back to our early days.  Sweetness seemed to follow you everywhere you went.  Your curiosity about the world, whimsical expressions and overall silliness absolutely captured the hearts of many.

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In so many ways, I still think of you as that little Mamma’s Boy that you once were.  I know.  I know.  You are growing up.  You don’t need me as much as you once did.  You grimace and get embarrassed at me…often.  Here’s the deal, though.  I may embarrass you at times or get on to you about things, but I will never not love you.  Ever.

Six years from now, you are declared an adult.  Where has the time gone?  What happened to yesterday and the day before that and the day before that?  I used to believe that fostering you and not knowing what was going to happen was the hardest part.  I now know that witnessing you grow up, dealing with the issues we have faced, and watching you crawl closer and closer to leaving is the hardest part.

I never understood the idea of half of my heart living outside of my body until I wrapped my arms around you.

If able to, I would go back and repeat each and every single day just to hold you and capture those moments one more time.

There is a lot of life to be lived between now and then.  I know this.  I also know that even though you will be an adult sooner than we are prepared for, you will always be our little boy, our first baby and one of the most important parts of our lives.

Son, on your 12th birthday, I want to say that I love you more each day.  I am proud of you.  I adore your quirks (even when they drive me crazy).  I appreciate how you methodically think about Every. Single. Thing.  I crack up at your goofy laugh and the many excuses you can come up with to not clean your room.  It pleases my soul to see your gentleness with animals.

It both breaks my heart and fills it with joy to watch you grow into the person you are.  For you, kiddo, are a good human being.  You, son, are a blessing.

Happy Birthday, Bubby.  Love you forever.

Only six years away…

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You Can Catch More Flies With Honey {let’s talk advocacy}

You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.Let’s talk advocacy, shall we?

This week, in particular, my own Mamma’s words have been on my mind.

“You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”

While at one of my children’s meetings for services through the schools, I kept these words close to heart.  Yes, I needed to be firm in what I wanted and hoped for the school to provide my child; however, I also needed to remind myself that the teachers sitting in front of me have their own families, their own insecurities, struggles they are facing, wishes and dreams.  The teachers sitting in front of me have a gazillion other students to care about and teach.

If I had chosen to walk into the meeting room with the expectation and attitude that they had to drop anything and everything else they were doing for other students and only give their attention to my child, then I would have failed in advocating for my child.  In other words, I would have not gained any ground with these teachers if I had approached them in a hostile manner.  Instead, I was gentle, kind and understanding of their own schedules and expectations.  By doing this, I was able to successfully advocate for my child’s needs.

In nearly every aspect of life, the ability to advocate for oneself and/or for someone else is an awesome opportunity and responsibility.  Becoming an advocate through your profession or personal life requires conviction, steadfastness, and the unwavering hope that what you are saying or doing will make an incredible difference in your life or the lives of others.

When people become foster parents, they learn about the difficult and diverse parts of the role they play in the lives of children.  They are asked to be parents but also asked to be professionals.  They are asked to work as a member of a team but also to never sway from their advocacy for children placed in their home.  This can be a challenge, but my goodness, what a remarkable experience in life; to care and advocate for abused and neglected children.

It really is a God-oriented role; applying the words of Scripture in caring for orphans and the least of these, doing so in the name of Jesus and being a living example of what it is to follow through on a calling in life.  

However, in the area of advocacy that foster parents must navigate, emotions can be all-consuming.  At times, they can be overwhelming.  Foster families are the ones wiping away tears, cleaning up messes, showing up at the school and doctor’s appointments, and speaking words of wisdom and encouragement into the ears of children.  It may be easy to think, “It should be simpler than this” or “It’s obvious what needs to happen” or even, “That case manager or attorney or therapist (insert any role) just doesn’t care about children.”

The reality is foster care cases are NOT simple.  Things may seem obvious but the law and statutes dictate what professionals are required to do.  They have to show reasonable efforts in reunification even if these efforts drag the cases out.  By not making effort and not documenting it, the entire case can crumble.

In the seventeen years that I have worked in child welfare, I have yet to find one professional in the field who doesn’t CARE for children – not one.  These people are smart, multi-talented and could totally be making more of an income in another field.  Yet, they have CHOSEN to work in child welfare.  They have chosen the long hours, late nights, and missed time with their families.  Their wages do not at all represent that sheer amount of work and responsibility handed to them.  However, they continue to carry on with the audacity of believing they are making a difference one life at a time.

If you are a foster parent or find yourself in a position that you are advocating for a child, please remember these things:

  • If your advocacy includes demeaning or disrespecting other people, it is not advocacy, it is bullying.
  • If your advocacy doesn’t take into consideration all of the legalities, then educate yourself. 
  • If you are advocating for a change in the law, policies, or processes, keep in mind the responsibilities and rights of persons affected by what you are pushing for.
  • If your advocacy is focused more on your own feelings and less on the role of being a foster parent, then do a “heart-check”.
  • If your advocacy is done in way that makes others question your motives, then perhaps, you should be questioning them as well.
  • If you are a Christian and stating that foster parenting is a ministry in your life, then by all means, act like it.  Pray about your upcoming meetings.  Consider how Jesus would treat others if in the same position.

I have found that in advocating for my own needs, my family and the clients I have served through my years in child welfare, more often than not, the “sweeter” I approach the task at hand, the better I am to “catch” the attention and respect of others.

Most importantly, I am able to look back on my own foster parenting experience and know that while I may have been told “no” or decisions may have been made that I didn’t agree with, I am able to tell my children that we (my husband and I) treated everyone on the team with respect, that we were kind to their birth parents and that we understood the value and importance of the laws in place.

If you find yourself full of fury at things happening or not happening in your (foster) child’s case, please, take a deep breath and remember the words of my Mamma.

“You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.”

 

 

 

 

Foster Parenting is a Mission Field

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I was co-speaking at a women’s conference and the person speaking alongside me said this, “We seek foster families who love God.  It’s important for families to love children, of course, but we first seek families who love God…and because of their love of God, they want to serve and love children.”

It seems like it should be obvious but it jumped out at me as an often-missed message when it comes to foster parent recruitment.  For me, it appears that it would be nearly impossible to love God and not love children, but I wonder if we get it switched around when it comes to trying to find foster families for children in need.  We call people to the ministry of fostering because they love children.  Perhaps, we should focus more on calling them to it because their first love is God.

I’ve long thought that foster parenting is a mission field.  How can it not be?

Sure, foster families are not necessarily giving up the luxuries of first-world living that most missionaries are, but they are giving up privacy, control and that part of them that once thought child abuse and neglect is not as bad as it really is.

They are giving up their own family time and sleep-filled nights.  They are giving away pieces of their hearts that may have been sealed with the belief that trauma isn’t as bad as they once thought or that love can cure just about anything.  They are giving up their own plans and instead, walking step-by-step in the muck and mud of child abuse and neglect.  With each child that comes and goes, they are carrying away with them all that has been poured into them by their foster families.

Yes, foster parenting is a mission field.  And, it should be.

When considering the walkabout of Jesus while He was on Earth, each step He made was a purposeful, mission-minded ministry.  When others advised Him to stay away from people who were considered difficult, misunderstood or downright lowly, He walked towards them.  Did you read that?  Jesus walked TOWARDS them.

When it comes to children, Jesus’s actions in Scripture exemplified how precious they are.  He healed a child.  He set them as an example of how we should view faith.  He cast a demon out of a child.  He blessed them, fed them and in many ways, honored them.  Jesus’s ministry was very-much geared towards children; towards all of us.

When considering becoming a foster parent, it is important to undergo a heart-check – not a physical one, but a spiritual one.  Do you have to be a Christian or believer in a faith in order to be a foster parent?  No, absolutely not.  However, if you feel foster parenting is a ministry and calling in your life, then you have to act like it.

You must choose to be humble even when you don’t want to be.  You have to show resilience, patience and restraint, even when your body and mind are screaming not to.  It is hard.  It is emotional.  It will challenge nearly every aspect of your life, but keep in mind that for some people, you may be the only example of Christ they have witnessed.  No pressure, right?!

The willingness to serve God by loving children and youth through foster parenting is a calling.  The desire to step into the darkness of abuse and neglect and do so because of faith is remarkable.  Foster parents do this.  They step out of their comfort zone and right into darkness.

Yes, foster parenting is a mission field, and an important one at that.

“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of care I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” -Forest E. Witcraft