5 Ways to Build a Strong Relationship with Your Foster Child’s Parents

Hey there!

Are you a foster parent?  Do you struggle with building a relationship with your child’s biological parents?  This is something that can be hard but not impossible!

I wrote an article about this very subject.  Click:  5 ways to build a strong relationship

As always, I hope this finds you well and encouraged.

Blessings,

Caroline

Headed Up the Hill (Guest Post by blogger Lisa Robertson of “Mess Into a Message”)

Right outside the main gate of Ancient Ephesus, there was a hill that acted as a – for lack of a better word – “baby dump.” It was a pagan society and when an unwanted baby was born, it was dumped up on the hill and left to die. Archeologists have found that often times these babies had deformities – or what our current culture would label, “special needs.” And other times, the child was just unplanned or unwanted. Ephesus also operated with a mindset that required you to live up to a certain standard…to look and act a certain way…beauty = worth. Therefore, if you birthed a baby with special needs, there was a lot of pressure and judgment placed on you.

Sound at all familiar?

With this evil and utterly disgusting practice in Ephesus, ancient writings suggest that early Christians would head up that hill to rescue the babies who were left to die and to adopt them as their own.

Isn’t that a beautiful image amongst a gruesome scene?

Now, I am no Bible scholar and I don’t know much more than that about the background of Ephesus during that time…(a friend and pastor at our local church shared all of that with me) but can you imagine what the culture must have thought? If they witnessed these early Christians trekking up that hill to rescue these “unwanted” children? They must have thought they were crazy. Why would they choose a hard, “against-the-grain” life by seeking after these children and choosing to make them their own?

I often feel that way as a foster parent. Many people don’t “get it.” They don’t get WHY we became foster parents. WHY we choose hard. WHY we would choose to welcome a child that required over 40 medical appointments in his first 8 weeks of life… Or simply why we would choose to sacrifice our time, our resources, our family dynamic for the “mess” of another’s.

Our culture often doesn’t “get” why an expecting family chooses to carry out the pregnancy they’ve been told will result in a still-born baby. WHY the expecting family chooses to bring their baby, diagnosed with Down’s syndrome, into the world when they learned of the diagnosis with plenty of time to terminate. WHY the comfortable family pays $40,000 to head to China to adopt a special needs child. WHY the foster family adopts a sibling group of 5 with trauma backgrounds that will lead them into endless amounts of therapy.

Why?

Because we were once a needy, blemished child on that hill crying out to be rescued. Our Savior heard our cries, and He climbed that hill to come get us.

In Acts, after Pentecost, Peter and John – filled with the Holy Spirit – proclaim the gospel and teach about Jesus’ resurrection. They heal a crippled man proclaiming to have done it in the name of Jesus. The rulers, elders, and scribes were astonished…they recognized they had been with Jesus…but they wanted them gone because they were afraid of losing their power or influence. They talked with each other and said, “What shall we do with these men?” (Acts 4:16)

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They witnessed miracles in the name of Jesus but they didn’t like it. They didn’t want it to be true…it didn’t fit with their culture or nicely into their standard boxes. Peter and John’s boldness threatened their lifestyle. These “Jesus people” were proclaiming to do things in the name of Jesus? With his help and power? What!? Well, that’s just uncomfortable.

Our culture and society today are often uncomfortable with this same boldness. In a world that strives for comfort, the “American dream,” biological children FIRST, adoption as a last resort, “my body, my choice,” and any other comfort inducing mindset…the idea of choosing the hard, choosing to live “against-the-grain” of what is typically acceptable, choosing to love sacrificially like Jesus…is well, uncomfortable and not ideal.

Might we stand against this societal strive for comfort and be people that our society and our culture “doesn’t know what to do with.” Might we proclaim the Gospel in word and deed.

Might we make our local foster care agency not know what to do with us as we step into the muck of foster care and love birth families beyond what makes sense.

Might we make our world around us scratch their heads and not know what to do with us as we literally go to the ends of the earth to willingly adopt the “unwanted.”

Might we make doctors and nurses scratch their heads and not know what do with us as we turn down their offensive offer to terminate and instead lovingly and excitedly choose to carry our special needs child to term and deliver them into this world.

Might we be the people headed up the hill to rescue the blemished children in the name of Jesus and by the power of His Spirit…knowing ourselves what it feels like to be rescued and adopted as sons through Jesus Christ (Acts 1:5).

Might we do none of these things out of charity, but out of love for Jesus.

 

Read more of Lisa’s beautifully honest posts on her blog:  Mess Into A Message Blog

If Your Son or Daughter is a Foster Parent

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I love this picture of my dad and my oldest son sharing a shake when he was just a little guy.  We fostered him for close to two years and we all underestimated how deeply we would fall in love.  We didn’t know how hard the road would be or how complex feelings are when you want biological parents to succeed; yet, you also want so desperately to hold on to the kiddo that captured your heart.  It was close to two years before we were declared his (legal) family and on that day, our entire family exhaled a collective sigh of relief, belief, and appreciation.

My parents absolutely 100% poured everything they could into our children while we were fostering them.  They did so with zero promise that they would be their “forever” grandparents.  Looking back, it seems a bit selfish to have asked them to do this.  Their instant adoration upon meeting our babies was apparent and a bit heartbreaking.  They understood that reunification was the goal but it didn’t make things easier.  They asked “when will you know anything” for months upon months.  Yet, we could not promise anything nor could we give a lot of details.  

With each step, our parents just went with the flow.  I saw the concern in their eyes.  I saw the worry covering their expressions.  Even so, our parents accepted, celebrated and cherished each child and each moment with them as if it would be their last.  

Foster care and adoption brought us closer as a family.  We were stretched in faith and in our worldview about what family means.

We know that FAMILY is more than blood. 

LOVE is not defined by DNA. 

Children are the best GIFTS anyone could ask for, regardless of how they come into your life.

Most people remarked about how hard it must have been for us to love our children without knowing what would happen or how long they would be in our lives.  To say it was hard is quite an understatement.  It was painful, full of worry and just plain exhausting.

Looking back, I recognize that no one really asked how our parents were holding up.  Sure, we were asked a lot.  We were offered prayer and assistance.  Our parents, however, were not.  At least, not to the level that we were.  Yet, fostering is hard for the entire family.

Grandparents (aka – the parents of foster parents) play an oh-so-important role in the life of a foster child.  They attend birthday parties, help out when one is sick, celebrate holidays, bake that special little goodie that the child devours, and nurtures the child just like most grandparents do.  They do all of this even while knowing how devastating it would be to lose the child they have grown to love.  They also do all of this with the knowledge that reunification is a part of foster care and absolutely does happen in a lot of situations.

If reunification occurs (and it should if the biological parents are healthy and able), not only do the foster parents grieve the child moving (even though they are aware this is a reality), grandparents also grieve, worry and wonder about the child’s future.  It’s a loss that is manageable but also life-changing.

Will the child remember them? 

Will they ever see that ornery little girl with dimples in her cheeks or that sweet little boy whose eyes could melt the world again? 

Will that spunky 6-yr-old think back fondly of baking cookies or playing catch with “grandma and grandpa”? 

Will that pre-teen still yearn to hear “grandpa’s” goofy jokes?

Will that teenager call when he needs some advice?

Will they know how deeply they were cherished and loved?

Foster parenting affects the parents of those who foster and anyone else who is a part of the child’s life.

If your son or daughter is a foster parent, you know how it has affected your life.  You have so many questions that have to go unanswered.  Your heart breaks with pain and leaps with joy all within a few days.  You did not sign up for this.  Sure, you were excited and worried all at the same time but you really had no idea what to expect.  You get frustrated, even angry, as you watch your child ride an incomparable wave of emotion.

Your support during the tough times and your willingness to listen is so important.  Of course, a few nights of babysitting always come in handy but at the end of the day, your unwavering commitment to be there during the bad days and the good ones is vital.

Even when you are anxious and angry, you put on a brave face.  Instead of showing your sorrow, you lie in bed at night thinking about the love that has entered your life.  You fear what could happen in everyone’s lives – yours, your child’s and the little one that you adore.

If your son or daughter is a foster parent, I hope you know how valuable you are.  Like our parents and the untold numbers of other out there, your input in a child’s life increases the output of love they will feel.  You matter.

Thank you for loving (foster) children without the promise of tomorrow. 

Just know that what you do for the life of a child can change the course of history for generations. 

This is something we should all be thankful for.

 

 

 

Nine On My Mind

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See that sweetie right there?  That’s my daughter before she came to live with us.  Her first foster mama sent us the picture after it was decided that we would be her new home.  They loved her dearly but made the decision that they could not be a long term home for her (in case she needed one), so we were called.

I remember it so vividly.  As I was sitting in the parking lot of Goodwill (which is a bit ironic), my phone rang.  I saw the number and knew it was our state’s child protection services calling.  My stomach flip-flopped a bit and I answered, “Hello?”.  The social worker on the other line explained my daughter’s situation and asked the words that so many foster families know, “Are you interested in being a placement?”

I told her that I needed to call my husband first.  We agreed to talk about it after work.  After his call, I called my mom for her advice.  Even as an adult, I knew I needed to speak to her.  Technically, we were not even on “the list” for placements but we did tell our licensing worker to keep us in mind.

Thoughts swirled through my head.  “What about our son?”  (He was only two at the time and we had just been through close to two years of fostering him before we were able to adopt.)  “How will it impact him?”  “Are we ready for another kiddo?”  “Can I handle the sleepless nights again?”  “Are we ready to not be in control and unsure of what is going to happen with this little girl’s case?”  “Can we do this?”  You get the point.  It was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

I called the social worker back and asked, “Could we have a few days to work some things out and talk about it before we make a decision?”  She said, “Of course, that is fine.”  So we did…and we said, “Yes.”

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s ninth birthday.  With each of my children’s birthdays, I relive the day they came into my life.  It’s like reliving a birth story but of course, I wasn’t there for their births.  I wasn’t around to watch them enter this big world.  I didn’t get to swaddle them up and hold them close as they cried out, “I AM HERE!”  However, I was there when social services called.  I’ve been here ever since.

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Watching my daughter grow through the years has given us much joy.  It has also come with a whole lot of challenges – some unique to adoptive families, some typical of any family raising a girl.

She’s a bit mysterious, generous, ornery, charming, super strong-willed, and creative.

She’s interested in learning about the world around her and feels every ounce of emotion that enters her mind.  If we can just teach her to harness all of these qualities, I dare think she could be a force to reckon with in the future.

I’ve had nine on my mind; nine years of watching a baby who literally arrived on my doorstep grow into a girl who makes an impression on just about everyone she meets.

Foster parenting is something that never leaves you.  The experience is surreal, emotional and so worth it.  When we began, we had no idea what would happen.  When we decided to close our license, we walked away with a wealth of knowledge, a big dose of humility, and two children who became ours through adoption.

Yes, I’ve had nine on my mind; nine years of loving and training up a daughter who just might change the world.  I know she’s changed mine.

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Happy Birthday, Sis.  Love You Forever.

 

 

Why National Adoption Month Matters

In the US, November is National Adoption Month.  The goals of this month include increasing adoption awareness on a national level and bringing attention to the needs of children who are still waiting for their permanent families.

To read more about this subject, click Why National Adoption Month Matters

November is a special month for those of us whose lives have been touched by adoption.  May we all continue to fight the good fight for children.  May we all seek wisdom in decisions that need to be made and dwell within grace in each and every moment.  Let’s never cease in our efforts to find families for children around the world.

Blessings,

Caroline

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #7}

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Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I remember the first time I felt I could exhale.  I was sitting at a table with a pitcher of water, Styrofoam cup, microphone, couple of attorneys, a social worker, juvenile officer, Judge, and my husband with the twenty-month-old little guy who had stumbled his way into our lives, and our hearts.

The moment the Judge declared him as our son, I exhaled.  I didn’t even realize I had been holding my breath through the year and a half we had been fostering him, but that incredibly beautiful moment seemed to deflate my lungs.

Here I am with two more kids and nine years removed from that pivotal moment, and I’m still thinking about that time back in 2008; the first time I understood what it truly meant to exhale.

You’re still waiting, aren’t you?  You get up each day with the same things on your mind:

“Is a decision going to be made today?”

“Will they let me know the answer soon so that I can prepare?”

“What if the Judge disagrees?”

“What will happen if this child leaves or stays or just keeps lingering along in the system?”

“Can my heart take any more?”

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are not alone in your thoughts.  There are others out there walking a similar path. It’s not an easy one to navigate; although, it is an important one.  Even if others seem to fluff off the gravity of life as a foster parent, you know it.  You live it.  Your life is changed by it and your love dwells within it.

One of the hardest parts of fostering is not knowing what to expect and when to expect it.  It is raw and unbearable at times, yet, it also makes you feel every ounce of what it is to be human and to completely be at the mercy of others.

In many respects, it can be a beautiful experience.  It unveils humility, love, patience, selflessness, and change.  In other ways, it is ugly.  It rips the mask off of hardship, addiction, grief, abuse, and pain.  There is truly no other experience that compares.

I’ve had this thought lately, “Is this what Jesus felt?”  In His walk on Earth, He must have been covered by the pain and the beauty of lost souls; children in need of a Savior.  Just to be clear, I am not comparing the sacrifice of Christ to being a foster parent for nothing compares to what He gave.  Yet, when I think about you, (foster) Momma, choosing to walk with the broken, I can’t help but think of Jesus.

Nothing in my life has had a greater impact on my heart and faith than the time I was a (foster) Momma to a stranger’s child.  On the one hand, I don’t want to go back there; back to not knowing, worrying, and not being able to exhale.  On the other, I would do it all over again…and again.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Anything you do for a child matters.  Despite your own weary soul, keep at it. Stay strong. Don’t let those whispers of doubt take root in your heart and mind.  Even in the moments when you feel like no one notices what you are doing, you know and the Lord knows.

Take a deep breath.  Don’t hold it in.  Exhale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foster Kids Are Not Unwanted Kids {Adoption.com Article}

Foster Care Awareness month has come and gone but the need for a better understanding of the foster care system, and the children in it, never goes away. There are lots of misperceptions and myths circling around about kids in the foster care system; troubled, unwanted.

While some kids in the system struggle with emotional and behavioral issues (given the impact of trauma on a developing child), it is extremely rare to find a foster child that is not wanted by someone. Here’s the link to an article I wrote about this subject:  Foster Kids are not Unwanted Kids

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Blessings,

Caroline