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.

 

 

 

Be Bold {let your light shine}

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I wish I could tell you that it is “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” (as my 5-yr-old likes to say) to parent children who have been adopted or to be a foster parent.  I’d love to say that once a child enters your home either for foster care or adoption, all problems go away and it’s just downhill and smooth-sailing from there.  It would be fantastic for me to declare that I never second-guess myself and that we are all about lollipops, rainbows, and laughter.  However, if I were to say any of these things, my words would be false.  They would not bear a truthful witness to what it is to be a parent through adoption.

A few months ago, I started praying/speaking these words to God, “What do you want me to do with my life?”  “What do you want from me?”  One morning while praying, I heard the words, “BE BOLD.”  A little startled at the immediate response, I asked, “What do you mean?”  

“BE BOLD.”  The words were clear, concise and not complicated.

Several months have passed and to be honest, I just kind of ignored this answer.  I know the Lord told me to be bold but it was just too simple of a declaration.  I am a detail-oriented person and the two-word response to my prayer just didn’t cut it.

With the dawning of a New Year, the Lord’s answer of “Be bold” has never strayed too far from my mind.  I wonder, friend, if His words are not only meant for my ears but also for yours.

For prospective foster and adoptive families, you need to know that being bold is imperative.  It’s more than just declaring an injustice in what you are witnessing.  It requires a stillness of faith AND a movement of courage.  

Being bold, in the sight of others who do not understand, is necessary.

When you are asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”, be bold.

When people say to you, “I would never subject my own kids to that”, be bold.

When you are quivering in fear over what is going to happen with a child you love, be bold.

When you have the opportunity to love on biological parents, please, by all means, be bold.

Foster parenting and adoption both have this funny way of knocking people to their knees.  We fall down time and again, but we get up.  We wonder what we are doing and why in the heck are we doing it, but we keep on.  In the face of many obstacles and trials, we stand up.  We are bold.

When parenting children who come from extremely difficult situations, we learn of our own blessings and our own stumbling blocks.  Their histories collide with ours and we realize how different life could have been for us if we were handed down the same hardships these children have been dealt.

I know the saying of “What would happen if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s fine and everything but I like this version better:  “What would happen if you were bold?” 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold… -2nd Corinthians 3:12

How could your courage and boldness literally change the course of a child’s or adult’s life?

What would your boldness show to children who look up to you?

How could you make an eternal difference for someone?

What if you took that darned thing called infertility, grabbed it by the neck and said, “No. I’m not going down that way”?

What if you become a foster parent and take in kiddos that absolutely soak up your love and attention?

What if you step outside of your preconceived comfort zone and foster a large sibling group, older youth or ones with special needs?

What could happen if you decide tomorrow to wake up declaring that boldness is the only way to live?

We are well on our way into 2018.  We don’t know what we will have to face or overcome as the year unfolds but let’s live this year with a boldness that leaves an impression.

Shine your light, friends.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

 

If you are considering foster care or adoption, my wish is that fear would not stop you.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth.

Goal for 2018:  Let others see that boldly living and courageously loving is a remarkable way to live.

Question:  How are you going to live boldly this year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Could YOU adopt a teen?

The is a great need for families to foster and adopt older youth.  It is a constant challenge that those of us in child welfare deal with.  During various recruitment events and other types of meetings, we often speak about how long too many kiddos, age 12+, are lingering in the system.  The challenge is to get people to understand that older youth in the system are just as “adoptable” as young children.

I get it.  My husband and I fostered infants.  This was our desire.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It still fulfills a need.  However, as we get older and as our children age, IF we were to ever foster again or adopt, we would absolutely consider older youth.

Could YOU adopt a teen?  Maybe so.  Here’s an article I wrote for Adoption.com regarding this very subject.  Click this link to read more:  Could YOU adopt a teen?

Blessings,

Caroline

“Kids Who Need Love the Most Often Ask for it in the Most Unloving Ways”

I’ve heard the quote, “Kids Who Need Love the Most Often Ask for it in the Most Unloving Ways” (Russel Barkley) more than once.  I never really understood it until I began my own parenting journey many years ago with a relative of mine.  Now, as a parent to three children who all have some special (yet not obvious) needs, I totally understand the essence of this quote.

Recently, I was asked to write about this subject for Adoption.com.  (By the way, if you haven’t visited the site (www.adoption.com), you should.  It is a fantastic site for pretty much all things related to adoption.)

For more on the subject, click this link:  Kids Who Need Love the Most

As 2017 comes to an end, I hope you all find yourself surrounded by love, encouragement, and hope.

Blessings,

Caroline

Teens Need Families, No Matter What

Hi there!  November is almost over with and Christmas is on its way, but we still have a few days left for National Adoption Awareness Month.  This year’s theme is “Teens Need Families, No Matter What”.  It is such an important theme and speaks of the reality of older youth in the system who are waiting for their permanent families.

To learn more, click this link for an article I wrote about this subject:  Teens Need Families, No Matter What

Wishing you all well!

Blessings,

Caroline

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.

 

 

Stand Sunday {EIGHT things YOU can do to take a stand for foster children and foster parents}

 

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Next time you are at church, take a look around at the empty seats.  Imagine if those seats were filled with foster children who were being taken care of by members of the congregation.  Wouldn’t that be an awesome sight to see?

This coming up Sunday (November 12th) is “Stand Sunday”.  Stand Sunday, an initiative of Orphan Sunday and The Christian Alliance for Orphans is designated as the day where churches are asked to take a stand for foster children.  Ultimately, the goal is for there to be an abundance of appropriate foster homes to meet the diverse needs of every single child in the system.

Not everyone is able to be a foster parent, but everyone can do something to help.  There are many ways that you and your church can take a stand for foster children.

Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Foster care is a mission field and the church should be involved.  As a church, reach out to local child welfare agencies and request ways that you can help them out.  Do they need volunteers for special events?  Donations of certain items?  What needs could your church fill?
  2. If foster parents attend your church, offer them a “parents night out” by providing childcare.  Each state may have different processes for approval; however, this is not an impossible task to achieve and the families absolutely need it.
  3. If you are a foster parent or work in the field, ask your pastor about guest speaking.  Eek!  I know that sounds really scary but only you can provide the kind of insight needed to get the message across.  (You can do it!)
  4. Sometimes, all it takes is for people to be aware of the magnitude of an issue before they get involved.  Ask your church if it would print a little blurb about the facts, numbers, and needs of foster children in US foster care system and add it to the Sunday morning pamphlets that are distributed when people walk through the doors.  Knowledge is power!
  5. Start a meal train for new foster families.  There is nothing more chaotic than the first week or so of a new foster placement.  Often, these families become instant parents to two or more children of different ages and with varying needs.  Cooking dinner (unless you count boxed mac-n-cheese/not judging at all) is the last thing on their minds.
  6. Think about your own talents.  Are you a great photographer?  Do you have a teachable skill set?  Are you a retired teacher or coach?  If so, use your talents and experiences to tutor and mentor youth in care.
  7. Just be present.  I know that sounds a little cheesy and all but nothing feels better than knowing one is heard, loved and supported during the good days and the bad.
  8. Pray!  Seriously, Church.  Pray without ceasing for children in the system, for their biological parents, caseworkers, Judges and juvenile authorities and for the foster and relative homes who are all on the front lines of battling child abuse and neglect.

I’ve worked in child welfare for close to 17 years.  I fostered for four years, as well.  I sure wish the demand for my job did not involve child abuse and neglect.  I’ve worked with far too many kids who have said, “No one cares”.

Church, it’s time we show them we care. 

It’s time we take a stand.

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

Fostering/Adopting a Child Who Comes from an Abusive Home {Adoption.com article}

Hello there, friends!

If you have considered fostering or adopting but you are unsure about bringing children who have experienced abuse or neglect into your home, here’s an article I wrote regarding this very topic: Fostering/Adopting a Child Who Comes from an Abusive Home

I’m away on vacation with my family for this week, but as always, if you have questions feel free to use my Contact Me page and I’ll be more than happy to respond to your queries and concerns.

Blessings,

Caroline