I know not everyone has a husband that has so much access to youth in need like I do. In fact, outside of our adoption of Justice, every single person who has stayed at our house for long periods of time have come through the means of my husband’s youth basketball program (and the Kingdom Hoops hosting program with Ghana). So, I think our situation is pretty uncommon. For that reason, I asked a friend to write a guest post for our blog regarding foster care, which I am posting below. For all intensive purposes, I feel like Jake and I are doing ‘unofficial’ foster care parenting in some sort of strange way. There are a lot of similarities, and I think that is why my heart gets so excited to hear about foster parenting stories. For those of you out there who feel that you could be a blessing to youth in need by opening your home, you may need to take steps to head directly into the path of those who are broken. Signing up to become a licensed foster care parent is one way in which you can do that. For those of you living in Iowa, that journey starts here: http://www.iakids.org/
Also, there is NO COST to become a foster parent. Everything is funded through the Department of Human Services. WOW! Adoption through foster care is also completely inexpensive compared to traditional adoptions through an agency. I might have another post coming up soon about adopting through foster care.
So, below is the post from our friends, Tim & Christy McCollough. This post was actually written for their blog last fall after a group of us were able to speak on adoption and foster care at our church’s family ministry. This is a synopsis of their speaking segment….if you go to the audio message that she refers to, you will also get to hear Jake and I speak on our adoption journey, as well as a few others from our church, and also a family’s experience on hosting a student from Rosebud.
On Foster Parenting and Adoption by Tim & Christy McCollough....
Two weeks ago Tim and I were given the opportunity to speak on a panel about foster care and adoption at our church's family ministry meeting for parents. I thought I would post a rough script of what we said for any of you who might be interested. If you'd rather listen to the talk, visit our church website, scroll down, and click on the talk entitled Adoption and Foster Care 11/17.
We were asked to share why we decided to become foster parents, why we are considering adoption, what some of our initial fears were, what has sacrificial love looked like in our situation, how has God come through for us.
Why did you decide to do foster care?
Early on in our dating relationship, we went to a conference down in Texas with The Salt Company, called Destinations. The emphasis of the conference was missions, specifically on following through on the call God gave to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3. (God blessed Abraham so that he could bless other people through him.) Since then we have felt strongly that we have been blessed…so we should be a blessing to others, and have prayed for years together about what that would/should look like.
When we read passages like Luke 12:48, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more,” we see ourselves in the category of those who have been given much, and we know that because of this, God expects us to use our resources for His glory and His kingdom, rather than simply our own comfort and pleasure.
About 3 years ago we moved here, and bought a 4 bedroom house even though we were a family of only 3 at the time. Tim really wanted to fill up the extra basement bedroom, with a college student renter or something. I (selfishly!) really just wanted an empty guestroom!! One Sunday at Cornerstone there was a flyer in the bulletin about a foster care meeting…and the Holy Spirit did a number on my heart. I mentioned the idea (very hesitantly) to Tim, and he took the idea and ran with it. A few weeks later we were signed up for training.
Why are we considering adoption?
Two years ago I (Tim) came across an organization through a Facebook friend that had an incredible mission statement and general philosophy regarding what a Christian response should be to abortion. “The Zoe Foundation exists to further the cause of adoption as a positive alternative to abortion in America.”
Randy Bohlender, board member of The Zoe Foundation and missionary with The International House of Prayer, explains it like this: "…in order to truly be "pro-life," we should be willing to step up and provide a mother considering abortion with another option for her child. Mothers who are considering abortion will be much more likely to listen to the gospel message from us, as believers, if they see us willing to put our actions where our mouths are, and not just tell them to give their babies life, but offer to raise those babies for them."
We love that this group doesn't just place children in homes, but seeks to place them in believers' homes. They don’t just take care of the physical needs of orphans, they also share the gospel with them and their mothers, and help take care of the needs of these mothers who choose life. They work alongside churches…who should be leading this charge rather than the state!
All along, the primary driving conviction that has been leading us to prayerfully consider adoption is the simple fact that in order to truly be "pro-life," we should be willing to step up and provide a mother considering abortion with another option for her child. If abortion truly were eradicated, 3700 babies would need a home EACH DAY in the U.S. Are we willing to say, “please don’t abort your baby, we will take care of him or her?” Which is why these words from Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life have really resonated with us:
"Mothers who are considering abortion will be much more likely to listen to the gospel message from us, as believers, if they see us willing to put our actions where our mouths are, and not just tell them to give their babies life, but offer to raise those babies for them."
"Not every believer will stand praying outside an abortion clinic. Not every believer will take a pregnant teenager into his or her guest bedroom. Not every believer is called to adopt children. But every believer is called to recognize Jesus in the face of his little brothers and sisters when he decides to show up in their lives, even if it interrupts everything else." (p 81)
"What if a mighty battalion of Christian parents would open their hearts and their homes to unwanted infants--infants some so-called "clinics" would like to see carried out with the medical waste? It might mean that next Christmas there'll be one more stocking at the chimney at your house--a new son or daughter who escaped the abortionist's knife or the orphanage's grip to find at your knee the grace of a carpenter's Son." (p83-4)
What were some of your fears going into it?
Our main fear going into foster parenting was the effect it would have on our biological children: that a foster child would injure or abuse them, or influence them in negative ways, by modeling bad behavior, bad language, or by taking away our attention and causing them to act out.
We prayed a lot about this, and talked a lot about this, and primarily it came down to us taking a step out in faith and trusting that God has an even greater vested interest in protecting our children than we do. And knowing that it is SO GOOD for our kids to grow up witnessing us sharing our faith, and living our faith, by caring for these kids, every day of their lives. It became as much of us doing foster care for the benefit of our own kids, rather than in spite of what it might ‘do to’ our kids.
In addition, we try to make wise decisions about what kinds of kids we take in. We’ve said ‘no’ to probably 25 out of 30 calls from IowaKidsNet over the last year, asking us to take children into our home, either because the timing wasn’t right or we weren’t equipped to handle their specific behaviors, or because they didn’t match our preferences. We choose to only take girls, since we have young girls. We feel it wouldn’t be safe to expose our girls to older boys who may try acting out physically or sexually towards them. We also don't take kids who are physically aggressive, or fire-starters, to name just a few of the things on our list!
Our other fear was that we would take a child in who would act out or not do what we asked, and we would have no idea how to handle it. And honestly, this happens all the time! But God continues to give us the grace we need for each and every situation. We are in totally over our heads right now, but we have friends and family rallying around us, helping out where they can, and it has driven us to our knees in prayer. It’s exactly where we are supposed to be. Time and time again, when we are overwhelmed, things just “work out.” God clearly has a hand in that.
What has the idea of sacrificial love looked like within your situation....i.e. what sacrifices has your family had to make to do this? (And how God has come through for you?)
Foster parenting is definitely inconvenient. We have less free time. We are expending more emotional and mental energy than we normally would have to, trying to meet the needs of the teenage girl living with us. Our personal space is invaded. Our kids have had less sleep, and thus, so have we. We have been stolen from, lied to, cussed at, disrespected, insulted, and our personal property has been damaged. Logistically it’s one more mouth to feed. (It’s more work for cooking, but the food is paid for since state foster/adoption situations are subsidized. If you are at all considering adoption but really really can’t afford it, this is a great place to start!)
Most notably, we’ve brought spiritual warfare into our home. As soon as our current placement moved in, (who is most definitely not a believer in Christ,) our 3-year-old daughter’s night terrors ramped up like never before. It has driven us to our knees in prayer. Every night now, after they are asleep I sneak into Audrey's bedroom and pray over her, out loud, in the name of Jesus, and over our house, and for Norah, and for our foster daughter, not because I just want to, or feel like I should, but I have finally realized that I NEED to. And Audrey’s night terrors have stopped. It has been such a great, physical, in-your-face reminder every day that we are in a battle, on the front lines, in fact; and it is not against flesh and blood. And the souls of children are at stake.
Daily this experience is helping to refine us. We are learning about God’s unconditional love for us as we attempt to show these kids (who have never experienced even normal human parental love or stability), not only healthy love and normal family dynamics, but the unconditional love of Christ.
This current experience has really driven home some of the messages from the 1 John series that our church is currently studying. For me (Christy) it has been convicting to be face to face with the reality of loving someone who doesn't necessarily love me back, every day. And to daily ask God for, and rely on Him to provide, grace to me so that I can offer grace to her. And I have finally started to realize what God sees in me, a sinner, and yet He loves me anyway.
For me (Tim) it has been a lesson in learning a little bit about what it meant for God to sacrifice His own Son for someone that was not in His family, and who sinned against Him every day. It is also a chance to live the heart of Jesus out in front of these kids, many of whom have been burned by hypocritical Christians for their whole lives. We have the chance to fulfill Jesus' commandment in Matthew 25:31-46, to feed, clothe, and invite ‘the least of these’ into our homes, every day. And we are finding out that our lives are impacted as much as theirs are. Foster parenting truly has taught me the Gospel anew. These children, when they first come into our homes, don’t love us, don’t know us, and don’t really want to be there. We are making (small) sacrifices in our lives to try and love them. And it is hard. It is easy to love my wife and kids (most of the time), but to love a stranger, who doesn’t want anything to do with me, is a whole new story… and yet that is exactly what God did for us.
"You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Rom. 5:6-8
If you think about it, we as Christians should be ashamed that the state foster care system even exists. We (the Church) are the ones called to care for the orphans and widows. (James 1:27) In neglecting this command, we have left this work to a secular world. (And as a sidenote, isn't it interesting that this passage about caring for orphans comes immediately on the heels of James' admonition to be doers of the word, not merely hearers who delude themselves?)
There are on average 3,400 kids per month in foster care in the state of Iowa, and 600 kids waiting to be adopted. According to Google, there are 3528 churches (of all denominations) in Iowa. You do the math. There are a lot of foster parents out there who are great people, but they are not believers. Think of the impact we could have on the kingdom of God if Christians stepped up to this task!
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To hear more from Tim & Christy, you can follow their blog at http://tim-and-christy.blogspot.com/ To read more of their segments on foster care go to the labels section on their side bar and click on Foster Parenting.