Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Foster Care ~ One Year Later

Last fall I asked a friend of mine, Jenna, to write a post about her and her husband’s experience as they entered the world of being licensed foster care parents (you can read that post HERE). At the time, they had only been licensed for 4 months, and although they were new and green, God was already teaching them so much about His heart for orphans. Today marks exactly 1 year of the day their first placements walked in their front door. I asked Jenna to write another post so that we can all get a glimpse into what their past year has looked like as first-time foster care parents. Here is the update….in Jenna’s words…..

One year ago today, I received a phone call at about 11:00am telling me there was a sibling group of 4 that needed an emergency placement. The lady on the other end said, “Don’t worry, you can just choose 2 if you’d like.” At the time our own kids were 3 years and 9 months old, so we decided to take the 7-year-old boy and the 4 year-old girl. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t believe I just told this lady yes! This had been something we had thought about during our whole pregnancy with Mya and in my mind was still in the future. It suddenly became REAL. About 3 hours later the doorbell rang and in walked two brown eyed kids, looking so afraid and in need of haircuts and baths real bad. And so began our journey into the world of foster care.

SO much has happened since that day that it’s hard for me to narrow it down and put it all into words. I first want to start by saying GOD IS GOOD! I knew I served a God that was big, but I don’t think I really understood that…and sometimes still don’t…until we laid down our lives and said yes to Him. I can remember sitting in church a while back and hearing one of our pastors talk about how their foster kids were moving to Texas with relatives and how hard that was - but he didn’t want that to stop anyone from doing foster care. I can clearly remember sitting there thinking, “There is no way I could ever do that.” And I was right. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” Psalm 55:22. So far on this journey, the times I try to do this in my own strength, I fail. I want to pull my hair out and wonder what in the world we were thinking. But when I go back to Truth and the promises that God will sustain me and His purposes are great and perfect, I can go on. My hope is not in my abilities, but in His promises and in His strength.

Anyone who knows me knows what an emotional person I am. I didn’t want to do foster care because I didn’t think I could possibly go through the heartache of attaching to a child and then letting them go. To add to that, I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ my own kids and take away from our family. To be completely honest, these are fears I still had when I said yes to the lady on the phone a year ago. We didn’t wait to ‘feel’ fantastic about the decision we made or wait until WE thought it was right. Scripture is so clear on what our role is as Christians when it comes to taking care of orphans. James 1:27 ~ “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows IN THEIR DISTRESS and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” Psalm 82:3 ~ “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed.” So we said yes because we could not avoid the truth that we are his hands and feet and in this age, foster care is a practical way to lay down my life for God’s bigger picture (1 John 3:16). Our fears were unfounded and not from God. We have in no way ruined our children. We have added to our family, not taken away. Our son uses the term ‘foster mom’ like he knows what that means. It’s normal for them and they love having new people at our house.

Another truth God has been showing me is that my kids are no more important to Him than children who don’t have parents and children who are in these horrible situations because of the foolish choices their parents have made. He created them and loves them, just like he does my kids. It’s not a ‘my kids versus our foster kids’ situation. We are a family and we have included these kids into our family, just like Christ did for us when we become one of his children.

So what has the last year looked like practically? Well, “J” who is now 8 years old, walked in our front door looking like a stereotypical orphan. He had zero confidence in himself. He didn’t trust ANYONE. Hoarding was a way of life for him. He craved and requested any fresh fruit or vegetable he could get, which was crazy to me because Max, my son, only requested chips and apple juice. I’ll never forget the first night when we said it was bed time. They both looked at us like we were nuts and couldn’t believe they had a set bed time. “J” has had the most emotional damage and continues to have a long road of healing ahead of him. About a month ago, after months of praying and different situations, “J” moved in with another foster family to be with his oldest brother. So we had to experience our first goodbye. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that was anything but HARD. We had come to love this boy so much. He drove us nuts at times, but we had invested a lot into him and he had grown SO much. He gained so much confidence in himself and started to take pride in what God had given him and was understanding the gospel and loved to read his Bible and go to church. He went up 10 reading levels in first grade. For the first time, he had a structured home with a bed time and 3 meals a day. And if he could have it his way he would literally eat all day :)  I’ll admit, as I was packing his room up I was a complete disaster. The kid who I was afraid to let into my house, I suddenly didn’t want to see him go. Where I once had fears my own kids would feel neglected, I was now fearful they would miss “J” too much and wouldn’t understand why he was leaving. In the coming days I found so much peace knowing that Nate was still going to meet with him a couple times a month and that God had allowed us to share truth with him and that God is the one who saves souls, not us. We had been obedient to this one child and now I had to let him go and trust that God’s plan for him is going to be more than I could have imagined myself. He will always be a part of this family and we will always pray for him!

“A” is now 5 and is still with us. It’s hard for me to even call her a foster child anymore because she is such a part of our family. She was the favorite child in her former house of 4 other boys and she knew it. She had been taught that if she threw a fit, she would get her way. So teaching her different behavior has been very challenging, but she is a completely different little girl today than a year ago. She still tries to throw fits to get her way, but will usually stop when she quickly realizes that it won’t work :)  She is just starting to understand the gospel and the very simple truth that God is ALWAYS with her and she does not have to be afraid. God is still writing the story in the lives of these kids and what their future holds. We don’t know yet what will happen, but we know that God is in control and I have so much peace that the God of the universe is in control of their lives and our family. "Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s decree will prevail." ~ Proverbs 19:21.  Deuteronomy 7:9 ~ "Know that Yahweh your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commands."  We can do foster care because we serve the God who is. I can depend on Him on the really hard days and give thanks on the really awesome days. I don’t want to pretend that this is not difficult. It really is difficult. It’s hard to see such extreme brokenness and feel completely helpless. It’s hard to watch kids suffer because of choices their parents made. But I can look back on this last year and see how time and time again God was faithful. I can look back on days where I thought we were crazy and see that in fact, this is what obedience looks like. In their distress we chose to love and take care of these 2 kids and we will continue to do so. We have seen the need and we cannot turn our eyes from that.

The need in Story County alone is HUGE! Even if you got licensed and only did respite care for foster families needing a break, that would help. The body of Christ could easily meet and surpass this need and allow these kids to not only have a chance on this earth, but to have an eternal hope in Christ.


*     *     *

As Jenna noted, if you live in the Ames, Iowa area there is a very HIGH demand for foster care homes right now. The licensed foster care families in our church are receiving many phone calls a week for placements. Another foster care family in our church, The McCollough’s, recently posed this thought –

Imagine the impact on our community, country, and the Kingdom if the church could step forward and provide every foster bed needed.

For that to progress from imagination to reality, more families need to become licensed for foster care. Why should believers in Jesus consider becoming a licensed foster care family? Tim McCollough, foster care dad in our church outlined the following reasons…

Because the State of Iowa will:
*Deliver the poor, abandoned, orphaned, abused, and/or needy to your doorstep.
*Expect you to care for them in their distress.
*Expect you to share your life with them.
*In most cases you have access to minster and serve their family as well.
*Pay you to do it.

Seriously, if you are a Christ-follower – this is a major ministry opportunity, let alone a command from God Himself. Children and families in our community are suffering in despair, searching in all the wrong places for peace and fulfillment, and are desperate for hope, for some good news, for a friend, for a role model. And many children, plain and simple - need a mom and a dad. Christ-followers, LET US be the ones to step in the gap and provide for these needs.

There are two offerings of the PS-MAPPs training sessions (foster care preparation classes required for licensing) scheduled in the Ames area in the near future. The 10 week sessions start:

-November 6, 2012
-March 13, 2013

The process to become licensed begins online at Iowa KidsNet.


mlscheppler said...
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mlscheppler said...

Janel, (Jenna and Tim),

This post is excellent! I have been interning at Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association and have learned so much about foster care recently! I was recently updating our contact list and was excited to see how many families from Cornerstone were on that list...but also couldn't help but think how awesome it would be if that group from Cornerstone was larger! (obviously there are other Christ-followers that I might not have recognized their name :)
Recently this has been weighing on my heart as I hear the heart breaking stories of some of the "not so good" foster parents. What an impact it would cause on this community if more and more Cornerstone (and Christian) families became foster parents!