This week our guest blogger is Julie who shares with us about her experience as a foster parent.
If you had asked me 18 months ago when my husband and I were having kids, we would have told you that we weren’t. We didn’t want children. It wasn’t in our plan. We liked our freedom, our quiet, and our dogs. So much for that.
There was a family that had been attending our church for quite some time. They struggled economically and there had been several questionable situations that suggested something serious and foul was happening within the household. On the evening of Easter 2014, I got a phone call from one of the kids that the family was in a homelessness situation. They were being put up in a hotel for the week until a more permanent solution could be found. One of the seven children (we’ll call her Kiddo) needed a way to get to and from school, and since she was one of my teens I offered to let her stay with us. Her school was on the way to my job and, after all, it was only a temporary situation.
In less than a week we were approached by DCFS and asked to be foster parents to the teenager we had taken in just a few days before. They explained how difficult it is to find homes willing to take in teenagers. I texted my husband a short novel about what was going on and he responded with one simple word. Absolutely. The first day was an absolute whirlwind. We are not licensed foster parents. We are acting as godparents, so we are able to foster as relative caregivers. There was seemingly endless paperwork, background checks, home inspections, and an ER visit all within the first couple of hours.
The last 13 months have brought many surprises.
- I didn’t realize how many people that I knew had been involved in foster care. There were people from our church, other students at Kiddo’s school, people just kept popping up out of the woodwork. It has been really amazing to me the number of people who have been involved as fellow foster parents, or who had family members who were foster parents, or who had volunteered or worked in some aspect of the system.
- Working with teenagers, and parenting a teenager are two very different things. All respect in the world to parents of teenagers. Seriously, you guys are amazing.
- Navigating the foster care system is like a roller coaster. It is full of ups and downs. Things can change in an instant, not just day to day, but even hour to hour.
- The rights of the parents are often calculated before what is in the best interest of the child. There is a phrase I have grown to detest in the process called “minimum parenting standards.” The ultimate goal for children in foster care is to be reunited with their family. The families are offered a variety of services to help correct the situations that got the kids into care in the first place. If the state can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the parent is unable to meet these minimum parenting standards, at that point the goal changes to adoption or independence depending upon the age of the child.
I have been reminded throughout this process how God calls us to this important ministry of foster parenting. Just as we have loved and taken Kiddo into our home, God has loved and taken each of us into His kingdom, and He calls us to do the same. “He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight” Psalm 72: 13-14.
I was not prepared for how discouraging and emotionally draining foster parenting can be. Sometimes it feels like we, as foster parents, are the only ones fighting for these kids. Maybe it is because we have the daily contact with them. We are with them through the big and the small. It has challenged me to rely on God in new and deeper ways than ever before. God gave me a verse that has stuck with me over the last several months. It’s Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” When I am consumed with worry for my Kiddo, I am constantly and consistently reminded to simply trust.
It has been a crazy process, but we are so glad we could help Kiddo and her family in this way. We are even considering becoming licensed foster parents. If you have ever considered foster parenting or foster to adopt, I recommend it. I would not trade a single minute of it. If you are unable to foster, please pray for children in the system, for their foster parents, for their biological families, and for the caseworkers and judges who are making the decisions that will impact the lives of these children forever.
Trusting as the moments fly
Trusting as the days go by
Trusting Him whate’er befall
Trusting Jesus that is all
-Simply Trusting Every Day by Edgar Page Stites