I have several friends who have opened up their home to foster children…many have even adopted some of their foster children. I’ve watched my friends struggle, hurt, be completely worn out, and continue to love on these kids.
I am absolutely convinced that being a foster parent is not for everyone. But, since we’re talking about how we as women can minister from our homes, I asked my good friend Tana to share her story with us.
For those of us who do not choose foster parenting, at least we can be made more aware of how we can pray for those who do.
My husband and I spent 8 years fostering. We have adopted 2 children during the course of those years. Our oldest child is 25 and our youngest is 9.
We thought we were done having children when our biological children were 3, 14 and 16. I had read an article about children in orphanages in Romania and was literally brought to tears for the condition of these babies. I spent 2 more years praying for the safety of our next child and doing research on adoption. Eventually we decided a less romantic, but more feasible way to adopt was through the state’s Fos- Adopt program.
We finished foster parent training classes on a Friday night and I told the caseworkers I wanted a baby. They practically laughed and told me, “Tana, we rarely get babies, and if we do, they’ve been badly damaged.” I went home feeling very discouraged. But God is good, and on Monday morning we got a call that a newborn baby boy was to be dismissed from the hospital and needed a Fos-Adopt home. We scurried around trying to find things for a nursery and they brought a beautiful baby to me that very day.
Now am I going to leave you with that beautiful happy moment? No, sorry, that only happens in the movies. I soon came to realize that fos-adopt did not mean easy-adopt. The way the state works for children in foster care was far from my romantic dreams about adopting a child. We spent the next 3 years fighting for that baby’s life with us. I walked the floor with him at night praying for his future. During the days I wrote letters to the Governor, legislature and legal figures. The Lord had answered my prayers, but not without holding me to the fire for His purpose.
I wanted a quick adoption, but God had other things in mind for us. While we waited we had several opportunities to promote change in the laws governing foster care and adoption in the state of Nebraska.
We went to court date after court date, right up to an appeal with the Nebraska Supreme Court before our adoption was complete. That baby’s middle name is now Samuel which means, God has heard. He has never been hurt outside of a skinned knee. He has never seen a drunken or psychotic parent (okay, briefly psychotic), and he has never gone to bed hungry. He is a well adjusted, happy little boy.
We went on to foster more children and to adopt one more time. The second time we adopted an 11 year old girl that had been badly damaged. After the adoption that we thought would make her feel secure, she was suddenly threatened by her permanency. She has severe reactive attachment syndrome, which love and security is not enough to heal. For 2 years we tried different methods to help her attach. Her behaviors became increasingly alarming and dangerous for herself and the other children. She fought the adoption, fought the idea of having parents, and continues to fight all those around her that want to help her.
My heart, is of course, broken. She is in a residential treatment center now, and will probably need the structure of that kind of care for a long time. I am sad that she will not accept what we have offered her, but I am reminded that God adopts all of us. Even though we are given everything we need, we sometimes reject Him and refuse that love. But he stays constant.
When Laura asked me to write about our ministry in fostering I had some reservations to say the least. We no longer foster. All of our energy is put into getting services for this child who will not be loved. I found myself wanting to say “Don’t do it!”
But God did not call us to second guess what he asks us to do. I had to remember that the Bible says, “All things work together for good for those that love the Lord.” Even though I do not understand how the problems we are facing in our life right now can be woven together for good, I believe what He says, and I trust that this too will work together for Him. Because of our earlier trials, I have been refined, possibly to make me strong enough for this battle. So of course, I said, “Yes, I will write an article about the ministry of adoption and foster care!”
I would like to tell you that this is a ministry that we all should do, but it is not. It is a ministry for few. It needs to be approached with much prayer, and full knowledge that the road is a rough one. Adopting and fostering are often heart wrenching, full of fear and disappointment along the way. I have also come to realize that it is a journey that requires rest as well. Deciding to stop fostering was just as prayerful for me as beginning the journey.
One of our biological kids has Asperger’s Syndrome, which also requires much from us. I now home school him and his brother. I struggled to give myself permission to stop fostering and focus on the children who God has entrusted to me. The nature of fostering is so exhausting that few do it for a life time.
It is important to know your limitations if you decide to foster, it is okay to say no to caring for a child that is beyond your ability to help. Your own children must come first. Position in the family must be preserved by choosing age mates and gender wisely. You must remember not to choose children who can victimize your children in any way, because you can’t take it back if an innocent is hurt. You must protect your mate and not put him/her in a vulnerable position. And you must nurture yourself as well as others.
There are other ways to help kids in need without fostering. Some of these include being a CASA (court appointed special advocate), providing respite care for foster families, being involved in the Big Brother program, and speaking out when you see an injustice in the system.
We still have former foster children that call us or stop by from time to time, because they care about what we think. Many of them have gone back to the dysfunction they began with. Some have been adopted by another family or relative. Others have aged out of the system and have children of their own.
Sometimes we feel that what we did was for naught, but I cannot tell what God will decide to do with the seeds we planted. Sometimes all we could do was to show a child that there was a better way, a way that involves God in our decision making, and solving conflict without drugs, strife and abuse. We hope that someday they will remember a family that showed God to them a long time ago.
In Christ, Tana