Friday, January 31, 2014

Our Foster/Adoption Journey Part 2

So after we had the girls, we were left drained, empty. We weren’t sure that fostering was right for our family anymore. We considered checking it off the list; been there, done that. Maybe we'd answered the call, and that was all He asked of us. But God didn’t let us off the hook that easily. In early 2013, my Bible studies kept convicting me. Children without homes or families continued to burden me. I would look around our house, which God provided so clearly for us, and I knew it wasn’t meant for just the 5 of us. I gave God some parameters for the next kids: older than Kendall, foster to adopt (no chance of reunification), basic kids, only 1 or 2.
Mark still was uncertain but wanted to do something, so we continued to be inactive but opened up to do respite care (which is taking care of foster children when the foster parents need a break or have plans that they cannot take the kids with them).

Something amazing happened on February 28, 2013. I’ll never forget that night. I got a call from a first grade teacher who attends my church who I hadn’t met before. She told me about a first grader in her class who was in a foster home in the neighborhood next to ours. His foster family was moving out of state, and he was going to have to go to a different home. His teacher was trying to find a way to keep him in her class. She asked if we were willing and available to take him. Even though he was outside of the parameters I’d set up (still a foster placement with the possibility of reunification), the timing seemed right. I told her I’d have to talk to Mark. I wasn’t sure how he would respond. But he said yes, and after meeting and talking to his foster mom, D moved in with us during Spring Break. He was with us for 7 months, when he was reunited with his father. He is such a special boy, and I am SO thankful that we had those 7 months with him, even though it was much shorter than we would have wanted. He enhanced our lives, and I am certain we made an impact on his life.

We also did respite care during that time. We took in a 12 year old girl and her 13 year old brother two different times. We really felt a connection to them, and for the first time, began thinking about taking in older children and teenagers.

After D’s placement, we decided to look into foster to adopt placements again. Various signs have continued to point us to adoption over these years. We considered a few foster placement calls in the fall of 2013, but none were the right fit for us.

Then, on November 14th, we got a call for a 6 year old boy. We were told he was “legal risk”, which implies that parental right aren’t terminated but are expected to be. Yay, we thought! This one will be a keeper! We said yes, and he came at 1:00 am that night. After a few days, CPS changed their tune about intending to terminate rights, and he only ended up being with us for a month before he was reunited with his mom. In spite of the disappointment, we still are glad for the time he was with us. I pray we made a positive impact on his life.

So that was a month ago, and since then, we have focused on seeking adoptive placements via TARE (Texas Adoption Resource Exchange) and bulletins our agency sends out. We have submitted on a few, with little result. Our agency also submitted our home study to the San Antonio adoption unit for adoptive matches. But we’ve had to resolve ourselves that because there are so many channels to go through, this is a slow process and may take some time. It’s frustrating knowing that there are so many children waiting for forever homes and here we are: a family ready and willing to take them. I see calls to action on social media, and it hurts my heart knowing that it is what we want but nothing is happening!

But we trust that God’s plan, timing, and matching is perfect, and we put our faith in that. He has not failed us yet. We also know that His heart is for these waiting children, and He sees them and loves them and will not fail them.

On January 16th, God revealed to us something we never would have expected. Stay tuned for that story. It is still playing out as I finish writing this…

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Our Foster Care/Adoption Journey Part 1

It’s hard to decide where to begin. We are just your basic, average, all American family. Mark and I got married 16 years ago, with big dreams of having a life and a family together. We were both raised in Christian homes, with loving parents who raised us well. 

 In 2002, we welcomed our first son, Riley. Oh, what a blessing he was! Being his parents gave us purpose and a new perspective. It was also during that time that we got plugged into a local church and our faith started maturing.

In 2005, we had Tyler, our second son. It was during my pregnancy with him that I sensed God calling me to quit my teaching career and stay home to raise my boys. Even though it was clear God wanted this for me, I resisted. It was an extremely difficult transition. We struggled financially during this time, but God always provided. We learned to trust Him, even in the challenges. I also began growing spiritually during this time through Bible studies and MOPS.

In 2008, life was better. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary that summer, Riley was in school, Tyler was potty trained, and we were doing ok financially. We thought our life was good and sensed God telling us that our perfect little family of 4 wasn’t complete. We discussed having another child and decided to try.

That fall, Mariah Wilde from Family Link Foster Care and Adoption Agency, came to talk to our church about the need for Christian families to foster and adopt children in state care. It got my attention, and Mark and I talked about that as an option for growing our family. We decided to think and pray about it.

God gave us our answer in 2009, when we found out we were expecting Kendall, who was born in January 2010. She was another joy and blessing! She is our one and only baby girl. Fostering and adopting was still on our hearts, but we focused on raising our children. Somewhere in that time, Mariah came back to our church. What I remember about that was that there was a slideshow of children waiting to be adopted and one of the pictures was a baby girl named Kendall. I knew it wasn’t a random thing.

Finally, in 2011, we decided to go for it. We started our training with Family Link in the fall of 2011 and were licensed as a foster/adopt home in December 2011. We really always wanted to adopt but decided to be willing to give fostering and emergency placements a chance.

Our very first placement came on December 27, 2011: an 8 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. We had them only 3 weeks before the court ordered them to be placed with their grandma. We learned a lot from that short placement. It was challenging, it was stressful and emotional, but it was good. Loving them for 3 weeks was the right thing to do. It was worth it, and we were affirmed in continuing this path.

But it also gave us clarity. We were living in a 1600 square foot house with only 3 bedrooms and a tiny backyard. It was very cramped for 5 kids. We have learned a lot about being wise with our finances and trusting God to provide for our needs, so we began to pray about a larger home in a wise way. We made a wish list for an ideal house for us and gave parameters of what we could afford. It was a tall order; seemingly impossible to find.

But God provided! And it was even better than we hoped and imagined. I’ll tell that story another time.

After we moved we reactivated to foster, and in September 2012, we accepted a placement of 2 little girls, ages 2 and 1 (our Kendall was 2 ½). They had been in another foster home, so when we got them, their reunification date was already set. We had them for 3 months, when they were successfully reunited with their parents. This placement was extremely difficult for our family. The little girls required a lot of attention (to put it mildly), and it left us feeling like failures. After they went home, we questioned the call to foster. We considered checking it off the “to-do” list and moving on. We went inactive to reconsider, regroup and pray.

But God didn’t let us quit…
(Part 2 coming soon)