A Fostering Mission: A Family Interview

Thank you, Jamie for sharing with us a little bit of your family’s story and for taking the time to share some of your thoughts based off of your own personal experience. 

Introduction: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

My husband James and I have three boys, all of whom we adopted at birth through private agency adoptions. Our oldest son is 7 and our 3 year old and 1 year old are biological brothers.

What led you to pursue fostering and/or adopting a child?

We knew before we were married that it was possible that we would not be able to have biological children and were always open to adoption. We discovered after some time that we were correct about our infertility and decided to pursue adoption. We wanted very much to be parents, but we had no interest in fertility treatments.

What path did you and your family take (Fostering, Foster-to-Adopt, International Adoption , Domestic Adoption, Kinship, etc) and what led you to take that path?

We explored fostering to adopt for our first adoption, but the system was overwhelming and frustrating to us as first timers. We chose private adoption through a local agency who were able to walk us through all of the steps without confusion.

Q4: What thoughts and/or experience do you have concerning open adoption?

Our adoptions are all semi-open to varying degrees. We send letters and photos to both birth parents and we were able to meet the birth parents of our youngest two boys. I love that we get to communicate to these dear parents. I believe it is as much for the benefit of our children as it is for the birth parents. If at some point our kids are reunited with them when they are grown, I believe it will help in developing a relationship. As with most parents, I want the very best for my boys and I pray that if future reconciliation and relationships are a part of what is best that I would be able to do everything in my power to help facilitate that.

If someone came to you wanting advice on whether to move forward with the process of becoming a foster home or adopting, what would you tell them?

Do it. Don’t be intimidated by paperwork or wait time or cost. It is possible and it is hard and it is wonderful. Adoption is full of grief and joy and pain and blessing for everyone involved. It is a gift that is worth any hardship.

People are afraid they won’t bond with a child that “isn’t theirs”, they fear a child won’t bond with them, they fear loving a child and then having that child ripped away from them. What would your response be to these fears? Do the rewards outweigh the risks?

Fear is normal in adoption. But isn’t fear normal when we approach anything that is unknown or difficult? I can’t guarantee that you will bond with your child or that your child will feel bonded to you. But I think you have to weigh out your reasons for adopting. Adopting is always in part selfishly motivated– we are looking for what we will get out of it. That may sound harsh, but after reflecting on our reasons for adopting and talking with many other adoptive families, I have come to the conclusion that there is always that selfish component. But there is almost always more to it than that. We want to offer love, share the grace we have been given, be a family to someone who needs one. Weigh those things out– I would guess more often than not, the other things outweigh the selfish things and our fears begin to change. Will we be able to make a postive difference in the life of a child, whether it is for a short time or a life time? If so, isn’t it worth the risk, even if it might be painful for us as the parents? There are no easy answers to the questions surrounding adoption. But we pray and we ask God to search our hearts and know our thoughts and we go from there.

 

As a foster/adoptive parent, what are some ways you feel people around you can better support you?

At the beginning, when we were waiting and filling out paperwork (and waiting some more) I think the most supportive people were those who asked questions about the process and how they could pray for us. And throwing a shower or celebration is a big yes!! At this point though, now that we are done adopting, we just need the same support that any parent needs– a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, someone to laugh with.

Do you regret entering the world of foster care and/or adoption? Why or why not?

Not ever. It has opened our eyes even further to the beautiful gift of being adopted into God’s family and has given us a glimpse of the way He looks on us with a love that is incomprehensible.

 

A Fostering Mission: A Continuation

Last week, I kept my blog’s focus on foster care/adoption awareness. I shared with you all some of my own journey of thoughts, information, and real-life stories of families who have said yes to fostering and adoption. Let me just say, I am so incredibly excited about the great interest people had on these matters…especially the interest that people had in wanting to see and read the thoughts of and advice from families who were in the thick of it. I am especially excited to share that, thanks to a great friend, I have many more families who want to open up and share their stories with you as well.

I hope their stories will continue to bless you and will inspire us all to see how we can do what we have been called to do. I hope their stories will show that even in brokenness – hope and redemption can be found. I hope their stories will, ultimately, point you back to Jesus and the gift of rescue – the one so freely given to us.

Yesterday morning, I attended the launch of a new state initiative called Oklahoma Fosters. The governor has teamed up with the Department of Human Services in creating this program to help end the foster care crisis in Oklahoma. Governor Mary Fallin stated – “There are nearly 11,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system and we desperately need the hold of our entire community to care for them. These children are in state custody through no fault of their own. They need foster families to love and support them during their time of need.”

The call is not to do what is easy, but to do what is right.

Among the special speakers at the launch of this special initiative, there were three that really moved me.

  1. A young girl, at the the age of 17 stood in front of a podium and spoke to a room full of people – many of them strangers. The room was still when she spoke. There was such strength and courage exhibited by this young girl as she opened her heart and shared her story. A story that started tragically with a drug dealing father who was murdered when she was four to a drug addicted mother who taught her to lie to social services when concerned teachers or neighbors called in reports. Her life just continued to spiral in a downward motion. Then, at the age of 15 something changed – a family stepped in. You can click here to read more about this family and their mission.  
  2. The other speaker whose words pierced every heart in the room, came from Chris Campbell, the executive director for the Tulsa 111 Project. He was there to represent the faith-based community. I truly believe that if there is anyone who can rally the Body of Christ to come alongside these children, it is him. 3. Finally, there was the National State Party Director of the Republican National Committee, Matt Pinnell. He shared his family’s story and how they came to be a foster family. I was particularly convicted when he began sharing the many excuses he and his wife came up with initially to not foster…ones I have heard often whispered in the church circles; ones I have thought or uttered myself. I appreciated his honesty in sharing where they were to where they are now in their fostering journey. These three statements of his stuck with me: 1. We (Christians) need to quit talking and start doing. 2. It (being a foster family) changed our lives, it enriched our lives. 3. The outcome is God’s responsibility, the obedience is ours.   I am encouraged by the direction the state of Oklahoma is heading. I am hopeful for the many children who are waiting for someone to reach out and help them begin their redemptive story. I am, now, even more convinced that God has placed a passion and desire in my heart to be a part of the change for these children.

If you would like a chance to share your foster/adoption story, please email me at – chroniclesofakeeper@gmail.com . I would love to hear from you!

A Fostering Mission: Family #3 – The Jones Family

Today is Orphan Sunday and in my own teeny-tiny way of wanting to say “yes” in answering the call to care for the children spoken about in James 1:27, I focused this week on sharing thoughts, information and also, real-life stories of families who stepped in and said “yes” to a child. The more stories I read and the more information I dug into, the more the prick in my heart began to be felt. This week, I I was constantly reminded of my own rescue that is found in Christ. I began to really see the greater picture that is involved in and through foster care and adoption – the one that has grace, redemption and restoration woven all through it.

Today, I am so excited I get to share with you thoughts from one of my dearest friends. Because of confidentiality, I will not be using first names. Do know, that the answers are hers and are a true reflection of this family’s heart. I am happy to be able to share their heart with you.

Family #3 – The Jones Family

I have only known this sweet family for about two years, but in these last two years…wow. I hear people talk about fellow believers being their “brother” or “sister” in Christ and since knowing my friend, I have come to a much better understanding of that term. The more I get to know her, the brighter the light that is inside her glows. Her and her husband have not only humbly stepped forward and accepted the call to care for children and shine the love of Jesus into their lives, but through their acceptance of this calling they have, in turn, pointed all those around them to the rescuing and redemptive love of Christ. I have been humbled by their acts of sacrifice and love. You can’t be around them and not feel the love Jesus has for all His children. The words in Micah 6:8 – “…To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly…”, those are words that flow from the lives of this family. I am so honored to be their friend and am so glad I am able to share a little piece of their story. 

Q1: What inspired or led you to get involved in foster care and/or adoption?

We felt a call to foster and/or adopt before we even got married we had several discussions about it. Once we were married, and 7 years of infertility, we pursued adoption and foster care. God tells us to take care of the orphans and widows, we feel it is our calling to help care for the orphans and we have tried to humble ourselves to be used in that way.

Q2: What, if any, were some of the things that made you hesitant in choosing to foster/adopt?

Some family members were not exactly excited at the thought of us fostering or adopting. And then everyone you meet that finds out the news suddenly becomes an expert because their mother’s neighbor’s sister had such and such happen, and it was awful, and you know they can take the baby back after they go home with you for adoption….everyone is usually overly excited to share every bad story they have ever heard.

Q3: How long have you been a foster/adoptive parent?

Our son, who we adopted at birth through a private agency in Oklahoma, is 8 years old. I was the first one to hold him after delivery. We have and are so thankful for having an open adoption with his birth family. He knows who they are and we see them throughout the year. So we have been adoptive parents for 8 years, we have been foster parents for 18 months.

Q4: If someone came to you wanting advice on whether to move forward with the process of becoming a foster home, what would you tell them?

If you feel God has placed a call on your life to foster or adopt then do it! Be willing to do the hard time consuming work of educating yourself on the differences of parenting children from “hard places”. All foster or adopted children are from hard places and, to some degree, will have emotional scars that will last forever. Learn how to create a safe environment where they can begin to heal. They were harmed through relationship and they will heal through relationship.

Q5: As a foster/adoptive parent, what are some ways you feel people around you can better support you?

We have had a lot of support from friends and family. Some things that have helped us tremendously – are meals when we accepted placement of our babies, offers to clean our house, clothes being donated, a crib donated, and a friend getting certified to be respite care so she can drive our foster daughter and or keep her overnight. One thing that EVERYONE can do is be understanding of our kids and understand they won’t always act perfect, things happened to them before birth (in our case) that affected the development of their brains. They will most likely process things differently and that’s okay, just do not judge them or the way we choose to parent them. Help us create a culture of grace and forgiveness.

Q6: What is one of the biggest misconceptions you feel is associated with a child in foster care?

That they are messed up and beyond repair. The truth is these kids are from hard places and are scared beyond belief. Its gonna take some time to form relationships. Its gonna take some super hard work on the foster parents part to help them heal. It’s a sticky mess you get into, it’s not pretty, and there will be tears (from everyone)…and that’s okay. God can take that sticky mess and redeem their childhoods.

Q7: What one piece of advice/encouragement would you give to a new foster/adoptive parent?

You can do this! Pray a lot! Drink some extra coffee or Dr. Pepper…you will need it! Endless home visits by caseworkers, agency workers, CASA workers, bio family visits, dr. visits, family team meetings, paperwork, paperwork, paperwork (and all of this is AFTER getting approved and AFTER having all those homestudy visits and other paperwork done, along with having to have physicals, and being fingerprinted for background checks.).

But…Get ready to watch amazing things happen.

Trust God, don’t be afraid to meet the birth family where they are, and remember – it’s your job to advocate for the child first and foremost.  Remember to validate the fact that the children will grieve the loss of the biological family no matter what surrounded their removal of the home. Help the kids be ready to heal. There are some amazing resources available on creating attachments with kids, use them, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Find a foster parent who’s been down the road and is willing to mentor you. Churches have support groups, join one. Its okay to not know it all if you are a willing learner. Most of all trust God, He has a plan.

Q8: What are your thoughts about becoming a foster/adoptive parent while having biological children still living at home?

I do not have biological children so I can not specifically address this, however, we adopted our son and waited 7 years to begin fostering/adopting again. It changed my son for the better. It is the gift of interruption.The world is no longer centered around him. He had a degree of this before we started fostering/adopting again, but I think it’s good for kids to watch us live out God’s command to take care of the least of these. To show them how to extend grace to others in a very real way – that includes the foster kids and also their birth families. Also, be willing to bridge the gap if they do happen to return, it’s ok for our kids to see that our families don’t have to be ‘set in stone’.

From the very start of our foster care journey, we said – we will love this baby girl (or any other kids placed with us) for as long as possible. We will fight for their best interest, we will show them what it’s like to live and function as a family, and show them that they have someone fighting for them…because, they are worth it, not for what they can do, but for who they are. We will include them as family in every sense of the word. God did not call us to live comfortable lives that show no real sacrifice.

Sacrifice can look different for many of us, but I feel that so often we are willing to do the seemingly big stuff – like going on mission trips here or abroad, but we are not willing to live out daily sacrifices to help the kids who are right here and live 3 miles away from us. We are not willing to love families that don’t look or act like our families all in the name of “protecting” our kids from people like that or kids like that. I believe we all need to protect our kids from harm, but helping them to learn to extend grace and love to those around us is what God called us to do.

Q9: People are afraid they won’t bond with a child that “isn’t theirs”, they fear a child won’t bond with them, they fear loving a child and then having that child ripped away from them. What would your response be to these fears? Do the rewards outweigh the risks?

This is such a huge question, the number one by far comment we get when people learn we are foster parents, no matter if we are in Target or church, is almost always…”I could never do that” or “I could never give them back”. Let me start by saying, I get where most of you that are saying or thinking that are coming from. If you told me today they were taking my foster daughter, we would be devastated. But here’s the deal, its not about US! She did not pick this for her life – to be taken at birth and given to strangers. A 7 year old certainly would not choose to be picked up and taken to some strangers house in the middle of the night, or to be taken to a shelter, or to have to sleep on the office floor of the DHS worker because there are no open beds in the few foster homes willing to take them. She is not MY child, ultimately she is God’s child. He allowed her to be placed in our family.

All children, biological or foster or adopted, they are all God’s children. It would devastate us if we had to “give her back” into her birth family’s care. However, we signed up knowing that was a very real possibility and we had the understanding that we would love her for as long as possible. We bridged with her biological family, so if she did go back to them, we could continue to love them and her just in a different capacity. We were placed with her and did the hard work of creating a secure attachment with her so that if she were to leave our care she could re-attach to another care giver. We wanted to set her up for emotional stability later in life.

Bonding and attachment is a huge concern for most people, and with good reason, there are so many things that have happened to these kiddos before coming into care. They ALL come from hard places and will have emotional scars that will last a lifetime. Even my son, who I was the first one to hold him, has emotional scars. There are things that happen while the birth mother is pregnant – some as simple as poor nutrition, or inactivity, or as extensive as fetal alcohol syndrome and drug exposure. There are so many classes that are available to help you and the child learn how to form a secure attachment. The bottom line, is it won’t be easy. None of it is easy, these kids did not pick this path but God can use us if we are willing to redeem the situation. The same God who redeemed us – sinners, hopeless, unforgivable can do amazing things if we answer His call.

Q10: Do you regret entering the world of foster care/adoption? Why or why not?

No, we do not regret the choice we made to foster and adopt. So many times God has used situations related to our experience with adopting two children and fostering one (who we should be able to adopt this December) to show us His love, faithfulness, and redeeming power. God has used all of these years to draw us closer to Him. We have learned so much on how to advocate for our children, whether in the court system or at the doctor’s office. Our children are precious, not because they are our children but because they are God’s children – created in His image. They have worth because of who He created them to be and we get the amazing privilege to help them discover those truths as they grow!