This is Foster Care

Photo by Fisher Photography

Blog posts have been long overdue over the course of the last several months, but our lives have been a bit crazy and turned upside down in recent weeks. We have a sweet, snuggly little two-month-old living in our home right now, and while I have had so many words about this experience thus far that I’ve wanted to share, I’ve been struggling to put them all down on paper. I’ve shared bits and pieces of our journey through Instagram, but there’s also still so much of our little love’s story that I cannot share nor that I will share because it’s honestly her story to tell, not ours. And out of respect for her biological family too, we want to protect everyone. But in a nutshell, here’s a bit more on what led us to where we are today in our foster care journey…(And if you’ve missed what I’m even talking about, you can read more HERE.)

What we initially thought was going to be our journey toward adoption, we would soon find to be our journey to becoming a foster family. For years we have felt called to adoption (more on that later…likely in an entirely separate post), but it wasn’t until living in California that we started to really learn more about foster care. While compelling, and an amazing way to help vulnerable children in a community so close to home, we weren’t convinced that this was for us. When we moved back home, we knew that we were ready to begin taking the next steps toward growing our family, but didn’t realize what that could truly look like. We went to many adoption seminars and events hosted by various agencies for private domestic and international adoption. We did our research (so much research) and had all the spreadsheets (I’m the info finder, Tim’s the record keeper. 🙂 ). It wasn’t until we stumbled upon an event taking place near my parents’ house where we were staying at the time of us moving back from California (I don’t even know if I’ve ever shared that whole piece of our story!? Maybe one day.) that was focusing on foster and adoptive care, and we thought, ‘why not!?’ I think we really just heard the word ‘adoptive’ but were ignoring the foster care part of it. While at this event, several families shared their beautiful (yet messy and heartbreaking) stories of having adopted through the foster care system while others shared their stories of being a foster family and opening their homes to vulnerable children while standing alongside the biological family and fighting for reunification. Many people instantly think that foster care and adoption are the same thing or that the two always go hand-in-hand, but they aren’t and they don’t. These are two very different things. Sometimes one may lend itself to the other, but certainly not always, and that’s not what the ultimate goal of foster care is. What most people don’t know is that Missouri is not a ‘foster-to-adopt’ state (a phrase you may often hear and that we have been asked about often), but instead, the first goal is reunification with the biological family (when deemed healthy and safe). The ultimate goal, however, is permanency and what’s best for the children in care. All that to say, I cried hearing all of these stories, but we still left not knowing that foster care was the right path for us to take. And yet, in the way that God has of orchestrating things so perfectly imperfect, He continued to lead us down this road and place people with stories pertaining to foster care directly in front of us. Individuals who were foster parents, who were in the foster care system themselves and so much more. I’m talking random people in the grocery store, people we didn’t know incredibly well at church, coworkers, you name it. It was unreal the way He kept doing this to us, and even though we were still saying no, we knew it was time to say yes.

We applied to this local organization whose event we had attended months prior to beginning the training process and were initially told ‘no’ because our age range was too limited. We were open to anything – sex, race, special needs, minor health issues – but our age range was our biggest limitation and was tight due to what we know and what we knew that we could handle, and again, where we felt God was calling us. The need for foster families is far greater for older, waiting children. We know this, and we would love to be able to support these kiddos in the future, but we know that the time for that is not now. (We still feel so young and inexperienced ourselves.) We pressed forward, with faith in knowing that God would lead us where we were meant to be, and we were finally told that an agency was open to taking us so long as we had the capacity to accept placement for newborns. We were in.

After months of training, so much paperwork (so much paperwork!), background checks, fingerprints, physicals, education on trauma, home study visits and all the hard work that goes into the licensing process (and a few more bumps and hurdles along the way because, why not) we were finally, officially licensed. So now we wait some more. The entire world of foster care feels like waiting, and that it is. There were some unique one-off opportunities that were presented to us shortly after licensing, but nothing that ever really panned out, and it wasn’t until after the holidays and into the new year that we received our first call for a placement. We all get so many calls from unknown numbers these days, so you can imagine what it’s like when this happens daily only to answer to hear a recording asking me about my political views. In that time of waiting, I began to grow restless but then reached a point where I had a feeling something was coming. We had a much slower season than our norm, and I felt like God was preparing us for the big changes to come. I kept telling myself to take in the slow season because it wasn’t always going to be that way. The first real call came to my work phone at the end of the day, just as I was about to head out the door. There was a four-month-old baby who needed a home that night. That’s all I knew. His age, his gender and his ethnicity. Nothing more. I didn’t know why he was being stripped from his home or anything about his health or his background. I told the caseworker I would call her back ASAP. In the five minutes it took me to call Tim and call her back (Tim quickly said ‘just say yes, we’ll figure the rest out later…’), another family who had been contacted earlier in the day had also said yes,  and based on their location, it was a better fit. Our lives already felt like they were forever changed in those five minutes. I couldn’t help but to start praying for that baby boy, for his family, for the foster family that would be taking him that evening. It was a lot. And that was just a phone call.

Little did we know that the next baby we would be receiving a call for was born that same week. We received a call for her when she was just 10 days old. I didn’t even call Tim this time. I said yes before the caseworker even began giving me the details, knowing that Tim would have wanted me to do just that. What’s funny was that I had an appointment scheduled during lunch that day that was canceled due to conflicts earlier in the week. That’s when I received the call, that if I were in that appointment, I would have missed. That very night, we were in the NICU meeting her for the first time, feeding her, Tim already changing her diapers. We spent the next couple of weeks visiting her until she finally got the go-ahead to be sent home. I never would have dreamed that this would be a part of our story. That we would be bringing someone else’s baby home from the hospital to stay with us for an unknown amount of time. But that is foster care. You have to be ok with the unknown and trust that God is in charge of writing this story. (Let me tell you how much of a journey this especially is for a Type-A, Enneagram 3 (hand raised high!) – ha!)

I won’t share much more here because her story isn’t ours to tell, and we want to protect her (and us), but we also respect her parents and want to protect them too. We have so much empathy for everyone involved and want to fight for everyone in this. And let me tell you, various reasons make that all really, really hard. It’s messy, it’s complicated, it’s broken. But it’s also beautiful. If we can be the ones to be the joy in this little girl’s life right now, to give her the love and nurturing and the safe space that she needs, we will do that. This isn’t about us. It’s about her, and it’s about what is ultimately best for her. We have absolutely no idea what the future of her story looks like (or ours for that matter). What I do know is that this sweet thing will forever be the one who made me a mama, no matter how long or short our time together may be. This is the kind of love I never really knew possible. So hard and so fast for someone who was once a stranger, so small yet so mighty and fierce. No matter where her story leads, she will always, always, hold a really special place in my heart. Every day with her is truly a gift. I’ve never felt so called to something in life as much as this. I wouldn’t have dreamt this five years ago, but today, it all makes so much sense, and all the details of the story (so many of which still aren’t included here), make everything seem right. And there is absolutely a reason that she is the one who is placed with us today. That we were told ‘no’ to the four-month-old boy less than two weeks before, that we had randomly picked up a few more newborn and 0-3 months onesies that were on sale at Target a few days before the call because we didn’t have much in that size yet, and something said just add it to your basket. I can’t even begin to tell you so many other little things that have been orchestrated throughout this that simply lead back to God.

It’s not easy. None of it is easy. It’s uncomfortable, but God calls us into uncomfortable places for reasons we may not always see while we’re in the midst of it. We’ll be here for this little one for as long as she needs. And plan to spoil her as much as we can every step of the way. I don’t know how people do this without the Lord, because I know that I have turned to him more times in a day every single day since we met her, and while not every day has been easy, I know that He’s got this, and that’s all that we really need.

If you are interested in learning more about foster care, I encourage you to seek local organizations in your community who support children in foster care. There are a lot of ways to get involved, even if you don’t feel called to open your home to children in need. There is also a really incredible community surrounding foster care on social media, especially through Instagram. I hope at some point to do a post to share local resources as well as some of my favorites through the Instagram community and those who have been an inspiration to me and who have provided so much education on this topic. As a starting point, consider taking a listen to Rachel and Dave Hollis on their recent episode of the Rise Together podcast that shares their adoption story. They’ve been through it all, from International adoption to foster care to private domestic adoption. They have a really beautiful and inspiring story, and she was one of the ones I began following years ago (yes, way before ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’) because of their path to adoption and their connection to Los Angeles where we first really started to become more exposed to what foster care is. I also highly recommend seeing Instant Family. The movie depicts foster care in a beautiful and very real way (while also bringing some light and humor into what can be a very dark and emotionally draining world). There are many, many more educational resources that I hope to share at some point, but these are a good place to start.

And for so many who have asked, yes, I still work. We both work full-time and have careers we absolutely love and that are very important to us. Lots of parents work (I didn’t realize how much we would get this question or how many people would balk when they found out that I work full-time and even travel for my job – yup! Do biological parents get this question often too??). We’re just another couple doing the same as biological parents do (although with many, many more appointments, and court hearings and caseworker visits I suppose) while providing for our current ‘instant family’ too. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to write this blog post since day one, especially when the emotions of it all were so high, but it’s taken until now, my first work trip since having her in our home and me having four uninterrupted hours and horrible access to wifi on an airplane to make that happen (ha!). Will we continue to foster for years to come? Will be able to share in the beauty of supporting and standing alongside a biological family who simply needs some extra help and resources for a period of time to get their lives back together in order to provide the best they can for their sons or daughters? Will we help a little one transition into a home where other biological family members live? Will we one day become an adoptive family?  We don’t have the slightest idea, and only time will tell. We have no idea where any of us will end up in the days, weeks, months or years to come, so in the meantime, we’re simply living this wild and crazy journey one day at a time.

#ThisIsFosterCare

Meet Jess!

Meet Jess! Talk about an inspiration. She certainly has been one to me. I had been following Jess on Instagram for awhile and followed along in her journey through foster care and adoption. Timing was almost too perfect in Tim and I venturing through our own (secret at the time) journey of what would soon to be our own future foster care story. Jess so willingly met me for coffee early on in our process and allowed me to ask her open and honest questions about her experience in foster care, and she openly and honestly gave me answers. Answers so real and raw and good that I walked away knowing that we were making the right decision in moving forward with this process. Jess’s story is beautiful, and continues to be so. She’s a mom who has experienced infertility, pregnancy, foster care, adoption, and she’s now got another little foster love in her home and is pregnant with another baby on the way. What a story she has to tell. She is an inspiration to me, and I love following along as she is raising these little ones, each with stories of their own. The pictures of her home are also so lovely! Her words are encouraging, and she brings me hope in knowing that we, too, can do this. Read more about her inspiring story below! 

Name: Jess Stamm
Age: 32

Currently Located: Belleville, IL 

Photo by Clary Pfeiffer Photography 

Describe yourself in 3 words:
genuine, compassionate, introvert

Describe your lifestyle or personal brand and what you do:
I’m currently a stay at home mom to 3 boys (Shiloh is 3, Cedar is almost 2, and our foster son M is 7 months) and also pregnant with our 4th! My life is pretty full in the day to day of caring for my family, but I’m also passionate about child development, education, and foster care. 

What led you to this season of life that you are currently in?
Being a full time stay at home mom is a relatively new season for me.  For the past six years I have worked part-time at our church directing family ministry.  I just recently felt called to step away from that job at the end of June to pursue some new dreams and then we ended up with a new foster babe and also pregnant. So this season for me has been very much about resting in the day to day and figuring out how to use my voice and passions while also being present with my three little ones. 

Did you know that this is where you’d always thought you’d be in life?
Not at all! I’ve always had a passion for caring for children but the ways that have played out in my life have been unexpected! I never really thought I’d be a foster parent! I was definitely one of those people that proclaimed “I’d get way too attached” and not be able to “give them back.” But the more I learned and the more my eyes were opened to the need, my heart just totally changed. I saw how fundamentally important it was for a child to have a safe place, to experience attachment and love, and to heal from trauma.  We began to view foster care not just as a way to gain children for our family, but as a way to give our family for a child. To walk alongside a family experiencing deep brokenness and fight with them for healing and reconciliation.  

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
This is a funny question because my life is so different than I would have imagined five years ago. 😉 I’m also not really a planner or a fan of long term thinking.. ha! (Maybe that comes in handy with the whole foster care thing. 😉 )  But in five years I’d hope to still be in our home with maybe a couple more bathroom renovations completed. 😉 I’d also love to be more involved in the education system in our area in some shape or form…maybe even starting a school someday!

What has been a dream that you have had since you were a little girl?
It’s been a long journey for me to become self aware and confident enough in my own skin to dream big dreams. However, the one thing I knew I always wanted even as a child was to be a mom.  My journey to motherhood looks nothing like I expected but I’m so thankful for the children God has entrusted to me and for the chance to be their mom. Nothing has shaped me more than becoming a mother.  

In what ways do you see yourself inspiring other women?
This was honestly a hard question for me to answer, at first. It can be difficult to feel especially “inspiring” as a stay at home mom.  I’m not running a business and I don’t have a huge platform.  There’s some big dreams that I do have that have taken a back seat for the moment to caring for three little ones. But here’s what I hope any woman would look at my life and find inspiring — there’s so much beauty and value in every season. Your life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s, or even necessarily how you always imagined it would.  Your purpose doesn’t begin when you arrive at a certain destination.  Your purpose is inside you now, and in this season, it’s just up to you to find the outlets.  How can you use your voice today? What do you have to say that only you can say? How can you add a moment here and there in your day to day to pursue your passion? You can’t do and be everything all at once, but there is something you have to offer the world today. 

Who has been the biggest inspiration to you?
Hands down, my husband.  He is always pushing his bounds creatively, always dreaming big, and always inspiring others towards growth as well.   He has always been my biggest cheerleader and the first to call out my talents and passions and push me to pursue my goals. He sees things in me that I don’t always see myself, and has just been so amazing at affirming and encouraging me.  

If you could have coffee/tea/lunch/happy hour with one of your life role models, who would it be and where?
The first thing that came to my mind is coffee with Brené Brown! Her books have been so impactful in my life and I think she just has such a beautiful way of seeing the world and the people in it.  

What are 3 of your current favorite things (books, podcasts, music, beauty products, etc.)?

I’ve been loving The Next Right Thing Podcast with Emily Freeman. It’s been such an encouragement to me especially in this season of transition! 

I’m currently reading Everybody Always by Bob Goff.  The way he sees and loves people is so inspiring. 

I’m loving following Morgan Harper Nichols on Instagram.  She has the most beautiful way with art and words!


Photo by 
Clary Pfeiffer Photography 

Photo by Joy Michelle Photography


Photo by Joy Michelle Photography

I hope you feel as inspired as I do after reading about Jess and her family and her family’s story!

Be sure to also checkout more inspiring women in the series, and if you’ve got anyone else in mind who you’d like to share their story, send their info my way or contact me HERE.

Xo.

Foster the Love

I now interrupt my regularly scheduled inspiring women posts to share a bit of a life update with you.


Foster
verb

1. to promote the growth or development of; further; encourage
2. to bring up or raise
3. to care for or cherish

The last few months for us have looked a bit different than our norm – filled with night classes not pertaining to graduate school, with home studies and new visitors, with more paperwork than was necessary to buy our first house and with learning even more about each other than I thought possible – as we prepare to open our home to foster care and little ones in our community who need a safe space for awhile. I’ve never felt so at ease with the unknown and the unexpected (hello Type-A personality), but somehow, I know we’re exactly where we need to be.

Last week we completed all of the training classes, and if all goes according to plan (what plan!? ha!), we should be fully licensed by next month. But in the meantime, we continue to pray for what God has in store in hopes that he brings children into our home who need us to nurture and love on them in this season. And we continue to wait (and finish up all of our aforementioned paperwork 😉 ).

I say all this now in hopes of sharing this journey with others who may be exploring foster care too. We finally feel that we are at a place where we can be more open about our next steps. While there are so many resources out there (and SO many wonderful people I’ve found within the foster care community – especially thanks to social media), it took us months to find the right resources for us. I’ve been eager to share our journey with you, and while I won’t be sharing everything because there is much that is not for me to share (these stories are those of the kiddos, after all), I do want to be able to share things that will help to educate others as the need is great. Here’s to a new season and the next chapter in our journey. We’ve still got a few more things to be checked off of our list within the coming weeks, but we’re getting close.

“Keep doing the next thing even if the next thing is to eagerly wait for what’s to come…If you expect the unexpected, you’ll be just fine.” -Jason Johnson

#ThisIsFosterCare