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.