It’s Foster Care Awareness Month. To be honest, I wouldn’t have known that if we weren’t a foster family. But I’m thinking, for those of us living in SoCal, it would be good for us to start paying more attention because Los Angeles has the highest number of foster children in the NATION!
Thirty-thousand kids are currently in the foster care system in LA. I had no idea before I started this journey. Our sweet foster daughter is from LA, and they called us because NO ONE WOULD TAKE HER – This is common. There are not enough foster families in LA, so the overflow calls get sent to Orange County and beyond.
On a side note, she just turned one and we couldn’t be more in love with her!
I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like– if I’m worried how it will affect my kids, and how we’ll feel if she is reunified with her bio parents. I’ve found it’s common for people to misunderstand what foster is and assume we “get to keep her” now that she’s been placed with us. I shared many of the same misconceptions about the system before we started this journey, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the subject.😊
I’m attempting to keep this non-emotional (not a typical blog post for me!), and as informational as possible. However, this is how I perceive the information based on my personal experience with foster care thus far. Also, when I approached my Facebook Foster/Adoption group with the questions of misconceptions, there was a much longer list than what I’ve included here. This blog is just scraping the surface of a deep and complicated subject. But I will say, for the sake of complete transparency: The system is incredibly broken.
Misconceptions about Children in Foster Care
Foster care means adoption.
I’ve had well-meaning, precious people say, “Congratulations” …not understanding that a kid who has been removed from their bio parents by DCFS, was taken because they were in danger of, or were being neglected or abused. However, the goal of the foster care system (judges, attorneys, social workers, therapists, investigators, rehab centers, parent educators, foster families) is to reunify these precious kiddos to their biological families. Adoption is the last resort and a result of their biological family not being well enough or safe enough to take them back home. For most of the foster families I know, if the adoption took place, it took two to three years to finalize. I have friends who’ve had children living with them for two years, and then they reunite with their biological family.
2. Parents who have their kids taken by DCFS really don’t want their kids.
In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. The court has given them a “case plan” designed (in theory) to provide them with the tools and healing to be the parents they want to be. I’ve heard many foster families say they wish they could take in the biological parents into their home, too. They need love and a family to support them. Unfortunately, with a large percentage of foster youth parents having been in the foster system themselves, that support is usually not set in place. And let’s be honest, no social worker, attorney, judge, or therapist can replace the healing power of a loving family, leading a child to a loving God.
3. Once you have a foster child in your home, you won’t have contact with the biological family besides court dates.
Biological parents are usually granted visitation with their children (even if they are in jail or rehab). We started with seeing our foster daughters’ mama four hours a week, then it was increased to nine hours a week. Some foster agencies will transport and monitor the visitation for the foster family. We, however, have been responsible for transporting and supervising the visitations for baby girls (until recently). The parents have court given time to work on their “case plan” and towards reunification–attending visitations and bonding with their children is typically part of that plan.
4. Foster families are emotionally stronger than other families.
The number one comment I receive is, “I don’t know how you do it, I would get too attached.” Guess what? I am super attached. I’m no different than you, no foster family is. We aren’t stronger than anyone. Surrendered, yes. Strong, no.
If you are a person who would get too attached to children in foster care, then guess what?! You’re the perfect candidate to be a foster parent. Attachment is what these kids need.
Things you may not know:
*Statistics from CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)
It means so much that you’re taking this journey with me.❤ I’d love to send you a FREE SEVEN-DAY DEVOTIONAL: CLICK HERE FOR DEVOTIONAL
Some say there’s no God, no hope, no love, nothing we can do to bring change.
But, I’ve seen the images.
When I look into my brother and sisters eyes, the eyes of my children and foster daughter,
The eyes of my neighbor, no matter the color, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, or social status…
I see images.
The images of God.
And images have power.
Power to pray. Power to protest. Power to preach. Power to love. Power to plead.
I admit it’s a hard time to navigate. Liking a Facebook post won’t bring change. I am inadequate to speak any authority over the situation because I have SO very much to learn. But as I cried for my foster daughter’s future, her precious mama and father, I prayed God would show me what to do. Here’s what he pressed on my heart-
We have a God-given, Spirit-led power to raise an anti-racist generation.
Have the hard talk and holy talk in your home tonight, with your friends, your husband, your children.
Not just once. But over and over.
We are living, breathing images. Let’s bring change.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 NIV
“In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ.” Galatians 3:28-29 MSG
I turned to Aaron last night and said, “If she goes home in April, I don’t think I’ll survive it, baby.”
Taking my hand, he said, “We’ll get through it.”
The depths of human emotion are astounding. As soon as you reach the bottom of the well, your soul strikes a geyser, emotions rush to the surface, shattering the limitations of how you thought you could ever feel, or give.
The number one comment I’ve received after becoming a foster mom is, “I could never do that. I could never love a child and then give them back. It would be too hard.”
I know some of you’ve said those very words to me. You know the first person to say this to me?
About a gazillion times before you opened your mouth, so don’t sweat it. I’m pretty sure my head will pop off like a Barbie doll when/if she isn’t with us anymore. So…there’s that.
I try not to think of that.
Oh, yes, sweet friends. You’re right, it’s hard.
Loving a child like they’re yours, but they aren’t is like trying to settle untamed land. I’m unsure which attachments to let grow wild and where it’d be wise to put up some fences.
Is she supposed to call me, mommy? I’m not her mommy.
What do I say when someone says, “Congratulations”? She’s not adopted. In fact, she’s with us because of traumatic circumstances.
Knowing we’ll probably only have her for a season; the knowledge breaks and heals, gives and takes away. I don’t know how to feel, so I feel everything. It’s fascinating and difficult. Please, pray for me.
Some days lunge at me like a ginormous octopus. Emotional tentacles are yanking my gut, trying to reach a new understanding of what God’s love is really about. How can it spread in so many directions at the same time, with the same purpose? Is it even possible for me to love like him?
I promise I’m trying. I’m finding I don’t know how to successfully love my foster daughter, her birth mama, her birth daddy, her paternal grandma, the two social workers, three investigators, three lawyers, and the judge equally.
Somewhere down the line, I’ve come to believe that if I love one too much, it will interfere with my love for the other. What if I love too hard, will the wells eventually dry up? I don’t want to find myself cracked and parched, unable to love brave again.
The word tells us, “For God loved the world, that he gave his only son,”(John 3:16)
In other words:
He loved, so he did a very hard thing;
He loved, so he gave what was most precious to him;
He loved, so he endured.
He loved, so he hung, his lips cracked, his mouth parched.
The veil was torn. His body was buried. But it wasn’t the bottom of the well.
When the world thought Jesus hit rock bottom, a bigger rock rolled away, and the fierce love of God rose up.
I’m learning we can’t put boundaries and borders upon God’s love. We’re the ones slapping labels on His callings: Too Hard. Not Worth It. I. Just. Can’t.
Of course, we can’t! Love wouldn’t be holy if we could accomplish it on our own. Only through Jesus, “For in him we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
After our last failed adoption, I was convinced a piece of me would never feel again. I was wrong. The death in that experience gave birth to a new depth in me I didn’t know existed. Under the surface of that suffering was an understanding that God’s designed us for more. More perseverance, more strength, more wisdom, more hope, more fight, more courage, and abundant love.
He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
We’re made in the image of God. So our love story on earth should look a bit like his.
Because he loves, we’ll do hard things. And because he’s with us, we’ll get through it.
I’d love to travel the globe with my kids. I imagine we’d get lost down colorful alleys, pop into every restaurant oozing with the smell of butter and spice…but right now, we spend most our time at soccer practice, and in the school drop off lines. It’s our life stage and I adore it. But I long to instill a sense of passion for the world and all God’s created into my children. Teaching our children to pray for the world is a powerful act of love.
God’s entrusted us with the upbringing of eternal souls. If we desire these precious souls to be world-changers for Jesus, they’ll need a love for its people, because “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). How do we do this?
This is one tradition that’s brought us a step closer to God’s heart; one small way to start loving on a global level. I pray it inspires you to have some meaningful fun this summer!
how to teach our children to pray for the world
Choose! Each week we take turns choosing a country on our world map. We have a map that you can scratch off the color of each country as you go, but I also love the idea of sticking a colorful pin in a cork map.
Pray! After we’ve chosen a country we open up our book, “Operation World: The definitive prayer guide to every nation” by Jason Mandryk. I can’t emphasize how I cherish this book. Here you’ll find all sorts of interesting nuggets about the country. My favorite – the most urgent prayer needs. This is what we focus on. Whatever those prayer needs are (poverty, persecution, government corruption, child exploitation, orphans, lack of natural resources, etc.), we include them in our family prayers over dinner. The book also includes a section of answered prayers for each country!
Give! After our eyes have been opened to the immediate needs of others, the heart is always moved to action. If one of your kiddos shows particular interest in the need of another nation, help them research an organization that they can support through their allowance. My kiddos have even set up lemonade stands in the past to raise money for water wells in Africa.
Cook! We chose recipes from our chosen culture and cook meals together. This can be a beautiful mess at times! Some of my major #kitchenfails include Russian borscht and Ethiopian injera (Yes Eli, I’m sure I followed the recipe. No, I don’t know why it doesn’t look like the picture!)
Learn! We go to the library. I let the kids run amuck and grab whatever books they can find about the country. It’s so fun to share with each other what we’ve learned after we read our books.
Have fun! We plan a fun movie night. If your kids are older, you can choose a documentary. The library has great choices for documentaries for littles too! You don’t have to get super serious about this. When my kids were babes we totally counted “Beauty and the Beast” as French culture (ya know, because of all the baguettes and bonjours in the opening scene). You’re making the effort, no one’s judging you!
Here’s the point: Taking time to learn and pray for others around the world, demonstrates to our kids that we should care; we should care about hearing people’s stories who are different than us. We should be intentional to understand the needs of the world outside America. Our children won’t learn to cultivate a love for all God’s people if we don’t model to them that it’s the heart of Jesus.
here are some resources to help teach your children to pray for the world: