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Mission Field

Well, our home seems a lot emptier these days.  Our very short-term first placement left quite a mark on our hearts!  Now we are in the position where we again wait for our next placement.  Every time the phone rings, we jump to answer in hopes it is a placement call.  So what do we do in the meantime?

The answer is quite simple and clear and today as I pondered this, I quickly realized the answer was right in front of me all along.  We will serve HIM while we are waiting!  So how do we serve the Lord in this area of our lives?  Well, we truly believe that we have been called into foster care.  We have no intent only serving as foster parents, rather we want make a difference and impact as many children in the foster care system as possible.

Last evening we attended our Empty Chair Orphan’s Ministry meeting.  The intent of this meeting was to generate ideas of how we could serve in all areas of orphan care.  There were so many amazing ideas generated and it was awesome to see what God had for us.  Leaving the meeting quite satisfied that God’s plan is unfolding before our eyes in caring for orphans we began to have quite a conversation in the car ride home.

From the time I was a little girl, I imagined nothing else in my life other than being a teacher.  To me, teaching is a noble profession and I really couldn’t imagine anything else for myself.  Now, here I sit in the passenger seat explaining to my husband that although teaching is and will always be my first love, I feel drawn now, more than ever into a new mission field.  In one way or another I will find a way to answer this call into foster care on a much deeper level.  While I am not sure what that looks like at this moment, I am certain that God will reveal this master plan in HIS timing!  So again, I will serve Him while I’m waiting!

One thing that has been placed heavily on my heart is how we care for children when they are removed from the home.  Often times when children are removed they are handed a trash bag and their belongings are packed into them.  To me this is so very unacceptable on so many levels that it keeps me up at night crying and dreaming of ways I can change this.  There is a level of respect, dignity and integrity that must remain intact at all times in this process.  These are children, they perceive things that we cannot imagine and we owe it to them on every level to care for them and their hearts!  It is a simple cause, but one that sends a message loud and clear.  They are not trash, and they do not deserve to place anything into a trash bag other than trash!!!

When our first placement came to us, his belongings were brought in two plastic grocery bags.  My heart broke and I was thankful that he was oblivious to this as far as we could tell because of his age.  When we were instructed to pack his belongings on the chance that there would be an immediate reunification, my husband and I insisted that he not go back with grocery bags.  So off to a local discount store we went to purchase a duffle bag for his belongings.  It was the right thing to do and it did not go unnoticed!  We didn’t to this to be noticed, we did this out of respect for this child.  It was that simple.

So in this mission field we have felt lead to change that practice.  I must say this.  It is not the fault of protective services that this is the practice.  I truly believe that it is often convenient and easily accessible for each case worker.  As we looked at the various types of bags available, we were excited to find a nice sized duffle bag housed in a nice little zip bag pouch.  It was perfect.  What was more important is that it was something I thought would be extremely convenient for case workers to carry in their car.  They literally took up no room and were perfect for all children big and small.

So, what’s next?  Well, between my husband and I have been awarded a grant and had won an additional monetary donation to get us started with this idea.  We are in the process of creating donation letters, seeking discounts and other donations to fill these bags with some comfort items for each child that has been removed.

We haven’t quite come up with a name for our project, but we are still seeking one as we would like for this to become an ongoing project.  It seems that every name we have come up with has been taken in one way or another.  Although this is not as important as getting those bags into the hands of the children, we still feel strongly about naming it properly.

For those of you that read this blog and know either my husband or I and want to be involved or donate, drop us a call, email or text.  We would be honored to have you be a part of this journey.  For those of you that read this blog but do not know us, please feel free to send me a message through the blog and we will make arrangements for donations.  If you are reading this blog and you are in another part of the country, we encourage you to check into this and see how these children are impacted on the simplest level.  Once you know the needs, we encourage you to do something, even if it is small!

Thank you, thank you for your listening heart, your interest and love for our children in need, thank you for considering the possibilities and being open!  We know God is at work and we pray daily for his guidance.

Psalms 46:10 ~ Be still and know I am God…

I’m waiting, I’m waiting on You Lord
And I am hopeful, I’m waiting on You Lord
Though it is painful, but patiently I will wait

And I will move ahead bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience

While I’m waiting I will serve You
While I’m waiting I will worship
While I’m waiting I will not faint
I’ll be running the race even while I wait

While I’m Waiting ~ John Waller

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb7TSGptd3Y

 

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The System & Some Facts

Spending the past few months preparing to be certified as foster parents has brought us into many in depth conversations.  There were many talks about our expectations, wants, needs and what to expect upon completion.  We spent much time as a couple reading, talking, and educating ourselves as much as possible.  There are some things that are hard to understand, but as you learn how “The System” works and the truths of what you will encounter, you realize that what is likely to happen does not always match with your heart!

I have said this before and I will probably say it a million times more… our intent of becoming foster parents was not to grow our family.  We felt called into this and believe it is our mission field or ministry.  While we are not seeking adoption at this time, we are open to the possibility.  So if a child comes into our home and they become available for adoption, we are likely to welcome them to forever in our family!  I think it is imperative for us as a community to understand what that truly means.  I thought it would be a good idea to share a little about the process and share a few facts with you.  My goal in doing this is to help you better understand the system and our role as foster parents.

When a child enters foster care for the first time, they are typically placed in emergency care, meaning that the foster parents are willing to accept a child knowing full well that they could be there for a day and it is most likely not a long-term placement.  There are foster families that only do emergency placements.  Once that placement occurs there is a Shelter Hearing for that child.  The hearing determines the next steps of this journey for the child.  In most cases a plan is created for reunification with the biological family and a time frame for review is given.  In most cases that averages about three to six months.  In some cases, there is no evidence to warrant the child remaining in foster care so they are reunified immediately.  If a child is to remain in foster care, the emergency care family may choose to have them remain in their home or they may seek a home better suited to meet their needs.

It is almost ALWAYS the goal of the courts to rehabilitate the families and reunify as long as the child is in no danger.  IF the biological families can show that they have been rehabilitated and they have completed each requirement, a plan for reunification is usually put in place.  If biological families fail to meet the requirements they are typically given second, third or more chances to get things together.  Under federal law, if the child is in foster care 15 out of 22 months, they may move to TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) at which time, the process begins for the child to be adopted.

If the goal becomes adoption, the current foster family may choose to petition the courts for permanency and adopt the child or children.  If the foster families do not wish to seek permanency the agencies will look for a placement that is suited to meet their needs and a family that will offer them forever!  No matter the placement, the law requires foster families to foster for six months prior to permanency.  Once the six months is completed, there is a court hearing and an official adoption!

So why foster care?  What made my husband and I say YES?  Well, in February I was asked to step up as the educational coordinator for our Empty Chair Orphan’s Ministry.  That new roll led me and my husband to do a ton of research.  That research and reading the facts and statistics led us to this journey.  We truly could not ignore those statistics and could not imagine being a child and not having a family or support system.  It is simply unacceptable to us and while we know we can’t save them all, we know we had to do something!  The hardest part was, these children were not a world away, and they were in our own community!!!  So beyond becoming foster parents, we continue to serve with our orphan’s ministry and have begun to work towards changing things within our own community.  We hope to have a suitcase drive in the near future because it is unacceptable to hand a child a trash bag and ask them to pack their belongings.  We also hope to, and are working on creating care bags for each child in our community that enters the system.

Here are some facts, I encourage you to read them, soak them in and then ask yourself what you can do to make a difference.  I do not believe that everyone is called to foster, but I do believe we can all do something.

The following information was taken from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

In the U.S. 400,540 children are living without permanent families 
in the foster care system.  115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.

Each year, over 27,000 youth “age out” of foster care

 

without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed.  This number has steadily risen over the past decade.  Nearly 40% had been homeless or couch surfed, nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, and only 48% were employed.  75% of women and 33% of men receive government benefits to meet basic needs.  50% of all youth who aged out were involved in substance use and 17% of the females were pregnant.

Nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma

 

or GED, and a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care.  One study shows 70% of all youth in foster care have the desire to attend college.

As of 2011, nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. are placed in institutions

 

or group homes, not in traditional foster homes.

States spent a mere 1.2-1.3% of available federal funds

on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal.

Over three years is the average length of time a child waits

 

to be adopted in foster care.  Roughly 55% of these children have had three or more placements.  An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally.

Adopted children make-up roughly 2% of the total child population

 

under the age of 18, but 11% of all adolescents referred for therapy have been adopted.  Post-adoption services are important to all types of adoption, whether foster care adoption, international adoption, or domestic infant adoption.

If you want to learn more about how you can help, please email me.  I would be happy to share some thoughts and ideas with you!  There are many resources in our country and even more importantly there are caring and loving people in this world.  Imagine if we all did something, even a small something.  These are our children, our future, our hope and unless we change some of these things, we are looking at a dim future for many, that breeds poverty, populates jails, creates homelessness, and often has a cyclical affect in our society.  While not every child that ages out of the system falls into these horrible patterns, we can take a chance and help prevent those that very well may fall into that pattern.

Hebrews 13:16 ~ And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Galatians 6:2 ~ Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

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If For Only A Moment… Our First Placement

This week has been a whirlwind to say the least!

Last Saturday my hubby was up on a ladder cleaning out a gutter and took a nasty fall off of the ladder.  Our third and final stop landed him at the trauma center in the hospital.  Thankfully he was not bleeding internally and everything else had checked out.  We realize it could have been much worse and are thankful that he was only sore and bruised.

Monday we were back to work and still waiting for a phone call for a placement.  We really didn’t expect one but were hopeful that this would be the week that we would receive our first call.  Monday was pretty uneventful and quickly faded into Tuesday.  Around 4:00 in the afternoon, I was home and getting ready to make dinner when the phone rang.  On the other end of the phone was our case worker.  He had called to thank us for a package we had sent him in the mail and then proceeded to ask us if we were willing to take our first placement.  After giving me basic information, I asked if it was possible to call my husband and discuss this with him.  He was in need of an answer immediately and I had about thirty seconds to decide.  I quickly said yes and anxiously began preparing.

Although the house was ready, I now had the little peanut’s name, age and gender.  So I went straight to work placing the name on the chalkboard on the door of the bedroom, pulling out a few toys and bringing them to the living room and tidying up any last minute things that I felt needed done.  I was also surprised to see my husband coming through the door.  He decided to leave work and made it home in record time.  He was also a huge help and obsessing on the little things in the house – oh, how I love that man and his heart!

It seemed like days from the time of the phone call to the time of his arrival.  But it was finally time for introductions.  Our first glimpse of this child in the car brought smiles to our faces, and once out of the car, Peanut’s first words were “Hi, guys!”  Quickly showing us his favorite toy and how it worked, we welcomed our first child into our home.  My hubby asked if he could show him where he would be staying and took him to show him his bed and the house!  Peanut was so excited about his bed and seemed to have no problems adjusting to his new environment.   We made a quick trip to a local store to get some necessary supplies that we couldn’t have possibly prepared for and then it was home for snack, bath and bedtime.  It was amazing how smoothly everything had gone and we were so excited and thankful for the easy transition.

The next few days held much uncertainty, many phone calls of everyone involved in his care.  I seemed to hold it together and managed to keep the house picked up and got dinner on the table each night, along with laundry done.  I believe I averaged about 30 phone calls the first day and probably 25 on each of the following two days.  It was crazy, but I knew it was necessary.  What I wasn’t prepared for was the immediate attachment that we would have with this precious child, and the amount of learning that would transpire over those few days.

In the process of caring for this child, I discovered the amazing dad in my husband and the magic touch and power of a father!  He really rolled with each thing and did an amazing job.  I learned that there is a high level of support needed for all involved, the biological family, foster parents, social workers, lawyers and all others involved.  I learned the power of a support system and how necessary it was and what happens when that is not in place.  We learned not all situations are bad and that sometimes in it necessary to walk along side someone and help them in a difficult time.   We also learned to guard our hearts!

Today, with Peanut in tow, we headed to the courthouse for a shelter hearing.  Nervous did not even begin to describe us, but we went and did what we had to do.  Our only hope was that the court ruled what was best for this precious little boy!  Within ten minutes of hearing, we knew that there was going to be an immediate reunification.  I held my tears as much as possible and my husband reassured me that this was the right thing.  We had prepared ourselves for this, but there really is no preparation.  As we filed out the door, we said our goodbyes and gave Peanut a huge hug and thanked his family for sharing him with us.

With tears in my eyes and an empty stroller, we exited the building.  I cried the entire way to the parking lot knowing that even though it was the right thing, we were heartbroken.  My husband held it together and off we drove.  Once in the car, he broke and that was okay.  We both needed this moment to grieve the loss we had just experienced.  After all Peanut was our first!

We decided on lunch and had an awesome time reflecting on his stay, and figuring out how to put everything in perspective and move forward.  My husband said that he wanted to do something special for me, and wanted to get me something so that we remember each child that enters our home.  I also had an idea that I had shared with him.  We decided that we were going to start a scrapbook with a picture of each child and a letter or note about our experience with each child for our own personal memories.  So we stopped at the local craft store and purchased those supplies and then my husband took me to our favorite jeweler.  We decided on a Pandora bracelet.  So he will purchase a charm for me for each child that enters our home.  It was so thoughtful and generous of him and probably one of the most precious gifts I have received and every time we look at that bracelet, we will recall and pray for each of these children.

Through this all, we are blessed, we knew full well what we are getting into when we answered the call to this journey.  Our hearts are in fostering children and giving them hope and love in a bad situation.  While we are open to the possibility of adoption, we are not seeking adoption at this time.  Someday down the road that may change but today we are committed to caring for these children when they need us, even if for only a moment!

Proverbs 4:23 ~ “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

 

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Waiting & Winning

Well the waiting has begun!  Keeping busy these days doesn’t seem to help, I stare at my phone, double check it, and hear it ring when it doesn’t.  I keep asking my husband if he is answering all of his phone calls and make sure that the phones are charged properly.   My husband is infamous for not answering phone numbers that he does not know, but that has changed since our certification.

It’s the nervous anticipation of this journey and what to expect.  While we were going through our certification process it was fairly structured.  We had to take a certain amount of classes, have our home visits and complete a lot of paperwork.  We knew exactly what to expect, so there was very little fear of the unknown.  Now that we are certified, there seems to be no structure within that.  I mean after all, who can predict when a phone call will be made and what age, how many, or what needs the children will have.

Last night at 9:33 pm we received a phone call.  I immediately recognized the area code and picked the phone up with anticipation that this would be the phone call we had been waiting for.  Well, it was phone call we had been waiting for but not in the same sense.  Instead, a sweet lady on the other end of the phone introduced herself and apologized for the lateness of her call.

A little over a month ago, I had applied for a grant through a local philanthropy organization.  Each month they award grants for projects.  Last night we were told that we had won one of three grants!  I was so overwhelmed and shocked because I truly did not expect to receive anything.

Earlier my husband and I were watching a new reality TV show about foster families.  At the end of the premier episode they asked a trivia question via Twitter.  Well, he was the first person to respond correctly and won monies for our charity with that as well.   The neatest part of this story is that I had told him, that if I had an additional amount (and gave the specific amount) of money, I could more than likely accomplish what I felt God had placed heavily on my heart.  Wouldn’t you know it, that with the first win and the second win of the grant, it was EXACTLY the amount that I had told my husband and no one else.  ONLY God can do that!

So now, we continue to wait for our little blessings to arrive, and in the meantime we begin to work on this project to become a blessing to children in foster care.  Our goal, through purchases and donations, is to get each child that will come into the system a cinch sack and fill it with things they will need in those first hours!  We want them to know that while we don’t necessarily understand what they are going through, that we care and love them and value each of them.

 

Philippians 4:19 ~ And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 6:9 ~ Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

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Celebrations!!!

Wow, it has been a little while since I have updated…

My hubby and I enjoyed what will probably be our last vacation without children.  We love to travel and see our country.  This year after much deliberation as to where to go for vacation, we finally agreed on Nashville.  I had never been, but my husband had several years prior to our meeting.  We also did something we had not done together before.  We decided to make it a road trip instead of flying!  I had also done something I had never done before, I left the planning completely up to my husband.  He asked me for list of things I would like to see and that was it, the rest was left completely up to him!  We had a wonderful vacation, saw everything that we both wanted to see and well, had a great time enjoying a city that is the hub of country music.

We returned this past Saturday evening and spent Sunday prepared to go back to work.  Although I teach, each year for the past eleven years I have worked our summer school program.  We also knew that this would be the week that we would have our final meeting with our case worker to finalize our paperwork.  So on Wednesday evening we had our final home inspection, reviewed our profile and then signed our papers. WE ARE OFFICIALLY CERTIFIED!!!

It is an overwhelming experience to sign papers and know that you have completed all of the requirements to become foster parents.  We were blessed in the fact that we went through our process rather quickly.  Now we look forward to the day we welcome children into our home.  Our paperwork will officially be filed with the county/state this Friday, July 5th!  We can expect phone calls any time after that!

So today, as we celebrate Independence Day and reflect on the true meaning of today, we are thankful.  For the first time we have decided to just enjoy a quiet day at home together!  Unusual for us as we always seem to have plans, but I truly believe this is exactly what we need.  Who knows this time next year, with our brood in tow, we will probably be heading to a local fair or carnival and enjoying fireworks as a family!  At least that is what we dream about and hope for!

This week has been full of many celebrations, all of which we are thankful for!  God has truly blessed us and we are ready for this next step!

 

Psalm 37:4 ~ Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.