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Forever Changed…

It has been a while since my last post because life as we know it has changed completely!  So forgive the long post, but here we go…

G.L.A.D. Bag Update

Two weeks ago today, my hubby and I were very honored to attend the Awesome Pittsburgh party.  We were excited for an evening out and a chance to share with others our journey and our mission as well as learn about the other awesome projects being done in and around Pittsburgh!  We were thoroughly impressed with everyone and their initiatives on ways to better our community.  We were also honored to be the most recent winners of the grants they offer for “awesome ideas.”  As you may have already read, we have been working on putting a stop to trash bags being used as suit cases or duffle bags to remove children’s belongings from their homes.  This is a practice, while no fault of anyone, that is just not acceptable and we must change it to keep integrity and respect intact.  We were also very humbled to hear that we were the first project in the twenty-six projects to have a unanimous vote.

Since receiving the grant, we have been blessed with people wanting to help.  Companies have stepped up to help with ordering bags at a discounted price, individuals have offered to host drives to fill the bags and others have offered help with establishing a website.  While we are eager to see all of this come to fruition, we agree that we are in no hurry to just spend the money to get a quick fix, rather look at sustainability for the long term.  The goal is completely eliminate this problem. We choose to start here in our own county and then hopefully expand to impact all children in foster care.

We look forward to the future with this project and we understand that it is a small gesture to say we care.  In the months to come, we will have more information, hopefully a website and a way to really help friends that want to help our children in need!

Thank Heaven for Little Girls…

I always say that when God pours out His blessing, He does it in a huge way.  On our way home from the Awesome Pittsburgh party we were reflecting and my mind was running at the speed of light.  I was dreaming up more ways to bless these children and my husband was right there encouraging and offering his thoughts as well.  We were about to pull onto our street when the phone rang.  I immediately looked at my husband because it was our case worker on the phone.  She asked how we were and said she had a possible placement.  So with anticipation we sat and listened to all of the details and asked all of our “standard” questions.  Of course our answer was yes, we would take in these two beautiful children.

Waiting with much anticipation to greet them, we were warned that it could be a long evening.  Like normal my hubby and I swung into action and prepared for little girls.   From the first night with us, they have slept well, ate well and have adjusted very well.  They have been with us almost two weeks and have been a pure joy!  Yes, they have their moments and are testing the waters, but we have remained consistent with love, safety, structure and discipline.

Throughout this process we have learned so very much and continue to learn.  We have learned that what children need the very most is to feel safe and secure, to know they matter and that we care for them… that we love them.  We understand the importance of those first few moments in our home and letting them know that they are safe and secure.  We have also learned that there are many uncertainties of how everything plays out.

We continue to learn to roll with each punch and the roller coaster ride of foster care.  There are no guarantees as to how long the children are with us.  We are learning that for a single child there are many involved in their lives.  One thing is a common thread, while opinions may differ, the common thread is that the child is first and all involved in their journey have a job to do.  That is to keep them safe, secure and to act in their best interest.

One thing is for sure, we are forever changed in this process.  We are thankful that for the most part that the children that have come into our home have adjusted well.  As adults that have chosen this journey into foster care, we have had our struggles, and while we guard our hearts, we also know we fully give them away for the sake of a child.  We have our moments and we question things sometimes, but we also know that this calling is greater than ourselves and we are willing to be used for HIS glory!

 

Proverbs 11:25 ~ The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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Control & Trash Bags!

Throughout our certification process many things have stuck in my mind and some things have resonated beyond measure!  There is a necessary commitment to give up control of many things and that must become part of you as you move through this journey.  For a person like me, giving up control is difficult.  I naturally crave structure in my own life and believe strongly in doing things with integrity and to the very best of my abilities.  While I realize that this is truly innate and the way I was simply created, I also know it is something I need to work harder at within my own being.

There are many things in life that are far beyond our control.  When it comes to the foster care journey, it is best to live under the mantra of expect the unexpected.  Even with the vast amount of preparation my husband and I have undergone, we still feel, at times, completely unprepared.  How do you prepare for (up to two) children, infant to eight years of age?

The other day my husband and I went into Babies R Us to return a bedrail we no longer needed because of the purchase of the bunk beds.  As we walked through the store to pick up another small item, I felt that ping once again.  My husband noticed the change in my demeanor and comforted me as it hit me that we were “unprepared.”  Watching new mothers-to-be register with excitement for their items they have lovingly chosen for their newborn brought a few tears to my eyes.  I had realized in that moment that they had an opportunity that we will not be afforded in this journey.  They knew that a baby would come into their home and they were able to prepare for all of the things they felt they would need for their child.  It hit me that I didn’t even have a stitch of clothing to welcome these children into our home.  It was that sense that I had no control over the situation that gave me my first hint of fear.  My hubby reassured me that we were as prepared as we could be and that we always had a local 24 hour store close if we needed to run out and grab a few items.  While that is comforting to know, it still plays with my sense of “control” over the situation of being prepared.  Yes, the room is ready and yes, we have purchased small items like toothbrushes, toys and movies so that they feel a sense of comfort when they enter our home, but my mind returns to what they will show up with in hand and what they will need.

While I thrive on a sense of structure and control, there are things that are completely out of our hands.  We cannot control the reasons the children are removed from their home and brought into the system, but we can control the environment they are brought into in our home.  We cannot control the rehabilitation of their biological parents, but we can pray for them, help where we can and provide safety and love for their children while they work towards reunification.  We cannot control visitations, therapy appointments and court dates, but we can control how we respond to such events and be persons of our word and commitment.  One of the most bothersome things to us is that we cannot control how they are removed from the home, but we can raise awareness and funds to cover costs of something more than a trash bag to place their belongings into when they must leave their home.

This may not see like a huge thing in comparison to the other things listed, but it is something we can change, and it is something that brings respect and integrity back to the child.  It sends a message to the child that they matter and their lives do not belong in a trash bag.  Trash is for trash bags, not children’s belongings.

So with that thought, we move forward towards this goal, the goal to provide every child removed from the home with two things.  First we want to provide each child with a suitcase that their belongings can be appropriately packed into.  This will become their suitcase, and their property!  The second item is a “cinch sack” type bag that will offer items of comfort and necessity for them during this stressful time.  It sends a message that we have thought about them and want to care for them in this difficult time.  The items we hope to include are basic, a toothbrush, toothpaste, pair of pajamas, comfort item and any other necessities they would need immediately according to their age.  We fully understand that this is not the social worker, any agency or organizations fault, but we want to change the message we are sending children.

I think it is important to mention, that it is not our hope to only help the children that come into our home, but that enter foster homes across the country!  We will start right here in our own county and believe that others will follow suit with the same desire.  This is not a local problem, rather a problem in our country.

Isaiah 11:2The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—

Romans 8:15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

John 14:27 ~ Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

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Bunk Beds!

So after my husband shocked me with the idea that we would be willing to bring two children into our home, I spun into action preparing for two instead of one!  The “perfectly” decorated room for one has now become a room for two.  A “simple” change from a single bed to a bunk bed has changed pretty much everything in the room at this point!

After we agreed that we would take two, I began the search for bunk beds.  I figured this was a temporary fix until we decide to move (when the time is right) to a bigger home.  Not wanting to pay a ton of money, we searched for the frame on the internet at various stores, on craigslist, at yard sales and I even put an email out to all of my co-workers.  Finally this past Wednesday, I found a set that looked reasonable and right for the room on Craigslist.  The price was right and I was ready to go and see what they looked like in person.  An hour drive led to the purchase of the lovely solid oak bunk beds.  With a busy week, we knew that putting them together would have to wait until the weekend!

Saturday morning we got up and went to a few yard sales, as this seems to have become our Saturday morning ritual.  I am hunting for a sit and stand stroller, few other little items and whatever else strikes our fancy!   After we finished up on our morning “treasure hunt” we went to a local warehouse to purchase the second mattress we would need for the bunk bed and then it was home to scrub down the new bunk and put it together!

My hubby and I worked together to get the bunk all cleaned up and shiny!  We laughed as we wiped everything down with Murphy’s Oil Soap and commented on how our grandparents swore by the stuff!  The bunk looked like new and was ready to be built!  About half way into building it we realized that the ladder was on the wrong side and that there was NO way to quickly fix the problem.  We went back and forth over whether or not we could make it work or if we should just go and buy a new set.  Finally, I suggested that we just call my dad.  He has always been able to fix everything and well, I just really thought he could help!

Sure enough after a call to my mom, over they came!  Within minutes my dad had a plan and he and my hubby worked side by side to get it done.  My mother and I helped as well, but the guys outdid themselves.  A few small changes and a few little drill holes would make the bed like new and make it work in the room.  It was safe, sturdy and perfect for our needs.

Today, we returned the bedrail we no longer needed, finished up a few minor details on the beds and it was time to re-decorate.  Something I love to do!  I think it is safe to say that the room is ready, ready for two!!!

One thing is for sure, we are thankful for our parents and their help and support.  They are always there for us and support us in so many ways.  I appreciate my mom for many reasons, for her prayers, love, guidance and insight into parenting.  I appreciate my dad for his love and support and help in building and fixing things we are unsure of doing ourselves.  They really don’t know how much it means to us both.  I am also thankful for the relationship they have with my husband.

After they left on Saturday, I sent them both a quick text thanking them for dropping what they were doing to come out and help us figure this out.  My dad’s response was the best.  “No problem, very proud of the path you guys are taking, brings back memories.  Remember if it changes one life, it will be worth it.”  I could hardly respond as I cried.  Still his little girl, I needed that approval.  Those memories he had are of his childhood.  His grandparents, my great grandparents whom I never met, were foster parents and fostered over twenty six children.

I am thankful for the legacy that we have been left.  I am thankful that we are blessed with wonderful parents on both sides.  They pray for us, support us, love us and guide us in ways we never thought.  I know that any fears I have as a mother will be comforted by both my mom and mother-in-law and they will be there to love and “spoil” their grandchildren!

1 Thessalonians 5:18 ~Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.   

 

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Leaving…

With the school year coming to a close, it is my most dreaded time of the year as an educator.  While I look forward to summer break, our vacation, teaching summer school, reading, planning for the next school year, and the new adventure as foster parents, I dread these last few days of school.

Yesterday was round one of goodbyes.  Two of my students have spent the last half of the school year transitioning to what will be their careers.  I like to call this a slow fade.  They first started with two days a week and ended the year with four days a week with us only seeing them on Mondays.  I was okay with it because I still got to see their bright and shiny faces once a week.  Yesterday however, was a day that I had dreaded.  It was their last day in high school… forever!

A small celebration to mark this occasion, a simple cake, a year in review video that I had made for the students, would bring their last day full circle.  As an educator, I often feel that the line between educator and care giver (while at school) blurs, at least for me.  I always hope that, without stepping on toes, my parents know their children are in good hands when they are in my classroom.  I love them and allow each one of them to hold a special place in my heart.  I don’t say this because I am doing anything special, but I love my students as I would my own children and my husband knows very well how each of them become part of our family.

As the end of the day approached and friends were saying their goodbyes, I waited quietly for my turn.  I didn’t really care to have this moment, because I knew that it meant I would more than likely not see them often if at all.  A few pictures and hugs lead to a mass amount of tears for me.  I said my goodbyes and wished them the best that life had to offer.  I also did something I hadn’t done all year, I followed my one student out of the room to watch him walk away and get on his bus.  He was as happy and joyful as the day we had met.  His worst days are often our best days and I do not believe he has ever had a bad day in his life.  He reminded me and taught me to always find the good in everything in life and that he was in fact “the best kid in the world.”

Walking back into the room, my face flooded with tears, I sobbed as I had to say goodbye.  My aid was waiting when I returned and her face was full of tears as well.  We talked for a moment about the kids and how hard it was to say goodbye.  She had mentioned that she did not know how my husband and I were going to do it with foster children.  It was something that we have talked about before, but it really hit me hard that this was going to be a reality.

How are we going to invest in the children brought into our home and then say goodbye.  How will we “survive” that heartache and know we may never see them again?  Year after year, I do this at school.  You see, as a special education teacher, I often have the honor and privilege of having my students more than a year.  For some, I have watched them grow over a course of six years, and others for only a moment.  One both sides, I have found it hard to say goodbye and often think of them and the lessons they have taught me.

No matter what is to come, I know there will be days that are going to be difficult to handle.  These are the moments I truly believe you absolutely cannot prepare for at any level.  There will be goodbyes and they will leave, but I also know that God never gives you more than you can bear.  He also promised it would not be easy, and I believe it will be worth it.

Psalms 30:5 Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

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Explaining…

As we move through this process reality is setting in for us as well as our family and friends.  Several years ago, while reading one of many books on foster care and adoption I came across a book that suggested that you begin the dialogue with family, friends, bosses, and co-workers early and often.  My husband and I have shared our experiences with those we are close to and we talk often about what is to come.

This weekend we had the opportunity to visit with my husband’s sister, her husband and two beautiful children.  They live about 2 ½ hours away in the neighboring state.  We really enjoy spending time with them.  Their oldest is six and she is extremely bright and inquisitive.

On Saturday we spent the day at a balloon festival and enjoyed the beautiful weather and time together.  The kids enjoyed playing games and riding a few rides.  Both children are always well behaved and a joy to be around!  During our time with them, we often talk about fostering and what it would look like for us.  My brother-in-law even said, well the next time we see you guys it will probably be with children.  I smiled as big as could be at the thought of it and for a moment wondered what it would be like.  One thing is for sure, they have been wonderfully supportive in our decision.

On Sunday, we ventured to the local zoo.  Now, anyone that knows me, knows I am not a zoo person, but we had a wonderful time.  As we walked through the zoo, enjoying the perfect weather and time spent with family, we talked about different things and for whatever reason my new found obsession with strollers.  After we left the zoo, we headed to our favorite pizza place to enjoy dinner and then we were heading home.

We had finished dinner and were saying our good-byes to everyone and our niece hit us with questions.  She wanted to know more and why and how these children would come into our home.  My husband and I became quiet as we watched her mom explain it to her.  I mean after all, how on earth do you explain foster care to a six year old?  My sister-in-law did an amazing job of helping her understand how this works.  She explained that sometimes mommy’s and daddy’s need help in caring for their children and that is what her auntie and uncle were doing.  Without missing a beat, our niece said, “Oh, so they are orphans and they need someone to take care of them, why aren’t they in an orphanage.”  Her mom explained that we do not have orphanages here in the US, but people like her auntie and uncle bring them into their home to live with them and that some of them stay and others go back to their parents.  Without any further thought our niece said, “Well I can’t wait to have new cousins to play with!”

Honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!  She may not fully understand the concept, but in her mind, they are her cousins and she wants to play with them.  We really couldn’t ask for more than that!  It did however make me wonder a little more about how we were going to explain to our nieces and nephews how things work.  What happens if/when they are reunified and the countless other things we will deal with in our family.

I do know this much.  I am thankful for the family we have been blessed with.  So far, those we are close too have been amazing, supportive and helpful.  We know there will be lots of questions ahead, lots of challenges and explaining to do, but we know we are supported and loved.

Our hope in talking early and often is that others will be more at ease with our decision to become foster parents.  We both agree and feel strongly that we have been called to this ministry and that for this moment in our lives we are to be foster parents.  While many around us may feel that it has to do with fertility or infertility that really is not the case.  As I have mentioned a few times before, our fertility is undetermined at this point and that is perfectly fine with us.  Does my heart ache for a child and do I have days and moments where I am frustrated and upset about the situation… YES, but I have also learned that God’s timing and plans are never ours and His ways are ALWAYS perfect and not for a moment has he forsaken us!  So for this moment in our lives, I will not wish and wonder about what is to come, I will put my full faith in a loving God that knows the plans he has for us!

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