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Christmas Contentment & Confusion!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…. Right???

For as long as I can remember, Christmas has been one of my favorite times of year.  The birth of Jesus, the magic of the season, the traditions, family time and all that comes with this wonderful season fills my heart with hope and so much love… after all God sent us LOVE in the form of a baby!

In many ways, having children in our home this Christmas is a dream come true for my husband and I.  It is everything we have hoped for and desired since we married.  This year we are blessed beyond measure to have two beautiful and amazing children in our home.  Experiencing so many firsts with them has brought both joy and sorrow in our home!

I think it is often unrealized or goes unrecognized that many children, whether in care or not, do not have the joy of celebrating Christmas in the manner in which we may be accustomed to in our own little world!  Many think of children in third world countries when they think of children not having a Christmas.  The truth of the matter is, children in our own backyard, in our own neighborhoods, in our own country often go without ever knowing the joys of Christmas.  For them, there is no big feast, no traditions, no tree, no decorating, no caroling, no presents and no Savior to celebrate!  Yes, they may be exposed to these things at school or in some other form, but the idea and the tangible experience of it all is completely foreign to them.  The expectation and anticipation of waiting for Santa, waking up on Christmas morning to open presents and celebrating the birth of the one true king child means nothing to them.  They have never had Christmas, possibly never celebrated a birthday or any other holiday we typically celebrate.  For them, they are a stranger to these new experiences!

So how do we handle this “new” magical and special time of year?  How do we handle the trauma that is still at the forefront even though it is Christmas?  How do we honor their past and involve the children in our tradition?  How do we reduce the anxiety and confusion this time of year brings for many children in care?  I have said this a few times lately… OH, but for the grace of God we get through it.  We get through the accidents, the tantrums, the confusion, the worry, the excitement, the tears, the heartache, the past, with LOVE!

No, every moment is not horrible and much of it is pure joy, but there is never a day without something that happens, that draws us back to the heart of what we are doing!  We are called to love the children in our care, and we are called to help them through the most difficult time of their lives.  We are called to make their world a better place and to ease the pain of this journey.  Simply stated we are sharing God’s love and welcoming a child and in turn welcoming Him into our home!

I don’t intend to paint a picture that we are handling this journey perfectly or that when situations arise they are quickly handled and we move forward.  Some things are on-going while other things are a quick fix.  We try very hard to “think ahead” and to prevent any stressful or negative situations.  For example; we decided to place presents under the tree early.  In our home, we have gifts from us as well as the gifts from Santa.  So the gifts we purchased from us went under the tree a little over a week before Christmas.  We did this for a few reasons.  We decided that we would reassure the children that there would be gifts under the tree for them, we would get a gauge on their reactions, and handle any issues that may arise in hopes of them not surfacing on Christmas day.  The reaction was not quite what we expected, but we were thankful that God has given us the wisdom to think ahead and plan for best and worst case scenarios.  Nope, it’s not perfect, but we are anticipating, with excitement Christmas morning in our home!

Yes, Christmas is a magical time of year and YES it can be a positive thing, but remember, kids in care often have difficulty.  Not because they are not appreciative, rather because it evokes feelings, memories and differences in their world as they know it.  It may bring up the hurt and realization that they have never had a Christmas before… no tree and possibly no presents!  For others, it may evoke bad memories of abusive situations, lack of food or tradition in their prior home.  For others, they move forward as if nothing is different or bothersome to them.

No matter how they react, my advice is to love a little more, show a little more compassion, maintain structure and rules, and be willing to fight through the tears for their sake!  Be willing to be their “hero” during this difficult time.  I believe that someday, in some way they will look back on it and remember one thing… not the presents under the tree, not the food on the table, not the decorations or lights… rather the LOVE, the love in your hearts, your homes and the greatest love of all… Christ’s love… and in that, there is no greater gift!

 

From the bottom of our very grateful and blessed hearts, we wish you and your family a most blessed Christmas and adventurously wonderful new year!

 

John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

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Struggling, Juggling & Balancing

It is so hard to believe how much time has passed since I have last updated.  So much has changed and so much has happened.  So, again, forgive the longer than normal post!

A little over two months ago our lives changed so much.  We were blessed with two beautiful little girls and they have become the center of our world.  From the moment they entered our home, we knew that they were a perfect fit in our family.

It is hard when you are fostering to share the experiences during this journey and honestly, probably one of the top two reasons I have not updated.  The biggest reason I haven’t updated is obviously a matter of finding time.  From the moment we wake up in the morning, we hit the ground running.  Work, school, daycare, after school activities, visits, visitors to the home, appointments, church, weekend family fun and whatever else we can squeeze in completely consumes our days.  Not only do we put very two tired children to bed each night, but we often find ourselves collapsing into bed ourselves!

We absolutely love this busy life and sometimes we long for that sense of normalcy, but we understood what we were getting ourselves into before we completed our certification and before we took in our first placement.  Sometimes juggling it all seems like a daunting task, but at the end of the day, it has been worth every step.  No, not easy, and definitely not perfect, but definitely worth it.  Of course, nothing can really prepare you for this journey, except the actual journey!

It is hard to admit sometimes that we struggle, but the reality is, if anyone in life tells you they don’t struggle, it’s a lie!  Sorry, I know that’s harsh, but we all have struggles in this world.  The Bible even tells us that we will have struggles in this world in John 16:33, but it is the ending of that scripture I love the most because God tells us to take heart, because HE has overcome the world!  Every struggle is different and while some have commonplace, they are unique because they are ours.  So what is it, I am struggling with?  I have personally struggled in many areas lately.  I have shared my cancer journey to some extent, and yes, I am so blessed and I know it, but there is a fear that grips me and often times is an underlying issue to my frustration or need to control things.  I am learning to recognize those fears and take ownership of what I do when I feel the need to “control” situations.  My husband has also started to recognize it when it happens, and he will pull me aside and give me the reassurance that I need so very much.  Being three weeks away from the one year, five day protocol has been stressful.  We have also been dealing with our own fertility and how that looks a year after treatment.  Honestly, I am very confused… I am fulfilled with the life we have as foster parents and the possibilities that it holds, but long for a baby and to know that experience.  I also think that if we do not find out definitively, we will always question the “what if” in our lives.  I know that at my age there are additional risks involved, which leads me to question whether or not we should pursue it any further.  My husband is extremely supportive of whatever I truly wish to do and has said that he is fulfilled as well in this journey we are on.  I am choosing (daily) to lay it at the master’s feet and to let Him be the guide!  So do we struggle… absolutely!  Those two things in and of itself are stressful, then you add in work stress, the foster care journey and other day-to-day stressors and well, you have a perfect storm!  I am thankful that we both have a strong commitment to each other and our family.  I am also thankful that we are open and willing to admit that yes, we have things we need to work at and NO our marriage is not perfect.  After all, no marriage is perfect.  The difference is, we came to a point where we realized that we either address the things we really need to work on or we risk the consequences of sweeping things under the carpet.  We are both fully committed to our faith, our marriage, the children in our care, our families, our careers and to caring for others.  For this, I am so thankful.  I hesitate in saying we struggle, but the reality is, we all have struggles.  Some of us put on a smile and lock the world out and others let it all out.  We are so not complaining, rather sharing because we know we are not alone and our struggles pale in comparison to others, but they are ours and we recognize the need to simply address them!  I am also thankful that God is at the center of it all and we know that through Him ALL things are possible!  I am thankful that the struggles we do have are all things we can and are willing to work on… so the work continues because there will always be things to work on in life and having a willingness to work on them is more than half the battle.

In the midst of the “struggle” there is a need to juggle everything.  It is kind of funny, so far, this has been the easy part.  We are so very blessed with our agency and all involved with the children.  They understand that we made a commitment to these children and that we are attempting to minimize any further “trauma” in their lives and allow them to simply be kids!  Our oldest is old enough to be involved in various activities and we felt that allowing her to choose two of them was a good thing for her.  So each week, two nights a week, we run to those activities.  She loves them and the smile on her face makes it so worth it.  We also wanted her involved in activities for a number of reasons.  We want her to have positive interactions and relationships with kids her own age, we want her enriched, to learn responsibility, to simply be a kid!  The youngest is a little too young for activities, but she is very active as well.  A typical week in our home usually involves a couple of visitors to the home (there are six people that need to visit on a monthly basis and one that usually visits before a court hearing) at different times, activities, and a visit with their biological parent.  Add into that nightly homework, and nightly routines and you have a pretty busy week.  Once in a while we get a week with a free night, but most weeks this is typical.  Along with the juggling of schedules, comes balancing everything for the sake of the children.

Balancing is often the most difficult part, how do you keep the calm in your home when there is so much going on.  Yes, the children are used to visits, visitors, activities and other things that go on in our home, but I often think about what is going on in their little heads.  While all of this may seem normal in their world, the reality is, it stirs up emotions!  So we have chosen to structure our home differently to meet their needs.  First and foremost we reinforce that they are safe and loved in our home.  We always make it a point to show the children that we have wonderful (which we do) and positive relationships with all involved!  We always try to honor their biological parent and reassure them that we are all on the same team!  We also reassure them that we will always honor their biological parent… no matter what!  On nights when visits occur we have extra cuddle time and family time which usually involves singing children’s songs and other activities that create a sense of calm.  When issues arise with the children, whether it is a feeling of guilt, missing their toys, or confusion about something that happened, we try to balance it with the honesty they deserve and the protection they so very much need at this age.  We find ourselves attempting to heal the hurts and teaching them what love truly means, that our hands are for hugging and helping, not for hurting.  While the girls are extremely well behaved, there are still issues to address.  We have found that a token economy helps them in making good choices.  We balance that with just allowing them to be kids.  It is hard to just re-direct the children when they bring up touchy situations, but we do a lot of listening, a lot of consoling and a lot of reassuring.  I will say that we are blessed. It is not a nightly occurrence and happens at the most once every couple of weeks.  Yes, there are moments in between as they begin to make sense of their world, but we attempt to balance everything for their emotional health.  After all, they are children and they should be about the business of being children… nothing more!

Our oldest will often ask before bed, so what is tomorrow?   She is learning to question us as to what is coming up because we don’t always tell her everything that is coming her way.  The reason for that is, she will focus on that event throughout the school day and not her academics.  We would rather be vague and allow her to be set up for as much success as possible at school.  It may not be perfect, but it truly works in our home and it also diminishes the anxiety that some situations present.  We do not tell them when visits are because then it makes for an emotional and much unfocused day at school.  Rather when the social worker shows up to pick her up from school, she is excited and there is only a short wait to see her biological parent.

At the end of the day, we both feel strongly that God has placed us on this journey for a reason.  Much like He has promised us hope and a future in Jeremiah 29:11, we are committed to providing the same hope and future to these children.  We believe strongly that God has placed these two blessings in our home for a reason and for His divine purpose.  We believe that as they grow and mature in our home that He is making the mess their message and that someday they will testify to the goodness in their lives… for HIS glory!  Yes, God warned us that in this life we will have troubles… but in His goodness and mercy and grace, He finished it by telling us to take heart because HE has overcome the world!

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

 

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Learning to Live…

When we were going through the certification process, I was extremely comfortable through the process.  I was able to plan and had a fairly clear cut calendar of how this would all play out.  We were fortunate that things went according to plan and we had one very minor hiccup that delayed us a total of a week.  Anyone who has been through the certification process knows that is a rarity and we understood that this was all in God’s timing and we were comfortable with that.

Now that we are certified and are in the process of fostering, I have found myself struggling.  Yes, this is hard for me to admit.  I very typically have things together and feel that when it comes to children, this should be very natural given my previous experiences, degree and love for children.

One thing is for certain… nothing prepares you to become a parent!  While I do well with the day-to-day experiences I find that I almost innately refuse to allow myself to enjoy anything.  I find it difficult to walk away and let my husband deal with things and will sometimes take my frustration out on him.  It is unnerving to me, to be in this position.  I crave calm, structure, I like when things are black and white and there is no in between.  I also understand that this is a rarity and that life does not go this way.  Though I have become less structured in my life, I still have a tendency to want those things.

So where does that leave things?  Well, I am “learning to live” within this new lifestyle.  I am learning, and need to do a better job of trusting God in a whole new way.  I am also learning to be more open and to communicate better with my husband.  I am learning to let go, let God, and to simply roll with each punch.  For me this is not an easy task.  There seems to be more self-dialogue going on in my head and I have to tell myself to enjoy the moments.  My husband is reacting differently.  He is making memories and taking in each moment.  I admire that in him and know that he really gets it and is committed to what we are attempting to do in this journey.  Not that I am not, but this comes more naturally to him.

When he comes through the door, he is ready for dinner with his family and ready to take the children and do something with them.  He enjoys walks, trips to the park and whatever else he can think of in making memorable experiences with the children.  I am learning to back off and let him take the lead in this role.  I truly believe that there is much power in his role.  I look at it like this… most often children have a strong connection with a mother figure in their lives, but the father figure is not always and most often not present.  So within his role, he has much power to be a positive influence with the children in our home.  So I will gladly back off.

Learning to live within this new journey is not easy.  I will be the first to admit that.  Visits, phone call after phone call from everyone involved in the lives of these children, appointment after appointment, and all that is entailed in being a parent can be a daunting task at times.  Keeping court dates, planning meeting dates, and everything else in check keeps us on our toes.  All while attempting to lead a “normal” life.  I am not complaining.  We are blessed, but today I was reminded of this one thing.  I need to learn to live ALL the time and in the world of foster care, I live three months at a time.  So, when there is a court hearing and it is determined that the children will remain in our care, I can begin to prepare for what is to come in the next three months.  Whether that is a birthday, holiday or other events, I can allow myself to stop and enjoy these things, because for this moment, and it may be for only a moment, they are in our care and it is our job to love the children beyond measure and to be their safe place.  Simply put, to share God’s love… after all, He sent his ONLY son for us!

 

John 3:16 ~ For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

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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.

2

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.”