Foster Parenting Is an Important Calling

A mother with her two daughters cooking at home in their kitchen

By John W. Kennedy

 

 Listen to Jessica’s broadcast The Complicated, Beautiful Life of a Foster Mom.

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When my wife and I felt God prompting us to become foster parents, we knew that we wanted to provide a loving, stable environment that would nurture kids in need of godly values. After becoming licensed, however, we quickly discovered that our desires were rather idealistic. Our training hadn’t covered the reality of how to interact with a traumatized child who has severe trust issues — one who may be suffering the fallout of being physically beaten, malnourished or sexually abused.

We concluded that foster parenting requires energy, patience and compassion. Here’s what else we’ve learned about this important calling:

Surround yourself with support

We can’t expect outside assistance to come from an overworked caseworker, who may take days to return a frantic phone call. That’s why we need “wraparound care.”

Often organized by churches or small groups, wraparound care helps sustain foster parents. Church members and friends can spearhead efforts to collect diapers, formula, clothes and car seats for the new arrivals; cook an occasional meal; or arrange for respite care to give us a break by baby-sitting. Find those who will help and don’t be afraid to ask for their support.

Stay unified

A hardened, mistreated child often develops unhealthy survival skills and may be an expert at pitting one foster parent against the other. Stay unified, remembering that you and your spouse are on the same side and want to see a successful outcome.

Offer patience and compassion

Foster parenting isn’t about making a child see logic or obey but about being patient and compassionate. Recognize that meltdowns will come, sometimes multiple times a day. We must see circumstances from the child’s perspective, which often means looking past an outburst and realizing that something else is causing the misbehavior.

Our primary job isn’t to correct wrong behaviors and to enforce rules; it’s to build memories, to offer a safe, stable living experience and to provide some fun along the way.

Include them Have your foster kids participate in activities, give them responsibilities and provide the affirmation they desperately need for good behavior or a job well done. Make them feel like part of the family. Include them in conversations, Bible readings, daily chores, fun activities and family photos. Introduce them as your children, not as your foster children.

Most importantly, pray — for God to sustain you and for you to have a heart to understand the inner turmoil the children are experiencing.

John W. Kennedy is a freelance author.

https://origin.focusonthefamily.com/pro-life/orphan-care/foster-parenting-is-an-important-calling

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Being the Church: Four Keys to Supporting Adoptive and Foster Families

Family talking

By Jenn Ranter Hook

 

As I finished up my counseling session with Marisa and her adoptive parents, Eric and Michelle, I felt sad and frustrated. Theirs was a story I had heard many times before: Eric and Michelle’s support system, including the church they had attended for years, was very excited about the couple’s plans to adopt. In fact, the church made a big deal about Adoption Sunday, exploring the global orphan crisis and encouraging congregants to prayerfully consider whether God might be calling them to adopt or foster.

Eric and Michelle’s family, friends and church community were all eager to help, and there were quite a few meals and visits during the first few weeks after they brought Marisa home. But after the initial “honeymoon period,” the excitement waned. And now, a year into their adoption journey, all that support was nowhere to be found.

Eric and Michelle loved Marisa deeply, and being her parents filled their life with much meaning and joy. Yet they were completely blindsided by the struggles she faced. Marisa had some serious challenges related to the abuse and neglect she experienced during the first year of her life. She had trouble bonding with Eric and Michelle, and many of the things people love about parenting – the hugs, kisses, cuddles and “I love yous” – were few and far between.

Marisa’s demeanor was often unpredictable. Sometimes she was kind and playful, other times she would lose control for long periods and struggle to calm down or be comforted. Play dates and babysitting options began to dry up once the extent of Marisa’s erratic behavior became apparent.

The folks in the church nursery were kind, but eventually they said either Eric or Michelle would have to stay with Marisa because they weren’t equipped to handle the girl’s behavior. The couple was thoroughly confused – their daughter was precious to them, but Marisa was struggling because of the trauma she had experienced early in life and they didn’t know how to help her.

Isolated and Alone

I’ve encountered similar scenarios time and time again in my work: first as a therapist in the foster care system and later through Replanted – a small group-centered ministry that provides hope, encouragement and support to adoptive and foster parents and their children. Friends, family and fellow church community members have an awesome opportunity to play a role in an issue we know is dear to the heart of God – the plight of children without families – but we often fail to understand the trials of the adoptive and foster journey. More importantly, we fail to recognize how those trials impact both parents and children, especially when we fail to support those adoptive and foster families for the long haul.

Simply put, Eric and Michelle were worn out. They were trying their best, but the challenges they were facing with Marisa were far greater than they had expected. It didn’t help that they felt isolated and alone – that no one understood what they were going through. On those rare occasions when they did open up about their struggles, they usually got a boatload of advice that they had already tried (and didn’t work). Eventually they stopped reaching out entirely.

My own sadness and frustration over their situation was related to the lack of support that Eric and Michelle received. I kept thinking, Where is the church in this? If we really care about serving the needs of vulnerable children and their families, we have to do more than just encourage people to adopt and foster. We have to keep doing the hard work of supporting those families – day in and day out.

Not everyone is called to adopt or foster. But everyone can play a role.

Four Ways to Help

How can we provide assistance in ways that help without hurting? Below are some important things to keep in mind when we reach out to support the adoptive and foster families in our church communities.

Offer grace and presence. Adoptive and foster families need grace-filled, safe relationships in which they can be vulnerable and share what’s really going on in their lives. One of the best ways to truly support adoptive and foster families is by offering them grace and unconditional acceptance right where they are, just like God offers grace to us. That means loving and accepting these families no matter how their kiddos are behaving. Many, if not most, of these kids are fighting battles that you might know little about. Be a source of safety: Don’t judge, criticize or offer advice. Instead, offer your presence and a listening ear.

Become “trauma informed.” Adoptive and foster children often have a history of abuse and neglect, which in turn impacts their future relationships and behavior. Some kids may have physical or developmental disabilities, or have been exposed to substance abuse in utero. These experiences impact their ability to connect with others and regulate their behavior.

Most of those in support roles have little experience with the specific challenges facing adoptive and foster children, so they end up suggesting the same tips that worked with their biological kids. If you really want to help, begin by learning about abuse, neglect, trauma and attachment. The books Replanted: Faith-Based Support for Adoptive and Foster Families and The Connected Child provide a good base for understanding trauma and trauma-informed parenting. There are also conferences and events such as ReplantedEmpowered to Connect and Refresh that offer a wealth of information and resources. Another important step is to make sure all the childcare workers at your church are trauma trained and informed.

Support both parents and children. When I started Replanted, most of our efforts were geared toward adoptive and foster parents. This was important – those parents need support! But I soon realized that children who are adopted or are in foster care need attention, too. I remember counseling one child who was ashamed about living in a foster home. She didn’t want anyone to know about her situation. Kids need to be in loving, grace-filled communities with other children who understand the journey they’re on. When you offer support to foster and adoptive families, don’t forget about the kids.

Be consistent. Eric and Michelle’s story is a common one. Many folks offer help and support early on, but disappear after the excitement of the new placement wanes and the reality of daily life sets in. If you’re going to support adoptive and foster families, do your best to be in it for the long haul. Take stock of your capacity to help, and be realistic. If at all possible, try to make a long-term commitment (i.e., six months to a year).

So, how can you be a part of a family’s support system? Try starting small: Begin by thinking of just one way you could begin to provide help on a regular basis to the adoptive and foster families in your community. What is one way your church could begin to offer support?

People like Eric and Michelle – and Marisa, too – could really use the help.

https://origin.focusonthefamily.com/pro-life/orphan-care/being-the-church-four-keys-to-supporting-adoptive-and-foster-families


Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.



5 Reasons to Consider Adopting A Foster Child

By: Caroline Bailey June 23, 2018

Adopting a foster child might seem daunting. There are more reasons and rewards to adopting from the foster care system in Arizona than there are reasons to fear it.

When people begin to express their consideration of adoption, they might hear things like, “Whatever you do, don’t go through foster care,” or “I hear that kids in foster care have big problems,” etc. Sure, there are many factors to take to heart when choosing the path of adoption. One of those, in particular, is whether to include foster care as an option. However, instead of listening to the reasons why one should not adopt from foster care, here are a few reasons why adopting a foster child matters.

1. Children are in the foster care system due to no fault of their own.

They have no control over their situation. If the goal changes to adoption, there needs to be families who will step up and commit to providing a lifetime of stability and love for these children.

2. If parental rights are terminated and an adoptive home is not established, foster children and youth are at risk for aging out of care.

In essence, they become legal orphans. Once they exit the system, they are at a higher risk for homelessness, impoverishment, substance abuse, victimization, pregnancy, and criminal activity. All of these things can be greatly reduced if families would adopt older youth before they exit the system.

3. Sibling groups are at risk of being separated once they enter the system and even in adoptive homes.

While the goal is always to keep sibling groups together, it is difficult due to the lack of families willing and able to consider fostering and adopting a larger sibling group. Sibling groups deserve the opportunity of finding permanency together, through adoption.

4. Once an adoption out of foster care is complete, all legal authority is given to the adoptive parents.

The myth that “birth parents can change their minds” is just that—a myth. Even though the case is closed, most states offer after-adoption services and support, including financial support until the child is 18 years of age. This assistance helps families tremendously and is a great incentive for families to consider adopting out of care.

5. Through efforts made towards the primary goal of reunification with biological family members, many children and youth are able to return to their families of origin.

Despite many successes with reunification, far too many children and youth become eligible for adoption and linger in the system without an identified adoptive family. These kids are just like other children, except for their history of abuse and neglect. They are unique, have their own set of talents, and aspirations, and desire to belong somewhere. In order for foster children to begin on a path that leads to personal success, they must have a solid foundation of being in a family. Adopting a child from foster care lays this foundation down.

The hope of ending the scourge of child abuse and neglect is never-ending. Reunification and working with biological parents make great strides towards this. Adoption does this as well. When considering adopting a child out of foster care, remember, it is not just the one child whose life will be changed, it potentially could be a generation of children whose lives are untouched by abuse and neglect.

Original here


Narrow Path Ministries is in the process of opening an orphanage. An Endowment fund has been established  to fund the orphanage.