Some Musings on Being a Foster Parent

(Please note – This was originally written to be publisheded elsewhere during Foster Care Appreciation Month, aka May. Unfortunately, outside events occured that led me away from submitting it and instead publish it here.)

On a late Saturday night in April, 2022, a car pulled up to the curb in front of a small, dingy white duplex in downtown Rocky Mount, NC. The driver got out, paused for a moment as if getting his bearings, and walked up the edge of the front porch. He then pulled out a gun and fired several shots into one of the units, jumped back into his car, and sped off into the dark. His face was never seen and his name, to this date, is not known.

There was a couple inside the house that night. The man, older and tired, had already gone to bed. The woman, middle aged, was in the living room near the front door. The man wasn’t struck, but the woman was hit by several bullets as she tried to run out of the room. EMS was called. The man put pressure on the woman’s wounds while waiting for paramedics to arrive. The woman was loaded onto the stretcher and rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, she died on the way. She left behind several children. Most of them are adults, but one, a toddler, has been our foster child since late last summer. Now he will never be reunited with his mother.

This is not the scenario my wife and I had in mind when we first considered becoming foster parents over eight years ago. On this journey we have experienced many highs and lows, several successes and quite a few heartbreaks. We have come to the end of ourselves time and time again, but, through the grace of Christ, have gotten up the next day and picked up where we left off. Our foster children have been used by God to show us just how much flesh is left within us, how easy it is to listen to the old man and do things our own way. In those times, the words “It is finished” is a genuine comfort, knowing that salvation was accomplished on the cross and is not dependent upon us or our behavior.

For various reasons, my wife and I decided to get our foster and adoption license through the State, so we took the requisite training classes at our county DSS. Our TIPS-MAPP (Trauma Informed Parenting and Safety Performance – Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting) coordinator, Miss Laverne, was a 30-year veteran social worker who believed in Christ and had seen some of the worst examples of human depravity. The weekly classes, offered at night in an open room of a building that resembled an empty convenience store, were simultaneously frightening, sobering, encouraging, and inspiring. Though only a few months long, when we finished we felt we had the tools we needed to face what was coming our way. We weren’t wrong, but we weren’t right either. Our first placement came shortly after we finished class; in fact, it came before our licenses were finalized. We got a call about a brother and sister who needed a home. A time was set for us to meet them and their social worker. Little did we know what that meeting would do to all of us.

I was nervous driving to the meeting, and living 30 minutes from the DSS offices did little to assuage those emotions. Once there, our little family – my wife, our daughter, and me – was escorted upstairs and into a large conference room. Inside was Miss Laverne; the children’s social worker (a Lebanese woman who would soon become an honorary member of our family); their guardian ad litem advocate, and; two very small children. The three-year-old boy wouldn’t stop talking, the two-year-old girl wouldn’t speak; we later learned though they were half-siblings, they met each other the day they met us. Before five minutes had passed we knew we were the family for them, and seven years and their adoptions later, that is still true. 

When my wife and I met, we both thought we were heading for the international missions field. In God’s infinite wisdom, that door was closed to us. The one that opened was not one we were not expecting or even looking for. We have been able to present Christ to muslims, atheists, drug-addicted parents, broken and hurting children, and countless indifferent individuals who are living their lives just trying to survive one more day. As I mentioned above, we have seen successes, which at times are measured in coffee spoons, and we have experienced many challenges. We have had to send children to other, more specialized homes, but we have also seen our own family grow, numerically as well as emotionally and spiritually. The children who have come through our doors have been wounded and traumatized in many ways: some through unspeakable physical abuse, some through neglect. Others have been on the autism spectrum, were born addicted to heroin, and one was placed with a practicing Satanist – once discovered the child was quickly removed – before coming to our home. There have been times we have regretted our decision to become foster parents, there are times we have wanted to quit and send the children to another placement. But in those times, the verse “My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9) has given us strength. Though spoken to the Apostle Paul, it is no less true for us and all believers. Additionally, we are reminded that Jesus sends opportunities our way to minister Himself to others: “I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in…” (Matthew 25:35).

The latest data I could find indicates that there are currently more than 400,000 children in foster care in the US, and there are not enough licensed foster families to provide homes for all of them.  It is true, not everyone is able to serve as a foster parent or family, but some are. If God has blessed you, would you prayerfully consider becoming a foster parent or parents? Please know that it is not easy, it can be disrupting to your family, and it doesn’t always end the way you want. Yet the love shown to these children – some of whom are not capable of recognizing or returning love – is not in vain. As Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:23). When we love these children with the love Christ gives us, then we know that regardless of the response, regardless of the outcome of the situation, God is glorified. He is the perfect Father to the fatherless and has adopted all believers into His family. To God alone be the glory.

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