More and more people seem to keep asking me about our story of fostering. I remember being on the other side, wondering how tough it would be to get certified, or what it would be like to welcome a stranger into our home. Most of all, what would it be like to love a child and then tell him or her goodbye?
Although I've already written two posts already on fostering (Why Fostering Is Better Than A Fad & Fostering: When The Music Fades), in this post I'd love to just share the simple story of how we got to where we are today. Before Steph and I got married, she was already talking about fostering or adoption. I wasn't interested. Here were a few of my arguments against it and what I've learned since:
1. People fight for years to adopt. We shouldn't get in their way. Haven't you always heard this? Someone you know, "has been waiting for 3 years" to finally get their kids. This is true. For the most part, it is people either trying to adopt from other countries, or trying to adopt white kids through private adoption. What I have come to learn is that there are countless kids in the system. Many grow up bouncing from home to home, eventually ending up in prison. The amount of people that are willing to adopt is small. Out of the potential foster parents, the ones that are willing to take minority kids is a very small segment.
2. Haven't you read the stories of adopted kids that killed their parents? We've all heard the stories. I'm sure you'll find true ones. As well, there are countless biological kids that killed their parents as well. I guess I'll just have to take my chances ... and take Mixed Martial Arts classes.
3. It's expensive. Again, this is true. However, we have chosen to go the route of fostering to adopt. Meaning, we are fostering kids and potentially it could turn into something permanent. Because of this, it wasn't expensive. And for all you men that were really hanging on to this excuse, I'm sorry, but we actually get paid to foster. I know. I couldn't believe it either. So once my reasons were undone, I had nothing else. I agreed we could look into it. Before long, we both shared a desire to welcome a little stranger into our home.
We came to grips with the reality that we live in the land of the religious lost. People shuffle in and out of church each week. We sing, we pray, we don't cuss. But we wanted to live out our faith; not just claim to have it.
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." James 1:27
Of course living out your faith doesn't require you to foster, but for us we felt like it was an opportunity to demonstrate God's love to someone.
I knew the process was lengthy. I should hope so. After all, the State is putting these kids in random homes. There should be some type of application process. There is, and it is no small feat. You get stacks of paperwork. You have to get your high school transcript together, get fingerprinted, get references, run background checks, get immunizations ... and the list goes on.
This was going to be a problem. When we began to talk to the different agencies, many told us we would have to go to their offices once a week for a few hours for 10 straight weeks. This was a deal-breaker for me. There is no way I would be able to do that and fulfill the responsibilities of my job. However, with the right agency, this problem was alleviated.
We landed on Methodist Children's Home, and we're really glad we did. We went to their offices twice. The rest of the time they came to our house and did the training with us over coffee. They have since been unbelievably sharp to work with and have been a big support to us in the process. If you'd like contact info for them, let me know.
We got a phone call in the middle of the night 3 months ago. A little girl's family had imploded, and she needed a home. At first I pictured that she needed a safe place, meaning a safe house. I eventually realized that we had the opportunity to show her a safe family as well. One that didn't just provide her food, but that loved her as well.
She showed up dirty, tired, and scared. I remember how she stared at us blankly the night she arrived around midnight. I remember her smell, and the fact we were being told she had been surviving off French fries and Coke for no telling how long.
Welcoming her was awkward. The kids didn't know who she was. Our little girl suddenly had competition. She was loud. She ate tons (probably more than me if we let her).
But three months later driving in the van the other day, my oldest son asked me why he was the same color as me. I love that. I love the fact my boys wanted to pray for her the other day when she got her shots. As well, after they prayed she wouldn't cry, she didn't. They were amazed.
We know our days are numbered with her. She will be leaving us soon to probably go be with her brother in another home. But I'm grateful for her. She has taught us about God's love. She has shown me that sacrifice is good. She has taught my kids to reach out and love those that aren't being loved.
So now when my boys and I wrestle, she is right there with us, smiling ear to ear while she jumps on my chest. They include her as a little sister, clueless as to the fact she is a different color. And for the record, she hasn't killed Steph and I yet...
Was this helpful? What other questions or comments about fostering or adoption do you have?
For more blog posts like this on leading, following, parenting, fostering, and family, visit Kevin's blog at http://www.followingtolead.com.
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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