The Joy of Ministering to Birth Families

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

One thing that I have found surprising joy in with fostering is connecting with the birth families. I say surprising for a few reasons. For one, I admit, I pretty much think about adoption with every placement right away. “Could we adopt this child?” “What would that look like for our family?” “How does their name sound with ours?” Fostering is about reunification though. The initial goal is not adoption. It can lead to adoption but that’s not the intended purpose. Secondly, interacting with birth families is scary at first. You never know how the relatives of this child are going to respond to you.

I really want to encourage those that are fostering or thinking about fostering to embrace the ministry of the birth family. Because these kids are coming out of hard, tough situations. Some really bad, horrific even. But that doesn’t disqualify their family altogether. Sometimes, yes, there are no suitable family members. Not one. And thank goodness for the beautiful act of adoption and for the families who step into that role. But a lot of times there is family. Family who has been loving or fighting for what’s right. Family that wants to break cycles of abuse and addiction. And this is a unique opportunity for those of us as foster parents. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To encourage. To uplift. To point them to Jesus.

Baby E has family that loves him. Family that was there when I picked him up from the hospital. Family that has been here for him long before I was and pouring into him in ways that make him healthy and happy in my care. They long for him. They have attended every court hearing and are fulfilling every requirement to have him placed in their care. Today we met with them at the park. They were kind and caring. They were attentive to Baby E. Their children were so thrilled to see this little guy. They showered him with love and kisses and snacks and toys. And Baby E was happy to see them. He knows them and he knows he’s loved by them. What a tremendous joy to see this family reunited with this baby boy.

I stated in my first post about Baby E that we must resist the temptation to jump to conclusions. We must. Every time. Every placement. We can’t allow prior experiences with birth families to dictate how we respond to future ones. Which is hard. But every placement, every family, needs fresh eyes of grace.

I don’t know how normal it is for foster moms to get a baby and within 3 days attach their name to baby’s name just to see how it fits. You start dreaming of their future with you, and yours with them. Obviously I do this. I’m not saying it’s wrong. In fact, I wonder if it is Gods grace in allowing this little one to be loved as naturally as I love my own children. But given the opportunity we must make every effort to connect with the child’s birth parents and/or relatives. We have to give them opportunity. It can be nerve racking, talking with strangers that YOU have their family member. Baby E has my heart but he has a few others even deeper than mine. And the more I correspond with his family and see these adults AND children that love and cherish him, how can I not want him to go home to them? It would be selfish of me to want to keep him from that. They’re his family. So when we think about the hard thing of letting them go, think about the times we are giving them back to the ones who loved them first. What a blessing in this child’s life that there ARE people who came before us, his foster parents, that are doing whatever it takes to bring him home with them. I recognize this is not always the case. Sometimes these children return to unhealthy environments. Sometimes we do need to advocate fiercely for their safety. But a lot of times we need to strive to encourage and support the birth family. Maybe in ways they’ve never felt it. Ways Jesus would.

Today Baby E’s relative asked me, “How do you do this? Is it hard when they leave?” And I told him through tears, “Yes. But I think about, what if no one did it? What if no one was willing to bring this child to a safe place because they were too concerned about it hurting when they left? I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting E. Or meeting you. So I consider it worth it. And even though it will be sad when he leaves, it’s happy because he’s going to family that is striving to do what’s right for him.” I didn’t get to share my testimony of what Jesus did for me and how Jesus gives me the courage to do this and how Jesus mends my heart to do it all over again,…..yet. We have another visit for that. 🙂

But after spending that time with them I am so full of joy. Joy that comes from the love of Jesus. So Christians, foster parents, I implore you, to courageously, mercifully, and lovingly navigate the waters of foster care and birth families, for the JOY awaiting you. Because it IS so worth it.


Baby E

Sunday morning we got a call at 3 am. A 9 month old little boy needed a safe place to stay. He was at the hospital and I was told I could pick him up at 9 am. Jason and I had been up late having one of those long, deep talks about everything under the sun (or moon). So I was pretty tired but trying to fall back asleep after that call was rather difficult. So I prayed and dozed and awoke repeatedly all the way till 7 am. Then I began to get ready for an hour drive to go pick this little guy up. I had a lot more time to process and lift up this placement before meeting him and it was very cool to see how Gods hands were with me and him when we finally met.

When I arrived I was caught off guard by some of the family that was there. I wasn’t given the impression anyone was there with him. I was nervous to meet them. This kind of circumstance is not really ideal for greetings and pleasantries. Initially I was hoping to avoid it. “I can wait until they leave.” Of course they weren’t leaving. I looked for courage and grace from the Holy Spirit, recognizing God was sovereign in this and walked in the room. I assumed it was Grandma, she was understandably very upset. I could tell they really cared for this fella. One thing we must resist is jumping to conclusions. We just have no idea what brought these individuals to this moment. Seeing the family first hand as their tiny family member was released into my care, a stranger with DFCS, it gave me a perspective I hadn’t experienced before. I introduced myself to grandma and just wanted to hug her but opted for a touch on her shoulder. I sympathized with her, acknowledging how extremely difficult this is for them and that baby boy would be in very good hands. She was concerned but kind. I felt that we connected in that brief moment and she knew, even through her grief, he was going to be safe and loved.

The baby and his cousin were sitting on the hospital bed. I went over and got down to his level. Said hello and waited to see his reaction. He reached right for me, which is a blessing. As much as you don’t really want kids to be that comfortable coming to a stranger, I think it put everyone at ease that he wasn’t leaving in complete outward turmoil. I talked with the family for a short while and then it was time to go. It’s such a sad thing, walking away with someone else’s child, leaving his family in tears and uncertainty. But I’m grateful to have met them because they are impressed on my heart now. I know their names and faces and can sincerely pray for them.

I don’t know how long we will have Baby E. What we’ve learned so far is he’s all boy, active, and into everything. He has THE sweetest smile and big blue eyes, with the longest eye lashes I’ve ever seen. He grunts and laughs and gets really mad when he’s tired. Dressing him is slightly like wrestling an alligator. And every time I pick him up he wraps his arms around my neck so tight and buries his head in my shoulder, which is the best. Needless to say, I’m hooked. And yes, I know, we’re only 5 days in. 😉

Jason Johnson Blog

I promise…… I will write something of my own soon 😜

I am sharing this particular article today because as a foster parent I want people to understand why Jason and I are doing this. I want people to understand our thought process and the things God has revealed to us. And often times someone else articulates it better than I can. Jason Johnsons website has truly been an invaluable resource to me. If you know someone who has fostered or adopted I believe this may help you better understand their decisions. And with greater understanding comes greater support, encouragement and prayer, which we definitely need. 🙂

Foster Care Article

Today I would like to share with you an article on foster care that was posted on Desiring God. Probably one of the most well written, well summed up, articles I’ve read on foster care and the Christian’s response. If you are a foster parent, you’ll find it relatable and I believe encouraging. If you are interested in fostering, you’ll find it helpful. If you know someone who fosters, you’ll find it extremely insightful.

Where am I and who are you?

There are so many things that did not cross my mind about children in foster care until we were in the thick of it with them. On one hand we “knew” they would have suffered trauma and we “knew” there would be things about them that are different than our own children or our friends children. But until we started serving these kiddos day in and day out, we couldn’t possibly really know.

On Monday we got a call about a nine month old baby girl. And she is every bit as precious as you are probably imagining. She has the sweetest, softest baby chunk I’ve ever snuggled. She has wavy auburn hair and smiley blue eyes. And when she smiles she crinkles her nose and shows off her two pearly white bottom teeth. But like most babies in foster care she didn’t come smiling. She came screaming, confused, and unsure of everything. And though the screaming has lessened with each day, I still find myself wondering what happened and why.

When these children come, you want them to understand they are safe. That whatever happened to bring them here, they can trust you. But that understanding doesn’t happen over night. So you have to be incredibly patient as they learn to trust you and feel safe and secure in this new place. And having that patience is easier said than done. When certain odd behaviors persist, you think to yourself, “Why are they still doing this? Don’t they know they don’t have to do that anymore?” I constantly have to reset my mind and perspective, reminding myself that, though I know they are safe, and there needs will be met, they don’t necessarily know that yet.

We went to a church fellowship and of course everyone was gushing over baby girl. And like a lot of normal baby loving people, there were some who wanted to hold her. Which is absolutely fine, except, she didn’t want to be passed around. And I realized why. Monday strangers came to her rescue, brought her to a strange DFCS office and gave her to a bunch of unfamiliar faces. Then she was put in a car with a transporter, some man she’s never seen, to be brought to another new environment with more new people. Our house. Her life for the next several months now will be a series of going from one stranger and strange place to the next. I had never thought about this, and how it effects these children, until we witnessed it first hand. It’s unique to every child how this scenario impacts them but make no mistake, it does. Now my face is becoming familiar to her. So it’s understandable why she holds on to me for dear life when we go places. She can not speak but you know in her infant mind she’s thinking, “Who is gonna take me next?”

Our prayers, your prayers, over these children in foster care are vital. Will you pray with me for them? Pray for protection over their hearts and minds. Pray for healing and redemption no matter the outcome of their case plan. And pray that these children and their families will find hope in Jesus Christ.

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him.” 1 John‬ ‭5:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Time To Go

Fostering brings about so many strange feelings. One of the strangest is how it feels when it’s time for them to go. Our very first experience with this was three years ago and we asked to have a little girl placed in another foster parents home. I felt relief and guilt and sadness all at once. It was hard even though we knew it was the right decision. Today I am packing up all the belongings that the boys have accumulated in the last six months. They are going to live with a grandmother. Last night I finished a photo album of all the memories and mile stones they both had while here. They’ve grown and changed so much. It has been a crazy season for us. Going from three children to five and the fact that the boys are so close in age, it’s been non stop. We have had moments of joy and laughter and I have felt plenty of moments of inadequacy. Even in the most overwhelming times God has been there, affirming me through his people but mostly through his Word.

“You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Hebrews‬ ‭10:36‬ ‭

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:58‬

So today as I packed all their things; their little clothes, their blankets, toys, presents we bought them for Christmas, and their memory book, and thought about all we’ve walked through with them…..I felt so strange. Not overwhelming sadness but not necessarily relief as we go back to “normal” for a little while. We took them to grandma and I didn’t have a complete come apart like I anticipated. I can attribute that to Gods grace. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ I am confident that grandma loves them and will care for them as we have, so that helps. Still, as we waved goodbye it’s almost like it’s not hit me yet. It feels like we will be back to get them in a few days. As I contemplated baby K’s expression as he waved at us I felt almost a sting in my heart,…. he doesn’t understand. He probably feels the same thing, “they’ll be back”. And maybe we will be. Grandma said to stay in touch. And I hope we get to. I hope this isn’t the end of our story with those boys. I hope we get to see more of Gods mercy and goodness at work in their lives. Because one thing is for certain, he loves them, his hands are on them, and he desires for them to know him. So we may not be their foster parents anymore but we certainly will never stop praying for them and we will always love them. Those boys will forever be in our hearts and I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve them.

“LORD, you will grant us peace; all we have accomplished is really from you.” Isaiah‬ ‭26:12

Hope of the World

Today we began decorating for Jesus Birthday. And can I just say, I really hate not getting to share pictures of all our current family members. 😩 It almost feels wrong picking over the photos of our cute little munchkins, like I’m leaving them out. But, rules are rules.

Little babies teensy little hand

Big babies chunky foot 🙂

This Advent season I am reading through John Piper’s devotional The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. You can download it for free from Desiring God’s website. Today’s devotional is entitled Why Christmas Happened and the scripture used is 1 John 3:5, 8 “And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him…..The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil.”

Before John Piper even goes on to tell me “Make this personal and love Him for it” I already am. Not only do I love Him for coming and taking away my sin but I love Him so much for destroying the works of the devil. Works like anger, hatred, addictions, abuse, rebellion, and specifically works like broken families and children in foster care. I have felt hopeless for our boys being reunited with healthy parents. I have felt concerned at the thought of them going to another family member. I have felt confused not knowing if, given the opportunity, we should adopt them. I have felt unsure about their stability in life.

And then He came.

“”Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations……And his name will be the hope of all the world.”” Matthew‬ ‭12:18, 21‬ ‭

His name will be the hope these boys need.

His name is the hope their parents need.

His name will be the hope of all the world.

I am so thankful for Christmas. Every year we get to take time to focus on and have our perspectives refreshed on why Jesus came and what that means for us.

For me this year it means I don’t need to feel hopeless for these two baby boys and their family. God has clearly intervened on their lives and allowed us to play a role and no matter what happens I can trust our time is not meaningless. Because Jesus came I have hope that God is at work even if I can’t see or understand from my limited perspective.

Jesus came to take away sin. My sin. Their sin. Your sin. 

I pray this Christmas this truth resonates deeper in our hearts than it did the last. I pray we would understand the magnitude of Jesus coming and that it would strengthen weak faith, give hope to the hopeless, bring light to those living in dark, call home those who have walked away, and bring people from death to life. I pray with the deepest gratitude in our hearts we would celebrate our Rescuer and King, the Hope of the world.

“God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:9-10‬