Foster Life

Foster Parents are not special

Something I have been thinking about a good bit lately is various myths people believe, and misconceptions people have, about being a foster or adoptive parent. Today I’d like to write briefly about what I think is the biggest myth.

Myth #1: Foster parents are special.

We are not special. Not by a long shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to think I’m awesome, and generally like to be told I’m awesome. I don’t think I’m unique in this. So in a way I have to admit I enjoy hearing something along the lines of, “Oh, y’all do so much, I could never do that.”

Problem is, it’s not true.

You should not believe that you have to be special to be a foster parent. The truth is that, like parenting, most of it is just showing up and being there.

I know single mothers. I know parents of five kids, and folks who have special needs children. I also know families that look practically perfect, who struggle more than a lot of people would believe.

All parents deal with a lot of crap. Sometimes it’s literally in diapers, most of the time it’s just part of being  a parent.

Are there problems unique to being a foster parent? Of course. We don’t get nine months’ warning that a new kid is coming. We have to deal with visitations, visits from case workers, and all sorts of rules and regulations.

At the end of the day, though, we are loving kids and helping them grow. We may not do it for the entire life of the child (most likely we won’t) but it’s still, when all is said and done, parenting.

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Foster Life

The Problem We Don’t Want to Solve

I’ve been thinking about writing this for a while. I hope you’ll read it all the way through.

Let’s start with some math. There are over 104,000 kids in America who are available for adoption. To put that in perspective, it’s roughly the population of Wichita Falls, TX.

It is a massive number. But it’s not the only number to consider. There are around 314,000 Protestant churches in America.

Let’s round the numbers to make the math easy. Say 100,000 kids who can be adopted, and 300,000 churches. With that, one family from every three churches could adopt one kid, and we would be done.

Things are more complicated than that, I know. I’ll deal with that in a moment. But the math is very simple: 1 family from every 3 churches, and all these kids have permanent, forever homes.

We could solve this problem if we wanted to.

Therefore: We have not solved this problem because we do not want to solve it.

Let me be careful here to explain what I mean. I do not mean that we do not want this problem to be solved. Of course we do. We want all children to have loving homes.

But saying “We want the problem to be solved” is not the same as “We want to solve the problem.” We want other people to do the work here, to make the sacrifices, and to bear the burden.

This is not about guilt

I am also not saying that everyone should be a foster or adoptive parent, or that you should feel guilty for not getting directly involved. I don’t believe that is true. There are a lot of good reasons for not fostering or adopting, and they are completely legitimate. This is not an attempt to lay guilt on anyone.

At the same time, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that we cannot muster one family from every three churches.

What about sibling groups?

I also get that things are not as simple as a math problem. A lot of these kids are in sibling groups. So it is not as simple as one family taking one child. And adopting multiple children is a very complicated proposition.

I know this because my kids are siblings we adopted. I am also painfully aware that, until they came to live with us, this brother and sister had never slept under the same roof. I have also sat in court hearings and heard about siblings who live hours apart because there are not homes that can take them both, even temporarily.

I distinctly remember hearing about two brothers. One lived in Macon, the other on the far side of Atlanta. They had not seen each other in six months. The youngest, who was about two at the time, was beginning to forget he even had a brother.

Yes, adopting multiple children makes things more difficult. It also makes things more urgent.

Etc.

There are a lot of other things to address. What about the expense? Yes, it can be very expensive to adopt. Kids are expensive in general. I can say, though, that the state of Georgia paid $1500 towards attorney fees for each of our kids, plus we got a big tax credit. So there are offsets. Additionally — and I’m not going too far down this path right now — I think that if churches can build mulit-million dollar facilities, they should be able to finance an adoption or three.

A lot (most?) of these kids are not babies, while a lot of people are only interested in adopting infants. Older kids can potentially come with all sorts of baggage. There are complications involving interracial adoptions and blending families.

More than all this, however, there is the opportunity to display the Gospel.

This is a Gospel issue

Amber and I heard about K and P before we ever met them. Before that first meeting, we had decided that, if everything went as it seemed to be going, we would adopt them. In other words, before K knew who we were, and before P was even old enough to understand, we intended for them to be our kids.

This is a picture of God’s election. It is incomplete and imperfect, yes. But it still points us to the reality that, before we knew God, he chose us (Romans 9:11).

And just as our salvation came at great cost, giving these children homes will cost us dearly. It is not an easy thing. But it is certainly an opportunity to show the world that we take God’s commitment to the fatherless seriously.

As I have said, this is not for everyone. Nor is it about making you feel guilty one way or the other. But I am most certainly calling you, and your church, to think on these things.

Pray and ask, “How can I — not someone else — contribute to solving this problem?”

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Politics, White People Wednesday

White People Wednesday

I’m going to see about starting White People Wednesday here at Naughty Baptist. I am aware it is Thursday. However I thought of this last night, and White People Thursday isn’t as catchy. Work with me.

Dear Fellow White People:

Please stop telling minorities to not freak out about Trump. You may or may not agree, but don’t jump in and tell folks to stop. And yes, I mean this even if you think someone is going too far. Here’s why:

Republicans did freak out about Obama

I’ve seen folks comparing this to when Obama was elected. “You didn’t see Republicans freaking out!” Couple of things here. First, you weren’t on my FB feed, apparently, but a lot of republicans freaked out. Second, a lot of people started stockpiling guns and joining or forming little wannabe terrorist groups (ie “militias”). So it’s not true to say Republicans didn’t freak out a bit.

If you’re white, Trump didn’t threaten you

More than that, though, Obama never pledged to deport people. He did not have a history of belittling women, minorities, people with disabilities, etc. Trump undeniably does.

I know — You may have voted for Trump, but you’re not racist or sexist. OK, I’ll believe you. But it’s also true that voted for the guy, knowing at some level that his racism and sexism aren’t going to affect you.

Trump is different

I didn’t vote for Obama, but I wasn’t despairing when he won. I wouldn’t have despaired had Romney won (didn’t vote for him either, though). I disagreed with both men. But I didn’t question their character or abilities. I just disagreed with them. Trump goes far beyond that, though, to a lot of people. Folks do question his character, as well as his ability to lead.

Hurting people cry out

Finally, don’t tell people to stop because they’re mourning. If you disagree with someone, or think they’re too extreme, keep in mind that people say crazy things when they’re upset. If you think someone is going too far, try to keep that perspective.

What should you do instead? Listen. Even when you disagree. Especially when you disagree. Try to understand. You may still think they’re wrong, but at least you will understand, and that will open up the possibility of conversation.

I’m upset Trump won. But at the end of the day, it’s easy for me to say, “Oh well, we all need to get over it.” He didn’t threaten to deport me, or ban me, or build a wall around me. I’m a middle-aged white guy who drives a minivan.

Love and kisses,
–B

PS: I really don’t want to be condescending. If I have, I do apologize. Nor do I think I speak for anyone other than myself, especially a minority.

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Personal, Social Justice

It has to stop

I was supposed to go running this morning. But we got to bed around midnight and, when my alarm went off at 5, I decided to just sleep in. I meet a friend for breakfast most Thursdays, so I figured I’d sleep until 6 or so and then get ready and go.

I couldn’t get back to sleep. I kept thinking about the killing of Alton Sterling. I lay there, by turns incredibly sad and angry, and finally got up. My phone said it was 5:59. I thought I would sit down and write up my thoughts.

Then I saw the news about Philando Castile.

I’m still trying to process all this. I have no wisdom to offer here.

Here’s what I know: Two men, made in the image of God, are dead. And they should not be.

As a Christian, I can’t be silent. We white Christians have been silent far too long. Martin Luther King, Jr., condemned us in 1963 for our silence. Our brothers and sisters today do so, too. They are right to do so.

I don’t know what this means, exactly. Right now it means listening, and weeping with those who weep (Romans 12:15).

Here’s the paragraph from King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail that still rings true:

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws. I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

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