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 beingĀ  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.

Standard
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?”

Standard
Foster Life, Personal

We went to The Journey, and all I got was peed on

We took R to Savannah Christian tonight to see The Journey tonight. Several families from our small group at church were planning to attend. Amber and I went through with our pal Haley. We got separated from the other family who was meeting us at 5 when they got in line to get tickets. No major deal, of course.

So, Amber, Haley, R and I went in to listen to the music while we waited. As in years past, it was great. There’s a lot of talent at that church. R enjoyed it, and was pretty good while we waited. She even started clapping for everyone.

After about 30 minutes of waiting we headed out. We had been warned to stay toward the back of our group to try and avoid the brunt of the Centurions. If you’ve never been, each “family group” is escorted by a Roman soldier, who basically harasses you as you go along. The very beginning has several guards yelling for you to move forward. All this is done to show how the Jews were mistreated and oppressed in the time when Jesus came. As you can imagine, we were concerned about how it might scare R.

As soon as we stepped out into the night she wasn’t too happy, even with me carrying her. The soldiers made it worse. Walking down the dark paths did not help. We were hoping she would enjoy watching the drama scenes. As we walked to the second one, I told Amber that I didn’t know if this was going to work for the little girl. It was at that point I felt the warmth.

I have heard about this from our friends who are parents. It still surprised me, and my brain didn’t seem to want to go to the logical conclusion. Here’s the sequence: I felt this sudden burst of warmth on my side, under where I was holding R. The girl is like a space heater, so that was my first thought: “Oh, I’m just feeling her body heat.” But then it began to slowly spread. Which led to my next thought: “You’ve got to be kidding.”

So, in the name of science, I took my free hand and checked the outside of her tights. That hand came away damp. So now I had a wet child, wet shirt, and a wet hand. So I did the manly thing: Took the Amber’s purse (which was doubling as a diaper bag), and turned around. Amber and Haley went on, and I backtracked up the path.

Let me say at this point that all the volunteers at Savannah Christian were amazing. Three guys met me, and one walked me back to make sure I found my way OK, let me in a side door, and pointed me to a restroom with a changing table. On the way we passed some Centurions, who all happily said hello to R which was funny to me but I don’t think helped her.

Once inside I changed R, and since she had a dress on I was able to just take the tights off. Next I took off my long sleeve shirt to survey the damage: The tshirt underneath had a nice wet spot on it. Awesome. I put on my hoodie, and zipped it so I didn’t look completely silly.

I carried the girl on one arm, and the wet tights and my shirt in my free hand. Their bookstore was open, so I am now the proud owner of a Savannah Christian shirt. Which led to this conversation to the lady at the register:

Her: “Would you like this in a bag?”
Me: “No, but I’d like the bag.”
Her: “…”
Me: “I just changed her, now I need to change me.”
Her: “Oh, my. Would you like me to cut the tag off?”
Me: “That’d be awesome.”

Back to the bathroom, to emerge in my nice, new, dry shirt with the wet clothes in the bag. I spent the next hour or so entertaining her with my phone (how did parents cope before smart phones?) and feeding her some cookies. She took about a dozen selfies of her forehead. In the one clear picture we looked at I realized how crazy her hair was, and realized that people probably thought I was the poor dad who didn’t know how to work a brush.

When the girls were done, we were able to take her around to Bethlehem, and she loved the animals. On the way someone got us on a shuttle going back where we weren’t really supposed to go, and another volunteer steered us around to get to where we were going. Again, everyone was great.

Craziness, and silliness. Wouldn’t trade it for jack. Now to wash her clothes, and mine, including my hoodie. My 116 hoodie which, ironically, says “Unashamed” on the sleeve. It doesn’t mean “Unashamed of walking with your wife’s purse, a wet child, and pee soaking through two layers of clothes, but hey, if the urine soaked jacket fits, I’ll wear it..

Standard