"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one. "
In November 2018 I heard a story that would forever change my life.
A friend of mine, a Kindergarten teacher, told me and a few other women about a little boy that she had in her class. Long story short, he was in an unsafe home and there were no foster families available to keep him safe.
I’m not sure why this story hit me so differently. I used to be a teacher. I knew kids like this kid. I’ve heard stories like this kid’s story. But for some reason, my heart was utterly broken this time and I felt compelled to do something. I told my husband the story the next day and I could tell it hit his heart the same way it hit mine. “We have to do something”, he said.
That is when we began exploring the idea of respite care for foster children. Respite care is a very part time job where you take other people’s foster kids for a few days at a time to give current foster families a break for a little while.
That seemed doable.
We started foster classes in January 2019 to become a licensed foster family. This class met for 3 hours once a week for 8 weeks. While taking the classes we had to complete very extensive paperwork, background checks, and a home inspection process in order to be licensed. When all of that was completed we were assigned a Home Study Worker to conduct several in-home interviews. It wasn’t until July when we finally heard back that we were going to be licensed. The Home Study Worker and the Child Protective Service Worker scheduled a time to come and meet at our house on July 11, 2019 to exchange files and officially make us a licensed foster care family.
July 10, 2019 (the day before we were officially licensed) I received a phone call from Child Protective Services. The worker on the phone told me she knew we weren’t official yet, but there was a shortage of beds in the state and asked if we would be willing to take an 8 year old girl into our care. Not for respite. They needed a full time bed. They needed seven beds, actually.
We said yes.
That night around 7:30 pm she came to our house. She was timid and polite wearing a pink romper with her hair in a tight top knot and long bangs covering half of her eyes. We chatted for a bit with the social worker and then once she left we sat our girl down for her first lice treatment. Afterwards she took a long shower and then she put some of my clothes on, since the backpack that she came with had to be put in the dryer for lice containment. When it came time to go to bed she didn't want to be in a room alone, so for that one night I slept on her floor. It would be weeks before she would sleep in her room by herself. She would only sleep on our couch with living room lights on, not falling asleep until late and waking up early.
Our girl is strong, compassionate, and funny. She also has to carry the load of the trauma that she has endured in her short life. Anxiety, inability to entertain herself, hyper, lack of boundaries, difficulty with self control. I'm not going to lie, parenting her (plus my two) took its toll.
You see, my life has never been hard. I had an amazing childhood, excellent parents, and I always had more than enough of what I needed. My husband too. So we decided to invite some hard into our lives. We believe that in doing hard things we are softening our hearts and ultimately glorifying God.
This year was tough. Really tough. But so so good. It is hard to find the words to explain it, because that doesn’t sound like it makes much sense. This now 9 year old girl has impacted our family forever. She has taught me more about myself than I ever knew. The outpouring of community support we received was nothing short of miraculous and moving. It takes a village...and boy do I have a great one!
I couldn’t have fostered without them, and ultimately, I couldn’t have done it without the strength of Jesus. That was made crystal clear once school stopped and everyone was ordered to stay at home. My village disappeared. All the structure I had in place vanished. The support that is designed to help foster families was gone. I accepted this foster placement because she was school aged...as in...she’d be in school. I knew I couldn’t do this full-time. I struggled. I really wasn’t in a good place for the first couple of weeks of quarantine. I was at the end of my rope, and I had to fully rely on Jesus and his truth to pull me out of the pit. Everyday I had to make a choice.
To choose love.
To choose joy.
That changed me. Jesus knew it would.
Although she has moved out of our house, she has a spot in our family forever. We love her. My kids love her. We will always be a "support person" for her whenever she is in need, for life.
We get the question “will you guys ever foster again?” often. We think yes. Our family will take some time as a family of four as we enter this next season of life, but I think we will foster again.
How could we not?
Almost half a million children are in foster care right now.
118,000 kids are free and clear, floating in the system, waiting to be adopted.
Every year over 20,500 kids age out of foster care without reunifying with their families or ever being adopted.
For more information about foster care in NH head here.
For more earth shattering United States Foster Care statistics click here.