Just 5 years ago I didn’t really understand foster care. I didn’t know how kids entered or left foster care. I didn’t know that kids spent years upon years in the foster care system because things are so massively broken. I was oblivious to the enormous drug crisis and need for foster parents. I was living in my little Christian bubble still trying to heal from past hurts, find community, and wait for a husband. I was naive to the dark reality of what’s happening to people right here in our neighborhoods. The drug crisis is real. Neglect and abuse is everywhere. Early childhood trauma is life-threatening. I was ignorant. I thought I was walking with Jesus but truly I was just hanging out until He brought me the right man so that I could start the next phase of my life.
Why Did I Choose Foster Care?
The Shocking Numbers
In addition to the above statistics, a few more below along with Texas stats I pulled from the 2019 Texas Dept of Family and Protective Services data:
- At any one time there are 400,000+ kids currently in foster care in the USA
- In Texas this number is 51,400 kids (8,000 in Central Texas/Austin region).
- The 125,000 kids mentioned in the image above means that their biological parents’ rights have been legally terminated, all biological family has been eliminated as an option, and these kids are just waiting for someone to say YES to becoming their Forever Family. Ready now! And yes, most likely it will be free.
- In Texas this number is nearly 7,000 kids.
- In Texas 18,600 kids were removed from their homes in 2019 (3,000 from the Austin/Central Texas region).
- In Texas there are only 1,400 foster homes (152 in Austin/Central Texas however only 89 homes open to foster care without the guarantee of adoption). We sure need to up this number folks!!
- In Texas 20,000 kids exited foster care in 2019. This is an interesting stat because it doesn’t tell me how they exited (adoption, reunification, aged out of care, etc.)
- We were 1 of the 6,100 adoptions consummated in 2019. So that leaves about 14,000 kids that were reunified with family or aged out of care (based on the previous stat)?? Perhaps one of my fellow foster moms who better understand the system can comment.
May is Foster Care Awareness Month. It’s important for you to be aware of foster care because it is ALL AROUND YOU. If you think you don’t know a foster parent or foster child you’re probably wrong. I thought I didn’t too but once I entered this world I was pleasantly surprised to find a good amount of foster parents (even other single ones!). So if you think it’s only for “those kind of good people,” it’s not. It’s FOR YOU, especially if you call yourself a Christian. It doesn’t mean you have to be a foster parent, but it does mean you are called to play a role in this crisis.
There are roughly 50 million married Christians in America. There are 428,000 kids in the foster system. That means if only .00856% of Christian couples decided to foster we’d no longer have a system. I’m fostering because not even .00856% of Christians are willing to foster.I’m a Single, Tatted, 30-Year-Old Male and God Has Called Me To Foster, SaveTheStorks.com 2017
My Absolute Love of Babies
From as early as I can remember I loved babies (and babies love me!) and I longed to be a mother. It’s hard to explain how deeply this desire defines me which is how I know it’s from God. “Mothering” or care-taking is ingrained in who I am. I never had that big Something I Want To Be When I Grow Up. I just wanted to be a Stay At Home Mom. I was going to be the best wife and mother. But then life didn’t turn out as expected. So instead I babysat for free A LOT, I lead children’s ministry for toddlers in church, I volunteered at YoungLives camps watching babies of teen moms around the clock, and I even left corporate America for a year to nanny full-time for 6-month-old twins. The more babies the better! 🙂 Ultimately I let the Lord re-shape my traditional desire to one that more glorifies Him. I landed on foster care because it would be temporary. I wasn’t ready to create a permanent family without a man by my side. I could use all my mom skills for a while to love on a baby that so desperately needs it and then send him/her back! 😀 Right??!!! This is exactly how foster care works [insert sarcasm]. I mean, after all, no one dreams of becoming a single parent.
The Impact of Trauma
My first baby step into the foster care world was attending a class called Empowered to Connect. Gateway Church Austin was hosting the class as part of their Restore series but since the class description was for foster and adoptive parents I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to go. I reached out to the leaders and they let me sit in on the first class so I could decide. So here I am, the single girl with no kids sitting with three married couples with foster/adopt children discussing child trauma and behaviors. #awkward But I loved the content so I signed right up! The class is very discussion based and surprisingly I was able to contribute based on my experiences hosting teenage foreign exchange students (no I did NOT use my dog for any examples!) 😀 #NeverCompareYourDogToAChild
The class had us read The Connected Child by Kathryn Purvis and this book CHANGED MY WORLD. Everything I thought I knew about parenting was flipped on it’s head (I grew up in an authoritarian home after all). My perspective of my own childhood completely transformed (I realized how much I had lacked emotionally/relationally). My eyes were completely opened to a way of life to which I was oblivious. Babies who suffer from trauma are different. Their brains are different. It doesn’t matter that they don’t remember the traumatic events because their brains sure do. Survival mode (when you’re functioning in the lower brain) is a real, chemical experience in your brain that prohibits the normal cognitive functions (upper brain) from working. Kids who live in abusive/neglectful homes live in this state of survival mode – they don’t know when is their next meal, if someone will comfort them, when they might get abused next. Their brains cannot learn because they are stuck in the lower brain. As a human, becoming trauma-informed is necessary. Check out The Whole Brained Child to know more. Understanding how critical were the first three years of my own childhood helped me better know myself and therefore make better choices. Understanding the four attachment styles and what happens to a child when his/her needs are not met (see image below) helped me better manage my own relationships and become a better friend, daughter, and parent. After completing this course I suddenly had more compassion toward my parents, toward past relationships, and toward every human being. It groomed me for maintaining that empathy toward my kids’ biological family no matter what. Because, the thing is, you never know what someone has gone through. You don’t know what trauma lived in their childhood (and potentially still in their brains) or if they have ever experienced the love of a parent in their entire life. You just don’t know. If you do one thing to educate yourself on trauma, please watch this Ted Talk: How Childhood Trauma Affects Health Across a Lifetime.
The Orphans are Right Here
I don’t know about you but when I hear the word “orphan” I picture a starving child over in a third world country. Yes orphans are everywhere. Some have parents, some don’t. Some are taken away from their parents such as the case of foster care. Some have parents whose legal rights have been terminated (this means they can be adopted). The Bible is filled with verses of caring for orphans. God commanded it, Jesus talked about it. You can go ahead and google that. He is the Father to the Fatherless after all. As a Christian I am called to care. I am called to participate. I am called to support. I am called to at least be aware. I know foster care might sound scary. But these are our kids. This is our problem as Christ-followers.
All the Pieces
I took baby step by baby step toward becoming a licensed foster parent. At each step I checked in with the Lord to be sure I was on the right track. I wasn’t in a rush (and, yes, secretly I was hoping He would bring me a partner so that I wouldn’t have to embark on this difficult journey alone). With each step I took the more joy I felt, the more fulfilled I became, and the more it seemed that God was validating my steps. The more I learned about trauma the more my perception of my own history began to transform. I began to understand why all the messy broken pieces had happened. The bitterness about what He “allowed” in my life faded. There was a purpose in it all. The heartbreaks gave me the experience and compassion for this wild journey. Everything became clear. This was the mission for which my Heavenly Father had designed me. And thus I continued walking it.
Every Person Deserves A Loving Parent. Period.
I don’t know your history but more than likely as a child you had at least one person in your life who was good to you, who provided for you, who didn’t do anything to make you doubt their love for you. You weren’t constantly worried about your safety or when your next meal would be. Neither was I. I have no idea what it’s like to live in that state. I have no idea how different my life choices would’ve been. I don’t know how differently my brain and heart would be today. But now I know a few people that were raised that way, including my kids’ biological mom. She changed my perception of people. As I began to learn about her world I was filled with grief for the life she never got. Not only do my kids deserve a loving parent, so does bio mom and bio dad. So does every human being no matter what awful things you think they may have done whether in childhood or adulthood. They deserve a chance to make a good choice. The sad reality is many kids in foster care never get lucky enough to land with a loving family who commits to them no matter what. They age out. They grow up. They get pregnant. Their kids go into foster care. You may think the cycle ends by rescuing a kid from foster care. It doesn’t. That’s why I chose not only to love my foster kids with every ounce of my being but I also loved bio mom and bio dad. And I still grieve for what they have lost, and what my kids’ have lost. Change a child, change the world right? Humbled to be a part of four people’s stories here.
This is why I chose foster care. I am blessed enough to be able to choose foster care. Each baby, kid, or teenager removed from their parents’ home didn’t get to choose.
#NationalFosterCareMonth #thisisfostercare #fosterlove #beafosterparent #fostercareawarenessmonth #mamalisafosters