Those of you who know Denise and me also know that we were fostering two small children. For the sake of anonymity I will refrain from using names, but our friends and relatives know of whom I speak.
A few weeks ago during a monthly Child-Family Team (CFT) meeting it became clear that Denise and I were fighting a losing battle to adopt our foster children. I won’t go into the details and complexities of the situation, but suffice it to say that while the legal and child protection systems are designed to protect children from abuse and neglect, they nonetheless favor the birth parents and the related blood lines over unrelated foster parents. None of us could bear having our own children removed from our homes over false accusations of abuse or neglect, and so the thought that the systems would favor us is comforting. However, when we factor our “quality of life” perceptions into the equation it is easier to favor terminating the rights of birth parents and relatives that we perceive as inadequate parents. And so, with the news that the birth mother and a paternal aunt are interested in retaining the children, it was obvious that at worst we would lose the children and at best we would suffer through six to twelve months of transitional work towards reunification with the families.
So, with a very heavy heart and great concern for their safety, we decided to return the kids to the County Department of Family Services (DFS) for placement with the paternal aunt. Honestly, there were lots of mixed emotions from every member of our nuclear family. But I can unequivocally say that we are all heartbroken over the loss of these two children of God. Tears have been shed daily over these little angels; yes, even from our boys. We believe God moved us toward this decision to compel the birth families to “put up, or shut up” so to speak, but it is quite possible it was our own selfish voices we were hearing. If they work the DFS program and comply with the law and regulations, so be it. If they falter then we will be there to pick up the pieces. It sounds harsh, but it seemed like the best chance for the kids to make a clean break and for the birth relatives to prove their mettle.
I personally entered into fostering with a dose of disinterest. I wanted to be of service to children in need, but I was concerned of the impact to our family from every aspect. We still have Tom (20), Brian (17) and Evan (12) at home, and I didn’t want any of them to feel displaced. I personally enjoy the older children more (or at age fifty-two have developed a slight aversion to the physical and emotional toll of raising very young children) and wasn’t looking forward to the intrusion on my comfortable life style. But God often has a way of knocking us out of our comfort zones; He created us for His purpose and has no interest in seeing us get comfortable within our own desires.
The very nature of foster parenting requires copious amounts of time to nurture, care for, redirect, and instruct young children who enter your home as strangers. Naturally, the brunt of this burden fell upon Denise, but she was up to the task, dragging her lagging family along with her. But as weeks flowed into months, and months into a year things became easier (or at least routine). The children are no longer strangers, but became part of a more complex family, each of us being enriched by the touch of new individuals that truly reflect God here on earth. Before I knew it, as only God can do, these little “foster” children became “our” children. We all know kids are work, but I am astounded that spending fifteen months with these two children connected me to them just as if they were my own blood. They have wonderful qualities and personalities, but the real clincher is that they were created by God, and He placed them in our care for a reason. They need parents who will raise them in the way of the Lord, as well as prepare them for the realities of this world. So much progress has been made that the thought of them in the care of others who don’t know Jesus Christ or have the breath of knowledge and experience that we have… well it simply gnaws at you. It just does not seem fair. Ultimately, we know it is in God’s hands. Prayers are needed, not for our family’s needs and wishes, but for the foster children so that they will be kept safe and secure in this sinful world.
With all that sad news, I wanted to share happy pictures of our recent vacation to southern California. We were due a family vacation, and we thought it would be a happy way to send off the foster kids to their birth relatives. We spent the first three days in Hermosa Beach, and then relocated to Anaheim for the mandatory Disneyland vacation finale.
Again, prayers for the children are needed. No mater what, we are thankful God placed them in our home for as long as He did; God used them as a change agent for our own nuclear family in ways that we all will benefit.
Belle and foster daughter blow kisses