We are a foster family. Sometimes, that sentence doesn't feel adequate to describe how our lives have changed over the last few years. My husband and I weren't looking for a complete lifestyle makeover, but God had other plans in mind for us. We avoided God's calling for months, trying to make excuses for why the timing could not be right. We had other ways in mind for growing our family, we were settled into a comfortable routine, we had a son who seemed too innocent and impressionable to expose to the reality of fostering... But here we are, three years later, with our eighth foster child. Our kids (we now have two biological sons) don't remember a time without foster children. Some days I don't remember that life either! I frequently receive calls and emails from people who feel like God is calling them to foster care. If you are one of those people, don't panic! Fostering was not on our radar either. It is so easy to talk yourself out of a word from God, especially when following His will requires training, inspections, interviews, oh, and the small matter of having social workers call you in the middle of the night (sometimes also in the middle of a snow storm) to ask you to host a new child within the hour. You may fear the feelings of loss when children return home. You may fear the unknown details- Will the training be adequate? Who will be in our home? Where will we find the space for another child? I can't answer these questions for your family, but I can encourage you to take the first step. Call your local foster care agency and ask for the next information session. Message DC127 (https://www.facebook.com/reversethelist) and ask about their Safe Families program. Start collecting kid supplies for the age range you plan to foster.
The good news is that you will not be alone on your fostering journey. One of the best parts of fostering has been seeing our friends and family embrace our foster children Looking for ways to support your friends who foster? Here are three things we have appreciated.
1) Treating our foster kids like part of the family. Remembering names, asking about developmental milestones, attending birthday parties- these are all ways that make us feel supported.
2) Friends who think of us when cleaning out kid supplies. We keep an enormous amount of clothing around because we never know who will live with us next. Girl, boy, newborn, three year old- we try to be ready for anyone. If you know someone who fosters, consider asking them if they need your supplies before you head to a donation center.
3) Reminiscing about our past foster children and the memories of their time in our home. Foster children leave suddenly. We want to remember these children and the impact they had in our lives.
We still exchange a panicked glance after every call for a new child, wondering how we will manage to start fresh again. But I can sense a change in our level of trust in God. We are learning to relax into his plan and let go of our expectations for a predictable life. And, sometimes, we still need to cling desperately to God's promise in Philippians. "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7). Amen.
Melissa has been a public school teacher, a finance assistant at NCC, and now directs her oldest son's home school community, Classical Conversations of Capitol Hill. Melissa, her husband Dan, and their two boys have been a foster family for three years. They live in Washington, DC.