Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Why Have We Chosen Foster Care and/or Adoption? PART 2

If you missed my last post Read Part 1 HERE.

The thing is when we say we're pursing foster care and adoption many people respond with something like, "Oh, how exciting!"  Others respond, "Oh!" with a confused and concerned look on their faces, but we'll address that later.  For now, let's address the "exciting" comment. 

You know, it is kind of exciting in the sense that we're following God's lead; we're going to have the opportunity to invest in the lives of children; there is a huge need and, God willing, we're going to do something rather than just talk about it.  Yep, that sounds kind of exciting, right?  But, the truth is, most often good, worthwhile things are also not easy things. They stretch you. They require self-sacrifice. It's hard work. 

At first, it was all a little scary. Yes, we had faith (and still do). Apart from that faith, this all seemed crazy.  Although we have nothing to hide, having "the government" invade (not really, but that's how it felt at first) our home and analyze our every move, seemed a bit taxing and intrusive. Undergoing background checks, turning over our tax records, going through 10 weeks of 3 hour classes ~ a one hour drive away, piles of paperwork and 3 home studies, all seemed inconvenient and a bit overwhelming. We worried about the safety of our own children. We were concerned that "they" would discriminate against us because we're a bit "outside the box"...conservative Christians, homeschoolers, etc. We're not dealing with a Christian agency. In fact, that's not even an option in Iowa. I wish it were.

As time has passed and we've connected with the people of the system, it doesn't seem like they're "out to get us". The more we learn, the more we understand just why all of these rules, guidelines and procedures are in place.  It's to protect the kids. So I'm thankful they're in place, even if it does seem a bit crazy at times.  I really question how any unstable couples/individuals ever manage to make it through without being detected. 

So pursuing foster care and adoption is about as exciting as being an overseas missionary. It's not glamorous.  But it is important, necessary, gospel spreading...and not for everyone.

Announcing you're doing foster care/foster care adoption isn't like announcing a pregnancy.  Although we will welcome a little one with joy into our home, LORD willing, for all the joy and excitement we will feel, that little one will most likely feel just as much sorrow and loss.

You see, every foster child in the system represents a broken family.  It's sad.  For every child we have an opportunity to nurture and protect there is a devastating reality of neglect and/or abuse behind them being in foster care in the first place.  There's nothing exciting about that.  Every child, no matter their age, wants to be with their birth family.  This is something we knew, but understand a lot better now that we've taken the PS-MAPP classes.  Although it's wonderful to have the desire to help children, the very fact that foster care (and adoption) is even necessary is a sad reality.  As foster and adoptive parents we will need to help children work through much pain, confusion, loss and grief. 

When you have a better understanding of the things many innocent children are facing in this modern day world, your heart can't help but feel burdened for them, these beloved children of God. 

No matter what type of orphan care, foster care or adoption you pursue or support, it represents the dark realities of this fallen, broken world where children are mistreated or unwanted or abandoned...or all of the above.  And there are repercussions. 

International adoption, domestic adoption, foster care adoption, embryo adoption...all come with their own set of challenges and triumphs.  All are vital and important in nurturing LIFE!  If you're not familiar with any of these types of adoptions, I urge you to Google them (I added a link to embryo adoption since it is perhaps the least well known option). 

I've had a few people ask how they can help us through this foster care/adoption process.  My first request is PLEASE PRAY!  Pray for:

Us (our family) ~ for protection, wisdom, strength, open hearts that will follow the LORD's leading and move as He directs us, and only as He directs us, so that He may be glorified.

Children in foster care and those who will be entering care, all of them, but especially for those the LORD will bring to us.  We are trusting God with every detail!

Parents and families of the children in foster care ~ as I mentioned in my previous post many of these parents faced the same neglect and abuse as children themselves.  The cycle needs to be broken.  Many are facing addictions, incarceration or mental health issues.  They need to know that there is hope and a better way.  They need JESUS.

Social/Case Workers, Licensing Workers, Adoption Workers, Judges, etc ~  They have a huge weight on their shoulders and the decisions they make effect the lives of many.

Secondly, I ask you to pray about getting involved.  I'm NOT saying everyone should do foster care or adopt.  I AM saying: find a way you can help.  (Get ideas on how you can help by following the links below)

We understand today, even more than when we started this process, there is a great need for Christians to step in and be the nurturing arms of Christ.  Not so we can pat ourselves on the back.  So that we can live out the Gospel, impact lives and honor God.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 (NLT)

I recently started following the Jason Johnson Blog.  Jason Johnson and his wife are adoptive parents and foster care providers.  He has some wonderful insights.  Here are a few links I highly recommend; ones that echo my own heart!

Orphan Care, the Church and Evangelical Fads (Zeal without Knowledge is dangerous and Orphan Care is not a Fad)
Orphan Care: You Can't Do Everything, But You Can Do Something (Can't do foster care or adopt at this time?  Other ways YOU can support children ~ modern day orphans ~ and adoptive families). 

Adoption: Giving a Family, Not Just Getting a Child

Once you are on Jason's blog you will find all kinds of other links to good, relevant blog posts!!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Why Have We Chosen Foster Care and Adoption? PART 1

We've already heard the typical crazy comments and questions about foster care and adoption from the foster care system...and we don't even have our first placement yet.  Heck, we haven't even finished the classes yet. 

It's clear most people don't have a great understanding of how the foster care system works or about the kids it helps. 

Allow me to start by clearing up a few misconceptions and maybe answering some of your questions.
The children in foster care are not bad kids.  They have done nothing wrong.  They're not second rate citizens or "less than" our biological children or anyone else's.  Although they've been victims of neglect and/or abuse and these things effect their development, they were not necessarily born that way.  They did not ask to be born into dysfunctional families or to parents who need to work on their own issues.  They didn't do anything to deserve the treatment they've received.

Just as their are misconceptions about the children, there are certain "labels" put on all birth parents who end up with kids in the foster care system.  But I'm rarely quick to slap a label on anyone.  Don't judge someone until you've walked a little while in their shoes.  Many of these parents were victims of the same things their kids are now going through.  It's a cycle that needs to be broken.  Many of these parents need mentors to give them hope and show them a better way.

Even though there are obvious reasons that children are taken from their birth parents and put into foster care, it doesn't change the fact that those kids still want to be with their parents.  No matter what their parents have done or how dysfunctional they're home life was, every kid wants to be with his/her parents.  Likewise, many of these parents love their kids and fight to get them back.

The point of foster care is not to rip families apart.  In fact, from everything I'm learning, there has to be real, solid evidence of abuse and/or neglect.  I know you hear of "horror stories" of kids being taken from their parents when they shouldn't have been.  From what I am learning, that is not the norm.  In fact, DHS doesn't want to remove the children and work to do everything they can to keep families together.  Once the kids are taken into care, the goal is reunification of the children with their birth family.  Only when it becomes clear (usually after multiple chances) that reunification is impossible are the parental rights terminated and the children put up for adoption.  That's why many of the children you hear of who need adopted out of foster care are older children.

That being said, not all the kids in foster care are teenagers.  In fact, from what we've learned, 43% of the children in foster care in the state of Iowa, where we live, are 0-5 years old!  The reason the child welfare service is always advocating for foster teen care and adoption is because there are so few people willing to take teenagers, especially teenagers with special needs.  So many of these kids stay in foster care homes or group homes and eventually "age out" of the system without a family.  Sad, but true. 

We have two young sons, 7 and 4.  Because we are thinking of their safety and well-being, and what child(ren) will work best in our little family, we are hoping to foster young children.  This isn't some selfish, self-protective stance.  Actually, in our PS-MAPP classes they have emphasized "knowing your family", really assessing your family and knowing what would/would not work best for/with your family, before taking placements.  This is better for everyone involved, including the foster children who do not wish to be moved again and again.  I have utmost respect for people willing to foster older children and that may be something we do in the future, but, for today, we're in "little kids" zone around here.  We hope that some day we will have the opportunity to adopt out of the foster care system. 

This is not PLAN B.  When I was a teenager I knew I wanted to adopt some day, whether I had my own biological children or not.  I felt strongly about it.  I wanted to help hurting children, to show them the love of Christ. After Alan and I were married I mentioned the idea of adoption to him, he didn't like the idea.  I was shocked because up to that point we had agreed on so many things.  I decided that I wouldn't nag him or even mention it again, I would just pray.  And that's what I did.  Four years later, he said out of the blue one day that had been thinking...maybe we should adopt some day.  GOD is amazing!!

We're not pursuing foster care/adoption because we had three miscarriages and have given up on having more biological children.  We don't know whether we will have more biological children or not.  Only God knows the answer to that question.  We're open to what He has for us.  We believe that children (ALL children) are a blessing from the LORD.

Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb (*any womb) is a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one's youth. 5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate. *extra words added by me

I thought adoption was something we would pursue later, when our children were older, especially if we went the foster care route.  But last year God changed my heart and mind.  Over the whole year He was working on me.  It seemed like everywhere I turned, everything I heard or saw was about adoption.  And I kept hearing about children in foster care.  Still, I was leaning toward the idea of international adoption.  However, the first time (last year) that I mentioned this stronger tug on my heart, the idea that the time might be now not later, to Alan, he wasn't enthusiastic.  I asked him to begin praying about it, which he did. 

As the year proceeded (we) kept processing and praying and it still felt like the Lord was leading that way.  I couldn't shake it.  The tug eventually became a burning conviction.  Alan and I had several in depth conversations about it.  In one of those conversations he expressed a desire to adopt children right here in Iowa.  Together we decided that foster care was something we should do; that we could also care for and love children that we may never have the opportunity to adopt.  In fact, we felt God directing us that way.  We've always known God calls us to care for the widows and orphans. These are our modern day orphans.

Would it be easier not to do foster care and/or adopt?  Sure seems like it.  But what blessings would we miss?  What about the children?  Is there anything a person/family could do to impact the course of another person's life than this?  Most things worth doing are not easy.  We're moving ahead in obedience, peace and with joy.  We know God has good plans for us and our family! 

Our understanding of foster care has changed since we started this process.  We have learned so much...and we continue to.  The reasons we began were perhaps a bit different than the reasons we're continuing to pursue it.  We can see more clearly now why God has called us to this!

But I will share more about that next time.  I have so much more to say.  This has to be more than one post...

Join me next time.  :)

"Teach me how to live, O LORD.  Lead me along the right path...I am confident I will see the LORD's goodness while I am here in the land of the living.  Wait patiently for the LORD.  Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently, for the LORD."  Psalm 27:11, 13

At the beginning of the year I chose my words for the year 2014.  God gave me: FEAR NOT.  :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Random Rachel Returns

What do I write about.  Which thing? 

I've been stepping back...simplifying...allowing the refining. 

I've felt pressured to write (I mean, this blog is just sitting here...) and yet, I don't. 

Do I write about the things He's been showing me?  The way He's been chipping away at my character.  The way He's been renewing and restoring things lost...and giving what perhaps never was.  Understanding.  Change.  Newfound joy.

Do I write about the foster care classes?   The stuff we're learning.  The way God is opening my eyes and heart even more to just why He's called us to this.  The class content is absolutely fascinating and educational.  Not sure what I expected, but the classes are better than I thought they would be. 

Do I write about the licensing process and the preparation to care for a foster child?  It's quite a process.  Many steps, a lot of paperwork, home studies and preparation necessary.  Sometimes it seems taxing, then I remember the goal.  It's worth it!

Do I write about one of our classes?  About Managing behaviors? Assessing strengths and needs?  Maybe about gains and losses?

Do I write about our loss?  It was 2  years ago that we lost our baby Faith to miscarriage; our third miscarriage.  Two years!!  Wow.  We've grieved.  We've questioned.  We've processed.  We've accepted God's promises to be true.  He has a good plan for us and we can trust Him, even when we don't understand.  As we move ahead, we see more clearly how He has worked in it.  How He has grown us; prepared us; lead us.  In joyful anticipation we look forward to seeing what He will do next, in His timing and in His way. 

Do I write about our two precious little boys?  They're constantly changing, growing, learning, bringing joy to our lives and home.  What about my 3 year old asking me what breasts are for!  :)  Or his little sweetness telling me daily, "You're the best mom!  I'll never forget about you."  Melts my heart!  Or what about my 7 year old who's suddenly a big boy; changing, growing increasingly independent and pulling away from mommy in some ways.  He's a little man.  Time is passing.

And I realize more and more and more the need to be here, to be fully present.  I can't be attached to a computer screen or my iPhone.  I can't be running around to numerous commitments.  I could miss it.  I don't mean just missing them growing or missing my chance.  Even worse, I could miss their hearts.  THIS is my call: to love God and others, starting at home with my husband and sons.  To spread the gospel, starting here.

To spend time just being with them (and their daddy), modeling, loving, nurturing relationships...
maybe even get a BONUS ride in the wagon every once in a while.  :)

Do I write about the disconnect between what our culture (as a whole) says is important and how we actually live?  How are we, especially we Christians, living out what we say we believe?  We say our mission field begins at home and yet it seems to me that the people in our homes often tend to get the worst of us rather than the best; as if everyone else "out there" is more important.  This is the true test of the every day. 

Or do I write a Random Rachel post to just say...I can't write that much here?  I guess so.  That's what I'm doing.  I'm saying I just can't write that much right now.  At least not here.  Not now.  It's just not the time.  Today is the day to He leads me/us to the next place of promise.  I know it's a good place to be.

What would you write about?  What is God showing you? 

Philippians 2:1-11
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,[a]
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
    he took the humble position of a slave[c]
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.