The foster parents, that is!!
yep – as of January 26, 2010 The Department of Protective and Regulatory Services has licensed us for foster/adopt/respite child care services! We are official – finally!!!
The start of this journey really began a couple years ago; it was when Rob and I lived in San Antonio that a desire for adoption began to grow in our hearts. We were introduced to a dear couple at our church that was a true advocate for the orphan, and through their ministry Hope for Orphans, we saw adoption in a whole new way. Being a part of several workshops and sermons, we were allowed to see God’s heart for adoption and how it really is a powerful picture of our own salvation. We felt strongly that we should be fans of adoption because we ourselves were children that had been adopted into God’s family, through Jesus Christ. I love how The Message paraphrases the words of Ephesians 1:3-6 in regards to this. “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”
And then in John 14:18 Jesus says, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Wow! As believers, that verse offers us much hope about a loving Father that will care for us; and it just further hits home the thought that we can turn around and offer that same sense of hope and care and love to another child without a home. And with this new perspective, we definitely felt the burden to adopt. But we didn’t know what that looked like or where to start. Many of the families we knew that adopted had felt passionate about taking in a child from a specific country. There were friends of ours that felt the conviction to adopt from Russia, from China, from Ethiopia – but what about us, where was our conviction? We were without a country of our own that we were drawn to and we didn’t feel God’s leading in any particular direction. So we didn’t take any action and we didn’t pursue anything. But the desire remained strong and I knew God was still at work in our hearts in this matter.
It was when we moved to Austin that we became very much aware of the great number of orphans and children in need of foster care that are state-side (I have recently read statistics that say there are approximately 500,000 children in foster care in the US and that 130,000 of those children in foster care are waiting and available for adoption). Hearing information along those lines, from several different unrelated sources, our hearts turned to our own country and we started looking into the foster-to-adopt option. We wanted to learn more about how we could play a part in the lives of children awaiting homes in Texas.
And it was rather convenient that near this time, Arrow Child and Family Ministries offered to provide foster training sessions during our church’s Sunday evening services! That was back in May when we started going through the 32 hours of training and all the paperwork and requirements to get certified for foster care and to adopt through the state of Texas. And over the course of that training, our hearts have been even more open to the idea of just basic foster care, when it most likely won’t lead to adoption. We had loved the idea of taking in a child (or more) permanently into our home and adopting them into our family (and that is still one of our intents) but we also discovered that there is a great blessing you can give to a child while they are removed from their homes temporarily, while their parental guardians are desperately trying to get things in order in their lives. Those children in the foster care are without homes (even if only for a little while) and need to be thought of as well when considering the verse, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress… (James 1:27)”
And listening to other families that we have come in contact with through the foster agency, we have seen how fostering can provide a great way to do ministry as a family. As a mother with young kids of my own, I have found it very difficult to find service opportunities where we can all participate together. But when you take in a foster child and care for them in your home, you are providing your own children with a wonderful way to serve! And best of all, you are doing it together, side by side, and you can most effectively help encourage your own children how to love on others. It just seems to provide excellent occasions to instill in your own kids’ hearts a desire to care for others. And foster care opens up a world of outreach opportunities to share the love of Christ with others, too. You get to be a consistent light to the foster child, to the foster child’s parents, and to any of the many other persons involved with foster care arrangement (CPS, therapists, case workers…) as they will all get to see how you can genuinely serve and minister with the love and joy of Christ.
I am so thrilled that our church is on board with promoting a heart for the orphan and providing opportunities to get involved in this ministry. And for any of you Austin Stone attenders, in case you didn’t know, they are offering a Get Trained class for the fall that will help folks get through the certification process (see details here)
And even if you don’t feel the specific call to adoption or to be foster parents at present, there are still other ways to serve with the orphan in mind. These are just a few of the many opportunities that are out there, that I found posted on our church’s website here.
*Foster Care Relief/Babysitting
While children are in the foster care system, they must always be in the care of someone who is certified or licensed by a foster care agency. Many foster families are in need of families willing to babysit or watch their foster children for an afternoon or evening. In order to serve foster families by babysitting their children for less than 8 hours at a time, a person must be CPR and First Aid certified and must complete the appropriate paperwork provided by the foster care agency. The Austin Stone will be hosting a CPR/First Aid training and overview of the babysitting process in January or February. You can sign up on the website to receive information. (*We really hope other families in the Austin area will being doing this certification. The need for babysitters certainly exists when fostering and we will need to know who we can call on to help!)
Many foster families are in need of families willing to babysit or watch their foster children for a few days or even a few weeks. In order to leave foster children with someone for this extended length of time (more than 72 hours), the babysitter must have gone through the entire foster care training and be a licensed foster care.
*Pathway Hospital Visitor:
Pathways, a local 501(c)3 foster care agency, is looking for people willing to spend time with foster children who are currently hospitalized. The visitors are assigned in shifts of varying lengths, usually a few hours at a time, and are asked to take a few short notes as they befriend the child. A background check and a short over-the-phone orientation are required