November 20, 2015

Foster Care Fridays: First Placement

Well, it's been a whirlwind week.  We found out last week that we would be getting our first placement early this week.  After a crazy mix-up of dates, we had 2 kiddos placed with us on Tuesday evening.  This week has been fun, exhausting, exciting, overwhelming, joy-filled, and heartbreaking.  We've been so grateful to friends reaching out to us, for being covered in prayer by our community, and for making it to Friday night!

So as we just finished tucking our new kiddos into bed for the fourth night in a row, I thought I'd share this excerpt from The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care.  I've only read the first chapter of the book, but as we prepared and waited and talked to people about this next stage for us, I felt like this summed it up pretty well.  I had lunch with my best friend on Monday and we talked about the fact that they were excited for us, knowing that this was the culmination of a lot of prayer and work for us, but they also knew that for these kiddos it's not an exciting time.  And that's the heart of it all--it is beautiful and it is broken.  I'm thankful to have a God who can make broken things beautiful.

Everything about foster care is equal parts good and bad, joy and sorrow, beauty and brokenness. It’s a good day when a child is placed in your home. It represents safety, security and an opportunity for a child to be loved and cared for in a way they likely would not have had available to them otherwise. It’s indeed a good day when a child is placed in your home – it’s also a really bad day. It’s a day marked by hurt and brokenness, although so much gain has been made available to a child, it’s ultimately loss that has led them to that point. Generational cycles of brokenness within families have perpetuated themselves now into the next generation – abuse, neglect and abandonment have become a part of their stories. They didn’t ask for this; it was unjustly handed to them by those who were responsible to protect them from the very things they’ve now been harmed by. While the opportunity to love these kids is good, no doubt the circumstances that brought them to us are probably very, very bad. This is where the call to foster care begins and the perspective it demands we keep in order to rightly and lovingly care for vulnerable kids well.

As excited as we may be about fostering kids, they certainly aren’t excited about being foster kids. Our personal sense of excitement does not drive our efforts. Their personal tragedy does. Heartache does. A desire to see good come out of bad does. A willingness to embrace what is broken and do whatever it takes to bring healing does. There may be days that aren’t exciting. Quite frankly, there will be days that aren’t exciting at all. They’ll actually be very, very hard. You will be forced on several occasions to step back and ask yourself an important and necessary question – “Why are we doing this?” ... It’s in moments like these that you must press more deeply into your belief that the gospel is nothing if not a demonstration of Jesus’ ability to bring great beauty out of tragic brokenness. That’s why you’re doing this. This is why we do foster care. It has to be. Our personal level of excitement cannot sustain us in this. The gospel can. …the gospel is nothing if not a demonstration of Jesus’ ability to bring great beauty out of tragic brokenness. Foster care is interceding into dark stories in order to bring light into them. It’s advocating the cause of the helpless, seeking justice for the defenseless and maintaining the rights of the oppressed. This is what Jesus has done for us. We, therefore, are compelled to do the same for them. What you are doing is beautiful, not in spite of the brokenness that surrounds it but because of it. It’s upon the backdrop of darkness that light shines the brightest. Know that if it’s for just a few days or for an entire lifetime, you’ve been given the unique opportunity to offer a child something very, very beautiful in the midst of their brokenness – love. God is using you, a mere human, to solve a seemingly insurmountable human problem. Confusion, frustration and exhaustion are inevitable and unavoidable – but God is faithful and good and right there with you.
From The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care by Jason Johnson

November 15, 2015

Pinterest Cooking: Filling up our Freezer

So last week was pretty crazy.  I finished up my job after 8+ years at ECI working with the same team of people.  And on Tuesday we went to the PCHAS office to sign off on everything and become officially licensed.

So we are now officially licensed to be foster parents.  And now that I am done with my job, we could get kids placed with us at any moment.  So we will likely have our first placement in the next couple of days!

In trying to prepare, I decided to make some freezer meals to have some easy dinners as well as some lunches while the kids and I are home.  I had pinned several sites on Pinterest and started planning.

Friday night we cleaned out our freezer and then headed to Sams.  I bought a Groupon for a Sams Membership a few weeks ago, so David went with me to activate it and start stocking up on ingredients for the make ahead meals as well as other things we might need.  This is half of our freezer that we completed emptied out by either cleaning out what had gone bad or combining it all on the other side.

Saturday morning I was up bright and early and got to cooking!  I had compiled recipes from several different sites and these are the ones I ended up making:

One of the pins I found was called 7 Kid-Friendly Freezer Meals, so I decided to look into that one.  From that list, I made the Cheesy Tortellini with Ground Beef (I used ground turkey) and the Easy Chicken Pot Pie.  These are both recipes that you combine most ingredients in a ziplock and freeze them, then just thaw and cook in the crockpot when you're ready.  Very easy and I loved that she had a PDF of all of the recipes and a shopping list!

The second pin I found was 21 Meals for $150 at Aldi.  I do a lot of shopping at Aldi and love their prices, but this time we stocked up at Sams.  From this site I made the Spaghetti Sauce and added in some ground turkey.  I have all of the ingredients to make the Chicken Enchiladas, but I ran out of room in my freezer, so I froze the chicken and will make the Enchiladas for dinner sometime and double the recipe to have one batch to freeze.

The other recipes came from Money Saving Mom's 4 weeks to fill your freezer.  I made the Brown Bag Burritos (again with ground turkey instead of beef) and the Southwest Roll-Ups.  She has several freezer recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so I am looking forward to trying more of her freezer ideas!

The last thing I made were Make Ahead and Freeze Homemade Chicken Nuggets.  I realized that in addition to all of the dinners I need to prepare, I also now have to make sure we've got some lunch foods ready to go.  I figured these, along with the Burritos and Southwest Roll-Ups would all be options in addition to the regular sandwiches and meats and crackers.

Here is a look at our freezer at the end of my cooking yesterday.  I finished everything in about 3 hours, including a run to Kroger to get one item I'd forgotten on Friday night.

When I sat down at the end of October and made goals for November, I tried to keep them fairly simple since 2 of my main goals were Finishing at ECI and Getting Licensed.  But one thing I wanted to try to do was to make at least 5 freezer meals.  Most of these things will make at least 2 batches worth so I think we've got at least a few things to get us started when we need a quick dinner.  They all seemed pretty tasty as I was making them, but I'm looking forward to actually trying them out.

November 13, 2015

Foster Care Fridays: The Lingo and Resources

So there are a whole lot of terms in the foster care and adoption world.  One of the things that PCHAS introduced in their first Meet and Greet night are examples of positive language vs negative language in this realm.  And I thought some of the examples they gave were very good.  So I asked them to share their list with me so I could share it here and they graciously obliged :)  So I thought I'd pass along some of them

POSITIVE LANGUAGE                                            NEGATIVE LANGUAGE

Birthparent........................................................................Real Parent 

Biological Parent............................................................Natural Parent 

Birth Child.........................................................................Own Child 

My Child......................................................Adopted Child; Own Child 

Born to Unmarried Parents..................................................Illegitimate 

Terminate Parental Rights.......................................................Give Up 

Make an Adoption Plan.........................................................Give Away 

To Parent................................................................................To Keep 

Waiting Child......................................Adoptable Child; Available Child 

Parent..........................................................................Adoptive Parent 

International Adoption................................................Foreign Adoption 

Child Placed for Adoption..............................................Unwanted Child

Court Termination......................................................Child Taken Away

Child With Special Needs...........................................Handicapped Child

Was Adopted.......................................................................   Is Adopted

This list is not to make people feel bad if they use the terms on the right, I think we all at some point in our lives have referred to different cases in those terms.  And they aren't necessarily wrong, but there are better ways to say them.  This whole process is very emotional and there are a lot of emotions attached to some of these words.  Who ever would want to be known as someone who was "given away?"  What child wants to live in a family where there is a distinction between parents' "own children" and their "foster children?"  They are all our kids, even if they aren't permanently ours, and we plan to try our hardest to never introduce them as our foster children but just as our children or by their names.  I've read a lot about the terminology of "is adopted" vs "was adopted" which again can seem to be mincing words, but one feels like it's a constant need to earn approval and adoption and one is the idea that this is permanent and forever, it happened and nothing will ever change the child's place in the family.  I don't put any of this out there to be petty, but I think it's important for us to think about the value we're placing on people by how we describe them.  I wrote a post several years ago about People First Language and all that I've learned in my job about how we describe people with disabilities.  Again, it may seem petty, but the way we describe people can be hurtful even when we don't mean it to be.  And as an advocate for these kiddos I want to use positive language to describe their case, their parents, and their place in our family as much as I possibly can, so I wanted to share the information with our people in case you want to do the same.

I also wanted to share some of the books I've read in the past year or so as we've been exploring this world a little more in case people are interested in checking any of them out.

I mentioned last week that one of the most influential books I read this year was  One: Impossible Starts Here by Suzanne Myernick and Gwen Oatsvall.  Between these two authors and their families they have adopted several children both domestically and internationally and they share about their family's journeys into this world and what they've learned through it.  They also have an organization called  147 Million Orphans where they provide ongoing support to other countries in a variety of ways.

Last year I read several books by foster parents that just talk about their experiences.  The first was Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison (also the author of One Small Boat).  I wrote about this book in my book reviews for last year, but if you want to a glimpse into the lives of foster parents this one is pretty good.  I've also checked out several books from the library by Cathy Glass.  She is a foster parent in the UK and has written several books about her experiences.  

One of the books I read earlier this year was Adopting the Father's Heart by Kenneth Camp.  I took away a lot of quotes from that book that I really liked and it was good to hear their story in the foster care world.

In May, David and I read through Ready or Not: 30 Days of Discovery for Foster & Adoptive Parents by Pam Parish together.  It walked through lots of different verses and devotionals about foster care and gave specific ways to pray each day.  It was a good way for us to talk through a lot of those things as we prepared to begin the application process.

The most recent book I read was Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr.  In fact, I just finished it this morning.  I didn't agree with all of his points, but I thought he at least brought up a lot of interesting things about the connection between orphan care a whole lot of other realms  of social justice (Human Trafficking, AIDS and HIV, Racial Relations, etc.).  If nothing else, it gets you thinking about how the church responds to a lot of different things that can all be tied back to orphan care.  Oddly enough, his chapter on foster care was probably my least favorite, most likely because I've read so many other things and the way he portrayed a few things I wasn't a huge fan of.  Again, I didn't necessarily agree with everything he said, but I felt like he gave a comprehensive look at ways that the church can be involved in orphan care beyond just adopting.  

All of these books I either own (paperback version or on my Kindle with the ability to loan them out) or I checked out from the library if anybody wants to look into them.

November 6, 2015

Foster Care Fridays: What can You Do?

Obviously, foster care is something I am very passionate about.  I've been interested in it for several years and the more I heard the stories, heard the statistics and encountered the system I knew it was something I was called to take part in.  But I know that's not the same for everyone.  I do believe that the church is called to take part in "orphan care" and there has been a bigger "movement" to do so lately.  But that doesn't mean everyone is called to adopt or foster.  So I thought I'd share a few ways that people can be involved if they are interested in helping these kiddos but aren't in a place to become foster or adoptive parents.

1. PRAY.  Every list starts here.  Because this need is bigger than any one of us.  It is bigger than any church or community can feasibly handle.  So we take it to the One who can handle all of our burdens.  We bring their burdens to Him.  We pray for the kids who are in the system.  We pray for the kids who are awaiting adoption.  We pray for the caseworkers, judges, CPS, CASA, and everyone else who is involved in making decisions about the future of these kiddos.  We pray for biological families--that the cycles of poverty, abuse, and dysfunction would be broken and that they can be equipped to parent their kids.  There are a whole lot of things to pray for.  I follow The Forgotten Initiative on Facebook and now Instagram and they will frequently post different ways to be praying.  This Sunday is designated as "Orphan Sunday" and there is a prayer vigil set up where people can sign up for different time spots to spend praying over all of these needs.   

2. LEARN.  Another way to get involved is to learn about foster care and adoption.  Learn the statistics.  Learn the stories.  As we hear the stories of these kids, a lot of the misconceptions we have are broken down and we see the great need in front of us.  Learn about trauma-informed care and the attachment and connection needs that typically accompany kids who are coming from hard places.  Again, I get the weekly blogs from The Forgotten Initiative and they often have really good posts about all aspects of foster care.  They also link to lots of other people's posts.  Just yesterday I read through a whole series of blogs about Adoption and the Church that looks at several different aspects of how the church can get involved.

3. SUPPORT.  I read a post last week about how one of the reasons not everyone is called to foster or adopt is because every family needs a huge support system and needs people who are not exhausted and weary from this battle.  I loved this post because it also went through a whole lot of practical ways that this family's church has been a support to them during their journey--things that seem simple and things that seem hard, they've walked alongside this family as they reach out to kids from trauma.  There are a ton of ways to support families--prayer, meals, becoming approved babysitters, being a listening ear, learning about and understanding the world around them-- there are a lot of ways to be involved in this cause beyond fostering or adopting. 

There are lots of really great resources out there for ways to get involved in foster care and orphan care.  Several posts that give practical ways such as this one and this one.  I just wanted to share a few ways that I have seen people get involved.  As it is something I'm passionate about, it can be hard when everyone around me isn't passionate about it, but I know that's not a realistic expectation to put on people and I know that there are a whole lot of things that Jesus wants us to be passionate about and I have a lot of awesome friends and family who are pursuing those.  It's also easy to get overwhelmed with the bigness of it all.  There are hundreds of thousands of kids that need foster homes.  There are also a thousand other needs that we can help meet in other missions, but we can't do it all.  One of the biggest things that God has been pressing into me over the past year is the idea of just taking one step.  Sometimes I worry so much that I make the right decision and take the right step that I take a really long time to act, and sometimes I think He just wants me to take a step in obedience and know that He is going with me as I seek to follow His will.  One of my favorite books I've read this year is One: Impossible Starts Here.  The point is that there are a whole lot of steps that we can take to follow God, and it starts with one.  Helping one child.  Reaching out to one ministry.  So we are taking a step to welcome a child into our home.  We can't help all of the kids who need a home in this city, but we can help one (or maybe even two).  So we're going to do that.  If you feel a pulling to get involved in this same mission, then above are a few ways to do that.  If you feel pulled to pursue a different calling, then go and do that.  For each of us it starts with one step.  What is one step God is asking you to take?