Fostering Hope

By: - October 4, 2013

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northFoster care was never our plan. It seems so strange to say that now. With so much love to give, we felt adoption was how God was leading us to start our family. The problem was we didn’t know where to begin. When we looked into international and private domestic adoption, both the cost and regulations seemed overwhelming. So we began to consider foster care adoption. As we listened to the presenters at a foster care informational meeting, it seemed clear that if we were looking to adopt a baby, we would need to foster first. So we changed our plan from straight adoption to foster-to-adopt. This seemed like a reasonable compromise. We thought we were doing what the Lord wanted us to do, but we had no idea what he had in store for us.

Our first foster placement was a beautiful 5 lb, 4-month-old baby girl straight from the hospital. Nope, that’s not a typo. She was by far the smallest baby we had ever held. Born as a 23-week micro-preemie, Tori was an amazing fighter and finally strong enough to go home. She was perfect and precious in every way to us. We immediately began talking about our plans for our newest family member — our hopes and dreams for her — and we thought the circumstances of her removal would make for a quick adoption. We look back and realize that our idealism was really divine protection. The next three years would prove to be very challenging as we spent a great amount of time in and out of doctors’ offices, hospitals, and courthouses. We spent many nights watching her sleep and wondering how many days we would have her in our home, wondering why this process was taking so long. We knew that God had brought us here for a reason, but we couldn’t understand what he was doing. Maybe we didn’t fully trust what he was doing.

God used this time of waiting to do a beautiful, mysterious thing: we began building a relationship with Tori’s birth mom. As we spent more time with her we saw how much she loved Tori, and we realized that she needed love too. She was young and didn’t have much support, so we found ourselves drawn to her and wanting what was best for her. It was obvious after about 18 months that things were not going to change to permanency anytime soon, so we reached out to her and invited her to spend two weeks in our home. During that time we began talking about what an open adoption might look like. This young mom was scared and knew she wasn’t at a place she could be a parent to Tori, but she sincerely loved her and wanted what was best for her.

Two and half years after Tori was placed with us, Tori’s birth mom asked us to adopt her baby girl. We were there when she signed the relinquishment papers. We held her while she cried. God knew that we needed to see adoption not only from our perspective, but from hers as well. He showed us that there is so much more to each adoption story than just loving parents who want to grow their family and a child who needs a home. It was during those three years of waiting and wondering that we realized that God had not just called us to adopt, but to foster children even as we loved and prayed for their birth families.

During this time of waiting, we got another call from our foster agency about a three-and-a-half-year old boy. He had been in another foster home and was now ready to be adopted. We had always planned on adopting a baby and had heard that adopting older kids was tough, but we trusted that God had brought this opportunity to us. Just a few months later, he came home to live with us. We soon realized some of the challenges of adopting a child who remembers life before our home, and saw many fears coming out that seemed irrational to us. He was loved and safe and well cared for, so what did he have to be scared of? We were having a crisis of confidence. We questioned how we should parent him and why things we had always thought would work didn’t. We read popular parenting books and talked to other parents about how they dealt with similar situations, but kept finding that these things were not working for our boy. We loved him and wanted him to feel safe, but he didn’t.

Not long after we started our parenting journey, we got connected with Tapestry at Irving Bible Church. Tapestry is a ministry that serves and supports adoptive and foster families, but for us it was more like a community — a community that understood our family and our unique journey. We attended some Tapestry large group events and heard speakers talk about many different topics related to foster care and adoption. About three years ago we were invited to attend an intensive parent training called Empowered to Connect. It involved lots of reading and homework and weekly classes. It was a big investment, but well worth it. In fact, the training changed our lives. We began to understand so many of our kids’ behaviors and we began to see our children in a different light. We were now equipped with tools to help our kids feel loved, safe, and wanted.

Many kids have come and gone over the years. Most were happily reunited with a relative. One little boy we fostered was only 11 months old when he came to us. What looked like a quick adoption was, after seven months, a reunification of the child with a relative that almost everyone involved had concerns would do a good job. As we packed up his belongings to send him back, we slipped our phone number in the bag with a note saying we would love to keep in touch. We didn’t know if his caretaker would call. We had no idea how to reach her if she didn’t call. We just prayed that he would be loved and protected and that just maybe we would see him again. About a week later, she called and invited us to come and see him in his new home. We gladly accepted. Many more invitations would come over the years. She texted a picture of him on his first day of preschool and has invited us to birthday parties. We’ve met his extended family, and they all treat us as part of that family. This wasn’t how we pictured our relationship with him would be, but God made it beautiful.

Today we are the proud parents of four forever kids and two foster kids, and we have the privilege of serving other adoptive and foster families as part of the leadership team for Tapestry. We are so thankful for the journey God has brought us on and for all of the things he has taught us along the way. We never thought this was how God would use us. Had you asked us ten years ago if we would be foster parents, we would have adamantly told you “no!” and given you a list of reasons why that would not be a good idea. We’d get too attached. It would be too hard to love them and then let them go.

The biggest thing God has taught us is that it’s not about us. God has called us to love these kids in a way their birth family couldn’t, until hopefully they can once again. He’s invited us to care for vulnerable children. He’s asked us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Foster care stretches us, it challenges us, and it grows us because we get a front row seat to God’s faithfulness.

You can read the original article by clicking here.

Kayla and Ryan North are members of the Tapestry leadership team. You can read more about them on the Tapestry leadership page.

 

Also Found In: Serving Children in Foster Care, Tapestry Blog