Tuesday, December 12, 2017

“Adoption, Foster Care, and Mentoring,” A Closer Look by Tiffany Miller

I work for Big Brothers Big Sisters, an organization that pairs children from one or no parent homes with mentors. I want to share about a boy I met in foster care six years ago. I was contacted by his case manager about enrollment in our program for a mentor. I went to the home visit to meet him and his foster mother. When I interviewed her, she told me that he was a horrible child. She said he lied, he stole, he would not shut up, he was over-active, and he was the worst child she had ever fostered. I took notes and then went to meet the child for our one-on-one interview.

In his room, the child immediately asked if he could show me something. Being deathly afraid of snakes and any reptile, really, I started to get ready to make a dash for the door. Before I could get up off of the floor, he had pulled something out from under his mattress. It was a picture. He said, “This is my mom. If you let me live with her again I promise I will never be bad again!” My heart broke. I explained that was not my job and that I was there to meet him so that I could match him to a friend. He was crushed. I almost cried. Right then I knew that I was going to be his Big Sister and my husband would be his Big Brother. He just didn’t know it yet. I told his foster mother privately as I was leaving that day, “I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty sure my husband and I will be his big couple.” She looked at me in disbelief and asked, “Why would ANYONE pick him?!” My heart sank. That was exactly why. He desperately needed love in his life.

Throughout the following months, I become an advocate for him, going to his case meetings and meeting with him every week for a few hours. When I dropped him off at home and walked him to the door, I could hear his foster mom’s biological daughter saying, “He’s back.” He would walk in the door and I would tell her how great he was. She would say to him, “You know where you are supposed to be,” and he would head to his room. He was grounded to his room for up to two months one time for his “behavior.” After many months of that scenario and regular contact with DFS over concerns of his living environment, he was finally removed from that home and sent to another foster placement.

About six months after meeting him, he mumbled something in the back seat as I was taking him home. He said, “Ma Mo Moo.” I said, “What?” He said, “My Mo Mooo.” I said, “I’m sorry honey, I still didn’t hear what you said.” He cleared his throat and this time very clearly said, “I love you.” It took my breath away that this child, who I had only spent two hours a week with and had done very menial things with (things I would be doing with my own kids anyway) would convey something he felt and say something that was surely not being said to him. I told him I loved him too and that I would always be there for him.

Since that time, he has been in six different foster homes. We were asked to be his guardian the year that my younger son got cancer and oldest son needed open heart surgery. Needless to say, it was not great timing and we were living minute to minute, not even day to day. I know there are thousands of kids like our "little brother" living in the United States foster care (around 500,000 and over 13,000 right here in MO). I know that God has put him in my life and compassion in my heart for a reason. I will forever advocate for children in our foster system until the day when I become a permanent part of the solution, becoming a foster parent.

I was blessed to be able to attend the Family Matters Conference last month on fostering, adoption, and mentoring. It is no surprise that during that week I found out Pastor Andy would be talking about adoption this month and how according to the Bible, we are all adopted: “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” (Ephesians 1:5 NLT)

When we enter into a relationship with Jesus, we are adopted into the family of God. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that we who experienced the blessings of adoption by God should in turn reach out to those who need to be adopted or sheltered? James defines the quality of our faith by how we care for those without families, “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)

So, what does that mean? Does that mean that everyone should adopt, foster, or mentor? Well, yes. But there are other ways to help too. Everyone just breathed a sigh of relief (most of all my husband) but God has a plan and we do not always get to know what that plan is. We only have to say yes to it when He asks.

Here are ten ways to help children without families:

1. Pray.
Pray for foster parents. Pray for adoptive parents. Pray for the children in foster care. Pray for the judges, the social workers, the therapists, and the teachers. When you access the God of the universe on behalf of another, it is the most loving and powerful thing you can do.

2. Donate or host resources for families caring for these children.
Kaden’s Kloset provides a care package for a fostering family on the day they receive a foster child. Typically, there is no warning when they will receive a child. With notice of an hour or two, they could receive a newborn. The fostering family will need diapers, bottles, wipes, a sleeper, a place for the baby to sleep, formula, and a carseat…all within two hours! The next week, they may need everything to care for a six year old. It sounds impossible! I talked to the lead Volunteer in St. Joseph and asked, “You probably don’t serve the Fairfax, MO area?” And you know what she said? “I’ll meet you halfway! And we are looking for a church to host a Kloset, so if you know of one, please let us know so we can serve your area too!” This organization gives everything needed for the first twenty-four hours based on the age of the child. Then they will help find more resources if the child stays longer. This is a huge bridge to an unbelievable obstacle that could easily keep families from fostering.

3. Be willing to babysit.
Aside from providing respite care for the child being fostered, the foster child will need several medical appointments in the first few days and weeks in care. Many times, it is simply well-child checks. For foster families with their own children, taking multiple children to medical appointments is unneeded stress. Having a handful of people available to babysit their own children will help relieve that stress.

4. Volunteer for a foster family.
Having another child adds a lot of responsibility. Offer to bring a meal or pick up missed grocery items. For long-term foster placement, offer to mow the grass, help with laundry, or make a meal – whatever the family needs when you have an extra hour a week.

5. Mentor children in foster care.
As an individual, as a family, as a church. Come alongside the child in care and give them the family they need when they need it most. It could be as simple as playing a board game with the foster child in their home while the foster parent cleans or catches up on laundry. You could help the foster child with homework, reading, or whatever else they need. You could mentor the child while you help the family at the same time.

6. Come together as a community.
Gather resources available to foster families within your church and in your community. Give this information to case workers that place children in your area (currently done through the Maryville DSS office).

7. Become a respite provider.
If you have a heart for foster kids but don’t have the ability to do it full time, you can become licensed to be a respite provider. This is basically a short-term babysitter for the child in foster care, who only says “yes” when it works for their schedule. You could offer to watch the foster child in your home one weekend every other month or whatever works for your schedule, even if it’s only twice a year.

8. Become a foster parent to one of the 13,000 children in care in Missouri.
Stories like the one I shared above do not have to be the norm. We as Christians can take on the role of caring for orphans and giving them the love and kindness they need, when they need it the most. Not to mention, you may introduce them to our loving Father who can never be taken away from them, no matter how many times they move.

9. Adopt one of the 127,000 children in foster care waiting for their permanent family.
You do not need to buy a plane ticket to adopt a child: there are 1,200 children in MO waiting to be adopted in our foster care system. You can even see pictures and descriptions of these children online.

10. Keep praying.
Pray for Him to show you what His plan is for you. Pray for you to be open to His plan.

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