Don and Joan’s journey toward foster care

By Don and Joan

Focus on the Family has had a huge impact on our family. We’ve received so much help, support and encouragement on marriage and child-rearing from listening to Focus’ broadcasts. This has also challenged us in our faith as we became foster parents. This is a long story, but us coming to be a foster family has been a process of taking many small steps of obedience and was not a decision that happened over night.

Five years ago, a Focus on the Family radio broadcast introduced us to Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover. That was the beginning of a very exciting journey, and  things just snowballed from there. We decided that we didn’t want to be “normal.” We curbed our spending and got rid of our debt. Once we had a grip on our finances, we began to feel God calling us to simplify our lives by letting go of some of our stuff. We felt we could live with less and decided to downsize our home. I recall saying, “If we aren’t going to get more kids, then we need to get less house.” The move was made and life was good. Little did I know of all that God had in store for us!

We’ve always wanted our family to be sensitive to the needs of others and to care for those less fortunate, so we would fill shoe boxes, pack Christmas hampers, serve meals to the homeless and participate in whatever local ministry opportunities that we heard about. In the summer of 2010, we felt the need to take our service to the next level and later went to El Salvador on a house-building missions trip as a family.

Since then, we started to realize how easy it was to do our acts of service – which are all good and need to be done – but then come home to our comfy lifestyle and forget about the people we just served. There isn’t a whole lot of sacrifice involved. Those were the feelings stirring in our hearts and minds when a foster care and adoption info night was announced at our church last October. I attended the info night along with my 15-year-old daughter. I tended to think that those who foster or adopt are somehow a little bit superhuman or more spiritual – thus the common phrase, “Good for you, but I could never do that!” Yet after listening to the speakers that night and discussing fostering as a family, we started to feel that foster care was a way our family could have a positive, lasting impact on a child and hopefully their birth parents as well. We knew it would take sacrifice and would deepen our faith and trust in God.

After the info night, a foster care recruiter came to our home for a pre-screen visit to see if we would be potential foster care candidates. My husband and I took four days of foster care training the last weekend of November. It was somewhat overwhelming, but extremely helpful. We participated in many exercises which helped us better understand the role of each person in the foster care system: Those who have to make the decision to apprehend, the apprehended child, the biological parents, the case worker, the foster parents and the foster parent support worker. On the final afternoon, four foster parents came to tell us their stories and answer questions. Except for the medical reference, we had gathered all of our paperwork in by the end of the training session.

It took two months to process all of our paperwork. We were contacted at the end of January to let us know that our file had been sent to the person who would complete our home study. After she interviewed our whole family on two separate occasions, she began writing the home study report. She brought the completed home study halfway through March, which we reviewed and signed off.

The evening of March 28, the support worker that we had been assigned came to our home to license us. We desired to foster infants six months old or younger. She knew of four infants waiting to be placed in homes and showed us the files of two children she felt would best suit our family. After some discussion we decided to take a seven-day-old girl into our home.

We had tried to prepare ourselves for having a newborn in the house, but as it had been 15 years since we’d been in that position, we found that we’d definitely forgotten what it was like. It took some adjustment to living with less sleep, and it had slipped my mind how such a little person takes up so much of your time and produces so much dirty laundry! She also has some medical needs, so we frequently visit Children’s Hospital. Our family is thrilled, though, to have this opportunity to care for her. It’s exciting to see her grow and thrive. She has now been with us just under eight weeks and already has our family wrapped around her little finger!

I have been able to meet and chat with the baby’s mom when we attend doctor’s appointments together. I feel like we have a connection from one mother to another and I am pleased to stand in the gap while she does what it takes to be able to parent her child.

I feel that God is once again calling us to a deeper level of commitment in our service to Him and this family that we hardly know but are connected to through foster care. Even as I was writing this story, I received a phone call asking if Don and I would consider being part of a new initiative where the foster parents work with the biological parents to learn the baby’s routine and develop parenting skills so they can care for the baby's unique needs. We can’t wait to see what else God has planned!