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Posts Tagged ‘Foster-Care’

In two earlier posts, I shared about how Terri and I have occasionally put excessive limits on the children we were willing to take into our home as foster children.  I shared that on each of those first two occasions, God redirected us to be open to the children He had for us, rather than the ones we had in mind for ourselves.  And, naturally, on both occasions, when we submitted to His will, we saw that what He had in mind was infinitely better than what we had imagined.  We never would have adopted four of our children had we not abandoned our desires, and submitted to God’s will for our family by being open to the children He wanted to place in our home.

I do think that whenever you open your home to a child, you need to use wisdom.  If you have young daughters, for instance, it might be unwise to take in a teenage boy who has been sexually abused.  That’s common sense.  But the problems come when we start letting our own personal desires dictate whom we are willing to take into our home, and whom we are not.  We really need to go into this with our hands open to what God has for us, not just open to what we think we want.

Well, in spite of the four physical reminders of God’s goodness and grace sitting at our dinner table every night, Terri and I once again decided to close our hands a bit when we told our social worker last fall that we were open to taking in another child.  We specified this time, though, no babies – we were done with the middle of the night feedings, etc…  We asked for a child 2 years and older.  Now, most agencies would be thrilled to have a family that is willing to take in a child over 2, but then, on November 9th, our agency got a call for a six week-old child who needed a home.  Our social worker called our home and talked to Terri, telling her that based on the information she had, this would likely be a very short-term placement – as little as a few days, in fact.  We know the foster system well enough to know not to count on such things, but we also know and trust our social worker enough to know that she was giving us the best information she had.

Terri told me that we had been asked to take in a child who was a month and a half old.  Evidently, I hadn’t had coffee yet, because I know I heard her say a year and a half.  In my mind, it wasn’t 2, but it was only six months away from 2, so surely it wouldn’t be so bad.  We called the social worker and accepted the placement.  It was only on the way to the county office that it became clear to me that this child was only 6 weeks old.  To be honest, I was a little bummed out…okay, I was very bummed out.  This wasn’t the plan.  We were not going to take in a baby this time around.  We thought we had made that clear.  Yet, we had accepted her already, so we couldn’t go back on our word.  And besides, maybe it really would turn out to be just a few days.

We brought her home, and well, a few days turned into a few weeks.  Naturally, the few weeks turned into a few months.  We were in court for her case yesterday, and it is looking more and more likely that I will walk her down the aisle one day.  I would love to share a picture of her, but she is still a foster child, so I have to keep her name and face private for now.  Trust me on this, though – she is beautiful, she is precious, she’s a part of us…and we are so thankful that I hadn’t had my coffee when Terri came to tell me about her 8 months ago today.  Once again, God took our desires and redirected us to be open to what He wanted.  And once again, what He had for us was better than we could ever imagine.

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Having learned our lesson — that God is in charge, and we’re not — with our adoption of Chris and Ant, you would think Terri and I would move forward in wisdom and not put so many conditions on the children we would or would not take into our home.  Then again, you would be wrong to think that.

After we adopted Chris and Ant, and after we took a short break from fostering, we opened our home again, taking in Ashley, who was twelve at the time she moved in, and fourteen when she was adopted.

Then, in the summer of 2006, we decided to open our home again, but this time, we once again decided to put parameters on the child we would be willing to accept.  The lessons learned from almost losing Chris and Ant because of our own self-imposed limits were distant memories, or maybe they were lurking and we just decided to ignore them.  I’m not sure.

Regardless, we asked our agency to be on the lookout for a baby for us.  We had never done that before.  Terri especially wanted to take care of a baby, and she actually had a pretty sound reason for wanting to do so.  She figured that one day our kids would likely have babies.  And like many first-time parents of babies, they would likely have questions.  And like many parents who have questions about childrearing, they would likely call us and ask us what to do in certain situations.  Well, Terri didn’t really want to have to say to our kids, “we don’t know what to do…call us back when they’re four.”  She wanted to be able to help our kids with their babies.  Noble.  Practical.  Not exactly selfish.

Still, the result of us acting on our desire meant that we called our agency, requested a baby, and pretty much eliminated most of the children in the foster care system from consideration.  Because of our long track record with our agency, our social worker told us she would keep an eye out for a baby.  It wasn’t long before we got the call – they wanted to place an eight month-old baby girl with us, a baby that was likely to be adopted.  The baby was placed in another home for a few days while we got the room prepared for her.  We saw pictures of her.  We shopped for her.  We anticipated her arrival with excitement.

Then, as things often happen in the foster care system, plans changed.  The woman who kept this baby over the weekend decided she didn’t want to give her up.  She had fallen in love with her, and for the first time, had decided she wanted to adopt.  We were deeply saddened by the unexpected turn of events.   To add insult to injury (that’s how we, in our self-absorption, saw it at the time), our social worker told us that she had gotten a call about a “problem six year-old” who needed a home. We had expected this sweet little eight month-old, and now instead we are being asked to take in a problem six year-old who was hitting the other children in her current home, and was having tantrums that lasted up to eight hours – on a daily basis.

In addition to our sadness, we were a little bitter.  We questioned God.  After all, we had adopted three older children, which everyone knows are generally harder to place than infants.  Didn’t we deserve to get what we wanted?  In a word, no.  We didn’t deserve anything of the sort.

We had forgotten what this is all about.  This isn’t about us building our family to look like we want it to look…this is about God using our family to accomplish what He wants.  There is a huge difference.  And what we didn’t see at the time, but did soon enough, was that God didn’t have an eight month-old for us at that time.  He had a six year-old whose options were running out, a six year-old whose social worker said they might have to place in a group home if they couldn’t find a family for her soon.  A six year-old who had been deeply hurt by recent turns of events in her life and was crying out to be noticed…and loved.

Our oldest had lived in group homes while in foster care, though when she was much older than six.  A group home is no place for any child, let alone one as young as six.  So again, God was compelling us to realize that He was in charge, not us.  Again, He was asking us to abandon our pre-conceived notions of what we wanted in favor of what He wanted.  We gave in.

Aruna came to us on August 10th, 2006, and she was adopted on April 2nd, 2008, which was the 5th anniversary of Chris and Ant’s adoption.  She had some adjustment problems, and she had a few of those hours-long tantrums we had heard about and braced ourselves for.  Ultimately though, God’s love touched her heart, and she began to change.  Today, she is a straight-A student who has just finished the 4th grade at our church’s elementary school.  She loves to sew.  She loves to play video games.  She loves to get on her oldest brother’s nerves, and frankly, she’s pretty good at it, too.  She hasn’t had a tantrum in years.

As I mentioned, this adoption journey we have been on for over a decade is about God and His plans, not us and ours.  God is simply not concerned with our plans.  He isn’t concerned with how we want our family to be made up, or what we want it to look like.  He is about fulfilling His purposes in the world, and as we discovered yet again, His way is always better.

We also rediscovered another truth about God back in 2006 — that He is a loving Father who loves to give good gifts to His children…and does so in abundance. Seven weeks after we were blessed with the wonderful gift of our daughter, Aruna, we got a call from our social worker.  A two day-old baby girl was in need of a family that would foster and likely adopt her.  Two days later, on September 29th, we brought her home from the hospital, and on August 14th, 2007, we adopted our first baby, Hallie.  We made a million calls to our parents and other friends asking advice during her infancy, and we are now in a much better position to answer our children’s questions about their babies one day.  We’re also in a better position to answer our kids’ questions about problem six year-olds one day.

We smile as we think back on those months in 2006 when we again wrestled with God and were again brought to our knees, first in submission and repentance, and then in gratitude and awe.  Our lives are forever enriched and blessed by our precious Aruna and Hallie, and we cannot imagine what life would be like if we had gotten our way.

What an amazing God we serve.

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(The following comes from our June 2010 E-Newsletter. You may subscribe to our bi-monthly e-newsletter by clicking here.)

Some of the very best things in my life have happened as a result of some of the hardest things in my life. There was a day that Robin and I learned that we had lost a baby and the ability to ever have a biological child short of in-vitro fertilization. It was a hard day. It was hard to pray or understand. But little did we know that as this was happening a little girl was soon to be born. This little girl was our daughter Kit whom God brought to us just 6 months later. Not only was she a gift we could not have imagined, but also through her, the Lord led us to more of our children, some born on the other side of the world, and ultimately to this ministry.

In his new book about Ruth, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, Pastor John Piper shares a quote from William Cowper, an 18th century poet and hymn writer:

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.”

Joseph experienced this frowning providence when his brothers sold him into slavery. But as you know, God knew this very act would bring about the rescue of those same brothers from famine and His grace would be demonstrated through the centuries like a chain in His word to us in the 21st century.

Every adoption begins in hurt of some kind. Sometimes being the parent of a child through adoption involves a lot of hurt. We all come from a hard place because of the first Adam’s fateful choice in the garden. Thankfully, the second Adam also made a choice in a garden, a choice not to save Himself, a choice made so that we might receive adoption as sons of God through Him.

As we consider with eyes wide open the road of adoption and loving the fatherless, let us remember why Ruth the Moabitess was able to say to Naomi in Ruth 1:16-17 that she would follow her from all that was familiar and safe…how she committed herself to this widow to the point of saying that Naomi’s God would be her God and Naomi’s people her people.

Ruth was grafted into this family and met her kinsman redeemer because as Piper says, “Here we have a picture of…faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God”. In this case, a relationship that led to line of David and The Messiah.

May those called to adopt, or to love a foster child, or to serve churches overseas in loving orphans be likewise radically committed to the relationships appointed by God for them. May we see the world as the work of God, and that we are privileged and blessed to be invited to join Him in His work. May we see God who sometimes uses frowning providence in bringing about His will, as the very One in whom we will very soon see His smiling face.

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Who’s in Charge?  Part One

In our home, we will celebrate July 4th this Sunday like many Americans.  But the next day, July 5th, is going to be a day of celebration that for us will easily surpass the 4th.  July 5th will mark the 10th anniversary of our sons, Chris and Anthony, coming into our home, as the first two of five (and soon to be six, Lord willing) children that we would adopt from the foster care system.  And as much as I anticipate celebrating with great joy, I am sobered by the reality that if had been up to my wife and me, it never would have happened.

We were newly certified foster parents at the time, and like many, we had placed parameters on the children we would or would not take.  We were fairly open in terms of the basics – age, gender, number of children, race…but we had been clear about one thing.  We were not interested in children whose cases were unlikely to lead to adoption.  In our minds, we didn’t want to “simply foster”.  We wanted to adopt.

God allowed us to hang on to that condition for a couple of months.  We were limited, of course, in that many of the children who come into the system are likely to be reunified with birth family, and we had essentially cut ourselves off from ever having a chance to care for and love those children.

Then one day, in late June of 2000, while visiting us in our home, our social worker asked us a question that seemed innocent enough, but it was a question that challenged us to be open to what God had, not what we thought was best for us.  He asked us if we would be open to a placement that would not likely lead to adoption.  It may have been Glenn’s voice, but it was clearly the Holy Spirit speaking, asking us who was in charge…us…or God.  Terri and I looked at each other and said the only thing we felt we could say — that we would not necessarily be closed to it.

Glenn left our house and went back to his office.  Within fifteen minutes of his leaving, he called us.  Two brothers, ages 4 and 5, were in a temporary emergency foster home and were in need of another foster home. They could only stay at the shelter until July 5th.  He didn’t even know their names yet.

Glenn told us the boys would likely not be adopted, and that they could be in our home for as little as five days (they had a court hearing scheduled for July 10th at which birth relatives might show up and ask for custody).  Terri asked if they could sleep in the same bed, since the bedroom we had set up for kids had a double bed and a crib in it, having been set up that way for a previous placement that never happened.  Glenn said no, they would each need their own bed.  Terri asked if that meant we would have to go out and get two twin beds for what could essentially be five days.  Glenn said yes.   Terri told him she would talk to me and call him back.

We were torn.  We didn’t want to say no and possibly get on the agency’s bad side by turning down these kids.  At the same time, it seemed like a lot of work and expense to go through for what could be only five days.  What was the point?  The point was, of course, that we were wrestling with God.  Were we going to do things on our terms, or were we going to be open to be used by God for His purposes, no matter the cost and inconvenience to ourselves?  Was our foray in foster adoption about us, or was it about God?  Those were the big picture questions that we only saw in retrospect.  At the time, we simply saw the little picture question – would we take in these two brothers that needed a home for perhaps five days?  Put that way, we felt we just couldn’t say no.

We said yes.  We spent the next few days preparing the room for two boys that would very likely be just fleeting memories one day.  And then, on the morning of July 5th, Glenn brought them to our home.  We’ve all heard the cliché of love at first sight, and we acknowledge that it can happen in certain contexts, but we also know it doesn’t happen often.  It happened to us on July 5th 2000.  I don’t attribute it to anything other than the fact that God knew Chris and Ant would be our sons, that He had planned it that way, and so He had begun knitting our hearts together long before they stepped out of Glenn’s car and into our home.

The five days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into years.  On April 2nd, 2003, these kids that we almost turned down, became our legal sons through adoption, formalizing what God had ordained long before.  We think back and are so thankful that He allowed us to wrestle with Him, and we’re even more thankful that we lost.  Did we learn our lesson from all that?  For a time, yes, but then we’ve gone back to putting conditions on subsequent placements as well (more on those in parts 2 and 3), demonstrating yet again that our sinful hearts always think we know what’s best.  Thankfully, we have a gracious and patient God who always reminds us that this is His plan, His story, and that when we submit to His will, and allow Him to use us as He wants, the blessings are more than we could ever imagine.

These past ten years with Chris and Ant have been an adventure.  Of course, there are times we would all love to forget, and times that we will treasure for the rest of our lives.  Through it all, we’ve been so blessed to see them grow into the young men they are becoming.  Anyone who knows them will tell you that these two kids that almost weren’t ours are pretty amazing guys.  Terri and I can’t imagine what life would have been like without them.

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Wow, this is a question that I have wrestled with.  I’m sure you have, too.  Time is so valuable these days, and balancing work, kids, wife, home maintenance, church, small groups, and THEN ORPHAN MINISTRY can be quite challenging.

Many times, we have seen local church orphans ministry champions ask the question, “What can our ministry do next?”  Perhaps they have launched their ministry with a church-wide orphan-related project and now they are stuck, trying to figure out what they can do to sustain the momentum and to keep people engaged.  Maybe they have more developed ministries that have been engaged for some time, doing various projects, hosting prayer times, partnering with an orphanage, holding a fund-raising banquet, conducting adoption and orphan care awareness meetings, but they still need some new ideas.

At Hope for Orphans, we have the blessing to be networked with local church orphans ministry champions from all over the country.  Local champions that live, breathe, and dream about helping orphans!!  With their help, we have created a strategy library to help YOU as you lead your church.

Two weeks ago, I met with several local champions in Southern California.  They are on FIRE for the Lord and for seeing churches in their region mobilized to care for the thousands of children in their local foster care systems.  I visited with some of the folks from Dark to Dawn (www.DarktoDawn.org) and discussed some of their strategies.  Among many of their initiatives, they recently held an event at which emancipated youth spoke of their experiences.  What a great idea to have youth speak truthfully about what they have experienced, with the goal of having the local church step up to the challenge of loving and caring for these kids. Also, we met with a representative of the Gold Coast Orphan Alliance (www.weheartorphans.org), who conducts “House Parties” to raise awareness of the plight of the orphan.  People throw house parties for Mary Kay, Pampered Chef, Tupperware; why not use the same model for orphan care?  Sell a few T-shirts and beads made in Africa, and feed orphans for a month with the proceeds.  Invite your neighbor or family members.  Utilize that time to do what you do best – share the need, share the calling, and point people to action.

Our strategy library is constantly being changed and updated with new ideas.  We hope to have many more strategies added before too long.  If you’re looking for more ways to engage your church, or if you would like to share some of your ministry’s strategies with other local champions, please visit www.hopefororphans.org/Display.asp?Page=strategylibrary.

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We’re about halfway through the National Foster Care Prayer Vigil week.  Two days ago, I asked people to share their experiences as they went before the Lord this week on behalf of those in their local foster care systems.  Yesterday afternoon, I received this e-mail from Heather Bench, a passionate orphan advocate from Salem Church of God in Clayton, Ohio:

I was most touched during our prayer vigil when a recently adopted teen from foster care rose and prayed for the foster care workers.  My heart overflowed to hear her speak words of gratitude and ask for all foster children to have good influences in their lives.  Shortly thereafter our ministry participated in our first forever family dedication of this precious family.  What a privilege to thank God for bringing this family together and commit to loving, supporting and encouraging them as the perfect family He designed.  This week I have purposefully prayed by name for the teenagers in our state waiting for families.  God has brought them to my heart through a teen’s heartfelt prayer.

Heather’s story is but one of hundreds that God is writing this week through the National Foster Care Prayer Vigil.  As we commit to going before Him in prayer for these children, and those who influence their lives, God promises to meet us where we are, and He will bless us as He blessed Heather and the others at her church.

Thanks, Heather, for sharing your story, and thanks for your faithfulness in praying for His children in Ohio.

We would love to hear from others about their prayer vigils as well.  If you have a story of how God used your time with Him this week, please e-mail me at jmoore@HopeforOrphans.org.

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Sunday’s gathering was a small one, about twelve of us, but as always, God met us where we were.  We gathered in a circle and introduced ourselves.  We discussed the purpose of the prayer vigil, we read some Scriptures, and we prayed through the prayer guide.  As I listened to the others pray, I heard things that excited me…I heard passion…and I heard tears.

One of the women who prayed Sunday has been volunteering for the past 20 months or so at a foster group home in our area.  Every week, she, her husband, and two others from our church visit the boys in the group home, sharing their lives, their pains, their fears, and trying to instill hope where despair has reigned for far too long. As she prayed, she passionately petitioned God on behalf of each and every one of the boys in the home . . . by name.

As we continued to pray, I heard weeping…so much so that at times it was hard to understand what was being said.  But God knew.  God heard.  And where the words were not necessarily clear, the sentiment was…the hearts of those who prayed were broken for the children in our county’s foster care system…but not just for the children…the tears were for their families as well.  One young woman prayed, and rightly so, that God would bring healing to families in such a way that would eventually eliminate the need for foster care at all.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing…if churches could come alongside families before they lose their children, and help them get on their feet and experience the restoration and healing that God has for them?

Our small gathering was a wonderful reminder of God’s passion and broken heart for these children, and His desire for us to be passionate and brokenhearted for them as well.  I pray that the hundreds of other gatherings across the country this week will experience the same.

As you hold your prayer vigils this week, if you feel so led, please send me an e-mail at jmoore@HopeForOrphans.org.  Let me know how God met you and used your time seeking Him on the children’s behalf.  I would love to share your stories in this blog throughout the week to encourage those who haven’t yet had their prayer vigils, as well as those who have yet to plan one.

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