Hi I’m Kalene, mommy to Emmy and wife of Jason. Tonya and I met because of the blog and became close friends. We both love photography, natural living, caramel, and Jesus. She lovingly refers to me as her “tree hugger” friend, but in reality she’s equally crunchy.
So, why am I here?
About the time that Dear Mom on the Iphone went viral I remember talking to Tonya about the influence of the blog. She asked me what I would say if I had a chance to tell a few thousand people something and I immediately knew that it would something related to foster care and adoption. This sounds odd to me when I say it even now because I don’t have personal experience as a foster parent and it seems like in order to tell other people to do something, you should be doing it yourself. My husband and I planned since before we were married to adopt our first child. Our heart was to adopt before we even tried to get pregnant because we wanted to be intentional about adopting.
A few years ago we took classes to become foster parents but at the same time put an offer on a house that would need a full remodel and consequently was not able to become a licensed foster home. Our plans to do foster care were put on hold but I started working for the agency after we finished our classes. Working at our local agency was very eye-opening but so very rewarding. Being with children who are in need of foster care feels like taking the pulse of our Heavenly Father. Looking into their eyes, you understand what it means in James that purest way to practice following God is to look after children in need.
So we finished that house and immediately sold it, my husband became unemployed, we moved in with his parents and surprise…. got pregnant! While things certainly have not gone according to our original grand plan, we wouldn’t trade a minute of it. Sometime in the next few years we still plan on adopting and to get licensed as foster parents.
All of that said, I know there are some of you out there who have dreamed of adopting or have toyed with the idea of being foster parents but plans have changed, life has happened, or you just haven’t been reminded of it lately. This is your reminder…..
I knew that my good friend, Kate (Names have been changed. I’ve always wanted to say that!) was in the process of becoming a foster parent and would be the perfect person to have share with all of you. I think hearing from her heart could be just the catalyst needed for one of you out in the blogosphere to rekindle your dream.
So without further ado, grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair and join our conversation about Kate’s experience with becoming a foster parent.
Kate, when did you first consider adoption? When did your plans become centered around foster care?
Both my husband and I have cousins adopted through the foster system, so the idea of fostering/adoption wasn’t a new one when we got married. We really felt called to adopt, and going through the foster system was really financially appealing compared to $20ish thousand to adopt privately. We had looked at one private adoption agency, and if we decided to go with them we would put together a profile of ourselves to present to birth moms. Each birth mom would get five profiles to choose from. That kind of turned us off too, because we weren’t looking to compete with other people for children. We’re not the normal we’ve-tried-everything-we-can-to-get-pregnant-and-this-is-our-last-resort-for-a-family couple. We just chose to build our family through adoption instead of biologically. There are so many kids that need homes, it felt silly to “compete” with other couples through the private adoption process– and pay hugely for it– when there are long lists of foster kids who need homes immediately… and if/when we adopt through the foster system, it’s free.
You’ve been married for five years now, how did you decide it was time?
About a year ago we watched a movie called God Bless the Child, and the main characters were a single mom and young daughter who were forced to move out of their apartment because the building was condemned. The mom had a maid job, but it didn’t pay enough to have enough money for a deposit on another apartment. So she knocked on the door of a super wealthy couple’s house that she knew from a past cleaning job and asked if her and her daughter could stay at their house for a few weeks while she saved up money for the deposit. The rich lady had a huge house with lots of extra bedrooms, but she said no because “Our youngest son just left for college and my husband and I are really enjoying having the house to ourselves. It’s just not a good time for us.” That really haunted me. We had (and have) so many resources, why aren’t we helping people in need? We were running a bed & breakfast at the time, which we knew we couldn’t sustain while starting a family. So during the following six months, we resigned at the B&B, bought our own home (which we wanted to do anyway), and signed up for the foster orientation at our local agency Saint Francis Community Services. We needed to stop thinking “we should” and act.
What was the process to get licensed like?
Getting licensed was fairly straightforward. It took about 6 months to complete all the requirements, but there were no surprises along the way. Requirements included 10 weeks of class, physical, references, a home study, a few minor home adjustments (child locks, adjusting a porch railing, etc), but the folks at our agency were very helpful. After all, they really want folks to get licensed. They’re very short on homes.
What was it like waiting to have a child placed with you?
Every time our social worker would call I would be on pins and needles. I carried a list of questions in my purse so I would have the presence of mind to ask the right things. How old is the child? Why is he/she in care? Are there any special needs? Is this a long-term placement or short-term? etc.
I would take scribbled notes and then call William to report. We would discuss. Is this something that feels right? Is it something we can handle? It almost felt like an interview process, trying to decide if a child was right for us or not. Saying no– which we did about 10 times before we said yes– always felt TERRIBLE, because every one of those children needed a home. But our social worker was very clear– it has to be the right fit. So we waited for the right one. When we got the call about Max we knew immediately that he was supposed to be in our home.
Tell us about how it has been since Max came into your home.
Keep in mind that this is our first foster child, so we have limited experience! But little Max has been so delightful. We bonded with him immediately and he feels like our very own child. We love watching him learn and grow just like we would if he was our biological child. It’s risky deciding to love someone who might not be with you forever, but we decided while little one was with us, he deserved to be loved 100%. We will hold nothing back while we have him. We are the only parents he knows, and he’s now five months old. We’re the ones who get him out of bed in the morning, hold him tight when he is crying, and sing him to sleep each night. He deserves everything we can give, even if at some point his birth mother is able to have him back. We pray every day that wherever he is, he will grow up in the knowledge and love of Jesus, who will never leave him. And we also pray that his birth mother will release him to us so that we can keep him forever. This period of unknowing could be the most nerve-wrecking thing we’ve ever known, but we choose to give our uncertainty to Jesus and rest in the peace that comes from knowing that someone who controls the universe also cares about our situation.
On a practical note, because he’s a foster child we do have more appointments to keep. He has a one-hour visit with his birth mother each week, and for that we take him to the local office to meet her. In addition to normal check-ups with the pediatrician, we also visit the health department for immunizations, have WIC check-ups every other month, and get a home visit from a child development specialist every month. His case worker checks in with us every week and our advocate meets with us once a month. Some days it feels like we’re going so many places, but it’s so worth it.
What would you say to someone who has considered doing foster care or adopting but isn’t sure?
There will always be risks. There will always be what-ifs. All I know is, if we hadn’t taken a risk, we wouldn’t be looking into the eyes of a 5-month-old brown-eyed beautiful boy who smiles every time he sees us and laughs when daddy throws him up in the air. And even if we have to give him back tomorrow, I will still remember how it felt to hold him when he was crying and to feel his tears on my cheek as I soothed him and sang songs in his ear, and I will know, even through the pain, that we have given him unconditional love for the first part of his life. And I’m pretty sure that’s what Jesus would want us to do. No, I’m absolutely sure.
Isaiah 1:17 says “Seek justice. Encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless. Plead the case of the widow.”
When I think of Jesus having dinner with a despised tax man, or stopping to heal a woman who had been bleeding for decades, or kneeling down in the middle of a crowd to draw a bunch of children to him and saying “this is the kingdom of heaven,” I know that Jesus has called us to do the same. All of us who carry the label of Christian are called to be Jesus to the people we meet. And when I walk through the door of our foster agency and I see all these kids that all need the love of a family– for a little while or forever– I think if Jesus were walking the earth he would be right there in the middle of this brokenness. And then I remember that Jesus IS here because I am here. And I have never felt so sure in all my life that I am called to be a foster/adoptive parent, and that doing so is exactly, smack-dab in the middle of God’s mission on earth.
Thank you, Kate, for sharing your heart with us today, and your experience!
My sister and I were both adopted. For me, it’s the most normal thing in the world. I have a hard time imagining what could be closer to the heart of our Heavenly Father considering the way He has drafted us in to His family. My parent’s never acted like it was a big deal that we grew in their hearts instead of in my mom’s tummy, but there were people who always wanted to make a point of calling us my parent’s “adopted” daughters. Eventually I began to pick up on the way “adopted” meant “troubled” or less than, to some people.
During my time working for the foster care agency I knew that those kiddos experienced this stigma to an even greater degree. We know this is not how God sees us.
What the world sees as less than, He proudly calls accepted, prized, beloved.
If we want to be plugged in to His heart, how can we do any less?
In Reno County, where I live, there are 187 children currently in foster care and 75 of those kids are placed in homes outside of our county, because there simply are not enough places for them to stay.
I used to work in transportation for the local agency, I can attest to the amount of work it takes to have kids placed in homes far away from where they need to come to visit their parents, or go to appointments.
Can you imagine not just being removed from the home you know, but also going to a completely unfamiliar city, school, etc?
Across the state of Kansas our agency, Saint Francis Community Services, is looking for 585 more homes.
We need at least 43 more homes just in our county alone to stop this from happening. It sounds like a lot, but I know in our county that we have more than 43 churches. That means that if even one family from each church would commit to becoming licensed, we could wipe out this need. Each church could rally around and support these families.
Sometimes children who come into care become adoptable when for various reasons their biological families are no longer an option…..
Right now, in the state of Kansas, there are 1,010 waiting to be adopted. Saint Francis Community Services has 195 adoptable children with no adoption resources identified.
Could you be the family that makes that number 194?
Do you feel the call to partner with the heart of God to call a child accepted?
Maybe you know that you can’t make a full-time commitment but you’d love to help in some way. Respite homes are also needed to provide breaks for full-time foster families.
Could you take a child for one night or just a weekend from time to time? That would be GREAT!
I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture of what it means to be a foster parent. It will be one of the hardest thing you or I have ever done. There will be adjustments and growing pains, and some days it will seem like the wrong decision. However, we can rest knowing that we are doing work that brings us deeper into the knowledge of the GREAT love of our Father.
I’d love the chance to chat with you about this topic and help you find information about foster care programs in YOUR area. Here in Kansas our state contracts with local agencies, ours is Saint Francis Community Services. I can connect you with people to answer your questions there or you can call (620)669-3734 and ask to talk to someone about becoming a foster parent. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for hanging out with us today and reading my heart and passion for this topic!
I hope that even if becoming a foster parent isn’t in your future, this post can be a reminder for you to partner with God in calling His children accepted and loved, in the ways He has called you to.