The call comes in the early morning hours. My heart beats fast as I see the number on my phone and suspect it’s the Department of Social Services placement office. Our first foster daughter left one week ago to live with her grandmother and I’m not sure our family is ready for another child. Plus, back-to-school night is in two days for our 8 and 10-year-old and the timing seems wrong.
Yet something nudges me, a whisper from deep within. I listen to the voicemail and find out the need is for two boys, brothers. We’re their last hope. There are no other open homes.
At any given time in South Carolina, roughly 4,500 children are in need of a foster home; less than half this number of homes are licensed in the state. This staggering statistic is why our family decided to get more information about becoming a foster family.
As a first step, we attended a Journey Together Ministries informational meeting and were surprised to see a familiar face there, our old neighbor, Nichole Johnson. Listening to her testimony, we learned that she bounced around from home to home as a foster child, never getting adopted. I thought about her as a little girl, alone in the world, and how she must have felt rejected.
I discussed this with my husband, and although it was not a great time for us economically, we took a step of faith and filled out the application to become a licensed foster home. We opted to foster kids ages 4-7. We wanted to give our children the opportunity to pour into others, and thought it might work best if the children were younger than them. About one month after we turned in our application, my husband was recruited to a job that would sustain our soon-to-be expanding family.
“She told me I had a heart of wings and she prayed every night for Chris, my husband, to become a panda.”
We completed our training hours and over the next few months got our house in order with proper smoke detectors, safety latches, and a fire extinguisher. Two home visits later we were approved. Our first call—the placement of our 4-year-old foster daughter—came before our license even arrived in the mail.
The day we picked her up, the sky was eerily dark. Our bio kids’ soccer practice was cancelled due to lightning, but the rain held off around the DSS building until we had our foster daughter safely in the car. She had an overnight bag and no car seat. Unprepared for this, we adjusted my 8-year-old son’s booster for her.
She was and is a bright, animal loving, poet. She told me I had a heart of wings and she prayed every night for Chris, my husband, to become a panda. These were the rewarding moments. Of course, there were also painful times, much to be expected for a child with a traumatic background.
These kids come into our home separated from their parents, scared, and alone. There’s either been neglect, abuse, and/or abandonment for us to get a call. Yet you don’t know the details of their background when you pick them up. They’re question marks when they arrive and when they leave. Over time you get some answers, sometimes in words, other times in their behavior.
What We’re Called To Do
The calling is to bear with their past, be present in their moment, and to prepare them for their future. Sometimes it takes extra love, routine, and read-a-loud books. For others, they need extended services like counseling, tutoring, and doctor appointments. They often have insatiable appetites for attention, affection, and food. It takes them a few weeks to settle in, and one of the ways we know they feel safe is when they ask if their mom can come live with us too.
It can be painful, exhausting work to love these children in their brokenness, but the reward of seeing their breakthroughs is worth any hardship. It’s the same with our bio kids, if you think about it. The work never ends, but neither does the joy of getting to be in their lives.
The Support Of A Village
By faith, we say yes. I call back the DSS placement officer and agree to take in the brothers. Now we have a family of six and a growing village of people supporting us. One friend buys school supplies, another gives us clothes, and several others bring us meals. An anonymous person has paid the fees for one of the boys to play soccer. I would never ask for or expect these things, yet so many people continue to build up our faith and encourage us. We’re not doing this alone.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
- Visit Journey Together Ministries to learn more about how to become a foster care family or how to offer support and encouragement.
- Attend the Heartfelt Calling Foster Parent Training Class at the Mount Pleasant Campus. The next one is being held February 28-29. Contact Laura Lewis for more information.
- Get involved with foster care support at the Mount Pleasant or Greenville Campuses. Opportunities are available to bring meals, collect items to fill material needs, and assist in other ways on a case-by-case basis.