It was a hot summer day many, many years ago. 8 year old Valerie was dressed in shorts, a short sleeve shirt, sneakers and an attitude that was ready to play. I remember spaghetti, bubbles and lots of kids. I remember playing SO much. I remember there being kids even smaller than me that just stuck to me like starfish stick to the side of a fish tank. I remember this feeling that I just couldn't describe. This desire. This love. At 8 years old, I don't think that my vocabulary was large enough to verbally express the way that I felt leaving the orphanage that day.
All I can remember is getting into the car all sweaty and tired and saying to my mom with all the boldness and security in the world... "Mom, I know what I'm going to be when I grow up! A foster parent". My mom kindly told me that unfortunately that is not a job, and I very confidently corrected her and told her... well, it's going to be my job!
For years I would give that same response when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that was an answer that I truly believed. I would be a foster mom if It was the last thing I did. I wasn't sure exactly what that would look like, and in all honesty I still don't.
What I do know is that the Lord loves children and I can say with complete boldness that I truly believe that He has given me a burden for foster/adoptive children and families.
At this point in my life, the doors have not opened for me to pursue possibly being a foster parent myself, but what has opened are doors to help support families and children in need and bring an awareness to my local community and internet family!
Let's talk some foster care details!
It is a fact that foster families get paid to foster, here in Florida, for example, families are paid, on average, a little less than $500 a month, and if you have kids of your own, or if you know anyone with kids, you know for a fact that this would only cover the bare minimum.
I was talking with a friend the other days, which happens to be a foster/adoptive mom herself. I was sharing the burdens that I have on my heart for the fostering community. She shared with me what it was like when her, now adoptive daughter, arrived to her home. She had trash bag filled with a couple of the "bare minimum" items. Some kids arrive with NOTHING!
Apart from not arriving with material things, most children arrive with other things. Emotional things. Most kids have been moved from home to home, seen and experienced things that no child should see or have to experience.
We may not be able to stop the abuse in every home, foster/adopt every child, or understand why things happen, but there are a few things that we can do! What are they?
Here are a few basic and straight to the point ways that we can support!
People often times say: "Well, all I can do is pray". Why do we look at prayer as the bare minimum? Why do we feel like it's the least, when in fact prayer is the most powerful thing we can do? I encourage you to pray for children in the foster system. For families that have made the choice to foster/adopt. For their finances, for their mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. For their endurance and consistency and for their hearts.
2. Become educated
Make it a point to connect with foster/adoptive families. Don't know any in you area? The internet is a great way to connect and meet others all over the world! Some good hashtags to look up are #fosterparents #fostermom #adoption. Listen to the struggles and learn how to support and how you can best be there for these families. Also, do research as to what goes on in the system, how and why children wind up in foster care and the statistics of children in foster care in your state.
3. Support your local foster/adoptive families
Ask foster/adoptive families near you how you can help. Get connected with orphanages/foster homes in your area. Find local organizations that work closely with these families! Again, don't know any personally? Use the resources you have to get connected!
4.Become foster/adoptive families
Find a local program where you can get licensed to become a foster parent. Not ready to become a foster parent, but want to be involved? Contact your local department of children and families!
Share all that you learn about foster care/adoption with those that you know and encourage them to do the same!
Although those are only a few of the ways that you can support the foster care system and the families in it, I encourage you to be creative and find your own ways to be involved.
I pray that this time spent together shed light on a community so dear to my heart! Throughout the next couple of days, I will be sharing some stories of foster families that I have had the joy to connect with! I hope that you will follow along!