Friday, March 12, 2010

Felich Foster far

I wanted to update you on our foster/adoption journey as it has become one of the most transformational endeavors our family has ever experienced.

Almost three years ago Shari and I decided to try and adopt a baby through a local private agency specializing in domestic adoptions. Our initial desire was prompted by several interests- helping orphans, combating abortion, and the personal desire for another child. As time went on we quickly discovered there are very few babies to adopt in the U.S. Abortion has devastated the population of adoptable babies once most commonly used to supply prospective adoptive parents with children. There are currently thousands of couples wanting to adopt a child with very few available in the U.S. Arguments in favor of abortion because children would be born in poverty or in to some kind of neglect are simply groundless- there are many families willing and waiting to offer these children loving homes.

After 16 months of waiting and paying a few thousand dollars, we decided to pull out of the private adoption process sensing God was calling us to something similar, yet different- foster care. There are a few families in our church who have been foster parents, one that has a foster child they are in the process of adopting. Shari and I came to a peace about the idea of fostering, regardless of whether we’d ever have a chance to adopt. It took us several months to get licensed, then about 5 months before we received our first placement.

I can’t post the names of the children we’ve had or put pictures up, but I can tell you a few things. Since last October we have had seven placements. The first was the most impacting. We took in a 16 month old toddler because he suffered serious burns over 40% of his body when his parents left him unattended near a newly lit hibachi grill. My wife and mother drove a couple hours away to pick him up at a hospital burn center where he had been for almost 10 days. He was wrapped in gauze and in extreme pain every time we had to re-dress his bandages. Many trips to the local burn clinic and doctor’s office made him a labor intensive placement but my family fell in love with him. We had him for over two months before his grandparents were granted foster custody of him. It was brutal saying goodbye, especially for Shari who nursed him back to health, but after the grief of saying goodbye was done, we really sensed a peace from God that we had ministered to one of the “least of these”. By God’s grace, the grandparents have befriended us and we have been able to see him several times allowing my boys to continue their relationship with him. I am praying God would draw their whole family to Christ.
In the last 6 months we also had twin boys (ages 2 and 3) for a short time, one was a “crack baby” and struggled with all sorts of behavioral issues. They wore us out with their energy. I had to stick one of my boys on each of them at all times or they would start a fight with each other in minutes. Eventually they seemed to melt in to our family well enough, just in time to be placed in a different home so they could be together with their older sister.

Our most challenging placement only lasted 10 days. We had twin, five month old, baby girls who were basically blind (they suffer from Aniridia, a condition that renders their iris non functional). They were part of a larger sibling group so we had them just long enough for our foster agency to find a foster home that could take the whole sibling group. They were challenging because of their blindness. You may not realize how much of a connection is made with a child when you can look at them and they can see you. Absent sight, talking and touching is the chief way to let them know you are there and caring for them. My oldest son really had a soft spot for them. He was very hurt when we had to say goodbye, but again, we had a sense of God’s peace about doing His will.

Our latest and current placement is a six-week old baby girl. She came to us with multiple fractures in her ribs and trauma to both legs. It is surmised that she was shaken and dropped. There is a criminal investigation going on concerning her, so we are very likely to have her for several months. She’s a beautiful little girl. She’s fussy right now (maybe that’s how girls are? Ha ha), but a real delight to our family. Shari loves dressing her up…11 years of repressed girl-dressing has exploded on this little one.

So what to make of all this? Wow. Foster care is transformational to say the least. Foster care for small children (we are licensed for 0-5 years old) impacts the entire household as all have to help-there is no escape for anyone. My wife is an awesome mother and supreme nurturer. My boys have responded far better than I could have imagined caring for and loving every child. The whole experience has made me believe that I might not be too old for another baby after all. I think having these children has impacted our church family and friends also. I know several families are thinking and praying about foster care.

The hardest thing is the idea of saying goodbye and letting go. I won’t kid you, it’s very tough. If you don’t want to experience relational pain, don’t be a foster parent. At the same time, there’s a peace that passes understanding when doing this. We honestly try to think of these little ones as if they were Christ Himself. The babies might not know who we are and won’t remember us, but Jesus does and will. It’s a way to say “thank you” to Christ for what He’s done for us. For some inexplicable reason I feel like we’ll get to meet these children again, hopefully in heaven.
I do think we’ll eventually have an opportunity to adopt one of these foster children, which would be a joy, but even if we don’t, we’re sure this is what we should do right now.


Michael Lockridge said...

Some people are mentally and emotionally equipped to foster. It is a wonderful ministry. Other people are not so equipped, and comfortable with that. They will feel comfortable with supporting families such as yours with prayers and whatever other aid is needed.

It is a third group that I think needs to be addressed. Those sensitive to the need but ill equipped to handle the nuances of the ministry. They should be encouraged into supporting roles, but discouraged from attempting this ministry at which they will fail.

My recommendation, in a Christian setting, would be to consult with elders and pastors for some assessment before beginning such a ministry. People driven by admirable (and sometimes less admirable) emotions will find that emotions are not sufficient to meet real needs. A ministry is hard work, met with more than just feelings.

Many young people will benefit from a ministry such as yours. You shall be in my prayers.


Reepicheep said...

Excellent counsel Michael. I agree completely.

becks said...

Tony--I just wanted to write and tell you how much it meant to hear you talk and explain about what you and Shari have been doing these past months. I can truly see that God's Spirit has worked through all of you in this ministry. Thank you for being Jesus to these small ones who need to feel His love. God bless you and please know that I am praying for you all. Becks PS--I am expecting a book out of this some day! :)

Woody Woodward said...

I had no idea that you and Shari had these other twins? As I read, tears flowed. Because of enlarged hearts, filled with immeasurable compassion, I can’t imagine the joy in knowing your family has live what Jesus said in Matthew 25:40, “What you have done for the least of these, My brethren, you have done so for ME.” May the Lord Jesus bless all of you and Shari beyond imagination. Your self-less, humble testimony has touched at the very heart of my being.

Zach said...

Great update, Tony. Thanks for letting us share, in some small way, your journey.

Rick Calohan said...

Praise God for you and Shari in what you do for these children in need.