Thursday, August 26, 2010

How foster care has changed our family

After our third boy was identified in a sonogram, Shari and I agreed we would pray about adopting a girl. The masculine genes are just too strong in the Felich line (ha ha!). We started the private adoption process but quicky discovered it to be very expensive and difficult to actually find a baby who was adoptable. Abortion has seriously lessened the supply of adoptable babies. We had discussed foster care several times over the years but became more serious after talking to a family in our church who had gone through the process and had a current placement. We prayed long and hard about what God wanted our family to do. Two years ago this month we started the licensing process and despite challenges and some days where we wonder what we did, we are sure this is God's calling for us right now.

Our licensing process took about 8 months. Our first placement happened exactly a year ago. Over this past year we have had seven different little ones in our home. Our latest placement, a seriously cute baby girl, has been with us since March 5. Foster care has changed our family.

So far the blessings have outweighed the difficulties, but there are challenges. Becoming licensed takes some time. Attending a ten-week class is the required first step in licensing. A home study follows and a few additional interviews. Further, there are various safety requirements for your house, which for us meant putting an e-gress window in our basement and a few other minor modifications. Each year there is a re-licensing process which isn’t as tough as initial licensing, but keeping up your CPR certification and other little things requires time and attention. After licensing the toughest challenge is the initial adjustment when a new child or children are suddenly in your home. It’s a shock at first, especially when you tend to be a routine oriented household. Initially it’s a disruption when the child or children are added to your family structure. Connected to this challenge is the difficulty with parting when the child goes back to their home or to another care provider. Our first placement lasted almost 10 weeks. Little Xavier was burned over a good portion of his torso when he was placed with us. Caring for his wounds several times a day created a bond with him that was special. It was very tough giving him back, I won’t kid you. We praise God for an ongoing relationship with his grandparents that means getting to see him every few months, but we know this is not usually the case.

The great blessing of foster care, however, trumps all challenges- having a relationship with a child who needs a loving family for a time. What a blessing to the child, but I’ll tell you what- what a blessing to our family! I am convinced we have been blessed more by the children we have cared for than us being a blessing to them. Caring for a needy little one takes your eyes off self and turns them to the needs of one of the “least of these” (see Matthew 10:42, 25:40, and Hebrews 6:10). Our boys still struggle with sibling rivalry and selfishness (being like their father), but our various foster children have evoked compassion and selflessness in each of them like we’ve never seen before. Our little foster baby girl is treated like royalty by the boys. They absolutely LOVE her. It’s great for them to love her, and it’s great for her to be loved.

We’re not sure what the future holds as foster parents, we’d love to adopt but are content to foster children if the Lord wills. I do not think everyone should be a foster parent, nor do I ever want to put a guilt trip on people about fostering. We are not super Christians or somehow special for doing this. I get the creeps when people pour on praise for being foster parents. Seriously, it's not that big of a sacrifice when you consider what I have just said. It might even be a bit selfish considering what a blessing it is to us. If God calls you to do something, He gives the grace necessary to do it.

So no guilt trips from me about what you should do...BUT.. I do think Redeemer has some wonderful families who could provide loving homes for children in need. I am sure there are similarly wonderful non-Redeemer Reepicheep readers who would also be a blessing to children in need.

Will you pray about possibly becoming a foster care family? The need is great.


Brenda said...

Thank you Jesus for putting your Spirit into the hearts of Tony & Shari allowing them to provide a home for your little image bearers. As you promise, you always take care of your own, using your Saints in the process. Thank you Jesus for using Tony & Shari for putting self denial into their hearts and the hearts of their children. What a blessing to be used by you Lord, in such a serious matter.

Christine R. said...

As adoptive parents, we often get the "oh you're so wonderful" I usually just smile and tell them that the blessings go both ways. If it had not been for our church, we would not have been able to adopt H or I.
I love Leanne Touhy's response in "Blindside" after her shallow friends tell her how she's "changin that boy's life" and she responds simply with "he's changin mine" I wholeheartedly agree! Each of my children have changed my life in a way that I would never have been able to guess before they came into our lives.

Woody Woodward said...

O the eternal blessings for reaching out to the least of these!
Praise God for yours and Sheri's powerful, living through with the Word! And for the boys, theirs is also a steadfast testimony of their growing faith. The motive gift of hospitality and serving runs deep in the Felich household.