Foster Care that Thrives: It Takes a Village

 My point is this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.
And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work. You will be enriched in every way so that you may be generous on every occasion, which is producing through us thanksgiving to Godbecause the service of this ministry is not only providing for the needs of the saints but is also overflowing with many thanks to God. Through the evidence of this service, [others] will glorify God because of your obedience to your confession in the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your sharing … with everyone. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

I’ll admit that the whole “it takes a village” philosophy disturbed me when I first heard it. I balked a little at the concept that prompted a book written to espouse a personal belief and worldview. Although it wasn’t intended to be a political book necessarily, the author did include several political ideas and conclusions – most of which I disagreed on some level or another. The theme of the book is that children are not raised just by their parents, but also by all of the other people in the society around them. It would seem that the author embraces a philosophy that includes a rationale for an overly-involved government in society. If taken to extremes, this involvement affects that which can be more broadly defined as “anything at all”, including childrearing.

My purpose today is not to debate the philosophy nor the intention behind the philosophy, since I can’t know it completely.  Today, I just want to say “thank you”. I have come to realize that when it comes to the life of a foster family, it takes more than the core foster family to facilitate child health and growth. After only three years of fostering, I have already seen the impact of “community” when it comes to this kind of orphan care. I would not be able in good conscience to encourage anyone to begin fostering unless they have a significant support group. So, in all honesty, I may be hinting at the positive impact of the philosophy I have previously condemned … that indeed “it takes a village” to raise a healthy foster child. The distinction lies within the definition of village.

My friend ask me recently how my children (the ones we birthed) feel about this new normal in our family. Most assuredly our lives look different these days. I thought I knew the answer, but I came home and asked them. I haven’t seen signs of resentment or frustration, but I would certainly understand if there was. Everyone has adjustments in a foster family. Foster kids must work through their own sense of belonging, and the other kids must work through what they may sense as loss. For the most part, I believe it’s working for us. My kids have embraced this new adventure with everything they have – they are ALL IN. And that’s why I say that there must be community. Without the support and presence of our older kids, we would not be nearly as effective as foster parents. The meal time would be significantly less engaging. The play time would certainly be affected. I don’t know what Brent and I will do when there’s no longer anyone in our home (and we are empty nesters), but at this point I recognize how important it is for there to be other “kids” hanging around our foster kids. There is very little time for self absorption these days. We never have to remind anyone, “It’s not about you.” It just isn’t. There’s no time for it to be about any one person. It is their new reality.
So today I say a huge THANKS to the three Reeves and two Frys … who all not only embrace this season of our lives, but enjoy it and encourage it.

Obviously, as a couple, our “free time” is not so free anymore. I am so thankful to the friends we have who have not let that deter them from inviting us over, including us in gatherings, and spending time together. When people are in our home, they allow our kids to climb on them, interrupt them and/or ignore them (depending on their mood at the time). I am so blessed when I observe our friends love these kids and also allow us to be less available than we might otherwise be. I would be unable to be as effective a foster mom without the support of my friends. I’m blessed that they haven’t abandon us because we chose this sometimes difficult road. Not only that, they encourage us, pray for us and continue to spend time with us even when the circumstances are less than ideal.
Thanks, precious friends, for listening to parenting woes and walking this road with us faithfully.

I have also come to understand the important role our church family plays in this adventure. From Sunday school teachers, to AWANA workers, to student leaders, to those sitting around us on any given Sunday … our church family has embraced all of our great foster kids. They take time to get to know them, they engage them in conversations, they give hugs, and they genuinely show love and support to us and to them. Our kids have benefited greatly by the people in our church. They have allowed our kids to act “unbecoming to a pastor’s kid”! 🙂 So, although they may not always want to sit through church, they do feel loved there. So I give a loud shout out to our SCBC family. You serve my kids well.

Our foster kids didn’t ask to be part of this family. They didn’t ask to be PKs. They were inserted into a role they most definitely did not seek. And yet, because of our gracious family, friends and church, it’s working … MOST days.
Sundays are tough and Satan is real, and I wonder sometimes if we’ll all get to Monday alive.
But we always do.

Thanks to all of you who make a difference. I don’t know about the intention of the original philosophy, but I do know that when it comes to dynamic and healthy foster care …
                it takes a village …
                            a godly, grace-filled village.

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