I am a foster parent. A non-relative kinship foster parent caring for a 17-year-old and a 2-year-old. Often I am the most hated person in the room. The one who is not quite a parent but also more than a friend. I care for a child who does not belong to me and work with a broken system. I hear insults hurtled my way and am constantly reminded that I do not have a family of my own. That I am not the "real" family to the children in my home.
My entire life is foster care and adoption. When I go to work, I do so as a social worker. Both for a private adoption agency and then also at a state run group home. When I return home, it is to foster care where I provide all the necessities to a child that could be gone tomorrow.
There are times when I wish my life were different. Time when I wonder why God has etched foster care and adoption so deeply into my heart. Times when I truly wish I had a real desire to have a normal family - the kind of family that involves marriage and then a baby that looks like me in the baby carriage.
But I do not have that desire.
Instead, I desire to have children who look nothing like me. I want the sort of family that makes no sense to anyone else. I want to invite children of all ages into my home and love them the way Jesus loves me knowing that they might walk away from me or be taken away from me. I also want to love the broken families - the ones that have somehow wound up in the broken system that is foster care.
And I want to love others like me. The ones that struggle daily to not snap at the children that do not belong to them. The ones that aren't sure how to handle a screaming and crying child that can not be consoled following a visit with their "real" family. The ones who never meant to do this but were thrust into foster care.
God has placed a burden on my heart. It is one I can not ignore even though I have tried and tried. It has been just over five years since I first became the social worker, and I have spent every day of the past five years running from the field. Once I stopped running in June of this year, God allowed my heart to burst for those who find themselves fostering and adopting as well as for those who find themselves in need of foster care and adoption.
It has been just over a month since we received placement of our two girls. A month of adjustment. A month of conversations. A month of trying to be a mom while also making sure not to take place of the birth mom. A month of my heart breaking for all the other children who do not have a place to call home. A month of wondering if I can truly do this. A month of praying and allowing God to lead more than I ever have.
And in the days of being both a foster parent and a social worker, I have seen that it works. I have seen changes in our girls. I have felt my heart swell with pride when the 17-year-old explained that my entire life is foster care and adoption. Not because it's me but because ultimately God gets the glory in the story. And because my story just might speak to someone else and spur in them a desire to help.
We do this because He has called us to it. I am able to foster because He has given me the strength. I am able to be the executive director of an adoption agency because He has blessed me with the knowledge and experience.
I have no idea where this adventure will take me. It could be to graduate school at the University of Southern California. It could be eventually back to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. It could be somewhere else entirely.
Wherever it takes me, I am prepared to be the most hated person in the room because I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that God created me to be both a social worker and a foster parent.