just passing through

We celebrated a very special birthday of a very special child this weekend. It was a few weeks late, and the party itself was put together at the last minute. (I have a long ways to go in the world of motherhood.) But still it came together beautifully.

One of the hardest things with foster care is the knowledge that the kids you care for, shop for, pray over, and love are never really yours. It could be said that no child is every really yours as there is never a guarantee on what will happen. But this is even more true with foster care.

Knowing they aren't yours, recognizing that they could leave at any time, is terrifying. And heartbreaking. Because for the time they are in your house you do all the things you would do for your "own" child. (And if you don't, then you shouldn't be a foster parent.)

We had a cake for the party. Minimal decorations. A fruit dish, a veggie tray, and Chik-Fil-A nuggets. There were drinks as well, and lots of laughter. It was a combination of friends from church, our family, our kids birth family, and friends from OKDHS. Without the two kids we've been entrusted to care for, many of us had nothing in common.

And yet we all spent just over two hours together at the park. The sun blazed down around us, but we were protected by a pavilion. A nice breeze came off the pond, and we found enough things to do to actually entertain a 2-year-old (and slightly overwhelm her by the amount of gifts she received).

It's hard not to be attached. To not want to interject ourselves as the family. But what I continue to find, mostly by reminding myself and our teenage foster daughter, is that we are here to serve whatever role it is that these two girls need. If that's to be a foster mom only, then that is what we are. If it's to serve a role of NiNi and PopPop, as we do to the 2-year-old, then that is what we are. Our relationships and purpose are not clear. And that's okay - so long as both girls can look back at this point in time and know they were fiercely loved, fiercely protected, and put first.

Every person deserves those things. I would say every child, but I am learning, more and more, that the teenager we have is not a child but a young woman. And it is my job to ensure she has all the tools she needs to continue a successful life long after my direct presence in her life has disappeared.

It's hard to be in this position. To sometimes be the most hated person in the room. But it is also worth it when I catch glimpses of smiles, when I hear the way a 2-year-old stakes her claim on me as "my {her} NiNi," when I watch our family touch others with our story, and when I realize that by laying myself down I am opening up a whole new world and creating a life for myself.

My entire life is overcome with a need to care for the orphaned and the fatherless. And while exhausting, I simply can not see any other way. I want every birth mother, birth father, adoptive mother, adoptive father, foster mother, and foster father (as well as all the other important relationships) to know they matter. Because we all do matter. And how blessed for a child who was once fatherless to all of a sudden have so many people who fiercely love them.


the most hated person in the room

I am the social worker. Often I am the most hated person in the room. The one responsible for ripping families apart and placing children into foster care. I take recommendations to the court and am then at the mercy of the judge and whatever decision he may make. I have been the social worker for almost five years now. It is a role I never meant to play, and yet, it is a role I know I was born to play.

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.


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