Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A Friend's Journey in Fostering

One of my best friends, Nicole, and her family have opened their hearts and home to children through foster care. We often talk about what it is like for them while on this journey and I wanted to share part of her story with you today.

Life as a Foster Mom

It's 2am and the phone rings. "Ms. Hawker this is Jill from the Dept of Children Svc and we are looking for placement of 3 children." As I try to wake up and understand the information being presented I have to process what it will be like to bring in more children into our home.

In 1996 we accepted our first foster child with a couple more to follow. After moving a few times, and receiving my MA in Marriage and Family Therapy we decided it was time to open our home again. So in 2009 we signed up for the call. The process of becoming a foster parent was a 12 week parenting course that covered everything from child abuse, cultural diversity, working with birth parents and the legal system. My husband and I learned so much about what it means to be parents, even though we already had three birth children. Since our training classes in 2009 we have fostered about 20 children in our home. And have provided respite(temporary care) for several others.

When we receive a call to accept a child or a sibling group, we know very little about the children. We are told their age, sex and race. If medical issues are known by DCS, we may find out however some families are very relunctant to share. Children have come to us at all hours of the day and night. They generally come with the clothing on their backs and maybe one other change of clothing. They come hungry, tired and scared. Several children have come to our home with lice, roaches, scabies, foul language, aggressive behavior and most without appropriate discipline. Each child is different and each situation has called for grace, humility and a goal to love the child.

When the paperwork is complete and goodbyes are done by the state worker who brings the child to our home, the child is left with strangers. As a foster family we do our best to let the child know they are safe, they will be fed and no harm will come upon them. The first night especially for little ones is tough. One time we had a 7 year brother lay next to his 4 yr old sister trying to comfort her all the while needing to be comforted himself.

As the days pass there are initial court hearings that I and the children must attend. This is generally my first meeting with the parents. I have had some good experiences and some pretty sad experiences meeting the birth mothers for the first time. If the children are in school, they must be enrolled within about 5 days. Next comes the medical and dental appointments that must be completed within 30 days. After about 2-3 weeks the state will help with getting clothes.

Real life everyday living. Our home is approved for a total of 6 children, my three plus three. Some days get a little wild and crazy. Waking up six kids for school, getting everyone bathed and fed requires an extra dose of coffee in the morning. Homework, afternoon sports, dinner and baths become like a revolving door; it just keeps moving. Our grocery bill increases a bit, our water bill goes up, but God always provides. One year my friend Tamara showed up in the middle of the night with a box of food and toiletries. Others have lent us car seats, given us clothes and provided a listening ear.

I've mentioned I have three children of my own. They are a vital part in everything we do as a foster family. As we are making decisions to accept children we consider not only the physical and emotional but also the spiritual impact other children will have on our birth children. My children have become very aware of some of the "baggage" that foster children bring. My children have learned to share not only their toys, their home, their parents but also their faith. My children enjoy helping to take care of, mentor and befriend each child that comes into our home. When certain children have left, my kids have asked how they are doing and if they will ever see their friends again.

It's not easy being a foster parent.The kids don't always receive love and discipline. The birth parents can be mean and blame us for taking their children. Well meaning friends have questioned why we have those kids in our home. Being a foster parents doesn't really require any special skills or traits. It does require a few schedule adjustments and a few unknowns. Being a foster parent doesn't require major financial burdens, the state will help along the way. It does require an extra couple meals and a few extra loads of laundry. Being a foster parent doesn't require a big house with a big front yard. It does require space in your heart to love one created by God. Being a foster doesn't require being perfect it just requires being a parent to a child.

I agree not everyone is called to be a foster parent. So you may ask how can you help. Pray for a foster family. The beginning of a school year tends to bring awareness to the plight of children and more come into the foster system. Consider helping a foster family with school supplies, diapers, formula, whatever God lays on your heart. Consider emailing or sending a card to a foster family. Consider making a special package for the birth children, sometimes they feel left out. There are so many ways to support foster families and the children they serve. With over 1200 foster children between Knox, Blount and Sevier County the need is definitely present to get involved.

Today I sit watching over 3 blond headed green eyed boys and 2 of the most compassionate children I have ever met.

Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them.
Isaiah 58:7 NLT

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows...
James 1:27 NLT 

I am also drawn to a small little word tucked in 1 Timothy 3:2.."hospitable."

Thank you for letting me share my journey. It's just a small part of who I am but I believe its making big marks on the hearts of the children we serve in our home.

A huge thank you to Nicole for sharing her heart.
You can read more from Nicole on her blog here and you can connect with her on Twitter here.


  1. Thanks for linking up at the GFC Blog Hop today! Hope you found some amazing new blogs and even some new friends!!

    Melissa @ The Life of a Not So Ordinary Wife

    1. Thanks Melissa! So blessed by the opportunity to make new friends! Have a wonderful weekend friend!

  2. Wendy,

    Wow, that was insightful to peek into your friend's heart and thoughts as she explains her passion for foster care. Some friends in our church do that too, and we are grateful for the kids we have gotten to know via them.

    Regarding your comment at my site, thank you. :) Blogging and sharing our lives and hearts online is a fun way to start getting to know each other. I am thankful you are here.

    Jennifer Dougan

    1. Thanks Jennifer! She has such a beautiful heart for children and I am so grateful to call her friend!
      I am really thankful for the opportunity to get to know you more as well! Blessings!

  3. I LOVE THIS!! I'm going to school to become a social work and think foster parents are amazing! You have such a big heart! And I really love this post! (:

    1. Thanks so much Alyssa! How wonderful that you are going to be serving in social work! It really takes a special person to do that for sure! Blessings!

  4. Hello! What a beautiful post from a beautiful person :) Stopping by from the Mommy-Brain Mixer at Two in Diapers. Are you on Klout? If so, I hope you'll come by jugglingactmama.blogspot after 4pm EST for my Kickin' it with Klout linky. Happy Thursday!

    1. Thanks so much Ang! Hope your weekend is fantastic friend! Blessings!

  5. This is so beautiful! I've never really gotten such a clear picture of what fostering is like, and your friend and her family have amazingly beautiful hearts. I'm so glad you linked up to the Mixer, friend, and I hope to see you again next week! :)

    1. Thanks so much Cassie! Love her heart so much. I am like you...I really didn't know much about fostering until I became friends with Nicole. Thankful to link up with you all at the Mixer. Blessings friend!


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