When Tim and Katie Nester leave the house with their unique family in tow, people often stop them with questions like, “Are all those kids yours?”
“I stopped looking people in the eye after I had four kids under four years old,” Katie laughs.
Tim and Katie are currently parenting seven children — four biological, two adopted and one current foster care placement. One of the couple’s adopted children is their 10-year-old son, Megersa, whom the the Nesters brought home from Ethiopia when he was only six months old. Their littlest child came to them through foster care.
When Katie brought the idea of adoption and foster care to Tim, he was hesitant at first. What changed his perspective over time was the realization that God views people as children who need him desperately. As the couple heard specific stories of families and kids who needed help — both in their community and far away — God showed them this was the path He wanted their family to take, and they prepared themselves for the journey.
Raising seven children in their unique family has provided plenty of learning opportunities for the Nesters. First, the number of kids has improved communication between the couple. Each child has his or her own set of needs, so the two talk constantly about how to address the need at hand.
Second, when tensions run high, one gently reminds the other through a quick touch or a gentle word to soften their tone. Doing so helps to bring calm in that moment.
Third, Katie and Tim continue to learn from the children about acceptance. “My kids have taught me a ton about how to accept other kids into our family. For the most part they jump so quickly into trust and love,” Tim says. “They love almost immediately. That’s been a huge lesson for me.”
One challenge the Nester’s unique family works to overcome is understanding the behavior of a child who has faced trauma. Megersa was abandoned at birth. Tim and Katie can’t help but imagine what he must have faced as a baby. They picture him crying and crying, but not finding comfort in the arms of a mom, dad or any family member.
A passerby found the child along the side of a road and turned him into police. Authorities eventually took him to an orphanage. Knowing the context of his story puts some of Megersa’s self-preserving actions into perspective for Tim and Katie.
Another unique challenge the family faces has to do with showing steadfast love to all of the children in their care. Tim explains that with their biological children, there was time to develop attachment. They had nine months to fall in love with each child in the womb. And when the child was born, there were those key moments of bonding with their newborn.
With children added to their family through adoption or foster care, they often just had a photo. And there was not much notice before the child arrived in their home.
This has required an intentional choice to show steadfast love to each child in their home, no matter how that child became a part of their unique family.
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Faith Helps Love Remain Steadfast
Katie can’t imagine how she and Tim could raise their unique family without faith in Jesus Christ. The two keep emotions in check when their patience gets tested because they realize their relationship with the children is a mirror of their own relationship with God.
“How often do we do the same things over and over?” says Katie. “I’m positive God’s thinking, ‘Why are you doing this? You know what’s correct, you know how to make the better choice, why are we here again?'”
The couple understands that God loves the person in jail as much as he loves the one who attends church weekly. With that in mind, the two are able to show steadfast love to all their children, even when the kids get into trouble.
“I know others who are not even religious going into adoption. It’s almost like you’re missing so much, something bigger,” Katie says.
Encouragement for Struggling Parents
Focus on the Family’s Wait No More program reports more than 400,000 kids in foster care in the United States. These children often come from homes where they suffered neglect and abuse. Being a successful foster parent takes hard work. For those struggling to care for their own unique family, the Nesters have a few suggestions. First, the couple gives them kudos. “I would say, first of all, awesome job for doing this. That’s fantastic,” said Tim.
Next, the two remind others who are struggling to remember that there will be moments of pain. For foster parents who may have to let a child go (help a child transition home or to another placement) after a few weeks, months or even years, the pain can run deep. Tim and Katie say it’s best to deal with the hurt and process it. They say it’s also important to realize that usually these parents are passing along goodness, love and happiness to a child in need.
“The thing is, you made an impact on that child’s life that no one else could have had. And they left an imprint on your life, as well,” says Tim. “So I would never tell someone to stay away because of fear of getting hurt. There’s going to be incredible highs and there’s going to be some pretty devastating lows. But I feel like all of us are called in some way to help these kids, ’cause there’s so many that are in need.”
The Nesters also encourage struggling foster/adoptive parents to look to Jesus as a model of how people should treat kids. He told his disciples and he tells Christians today in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Tim and Katie say that picture of Jesus bringing kids in close to him is what Christ calls believers to do. In practice, that can look like volunteering at church or babysitting to allow parents a date night. It could also mean going to a child placement agency nearby and asking what you can do to get involved.
Keep Choosing to Love
Making that choice to love their non-biological children has not always been easy for the Nesters. It was a surprising struggle for the two at first. They realized that it was the mundane, daily events that caused a need to make that choice. “In those day to day moments, [when you have] little sleep, [the kids are] frustrating, baby’s crying, older kids are lying to you, taking things that don’t belong to them, [you have to] make that choice to love them the same way as the kids that were born to you. So choosing steadfast love has been the most challenging [part], but also the most rewarding.”
In those moments of frustration Tim and Katie challenge others with unique families to realize they’ve undertaken an amazing task. “Just take a moment,” says Tim. “Take a breath, and keep choosing to love.”
For Katie, her unique family provides more opportunities to love. “We do love them all,” she says. “I couldn’t imagine our family structured a different way. We would be missing out on so much.”
Focus on the Family hosts Wait No More events across the country to raise awareness and recruit foster and adoptive families for children in the US foster care system. If you’d like to attend an event or learn more about adoption or foster care, visit waitnomore.org.
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