We had been waiting for the call for what seemed like an eternity. The call that my wife, Sue, had worked so hard for these past five years while pursuing her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. It would determine if we would stay in Cincinnati or be required to pack up and move to a strange city. The call had the potential to determine her future career opportunities as a licensed psychologist. It would determine if she had been selected for a highly coveted American Psychological Association (APA) accredited internship.
This call had the potential to change our lives in so many ways. Some we had anticipated, but most were unknown at the time when she applied for the internships. We choose to move forward in faith. Trusting God would open the door for what He wanted for Sue and our family. I am happy to report that she did receive a call that offered her an APA accredited internship at the VA Hospital in Cincinnati.
After a family becomes licensed or certified to become foster parents, they wait in anticipation for “the call”. The call will announce that a child entering foster care needs a temporary home and ask them if they will accept the placement. This call can come at any time of the day or night, including weekends and holidays. The family will have done many things to prepare for the arrival of these children. But, despite their best efforts, there will be adjustments and changes that need to be made once they begin the fourth phase: fostering.
A Whole New World for Foster Parents
You’ve said yes to “the call”. Precious children, with hurts and needs that you don’t fully understand yet, are coming into your home. It can seem as if everything in your world is changing.
Do you need a car seat? Did you set up the bedroom for girls but now boys will be joining you? Are you accepting three instead of two and need a new bed? Did you remember to make dinner for a larger group?
As you are wrapping your head and heart around these children, learning their stories, and adjusting your schedule to meet their needs, it will feel like you don’t have the capacity to reach out or ask for help from others when you need it. After all, you “signed up for this,” so asking for help might seem like a sign of weakness or admission you’re in over your head. It isn’t. And you aren’t – so long as you lean into God’s strength and stay open to receiving help from the individuals, He calls to support you.
No Family Should Foster Alone
At FaithBridge, we believe no family should foster alone. We like to think of fostering as a team sport where each foster family is encouraged to surround themselves with a “Community of Care.” Statistics show that foster parents who have trusted friends and family wrap around them with support are likely to foster longer and feel better about their experience. They are less likely to disrupt or send children back into the system before their parents are ready for reunification.
Our Community of Care is awesome,” says a FaithBridge foster parent. “It is comforting to know that even on the most trying days, there is a very caring group of people supporting us. They brought us dinners three nights a week after the placement. They brought us clothing. One family even provided respite for us on short notice right after the boys were placed with us so we could attend a training event.”
Things to Keep in Mind During the Fostering Phase:
- Stay connected. Don’t isolate yourself. Answer that phone call and respond to that text. Share your feelings, challenges, and needs.
- Find support. It may feel like no one could understand what you’re experiencing, but other foster parents have “been there” and can help you walk down this path successfully. Find those connections in your church foster care ministry or through another Christ-centered foster care support group locally or even virtually.
- Seek counsel. You may find yourself realizing you need more professional help in processing what you are doing or how fostering impacts your family or marriage. Don’t be afraid to seek counseling.
- Take breaks. It is a healthy choice for both you and your children to take breaks. Arrange for a babysitter for a night or get respite care to take a weekend to slow down and refresh.
- Stay open-minded. You have the opportunity to assure birth parents that their children are safe and that you aren’t there to take their children away from them. Sharing the love of Jesus with them can have both an immediate and an eternal impact. As one FaithBridge foster parent remembers when she first started connecting with her child’s birth mother, “I was so fearful and so scared at first. But God is always the answer – He can walk you through your fear, walk you through what to say, gently nudge your heart to wherever He needs it to be.”
Simple and Powerful Ways Friends and Family Can Help Foster Parents:
- Check-in. Call, text, or email them regularly and frequently to check on their needs.
- Feed them. Set up a meal schedule to relieve them of this daily task as they reorder their world.
- Give them a break. Offer babysitting by giving them two or three days to choose from rather than leaving it open-ended.
- Lend them a hand. Offer assistance with everyday tasks.
- Visit with them. Schedule visits, play dates, or park get-togethers and help keep them connected.
- Pray for them. Ask them how you can pray for them as they navigate this challenging and rewarding and difficult phase.
Finally, this is a great time to encourage them and remind them that God has called them to do something that they can only do with him, and he will show up in ways they might never expect.
The Five Phases of Fostering
Having recruited, trained, licensed, and supported more than 1,000 foster families, FaithBridge has observed that each foster family experiences a cycle of five different phases during their journey. Those phases include considering, preparing, waiting, fostering, and transitioning. Working in collaboration with pastor and author Jason Johnson, FaithBridge has developed training and materials called Phases of Fostering to equip churches to support individuals and families during their fostering journey.
With more than 300,000 Christian churches covering every community in the U.S., FaithBridge Foster Care believes the local church is the answer to the foster care crisis in America. We partner with local churches to recruit, train, and license foster families. Recruit them to provide community-based, short- and long-term traditional and therapeutic care for foster children in Georgia. Our vision is for every foster child to experience the hope, healing, and unconditional love of Jesus Christ.