I loved watching my grandma layer together her quilts on the giant wooden frame that filled her entire living room. Grandma’s quilts had beautiful, hand-pieced tops and a durable quilt back. There were layers of batting sandwiched in between, all held together by the intricate pattern of her meticulous hand-stitching. Grandma’s quilts were beautiful, warm, strong, and durable. Even 40 years after her death, when I wrap grandma’s quilts around me on a cold day, it remains a comforting reminder of her love.
Foster & Adoptive Families Support Systems
Christian foster and adoptive families’ best support systems are layered and stitched together like one of my grandma’s quilts. A beautiful top layer, the foster or adoptive family is the most visible, the layer closest to the child. Supportive family and friends. A network of other foster and adoptive families. Great social workers. School staff, and medical professionals all form a thick middle layer of batting. A foster and adoption-friendly church is the durable back. This helps the family sandwich together all the other layers of support. As God stitches all three layers together with his unique design, the result is a beautiful, enduring testament to his faithfulness and love.
I never realized how critical a support system was to sustainable foster and adoptive parents until I didn’t have one. After being a foster and then adoptive family for 15 years, we moved. This took us four states and 1,000 miles away from an amazing support system. At a time when our kids started middle school, high school, and college. Past traumas made the many changes we experienced more difficult than I ever imagined. Without the layers of support family, friends, and the church had always provided, we staggered under the weight of multiple mental, spiritual, and behavioral challenges. For several years, isolation, embarrassment, fear of rejection, and time limitations kept us from building a new support system.
Building Layers Around Foster & Adoptive Families
One of the things that attracted me to Project 1.27 was learning about the multiple layers of support the ministry worked to build around foster and adoptive families. Beginning with Information Night. There is an ongoing emphasis, even an insistence, that every family actively builds a support system. This system must be in place before traumatized children are placed in their care.
Those quilt-like layers of support include several aspects. Engaging those closest to the family to provide ongoing prayer. Encouragement and practical support. Building a community of other foster and adoptive families for respite, friendship, and practical advice. Partnering effectively with the other professionals who are part of a child’s team. Actively participating in a foster and adoption-friendly church and prioritizing a deep, growing faith in God.
Families with these layers of support can persevere through the challenging behaviors a child develops to cope with multiple adverse childhood experiences, to develop relationships that help the child heal. With other people to lean into as they celebrate and grieve a child’s reunification, well-supported families have the confidence to foster again and again. Rarely do families with quilt-like layers of support stop fostering in their first year, and disruption rates for those who adopt are extremely low. Being part of the quilt-layers of support provide those surrounding the foster family an opportunity to live out their calling to care for the orphaned. Everyone can do something.
Family Support Team
Sometimes families-in-training balk at Project 1.27’s requirement that every family brings at least four people to four hours of Support Team Training. “We don’t have anyone who would come! Our family lives too far away. We haven’t made close friends here. We’re not that connected to our church.” Our staff coach and pray for families as they build the relationships they’ll need. This is done because it is known that isolation and lack of support is the enemy of success in foster care, . Many families bring ten, twenty, or more people creating a thick layer of support around themselves and the children they will eventually welcome into their home.
As a family’s support team, participants learn about how the foster care system works. The beauty of reunification with biological family whenever possible. Even the need for permanence through adoption when it’s not. Support team members gain an understanding of how trauma can impact a child’s body, brain, and behavior. Along with the reasons why the family they are supporting may parent differently. Utilizing their expertise and gifting, a support team organizes themselves to support the family in meeting the needs of the children they foster.
The team selects a point person. Then they develop a communication channel. Then they put plans in place to help the family. Help them complete needed home maintenance. Or organize meal brigades. Even provide clothing and supplies when a child arrives without anything. Also, ongoing help things like tutoring and transportation. This well-equipped team is ready to offer the respite, prayer, practical help, and encouragement needed for the foster or adoptive family’s physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Foster and Adoption-Friendly Church
A Foster and Adoption-Friendly (FAF) Church provide the durable backing a family, and the children they care for, need. At Project 1.27, we define a FAF church as one that ensures that the church is a safe place for children. Even when they’re disruptive. In a FAF church, when a preschooler talks to their foster parent in a loud, outdoor voice, the church family thinks, “Praise God we have the opportunity to care for that little guy.” A volunteer draws close to a second-grade girl refuses to cooperate in a children’s church. To give her a break and show her she’s loved.
At a FAF church, foster and adoptive parents can share their failures, disappointments, fears, and small victories. They know others in the body are slow to judge and quick to offer practical support, encouraging words, and prayer. Often there are other foster and adoptive families in the congregation. This is because a Foster and Adoption-Friendly Church both inspires members to foster or adopt. AND to provides multiple ways for other members to support them. When foster and adoptive families have a safe place for their entire family to worship, study God’s Word, serve and fellowship within the body of Christ, they develop a deep, vibrant faith in God.
When foster and adoptive families have multiple layers of support, everyone in the home – children and adults – are wrapped in a God-designed quilt that offers comfort and love for today and for decades to come, just like my grandma’s quilt.