Where Were You On June 20th, 2011?

You know how it is common for people to talk about where they were or what they were doing when a national or international event happens, usually a tragic one? Like when JFK was shot, or the twin towers were hit. Sometimes it is a joyful or dramatic event, like when the first man walked on the moon.

 

 

 June 20, 2011 was one of those days for me.

I write about this in my book, Adopting the Father’s Heart in a chapter entitled Decision Time. Here are some excerpts from that chapter—

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4 Things I Learned from Meeting the Family

I must have been a sleep during this part of our training classes. The part that described what our interaction would be like with the biological family of foster children. Maybe it was the horror stories of angry, threatening parents that caused me to forget. Whatever the reason, I somehow deducted that I would never have to meet any family members of any foster children in our care. Or at the very least, if I did meet them, I would not have to interact with them.

My intention was to fulfill my call to care for vulnerable, at risk children. I did not intend to interact with the family of these children.

I shared in a recent post, Trauma upon Trauma, about the multiple layers of trauma a foster child endures. In that post, I share about going to our first parent visit. Here is a little more detail about that visit.

I went with my wife, so she would not have to face the unknown alone. As we drove to the office building, I wondered why they had not told us where the secret drop off door was when they gave us the address to the building.

Seriously, I thought that there was a secret door where foster parents could drive up, give a  secret knock, and hand off the foster child to a CPS employee. I would never have to interact, much less see, the angry parents.

Well, that was not the scene for that first parent visit.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the government building, a young couple stepped out of their car. They strained their necks to see who we were. I thought they probably were the parents.

I really needed to find that door!

I drove around the building twice beginning to feel sick at my stomach. I never found the secret door. I finally parked. We slowly walked, carrying our 8 month old foster son, toward the front doors which were double glass. Inside we saw the two young people eagerly looking back at us. Sure enough, it was the parents. It was not supposed to happen this way!  But it did.

A week or so later, our CPS case worker asked us to attend a family meeting. What? Not only were we going to meet the parents, but more of the family? Sure enough.

How did I have it so wrong?

Over the next few months, Danielle and I had several interactions with different family members of our foster son. They were always gracious toward us. I still was protective of our foster son, but my heart was also opening up toward his family.

Here are a few things that I learned through this experience:

  1. Orphan care effects more than just the child(ren). Chances are you will become involved in their extended family at some level. Caring for an at risk child will give you an opportunity to have a positive influence on the family.
  2. As a foster parent, I need to be ready to be apart of a messy situation. Not just the child’s, but also his family’s stuff.
  3. Most biological families will not show anger toward the foster parents. As in our case, they were grateful. I never perceived that they felt as if we were taking their child away. Instead, they thanked us many times for caring for him.
  4. The need for intercession. I quickly began to intercede for our foster son’s future. I also began to pray for his family. I desired to see healing and restoration within their family.

Question for you – How has God used you to enter into someone else’s hard place to take part in their healing process?

 

Trauma upon Trauma

This post is a continuation of excerpts from my new book. A quick note about the progress of the book–My timeline is to publish the book by the first of May  I am enjoying formatting the manuscript. Did I just say enjoy? Can’t say that I am really. But it feels good to move closer to publishing.

 

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copyright www.KennethACamp.com

 

After I agreed to the placement of our first foster child, the CPS case worker knocked on our front door a couple of hours later. I opened the door and staring back at me was an 8 month old little boy in the arms of the case worker. She introduced herself.  I invited her in.

The little boy was quiet.  Did not cry.  He did not show any emotion when the case worker handed him to me.  Now I know that he was in shock.

A few weeks later after his first parent visit, this sweet little boy just stared at his parents as they walked away.  No emotion.  No crying.  Until we got home.  Then he lay on our living floor screaming, hitting his head with one of his toys.  It broke our hearts to see this 8 month old little boy reacting this way.

So, what was causing this extreme behavior?

Trauma.

In my book, I refer to little boys like this one as at risk or vulnerable children. Dr. Karen Purvis refers to them as children from hard places. If you are considering fostering or are doing so now, I highly urge you to check out Dr. Karen Purvis’ material.

Also, classes such as, Separation, Loss and Grief that we took through Arrow helped us understand at least at an elementary level about what was going on with this child.

A person of any age will struggle with processing trauma  Think about how grown people act after experiencing natural disasters. But can you imagine what it is like for a child.  If they are very young, only a few months old, it seems to affect how they process more normal situations.

Their reactions become fear based instead of normal needs based.

  • I am hungry.  Normal need based response–Someone will feed me. Fear based response–I will starve.
  • I am cold.  Normal need based response–Someone will keep me warm. Fear based response–I am alone.
  • I am afraid.  Normal need based response–Someone will comfort me. Fear based response–I will take care of myself.

For a child in foster care, the trauma begins to pile on top of trauma. Fear eventually controls the child’s behavior.

Example of trauma upon trauma for a foster child:

  • Neglect, abuse, or abandonment in family of origin.
  • Removal from family of origin.
  • Placement in the home of complete strangers.
  • Loss of personal items, routine, familiarity.
  • Months of uncertainty, sense of belonging.

The first night that our foster son was in our home, I lay in bed listening to a thunderstorm.  My heart was full of compassion wondering what was going on in his young mind. Did the storm frighten him? Was he sleeping through it? Did he wonder where he was? Did he wonder if he was safe? My intercessory prayer was that God would protect his heart and mind making him whole.

Question for you:  How can you patiently and with compassion embrace an at risk child from a hard place?

 

I Almost Ignored the Call that Altered my Life

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I am blogging on different segments of my upcoming book, Adopting the Father’s Heart.  This is one story that causes my throat to tighten.  A one second decision altered my life.

We became certified as foster parents January, 2011.  Now it was June.  We turned down several foster placements for a variety of reasons.  We traveled a lot those 6 months.  We also narrowed our parameters quite a bit about a foster placement.  For example, we decided that it would be wise to begin with only one child instead of a sibling group.

The summer of 2011 in Austin, Texas was brutal.  The heat wave that summer broke the record of days over 100 degrees–by a long shot!  This particular day was hot enough to fry an egg on the dashboard of my truck.

Because we had turned down several placements, I was beginning to doubt our decision to foster children.  I was weighing other options in my mind.  To feel productive, I bought ceramic tile to put in our kitchen and breakfast area.

I unloaded over 300 square feet of ceramic tile in 110 degree heat.  Then I sat down at our kitchen table to drink some ice water.  I sat with drops of sweat running off the end of my nose as I read some emails.

Then my phone rang.  It was Arrow, our foster care agency.

Here is what went through my mind in about 2 seconds before I answered:

  • I do not want to talk to anybody right now.
  • I do not want to turn down another placement.
  • I am not even sure I want to foster a child.
  • Danielle is not here.  I do not want to make a decision without her.

Then I answered the phone.  Arrow needed a home for one 8 month old boy.  The only other information was that the child probably would be with us for only a few days or weeks.

I share more about this story in my book.  Bottom line is that we accepted that placement. And, it did alter my life.

This story causes me to think about how seemingly insignificant decisions often have a great impact on our lives.  Some people call it coincidence or fate.

I prefer to see it as God’s hand of direction and providence.  I have no doubt in my mind that God intended for this little boy to be placed in our home.  And, even though I came so close to not answering that phone call, I believe that it was God’s Holy Spirit that nudged me to answer.

The question for me is not whether God works in our lives like this.  It is instead are we very good at listening and noticing what He is doing in and around us.  I recollect other times when I was definitely not paying attention to Him.  The results show it too.

Question for you:  What happened in your life that was the result of what seemed like an insignificant decision at the time?

A Few Things I Learned About Becoming Certified for Foster Care

 

In my last post, “How Do You Eat an Elephant”, I talked about the challenge of getting started.  We had decided that we would pursue foster care, but we were not sure how to begin.

We eventually did get started.  I learned a few things along the way.

First, in my opinion, it is helpful to work with a private agency.  I think you can still directly with CPS.  But working with a private agency provides an additional layer of support.

Depending on where you live, the agencies available will vary.  Some are nationwide, others statewide, and others are only regional.

We decided to work with Arrow Child & Family Services.  Arrow walked with us down the road of the entire certification process.  While there are several great agencies, I highly recommend checking Arrow out.

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Second, I did not know that children in foster care are in one of three groups.

Some children in foster care are not available for adoption.  The state is still working with these children’s parents or family with the goal of reunification.

Another group is Legal Risk.  These are children that are still not available for adoption, but the state has communicated that the it looks like reunification will not happen.  The state attempts to place these children into families that will adopt them if that becomes an option.

Then, many children that are in foster care today are already available for adoption.  This is called Straight Adoption.  A child available for straight adoption remains in foster care until a family adopts them or the child ages out of the foster care system.

As I shared in my blog post, “Break My Heart”, Danielle and I were only adoption motivated in the beginning.  Eventually, our hearts began to soften to the idea of fostering a child that probably would not stay with us.  The results of our home study also added some motivation to foster children.  I share about this in-depth in my book.

Third, certification takes time and commitment.  I was surprised at how much we needed to do before we could even begin taking classes for certification.

It took us about 2 weeks to complete our application and over 4 months to take all the training classes.  Then we had an intense home study.  I realize that all that discourages some families from considering foster care.  But you know what, that is OK.  At risk and orphaned children deserve families that commit themselves to the effort.

Anything that is worth doing requires effort.   It is healthy to understand the cost before you begin the journey.  If God is calling you to become a foster parent, I hope you embrace the opportunity.

Question – Are you considering becoming a foster parent?  If so, please leave a comment or question here.  Our conversation may answer some of your questions or concerns.  Our conversation may also encourage another family to respond need for orphan care.