Wednesday, May 9, 2012

National Foster Care Month: Break Our Hearts. (Guest Post)

{It's National Foster Care Month, so I will be sharing a series of posts during May with the hope of bringing these beautiful children to the attention of the Church, to join in the national foster care conversation as well as suggesting ways to get involved, stories that inspire, God's provision for foster families, and challenges to get involved.
Would you STAND UP with us to make a difference?}


It's my honor to share this blog with some dear and beautiful friends.  I have previously share about their impact on our family here.  They have taught me so much about courage, sacrifice, and what happens when people finally wake up from "The American Dream" to find that it hasn't satisfied.  It's my pleasure to introduce Jamie and Joni Stafford.  They live in Pike County, Indiana and worship at Spurgeon GB Church, a faith community that deeply cares about the plight of orphaned children both here and overseas.  God used Joni to move us down the path of foster care and if not for her, I never would've entertained the idea.  She lives daily what she shares with my readers today.  We have spent a lot of time with the Stafford family and it's our pleasure to let you glimpse into their hearts for the Lord and for beautiful kids everywhere!
To Joni and Jamie, K, S, and K -- we are honored to serve with you....we love you...and we can't wait for vacation again soon!  


Break Our Hearts
When Lauren asked if I would guest blog I immediately said yes.   
Then I panicked.  
 I’m not a deep thinker or eloquent writer.   

What could I possibly contribute to help others understand the need for foster care in this country?   

I have decided that the best way I can convey the tremendous need is to share a few things I have learned since becoming a foster parent.

My most recent favorite song is “Jesus, Friend of Sinners”, by Casting Crowns.  The lyrics that have touched me since the first time I heard it is:

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, 
break our hearts for what breaks yours

Every day children in America are neglected and abused.  They go without food, shelter, and love.  God called me be a foster parent the first time over six years ago.  
Like many who are called to action, I ignored Him.

 The Lord called me again to be a foster parent two years later.  This time, I listened.  I was licensed as a therapeutic foster parent in June of 2009.  

 I was 36 years old and single.

I believe there are many things that break the heart of Jesus.  I received a call on September 27, 2009, from the foster agency that had licensed me.  They had a placement they wanted me to consider.  Sisters, ages 10 and 11.  They had been removed due to neglect.  The 11 year old had type 1 diabetes.  They were not sure but thought that the 10 year old had special needs.  After praying, I told them I would take the girls.  This was my first placement.  I was very nervous!  I was 36 years old, single, and had no children of my own.  I met the county DCS worker and the girls the next day at the office of an Endocrinologist in Evansville.  I was to get a crash course in diabetes.  The 11 year old cried all the way home to my house.  The 10 year old seemed nonchalant.   

I was scared to death!    

 I was to learn a little later that the 10 year old had been on a feeding tube as an infant and been classified as “failure to thrive”.   

Want to know one thing that breaks the heart of Jesus?   
Failure to thrive - covers poor physical growth of any cause and does not imply abnormal intellectual, social, or emotional development, although of course it can subsequently be a cause of such pathologies (Wikipedia 2012).  In other words, a baby that is considered to fail to thrive is underweight and malnourished.   
This can be caused by different factors, most often neglect.  That breaks the heart of Jesus.

Photo Credit
After the girls had been living with me for 2 years, I met the man of my dreams.  Jamie was licensed to foster and we were married.  The younger of the girls began to exhibit some behaviors that were concerning.  We had psychological testing done.   
Want to know another thing that breaks the heart of Jesus?   
 Reactive attachment disorder - RAD arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary caregivers in early childhood. Such a failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse, abrupt separation from caregivers between the ages of six months and three years, frequent change of caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child's communicative efforts (Wikipedia 2012). 
             A common cause of RAD is illness in an infant, but most often the causes are lack of nurturing, neglect and abuse.  A child can be affected for life by what happens, or doesn’t happen, in the first few months of life.  Mothers not nurturing their babies, feeding their babies, or caring for their babies can cause lasting damage to them.  
 This breaks the heart of Jesus.

            With God’s help we were able to find a wonderful therapist in Carmel, IN, who deals in attachment therapy.  After 6 months of therapy, I feel we have made great strides.  Do I often feel frustrated, incapable, and totally inept?  Of course!  But with the support of my family, caseworkers, therapists, and friends, I am reminded that this journey is not about me, but about the children that God himself sent to us.

            My husband and I are in the process of adopting the 2 sisters.  They have lived with me for 2 ½ years.  We now also have another foster daughter living with us that moved in last July.  The girls are 13, 13 and 14.  Yes, our house is sometimes a zoo!  I have moments of insanity and question if we are the right parents for these girls.  When I have these feelings God reminds me that he has given us all of the tools we need to succeed.  
I pray that others answer the call to foster children in need, children neglected and abused.  If you just open your heart and let it be broken for what breaks the heart of Jesus, you can help change the lives of children, and they will also change your lives.  They must have loving homes to go to when they are removed from the dangerous environments that they are subjected to.  

 I can’t promise the road will always be smooth, but I can promise that you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams.

P.S.  Jamie and I are expecting our first child in November.  Please pray for our family as it continues to grow!