Why Reunification Matters

It’s what everyone wants to know.

Where is his family?

Why is she in foster care?

Doesn’t anyone love them?

How could a mother or father abandon their child?

I can see it in their eyes.

Pity, judgment and confusion.

“They’re better off with you,” they say.

“I don’t understand how a mother could do that.”

“Doesn’t that scare you?”

I wish I could show them the other side of the story.

I wish I could describe to them the struggles of growing up surrounded by addiction, poverty and domestic violence.

I wish I could capture the joy on my foster child’s face as they run into the open arms of their mommy.

I wish I could show them how he cries every time he has to say goodbye to his Daddy, and the way his daddy has to turn away blinking back his own tears as we walk out the door.

I wish I could show you the bags and bags of clothing Mom has given me or the toys Dad brings…their desperate attempt to try to fix things.

I wish I could show you the pain I see in their eyes and the longing for some understanding.

 

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The amazing thing about love is that it thrives even in the most unlikely environments.  Even surrounded by chaos, it takes root deep within hearts.  When yanked up, it bleeds out pain and raw anger at the injustice of it all.

You would be surprised to know that most parents of foster kids are a lot like you and I.  Moms and Dads who love their kids.

Sometimes love is not enough.

Love isn’t always enough to conquer addictions and poverty.

Love isn’t always enough to change the trajectory passed down through generations of abuse and loss.

Love isn’t always enough to heal the wounds of abandonment and rejection.

So much grace is needed to see past the behaviours to the cause.

For a parent who is at the end of their rope, social support programs are sometimes enough to pull the pieces together.

If  you know you are out of options, you will be willing to try almost anything.

But it takes a lot of courage to accept that someone else might know how to raise your children better than you.

It takes a lot of discipline to tear apart the fabric of your life and try to implement completely foreign patterns and habits into it.

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I don’t know many parents who would react well to being told:

“You don’t know what is best for your child.”

“You need help raising your child.”

“You need to change major things about your life to be allowed to continue raising your child.”

“You need to move.”

“You need to break up with your partner.”

“You need to attend support groups once a week.”

We ask big things of these parents.

And we are right to…but it doesn’t make it easy and it’s important that we understand what we are asking.

From their perspective, they often feel someone is trying to rip apart their family and ruin their lives.

It’s hard not to feel attacked and lash back in destructive ways.

But under all that, most of these parents love their kids desperately and just need some support to pull together the pieces of a life that has disappointed, wounded, ensnared and deceived.

We often make the mistake of setting unreasonable goals for these parents.

We want instant results.

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But real progress usually happens over time, with lots of support, plenty of chances and grace.

Sometimes the children will suffer during the interim…as they wait for their parents to become healthy enough to parent…and this feels unfair.

But I’m beginning to see that it’s so important that we don’t rush things.

At the end of this story, I want to be able to look that child in the eye and tell them I did everything I could to help salvage their family.

It’s so important that we, the foster parents, are the ones there to offer grace and let these moms and dads know that someone is in their corner.

I am still working at becoming this kind of foster parent.

They are often intimidated, frightened and bitter when they meet us…so it’s a big shift to show them that we are not the enemy.

But if we can…

Well…we might just be able to be the babysitter they call when that little one returns home.

We might just be that friend they text, send photos and vent to on a difficult day.

We might just be that ongoing support that every parent needs through the long days of parenting.

We might just get beach days and walks and playdates at the park.

We might never hear from them again, except to watch them grow from afar on social media, their eyes alight with happiness through the camera lens…

and in that moment…

even when it’s obvious that not all is perfect…

we will know it is right and good.

God came up with this perfect design and called it a family.

The blood bonds that run through our veins are powerful and precious and should be fought for fiercely!

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I know that it doesn’t always work.

And I know that it’s a bloody, awful mess in the process.

But if it works…

well…

if it works…

we have just done something extraordinarily beautiful.

It’s called redemption.

~AF

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The Cross, Chocolate Eggs & the Resurrection

Then we come to this weekend,

Spring still making its shy debut.

Snow is still heaped against the shadowed places beside the fence and ice covers the tops of the puddles that the sun melted yesterday.

The lawn is brown and yellowed, the trees bare; life beneath the ground holds its breath waiting for the sun’s warmth to signal that it is time.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  John 12:24

We wake up Good Friday to the sky cold and dreary.  All day it changes back and forth from cloudy to sunny to cloudy again.  It cannot decide whether its a day of light or darkness, and our hearts agree.

So much grief; so much joy.

So much loss; so much gain.

Pain in the midst of victory; the greatest sacrifice to accomplish the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known.

“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

We do our Easter hunt a day early, scavenger clues scrawled on colourful pieces of paper.

They shriek and run eagerly with buckets banging by their sides.

Their eyes light with joy at each new discovery.

The chocolate is sweet and sticky on my tongue.

Mmm.  So good.

And I wish that all of life was this sweet and perfectly mesmerizing.

But they tear into packages and leave bits of paper and cardboard all over the counter, knocking each other over in their haste.

I prickle with irritation and the magic of it all starts to dissipate.

The sugar high brings chaos and silliness and fighting naps and I get frustrated at it all.

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And its this.

It’s for this that I needed that cross.

Impatience, sarcasm, frustration and pride.

My sin glares ugly in our faces and rips and tears at what wants to be whole.

We are only humans and we feel it oh so real.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 3:11

We cling to that hope in our brokenness.

Because of the gift; that cross so crude and unlovely,

We are justified!

We are whole and spotless and beautifully redeemed.

Because of death, yes…

But also because of Life!

“In Christ shall all be made alive.” I Corinthians 15:22

“Death is swallowed up in victory.  Oh death, where is your victory?  O death, where is your sting?”  1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Tomorrow is Sunday!

Resurrection Day.

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We will put on our dresses and buttoned shirts and pretty hair bows.

We will smile and rejoice as we sing the victorious songs.

Songs of hope.

Songs of promise.

Songs of light and love.

We are not lost.

We are not doomed to break under the weight of all our shortcomings.

We are redeemed!

We’ve been rescued and scooped up into the palm of a Hand so gentle and nurturing.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” Ephesians 1:7-8

Chosen to be the recipient of lavish grace.

Lavish.

And so, it is Easter.

So much grief; so much joy.

So much loss; so much gain.

Pain in the midst of victory.

The greatest sacrifice to accomplish the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known.

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Village

Sasha is a young single mom working a day job…and raising three kids on the side.

What started as a babysitting opportunity turned into weekends, weekdays, weeknights, and sometimes weeks at a time.

For these three kids she is just as much “Mommy” as their biological mother.

They have drawers full of clothing, favourite toys and predictable routines specific to her home.

Sasha is often exhausted and frustrated from the early mornings, interrupted nights, constant transitioning of toddlers and syncing schedules.

However, when the kids do happen to go home for a few days, she can’t help but miss them and wonder what they’re doing.

She is a mom in every sense of the word.

Her parents and siblings help out as well, welcoming these children into their family with open arms.

“Grammy” is adored by all and despite having raised four of her own children spends day after day, night after night caring for, feeding and loving three more little souls.

Sasha and her family’s endurance and generosity have inspired and blessed me.

If it were not for them, a single mom with very limited resources and support would be overwhelmed, frustrated and more than likely unable to cope with the demands of raising three active, young children on her own.

It’s very possible this family would be a part of the foster care system if it were not for Sasha’s daily sacrifices and commitment.

***

Dana is a newlywed.

She and her husband love children, which led her to begin offering childcare out of her home.

Through a series of events Dana was given the opportunity to provide childcare for a young single mom who had recently moved out of a women’s shelter with her two young children.

Dana knew this family would require much more than the typical childcare expectations, including weekends and possibly overnights as this young mom worked on securing employment and rebuilding her life.

Soon the children were spending a lot of time in Dana’s home and she soon learned to love them very much, despite some very challenging behaviors that made it difficult for her to reach around to all the children in her care.

When the family’s new residence turned out to be infested by bedbugs and Children’s Services began considering the children be removed, Dana and her husband stepped forward and offered to take the children into their home full time until the situation could be resolved.

So…on Dana and her husband’s 6 month anniversary, they found themselves curled up on the couch with two children watching a Disney movie, too tired to go out.

While the children’s mother visits regularly and is very grateful, Dana and her husband are the ones who change diapers, tuck the children into bed, deal with tantrums, feed, clothe and pray over these children.

There is no word other than parenting that explains what they are doing.

They are often exhausted and feel ill equipped to parent these children, but in her words,

“It is so beautiful to have something bigger than ourselves to pour into!”

If it were not for Dana and her husband, this family would most likely have entered the foster care system.

Thanks to Dana, this young mom can see her children every day and work at building a safe home for her children to return to without the stressful scrutiny of Social Services which is intimidating for anyone.

Her children were able to move into a home they were already familiar with, with people they already knew and loved instead of being torn from their home and placed with strangers.

It will be a long road ahead for this family but Dana and her husband have proved they are willing to do whatever it takes to support this family and help them thrive.

I truly believe there is hope for this family because of Dana.

***

So many times, when a new little face appears at my doorstep teary, wide eyed and frightened, I have wondered…

Could this have been prevented?

I look at my own children, hear their birth parents’ stories, observe the grief and loss and regret and questions and I wonder…

Could this have been prevented?

What if there had been someone there to walk that young mother through the diaper changing, breastfeeding, teething, and tantruming of young children?

What if there had been someone to bring freezer meals, clean the house, buy tiny baby clothes, give her an hour to nap, throw a baby shower.

What if that young father battling addiction had people around him to support him and his son.

Someone to call out the man in him, the father in him, and to model integrity.

Someone to offer free babysitting for his son, hand me down clothing, a night off or a ride to and from work each day.

What if that teenage couple had someone a little older and wiser to come alongside and gently walk them through car seat installations, nutritious meals and safe sleep?

What if there was someone to say those words every mother longs to hear,

“You’re a good mom.”

What if we opened our eyes to see the families around us who are struggling and to offer the small things we have to them.

Because in our offerings there is dignity.

There is validation and affirmation.

There is a shared strand of survival in the challenges we face as parents.

We all need a little grace.

Of course, not all situations could be prevented.

Many families need more than a freezer meal or hand me downs…

but what if we started there?

What if we stopped trying so hard to get it all right that we had room to acknowledge that you and I…well we’re the same.

We both raise our voices and collapse under pressure.

We both suffer from anxiety and turn our backs when we shouldn’t.

We both make mistakes…

sometimes ones we will regret forever.

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I wish I had been there when my daughter was born in her mother’s tender seventeenth year.

I wish I had been there through the challenging teenage years when addiction lured her into its deathly grip.

I wish I had been there to let her know that she is not alone.

I wish I could have offered up my hands and my baby clothes and my leftovers.

Maybe things could have been different.

I love that I know a God who delights in taking broken things and making them beautiful and whole again.

Adoption and foster care are both wonderful examples of  His work of redemption, but make no mistake…

they are the result of brokenness.

While God delights in restoring the broken pieces of our lives, he also longs for His original design to flourish.

Families are created to last forever, and when that initial model disrupts there is chaos, trauma and pain.

Parent and child will bear scars for a lifetime.

But what if there were more Sasha’s?

More Dana’s?

More people willing to enter the core of this problem instead of placing bandaids on top?

How many more families would remain intact?

We live in a broken world.

Every day we witness the evidence of that tragedy, but as believers, we are called to bear witness of the Light.

We are empowered by His Spirit to foreshadow His Kingdom here on earth while we wait for Him to return and restore everything to its beautiful, original design.

I love these verses in Pilippians that teach us how to serve humbly.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 2:3-5

It takes a village.

We were never meant to do this on our own.

I am so thankful for the Sasha’s and Dana’s who are bravely, gracefully stepping into the mess of brokenness and offering up what they have.

It is painful,

it is exhausting,

and it is often discouraging.

But it is good.

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken System

I hear so many people complaining about our social services system.

And I get it.

I do it too!

Right now our local branch is in the middle of a labour disruption and it is holding up the paperwork for our homestudy to be updated so we can pursue another adoption.  I know God uses bureaucracy sometimes to keep things in His timeline, so I’m holding onto that hope but I also see a tainted system where personal agendas and budget cuts are preventing families and children from what is best for them right now.

There are so many things wrong.  Sometimes it feels like the whole system needs to be reorganized and revamped!  Most of the time we are playing catch up instead of preventing problems from arising.

However,

While I am very comfortable complaining alongside other foster and adoptive parents as well as social workers who are frustrated with the handcuffs of this system, I am not okay with people complaining about a system that they are doing nothing to improve.

The bottom line is that the system is in desperate need of more families who are committed to caring for kids, even when it costs them personally.

We need foster parents.

People who are willing to love hard, even when the goodbye is heart wrenching.

People who are willing to fight for families to be reunified if at all possible, putting in their own time and energy to build uncomfortable relationships when needed.

People who will open their doors to kids who push, pull and threaten their way through life because that is the only survival mode they are familiar with.

People who will show Jesus to both these kids and their biological families at some of their most broken and vulnerable moments.

People who will advocate strongly for better lives for these children while realizing that their perspective on the situation may be skewed.

We need people who will follow through and become a child’s permanent family if need be, but are committed first and foremost to reunifying a biological family.

We need adoptive homes.

People who are committed to sticking with a child for EVER.  No matter what.  No ifs, ands, buts.  Just forever period.

People who are willing to go through the paperwork, the scrutiny, the headaches and the waiting time because they know that a child is worth all that times ten!

People who will restructure their lives to meet the needs of a child.

People to rise up and be parents to a lost and broken generation and usher them into the Household of Grace.

People who will believe in a God who redeems even the most broken…and realize that may be you, not the child you adopt.

People who will commit to laughter and joy in the journey, even when it gets hard.

People who will not shy away from the hard in a child’s story, but instead enter into that pain with them.

People who will be willing to enter into relationships today or someday down the road with birth family members.

We need churches, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers and neighbours that are willing to invest in a child’s life.

People that will not jump to hasty conclusions but instead offer grace and support.

People that will lend physical, financial, spiritual and emotional support when serving these kids leaves holes in hearts, homes and wallets.

People who will go the extra mile to make a child feel loved and accepted no matter where they are in life.

People who will pray for children, families and social workers in the system.

The best way to do something about it is to get involved and do your part to change the way things work!  Chances are as you get involved you will see the answers are not as easy as they may have seemed from the outside.

There is no way to evade all the pitfalls when you are working with a broken family in a broken society.

I can’t wait to see the Church of Jesus Christ rise up and take back the work we were meant to do from the beginning.

Love.

Protect.

Heal.

Restore.

AF

 

 

 

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF