“God wants every child to come to know Him in a real and personal way.” – Vickie West, foster parent
Fifteen families at Church at The Mill have already answered the call to foster children. They have the support of the church’s F.A.C.T. (Foster and Adoption Care Team) ministry. From encouragement to supplies, F.A.C.T. offers support in several ways to foster and adoptive families. F.A.C.T. has a care closet on campus, through which they are able to provide items such as clothing, diapers, car seats etc. to foster parents. They offer quarterly dates nights for foster/adopt families and socials for the families to encourage community. They also give educational support by bringing in professional speakers who can aid in the challenges that these parents may face in caring for foster or adoptive children.
The West family – Vickie, Steve, and Alex – have been fostering for five years. In those five years, they have fostered five children and helped many others. Vickie said, “I’ve always felt God’s calling in my life to serve as a child advocate, especially to children in need. As a volunteer for many years at Hope Center, I found myself feeling a strong desire to bring the children into my home and foster them on a full-time basis. My husband, Steve has always been wonderful in supporting my desire and calling. He has been a father figure to many.” Steve and Vickie make it a point to pray every day with their foster children and to “live a normal Christian life around them.” They also make sure to involve them at Church at The Mill, which, Vickie says, “has made a huge impact in their lives.” They even had the opportunity to witness one of their foster children be baptized at Church at The Mill. Vickie shared, “God has taught us so much through our journey. Basically, He taught us that He wanted us to SHARE HIM!”
Brooke Thompson has fostered eight children over the last four years. After working in child welfare for her entire career, including six years as a DSS caseworker, Brooke has had much exposure to foster care. “I learned about all areas of child welfare, abuse and neglect, the need for foster parents as well as the blessing that [fostering] can be. I became very passionate about the Church’s role in recruiting and supporting foster parents. We should be leading the charge,” Brooke said. She spent years filling the role of educating others about child welfare and supporting foster families, but then, she says, “I began to feel that the Lord was calling me to foster.” Brooke says that she “ran from the calling for a while” before deciding to follow in obedience and become a foster parent in spite of her worries. “I am not married and do not live near family, so I was not sure I would have the support I needed to do it. Honestly, I was worried about how I would date if I did this. At the end of the day, I had to decide if I wanted to be obedient to Christ no matter what sacrifices that may require of me,” she said.
Brooke spoke about some of the challenges in foster care, but they are not necessarily what one would expect. She said, “There is a misconception that children in foster care have serious behavioral issues. While that is the case for some children, due to the traumatic life experiences they have had, I have found that the biggest problem in my home has been me.” Brooke said that her experience in being a foster parent has been a refining experience. “God has used it to make me more like Him,” she says. “It has made me more aware of my own sin more than anything else could have, but it has also given me a front row seat to witnessing the Lord work in the lives of others in ways that I would have never seen if I had not been a foster parent.”
Kyle and Danielle Henry have been foster parents since May 2019. In one year, they have had the opportunity to foster six children—all under the age of four—including one infant boy who is living with them now. The Henrys began their foster care journey as alternative caregivers before actually going through the licensing process to foster. They said that they had known for a long time that they were supposed to foster children, and they had even talked about adopting in the future. Kyle said, “I believe our desire to foster came from wanting to share what we have with those who are less fortunate. This is biblical for us as Christians, but also, as parents, we wanted our boys to grow in their faith with us.” Kyle and Danielle said that their desire to become a foster family was also kindled “by the deep culture at Church at The Mill” concerning fostering/adopting and by close friends who have adopted children through foster care.
Kyle and Danielle said, “God has taught our family to love these children even when it has been difficult, knowing that our home was just a short chapter in their lives. We have provided for these children as long as God wanted us to and it was not up to us on how long they stayed or when they went to live when they left us.”
For all of these foster parents, the journey, while not easy, has been worthwhile. Each of them would tell others to follow the call to foster:
Vickie West points out that following the call to foster is as much about caring for children as it is obedience to the Lord. She says, “There are many issues in our life that we must bathe in prayer. However, there are over 20 Bible verses that speak about being a father to the fatherless and taking care of orphans.”
Brooke Thompson said that fostering “will open your eyes to the depth of sin in this world, but it will allow you to witness God moments that you wouldn’t see any other way. It will make you and those in your home more compassionate people, and you will be part of impacting the trajectory of a child’s life.”
Kyle and Danielle Henry said, “It does hurt, and yes, you will get attached, yes you will get tired, but they are worth every one of those emotions and so many more. We have learned our God is big enough! If you are not called to foster, you are called to be involved in some way by being part of their village.”
On saying goodbye
“I know what holds most people back is the fear of saying goodbye. That is a very real and legitimate fear. But as adults, we have to educate ourselves on the impact of trauma and how it can make it difficult for children to be able to form healthy attachments. So, if you can teach a child to form a healthy attachment by being their foster parent, you are literally impacting generations to come. At the end of the day, it has to be about the children. We, as adults, have the emotional capacity to deal with the loss of saying goodbye to a child. Children have not yet built this emotional capacity and therefore need us to be willing to potentially get hurt so that they might experience healing.” — Brooke Thompson
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