Category: Foster Care


URGENT- Family Needed

Update 4/15: An adoptive family has stepped forward for Preston! They are currently compiling their adoption dossier as quickly as possible. If you would like to donate to their adoption fund follow this link:

Hello Dear Friends.

I’m coming to you today with an urgent need. My heart is heavy and I’m pleading with you to share, pray, and consider how you could play a part in this story.

Remember “Preston” (formally known as ‘Baby A’)? I wrote a detailed blog about him here. To jog your memory, he was dying at the institution in October 2016. We went there in the night and after calls to people in high places of the Ukrainian government, he was rescued and he lived. He now lives with a wonderful family in our church and is available for international adoption.

We just learned that Preston has 6 months to be adopted or he will be returned to the Institution.

Friends, this simply CAN NOT happen.

Life in the institution almost killed Preston. He was hours from death when we came to him that October night. I am certain returning to that place would be a death sentence for him.

He is so smart, so beautiful, so social. He is a part of a family now and he is adored. Preston has blossomed in family life and we just can’t let him be orphaned again.

Due to personal circumstances and Ukrainian law, Preston cannot remain in his current living situation. He is loved very much, but all involved know international adoption is the best plan for him.

So I am asking you to please DO something to help our boy. Do not just read this and move on. Imagine your son or daughter, your nephew or niece, safe in their bed at home one day and the next day left alone in a mental institution. What would you do to prevent that reality? I know what I would do. I would shout. I would share the story. I wouldn’t give up and I wouldn’t shut up until they were free. Preston is no less worthy of that effort.

Here are ways you can help:

1. Share this post far and wide.

2. Donate to Preston’s adoption grant. The donations are tax-deductible and help remove the financial burden of the adoption process for the family that chooses him. Donate here.

3. PRAY! God knows and sees our boy. May His will be done.

4. Consider if you could be Preston’s family. Why not you? Do not assume this is someone else’s YES. Maybe this is your YES. Please consider.

Help me shout for Preston! He can’t speak up for himself. We are his voice.

Read more about Preston here.


Please email me at for more information about Preston or the adoption process.

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A Love Story, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about our adoption.  It’s a miraculous story and I pray God uses it to speak to other families who are considering adoption.  So many boys and girls like our Vladik wait and wait for their lives to begin.  Every child deserves the love of a family.  Would you read with an open heart and ask God how He would have you respond? 

This is a love story.  For God so loved Vladik, that He preserved his life until the day his mommy and daddy would find him.  For God so loved our family, that He picked us up out of our lives and dropped us across the world so that we could find our baby.

One night, in August 2010, with newborn Seth, our foster baby asleep at my side, I was browsing online.  I have no idea what I was looking for, but somehow I came across the blog of a woman who had just returned from Ukraine, having adopted two little girls with Down Syndrome.  Her story caught my attention and I ended up reading her whole adoption story in one evening.  One blog led to another, which led to another, and pretty soon I found myself immersed in a world I had had no idea existed, the world of special needs adoption.  My heart was broken in two, never to be the same.

Jed and I always knew we would adopt someday.  We believed in orphan care and it was important to us.  Since before we were married we had dreamed of moving overseas to care for orphans.  That’s why I became a nurse!  While we waited for God to send us overseas we fostered medically fragile babies.  So yeah, adoption was on our radar, but not orphans with disabilities, or kids with disabilities in general.  We just hadn’t thought of it.  Well, maybe that’s not all true.  We had thought of it and then rejected it.  “Yes, we’ll adopt- but only healthy kids.  We could never raise a child that would require our hands-on care forever.”  We fostered babies with special needs, but that wasn’t permanent.

Jed with baby Seth, during our fostering days 🙂

A while later I came upon Julia’s blog.  Julia was advocating and still does advocate, for orphans with disabilities.  Fun Fact: We have since met each other twice here in Ukraine, and Julia even got to come to Romaniv to meet our Boys!  Isn’t God fun?   Julia was advocating for a little guy in Ukraine with Apert Syndrome.  Did you know our new son Vladik has this same syndrome? Like I said, God is fun 🙂  I had never heard of that syndrome and didn’t know anything about it, but that boy struck me.  I read her post and learned that he was 4 years old and about to be transferred to a bad place- an institution.  He needed to be adopted quickly.  I’m telling you what, I fell for that baby hard.  Jed came home one night to a red-faced, sobbing wife and was a little confused.  Ha!  I started rambling to him about Ukraine and orphans with disabilities and mental institutions and teenagers in cribs and “aging out” and he stood there shocked.  I told him “We have to DO SOMETHING.  We can’t just sit by and let this happen.  We have to do something!!!”  He was a little shell-shocked but agreed to pray about it and see if God laid it on his heart as well.  What a guy.  🙂

In the meantime “Jonah”, the little Apert guy was constantly on my mind.  His face was in my dreams.  I would weep over him and all the little ones in cribs as I did the dishes. My heart ached and the ache wouldn’t stop.  The Holy Spirit was at work.  God was working in Jed’s heart too, and soon we were both praying about how to respond to Jonah, specifically.  We prayed for many months.  We sought counsel from our parents and our pastor.  We prayed some more.  Then in early 2011, after much prayer, many miracles, and confirmations (SO MANY), it became abundantly clear that God was asking us to move forward to adopt Jonah.

The first photo we saw of Jonah

We were so excited!!!  This sweet one who had captured our hearts would be our son!  Gone were the worries about raising a child who would need our care forever.  We could have cared less.  All of our old worries and hesitations seemed so selfish.  In the light of what these babies suffer without a mommy and daddy to fight for them, in the light of what Jesus did for us…how could I be worried about losing our “empty nester” years???  Our child needed us.

So, we sent in the initial commitment paperwork and money to say to the adoption world “You don’t need to advocate for this one anymore, we’re coming for him!”  In Ukraine, there is no referral given to adoptive families before they travel.  You can pursue the adoption of a certain child, but until you actually get to Kyiv and request their file there is no guarantee that you will actually get that child.  Another family could go there first and adopt them, not knowing your intentions.  You could get there and that child may not even be adoptable.  There are many unknowns.  We were aware of that, but when we got the email a few weeks after we had sent in our initial paperwork, letting us know that another American family who was already in Ukraine was adding our boy to their adoption, we were utterly devastated.

Shocked.  Heartbroken.  Confused.  Happy for our Jonah, that he could have a mommy and daddy so soon, but heartsick that they were not us.

We had loved Jonah from afar for many months and now we would never even get to meet him.  God had spoken so clearly.  We had researched the heck out of Apert Syndrome and felt so well-equipped.  Miracles paved the way for us to begin the adoption process.  God, what was that all about?  What were you doing?  Why?

Then God spoke again.  Jed was out mowing the lawn, praying, asking God what He was up to and he felt God speak to Him so clearly,

“Jed, I am so much more interested in the process than in the end result.  You have one end result in mind, but I’m taking you on a journey.  I needed you to love Jonah like a father.  I needed you to love him with abandon.  I needed you to have that father’s heart for Jonah because I need you to love lots of little boys and girls like Jonah.”

And so it happened that a little boy with Apert Syndrome caught our hearts and led us to Ukraine.  A little boy with Apert Syndrome broke our hearts for Ukrainian orphans.  He helped us to fall in love with children with disabilities- so in love that we would give up everything and cross the world to touch them and smile at them and hold them in our arms.  God used Jonah to start us on the best journey of our lives- the journey to our Boys and our own little treasure, our Vladik.

To be continued 🙂

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A Week in Photos: April 9th + Randomness

Hi Friends!

I hope this finds you well, with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.  🙂  Things are chugging right along around here.  We’ve had a great week so far.  Lots of normalness, lots of laughs, a few tears, and plenty of coffee to fuel it all.

Last week we celebrated Seth’s Adoption Day!  The actual day was while I was in America, so we held off on the festivities till we could all be together.  Every year we take a day to celebrate that God brought Seth in to our family.  He’s only 4, so in the past we have done it more for our other kids, so that they would see the value in adoption and understand how special it is.  This was the first year Seth cared about it.  He still doesn’t fully understand what it means, but we often tell him the story of how he came to be our son, so it’s just a matter of time before he “gets it”.  All he gets right now is that it’s a special day just for him.  He chose to go out to pizza and bowling, so we did!

Oh how I love our boy.  Sometimes I can’t believe he didn’t grow inside my belly.  Just like our bio kids, I feel like Seth is an extension of me, like a piece of my heart is walking around outside my body.  I love my baby.  🙂


Funny Story:

Have you ever heard of “No-Poo”?  Despite it’s name, it has nothing to do with toilets.  “No-Poo” is a method of hair cleansing without shampoo- get it, no “poo”?  Shampoo strips the scalp of much of it’s natural oils that are so good for your hair.  When you strip your scalp of it’s oils, then it thinks it needs to produce more oil, then you strip them all again, then your body makes more, and on and on.  Anyway, I have been a no-pooer for a couple of years now and it’s the best ever.  I use baking soda to wash my hair, and apple cider vinegar to condition it about once a week.  It works well for me, but sometimes I feel like the soda is a bit harsh on my scalp.  In fact, hardcore no-pooers will never recommend baking soda.  But honey and aloe and all those expensive treatments aren’t realistic for me.  Baking soda is cheap and accessible, so there. I read somewhere that washing your hair with egg yolk once a month is a good way to give your scalp a little break.  So, being the weirdo/fierceless warrior/hippy that I am, I decided to give it a whirl!  Why not?

I read in the instructions that you need to make sure to only use the yolk and not the white, and to make sure the  water isn’t too hot.  Wellllllll….yeah.  I separated the egg well, or so I thought.  The water wasn’t tooooooo hot, or so I thought.  I got out of the shower and yeah, scrambled egg head.  There’s nothing more romantic than a husband who will patiently pick cooked egg out of your hair.  I’ve got a winner, folks! Now if the Denny’s jokes would just stop.  “Oh sweetie, you smell so good, now I just need a side of bacon!”  Ha.Ha. Shut up.  😉

I may smell like a diner, but my hair is soft and shiny, so I wouldn’t call it a complete failure…not completely.

We are so thankful for new volunteers! Praise God!


Sweet Aaron needs a mama. Do you know her?

Sweet Ben also needs a mommy and daddy. He is not thriving. Please share our boy!

Stephen is waiting for a family too. Oh my sweet boy. He loves to run and spin. Treasure.

Addy is such a great helper at Romaniv. The boys love her! The feeling is mutual.

Hava took this last picture.  I just like it.  I love cuddling in with my kiddos and reading a good book.  I’m not a “playing” mom.  I don’t like to play toys with my kids.  I’ll play Just Dance on the Wii, or jump on a trampoline, or bake cookies with you,  but please, for the love, don’t ask me to play Barbies.  I just.can’  What I love most, is reading to my kids.  Find us a good read-aloud and it’s all over.  I hope they will treasure the memories of us all cuddled up reading a good book.  I know I will.  🙂  (I hope they won’t mind the mild scent of brunch)

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Quiet Giddiness. Giddiness About Quiet.

I can’t even believe what is happening right now at my house. I’m feeling giddy, but I’m afraid to get too giddy, lest I fall in to premature giddiness.

We are having quiet time right now…and it’s quiet.

I know.  Unbelievable.

You see, I feel I have good reason to be giddy about this.  I’m almost afraid to say it, but I believe we have entered a new phase in our family- uncharted territory, if you will.  We may have just entered the phase of “Quiet Time that is Actually Quiet”. Eureka!!!!!!!


Once, ten and a half years ago, we had a baby girl.  Then, 21 months after that we had a baby boy. Then 16 months after that we welcomed our first foster baby.  That sweet first foster baby ushered us into what I’ll call “The Season of the Baby”.

(I can call it that now, with a smile, but during that time it could have been more honestly called “The Season of Insanity” or “The Season of Non-Stop Newborns for 5 years” or “The Season of G-Tubes and Alarms and Syringes and Gear Up the Wazoo” or “The Season of No Sleep for Five Years”.)

During that time of fostering we had a total of 10 infants, two of them being Havalah and Seth.  🙂 At one point during that time we had a five-year-old, a three-year-old, a 12 week old (Hava), a 9 week old who was born at 29 weeks with multiple special needs, and a Korean high school student.   Oh, and just to make things even more exciting, Jed worked in a city an hour away and was finishing his degree in night school.  Jesus take the wheel.  I get panicky just thinking about it.  We loved foster parenting, and I can without a doubt say it was one of the most difficult and most wonderful experiences of my life, but it is not for the faint of heart.  I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, no regrets, I’m just saying it was a tad exhausting in every way imaginable.

(You can read more about our fostering journey here, here, here, and here.)


BUT, right this very minute Seth is upstairs playing PLAYING!!! in the bedroom, all alone, and he has been for the past hour.  I told him we were going to have quiet time and he didn’t have to sleep (naps don’t go over well with Seth), but he needed to play quietly and not come out until the timer went off.  The timer just went off and he said he wanted to stay and play longer!!!!  I CAN’T BELIEVE IT.  Seth has just recently really begun to play with toys, and because of some of his prenatal history I never expected a ton of independent play from him.  Boy oh boy, is he proving me wrong.  Just like he always has.  🙂  What an awesome boy.  Hava loves to play alone, so quiet time is like heaven for her.  Addy and Ez are home from school today, reading in the other room.  Ezra is reading…ALONE.  Somebody pinch me.



So, yeah, I’m a little excited about the quiet time possibilities.  I feel like a whole new world has opened up.  Maybe I could bake, or study language, or read a book, or teach Addy and Ez without 236 interruptions or… think!  So far I’ve baked pumpkin cupcakes and swept the floor and written this post, and I still hear him playing away.

Quiet Time for the win!


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End of an Era

Along this journey to Ukraine there are many things we have had to let go, or will have to let go.   This month we are letting go of something very important, and along with that comes the end of an era.  We are letting go of our foster care license.  Of course, we know we can’t still be state-certified foster parents while living in Ukraine, and we haven’t been open to taking any kiddos since we made the decision to move our family to Ukraine, but…we still held on to our certification.  We were still foster parents. 


We ran into our certifier (our fabulous assigned “go-to” person at DHS) at the store a week or so ago.  She mentioned that she has been following our story through our blog and is excited about what God is doing in and through our fam.  Hi Judi! 🙂  She asked if she should just go ahead and close out our file, and we had to tell her yes.  If we were to stay certified we would have to have DHS come out and check out Luke’s house, Luke would have to be fingerprinted and all that jazz.  That would all be okay, except for a promise we made to ourselves when we first started fostering.  

Back in 2006, when our foster parenting journey began, we promised ourselves if we took a child into our home we would keep them in our home, no matter what, unless someone else decided they should move.  We wouldn’t give up on a child when the going got tough.  That was tested a time or two, but with God’s help, we kept our word.  If we were to take a child at this time I’m not sure we would be able to keep our word.  When you receive a child from DHS you never know how long they will stay with you.  Seth was supposed to be a “short placement”, and here he is, 2 1/2 years later, our son for life.  🙂  We plan to move in a year, so we just know we can’t take any more foster kiddos at this time.  

Foster Baby #1- always extra special to us

So, I guess this is so long to an era.  Our foster parenting era has been life-changing, to put it mildly.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, foster parenting is one of the best and definitely the most difficult thing we’ve ever done in our lives. (Yet!)


It shaped our family, it grew us as people, it taught us reliance on the Lord instead of our own strength (still learning that!), it built our faith, and it gave us a son.

Yes, there are problems with the foster care system.  Yes, it is tiring.  Yes, it is putting yourself out there, knowing your heart will be broken.  Yes, it is infuriating.  Yes, it is worth it.  


Because if you can look past the broken system and see the broken lives that God has given us, the church, to care for, it’s a no-brainer. 

The children are worth it.  They are worth fighting for.  
The parents are worth it.  They are worth loving and believing in.  


The system is broken and it fails people every day.  That is a problem.  But the bigger problem is that God has given the responsibility of caring for these lives to His Bride, the church, and we have passed them off to the state.  People will fail.  But God’s love never fails, and no matter who they are and what they’ve done or have failed to do- no one is beyond hope.  No one is beyond His grasp.  The state can’t fix these lives and these broken situations, but God can.  He can mend, heal, lift up, restore- and He asks us to be His hands and feet.  

We have come to the end of our fostering journey (for now!).  As we exit stage left, I would just ask you to prayerfully consider your part in caring for the orphans in your town.  How can you be His hands and feet to the broken lives around you?  

Could you foster?
Could you give respite for a weary foster parent in the thick of it?
Could you bring a meal to a foster family?
Could you donate clothes or gently used children’s gear to your local Child Welfare office?
Could you pray?

Our torch is being set down, will you take it up?  
Trust me, if we can do it, broken and human as we are, you can do it too! 

Just be prepared to never be the same.  🙂


You can read more about our story of foster care here:

Foster Care Ponderings: Part 1, Our Story

Foster Care Ponderings: Part 2, Our Story

Foster Care Ponderings: Part 3, Biological Parents

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We Had No Idea

Two years ago today we had no idea what we were in for.
It was a Sunday, I headed to the hospital to pick up a newborn foster baby. I remember the day clearly.  It’s strange because there are many foster babe pick-up days I don’t really remember, but I remember a lot of the details about this particular day.  I think that’s a gift from the Lord.  He knew I would want to look back at that day and remember the great things HE has done.
We had received a call from DHS on the Friday before that a baby boy had been born who needed a foster family.  The mother was a meth addict and used every day during pregnancy.  There had been no prenatal care and the baby was born addicted, so they were looking for a medical home.  I remember calling Jed to ask him about taking the baby and us both not being so sure.  We were technically “on a break” from fostering since we had just finished fostering a very sick, high-needs baby and were pretty exhausted.  We were also planning to leave in just 5 days to meet Jed’s family in Idaho for his grandpa’s birthday and a family reunion.  Drug-addicted newborn on a road trip anyone?  All signs pointed towards us turning this baby down, but somehow we didn’t.  I can’t recall how we came around to a “yes” decision; that clearly was the Lord’s gift to us as well.  🙂
Sunday came along and it was time to pick up the babe.  He was born at our local hospital, and interestingly enough, he was the only foster babe we’ve received from our local hospital.  We usually do our pick-ups in Portland.  I headed over to the hospital while Jed stayed home with the napping kiddos.  I got there a little early, called the charge nurse’s phone and she let me know the birth mom hadn’t left yet, so I needed to wait a few.  I had a coffee, my heart was beating fast.  I always get a little nervous and a lot excited before meeting a new baby.  If only I had known the journey we were about to embark on!  I think I would have been a lot more nervous, but a million times more excited!
After a bit the charge nurse called and said mom had left so I was free to come up and meet the baby.  The sweet little bundle was in a bassinet behind the nurses’ station where he could be watched closely.  The first thing I noticed was his color.  YIKES!!!!  The nurses all quickly reassured me “He’s bruised!”  Good gracious his face was purple!  Holy bruising batman!  Still, it was clear to everyone in the room that he was a beauty.  He had striking white-blond hair that looked even more blonde next to his purple face.  I asked if his mother had named him.  “His name is Seth.”  I remember being relieved.  I like the name Seth!  It’s always fun to have a foster babe with a name you like.  It’s like a special little bonus.  🙂  The nurse who discharged Seth to me was Mary, a dear family friend who was a key figure in 2 of our biological kiddos’ hospital stays.  Mary was the nurse to check over Ezra right after he was born, and she was the nurse to discharge us from the hospital on Christmas day when Havalah was born.  I should have guessed right then that with Mary present, God had something special in store for us.  (Shout out to Mary Musick, RN extraordinaire!!  You rock!)  Seth was discharged to me, and home we went, kids eagerly awaiting his arrival.
Seth, on the day we met
I remember walking into our house and setting Seth’s car seat down, Jed looking at him, commenting on his color.  🙂  We had no idea I was introducing Jed to his son.  What would have been different in that moment if we had known?  It’s funny to think back…we just had no idea.
Seth was a difficult newborn.  He was SUCH a poor feeder.  Ugh.  Meth babies are often poor feeders and Seth was the worst I’ve ever met.  He would suck and suck on the bottle and less than an ounce would be gone.  He simply had no coordination in his suck.  He had the shakes so he needed to be swaddled all the time.  He also reeked to high heavens. OH MY WORD.  He smelled so bad!!!  I can’t even describe it.  It’s like he was detoxing through his pores.  You know that lovely, fresh new baby smell?  Seth didn’t have anything close to that.  He smelled nasty.  Poor little guy.  Baths didn’t help.  Lotion didn’t help.  It just took time, and eventually, he smelled fresh.  I’d never experienced that intense of a smell with a drug-affected baby before.  Poor stinky Seffers.  🙂
We didn’t take Seth in with the intention of adopting him.  In fact, when we took Seth everyone involved thought it would be a short placement because there was family involved who wanted him.  Nothing materialized with the family members and it wasn’t long into our time with Seth that we realized something was different.  Maybe it was because we didn’t have any visits with his bio-parents.  They were both out of the picture from the get-go, by their choice, so that felt very different from any of our other foster experiences.  We had no contact with any family at all, so from the very beginning we were Seth’s whole world.  I remember when we first met one of his family members when Seth was about 5 months old.  It was at a court hearing and at that point, we found out that the family member intended to adopt Seth.  It was a real shocker to us, and I think that helped us to realize how much we loved our boy.  The months that followed were full of ups and downs, triumphs and heartache.   It was some of the hardest times of our lives.  I wish I could go back in time and reassure my aching Mama Bear heart that everything would be okay, God had it all under control.  I remember several times when people in authority said it was impossible for Seth to stay with us and our friends prayed their guts out.  They prayed and they had faith when I didn’t.  They held up our arms, they cried with us, they loved with us.  It was the roller coaster of a lifetime.  A roller coaster with the best ending ever.
Seth’s Adoption Day!

To all of our friends who stood so close beside us during that first year and a half, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts for having faith when we had run out.  THANK YOU for praying, listening to our drama, and loving us.  THANK YOU for loving our Seth!!

Seth David

My Dear Sweet Baby Seth David,

Two years ago we met for the first time and I had no idea how my life was going to be changed forever.  I had no idea how much I would love you.  I had no idea how many mountains God would move to keep you in our family.  I had no idea how proud I would be to be your Mommy.

I hope you always know how much you are loved and cherished.  I could never have dreamed I would be blessed with such a treasure as you.  I love how you take out your pacifier to give me a kiss before bed.  I love how you hug Havalah when you see her crying.  I love how much you love chickens and the trampoline, trains and cars.  I love the “whoosh” sound you make when you find one of Ezra’s lightsabers.  I love your beautiful blue eyes and your stick-straight blonde hair.

Your name means “Chosen” and if I had to do it over I would choose you every time.

Love, Mommy

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Introducing….Our Son!

Seth David 
Last Wednesday, March 21st at 4:00 we went to court and Seth was legally declared our son.  Words cannot describe all the feelings that come along with that.  We have loved Seth since we first laid eyes on him.  It wasn’t long before we knew we wanted to keep him forever.  There were so many tears, so many ups and downs along the process.  Many people- people with power, said it was impossible.  Evidently God has a bit more power than they.  🙂

Seth at 2 days old, the first day we met

Seth, 2 months old
No longer is Seth’s heritage one of addiction, abuse, and neglect.  No longer is he cast aside, unwanted.  No longer is he a ward of the state.  He is our son.  He is loved and wanted more than he will ever realize.  He now has full access to the God-fearing, Jesus-serving heritage that Jed and I have been blessed with.  That all belongs to Seth now!  We have no idea what effect his past abuses will have on him as he grows, but it doesn’t matter one stinkin’ bit.  He is our son and we will always love him.  We will always choose him.

Seth and Daddy, Christmas 2010

Seth and Mommy, March 2011
Christmas 2011
Spring 2012
The day they announced Seth was our son I felt different.  I told Jed that I felt like I loved him more.  Jed said, “You don’t love him more, you just love him without fear”.  That is total truth.  As much as I loved Seth before, I know there was a bit of me that I was holding back.  I was afraid he would be taken away again, and I guess it was like a subconscious self-protection.  I didn’t want to hold back, and I honestly didn’t think I was, but now I know different.  I love him fully and completely now and it feels different.  It feels AMAZING.  He is my son and nothing will ever change that.  Ever.
Thank you Jesus for the gift of our boy.  He was plucked out, chosen, for a reason.  I can’t wait to see what You have in store for him.  🙂
Our Family on Seth’s Adoption Day

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Foster Care Ponderings: Part 3, Biological Parents

Here’s where things can get sticky.  You’ve got this beautiful foster baby in your home and all you want to do is cuddle, squeeze, and love on this baby till all is made right.  You’ve filled out mountains of paperwork, you’ve made it through hours of training, you’ve told complete strangers every detail of your life,  and now you are finally getting to do what you actually signed up for- to take care of a child in need.
Then you get a phone call.
It’s time to set up visits.  Visits?  Oh, that’s right….this baby belongs to someone else.
 I don’t know about you, but I think one of the last things I thought about when we signed up to become foster parents was the birth parents.  It wasn’t that I felt they didn’t matter, duh, they brought the child into this world.  I guess I just didn’t think much about our interactions with them, nor did I realize the major role they would play in our lives.  You simply can’t foster well and remove yourselves from the birth parents (unless there are safety concerns, but that’s another story altogether).  It just doesn’t work that way.  The birth parents are a critical piece of the fostering puzzle.
We’ve had many different scenarios with birth parents through our times of fostering.  We’ve had great times…and not so great times.  One birth parent became a true friend and remains a friend to this day.  I love her.  Even though we don’t see each other often she will always be special to us.  We shared a very vulnerable time together; she entrusted her baby to us and we loved her baby with the knowledge she would never truly be ours.  There was mutual respect there and a real love.  That was incredibly special and amazing.
I remember one time I went to the hospital to meet one of our foster babes with extremely high medical needs.  He had been hospitalized for several months and was due to be discharged later that week.  I had to go up to the hospital to meet with specialists to make sure we were clear on all the different things he would require at home, and to make sure we were up for it.  I was also going to meet the mommy.  I always feel a little nervous before first meeting the birth parents.  I don’t want the mommy to look at me as the bad guy- but how can she not?  Here I am, taking away her baby- a stand-in mommy.  Ugh.  It’s not a good feeling.  I remember going to the nurses station and saying who I was, and why I was there.  The nurse replied that the mom was waiting in the room and wanted the nurse to accompany me to the room.  “She’s very nervous to meet you.”
We entered the room and I saw the mommy cuddling her babe.  I saw the fear in her eyes and I melted.  Yes, she’d made some poor decisions.  Yes, she’d been selfish.  Yes, she was at fault.  I still melted.  We chatted, I asked her questions about her son.  I asked her what he liked and disliked.  I asked her how he went to sleep best and if he liked to be rocked.  Sure, I knew he’d spent most of his life in the hospital with nurses caring for him and not her.  Still I asked.  She was, after all, his mommy.  That meant something.
Some may disagree, but I’m convinced that very few parents actually want to harm their children.  Yes, there are some people that abuse with intent to harm.  I get that, and I’m not excusing that or talking about that.  I choose to believe though, that those are the minority.  Many of the birth parents I know of, and have encountered really do love their children, yet they are caught in a cycle that does not allow for them to act on that love in a healthy way.  Often that cycle is one of addiction.  Addiction is a horrible beast.  It takes over everything.  It becomes the most important thing.  It rules your life.  It makes you someone you are not.  Sometimes they are caught in a cycle of abuse and/or extreme dysfunction.  Their parents, their parents’ parents, and so on and so on have lived in such dysfunction that they honestly don’t know what anything close to “normal” is.  They have no clue what healthy relationships look like.  They have no idea about true love- true unselfish love that puts others first.  They have never had a good role model.  Honestly, when a person is raised up in a cycle of generations of abuse and dysfunction, what do we expect?
Most of you know we are nearing the end of the process of adopting our foster son.  It’s almost final!  We’ve never met his birth parents.  I know a lot about his birth mother’s story though, and I tell you what, if I was in her same situation, if I had the life she’s been given, I’m not so sure I would be much different.  From the very beginning she was almost doomed to fail.  All the odds were against her and she didn’t beat them.  She wasn’t that amazing success story of soaring above your situation.  She has done exactly what you would expect with the situations she’s been given.  Now sure, she’s made some pretty rotten decisions.  Sure, she’s responsible for how she’s responded to life.  I am not excusing her or saying she deserves to have her children with her.  I’m just saying, it’s pretty easy for me to point the finger and judge her for losing her son….but when I step back and think of the cycle she was born into it makes me pause, and I have a bit of a change of heart.
I hope I’m getting my point across here.  I’m not excusing poor behavior by any means!  We are all responsible for our actions, and all our actions have consequences.  It’s just my heart that we show compassion and love to the birth parents we encounter.  What an amazing chance we have to impact not just the life of a child, but the life of an entire family.  Our care and concern for the birth parents could be a catalyst for them to break out of their unhealthy cycle.  What if I am the only one who looks at that birth mom and really sees her.  She is loved.  She is a cherished creation, perfectly and wonderfully made.  She has a heavenly Father just waiting on pins and needles for her to turn to Him.  Boy, when I think about it that way it makes me excited about birth parents!  I remember months after that nervous hospital meeting I wrote about earlier we were able to go to the first birthday party of that sweet little boy.  He had been happily living at home with his parents for several months and we were invited to his party!  After we’d been at the party for a while this family member pipes up with “I don’t get it.  You guys are just so nice.  What’s up with you?”  Ha!  Now I hadn’t heard that one before!  Yet there we were in a room full of people we never would have met if we hadn’t reached out to those birth parents.  We didn’t just tolerate them because we had their son, we built a relationship with them.  They knew we loved them and we were able to truly impact them with the love of Jesus.  It was awesome.
I feel like I rambled tonight.  🙂  If you take one thing away from this post, take this: please see the birth parents.  Really and truly see them.  Look past the immediate circumstances and see the cycle they are caught in.  Then look to see how Jesus sees them, and treat them accordingly.  Who knows?  You may be impacting an entire family for eternity.

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Foster Care Ponderings: Part 2, Our Story

Years from now, when we’re done fostering I know I’ll be able to vividly remember the feelings that rush through me each time we leave a hospital with someone else’s baby.
Excitement!  This is what we’re made to do.  We’re off on a big adventure.  This should be pretty fun.  We’re helping a really bad situation get better.  Who doesn’t love babies?
Sadness.  We’ve just left a hospital with someone else’s baby.  That means there is a mommy and daddy somewhere nearby without THEIR baby.  That means we have a baby in our car who is being separated from the most important person/people in its little life.  To that baby, to those parents, we are not heroes.  We are just strangers. 
Dread.  Let’s be honest.  Taking care of babies is not easy.  I’m a nurse, so we take “medically fragile” babies.  That could mean a baby that is born addicted to drugs, it could mean a preemie who doesn’t feed well.  It could mean a baby with a head injury…you get the picture.  I’ll be perfectly transparent here and say I have often left a hospital with a baby, got in the car, and thought “What have we done?  How are we going to do this?  We are gluttons for punishment.”  Apparently dread isn’t the emotion that wins out….because we keep on taking those babies!  🙂 

Determination.  I’m excited by the challenge.  I like doing things that look difficult and succeeding.  I like puzzles.  I like figuring out what makes a baby tick.  It’s the competitor in me I guess.  “Gosh darn it I WILL get you to gain weight or I’ll die trying!”  I like taking a broken, tiny, helpless baby and seeing him or her transform before our very eyes into a smiling, chubby, babbling little person.  There’s no feeling like it.  I’m a fixer, Jed’s a shepherd- so I tackle the practical, medical side of things and Jed provides the heavy dose of lovin’ with a cherry on top.

When we got the call to take baby #1, whom we’ll call Baby Y, months earlier than we had planned and left the hospital with her we felt all of those emotions.  I remember sitting in the back seat of the car with her while Jed drove- just like we did with each of our biological kids.  I also remember she screamed the WHOLE WAY HOME.  Ha!  Any sense of heroism or romanticism flew out the window about 20 miles down the freeway. 

I’ve heard from many different foster parents that your first placement (foster child) is special.  I’ll have to agree.  Baby Y holds a very special place in our hearts, as do each of our babes.  But there is just something extra special about your first.  We learned with Baby Y what it feels like to love a baby so much it hurts, and at the same time know deep down she belongs to someone else.  Her beautiful cheeks, her smell, everything about her will forever be imprinted in my mind.  She was our first love.   

That foster babe love is a hard thing to describe.  The number one line I’ve heard from others when they hear we’re foster parents is “I could never do that.  I could never give them back.  That would be so hard.”  Let me tell you something.  It IS so hard.  It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  But that’s what these babies, these children need.  They need someone who will love them till it hurts and keep on loving, all the while KNOWING that you have to give them back.  Are you kidding me?  Of course, it hurts when they leave.  To me, at different times it has felt like a death.  Most of the time we know we will never see that child again.  Like Baby G, one of our boys.  We had him for the first 4 months of his life.  We picked him up straight from the hospital.  We swaddled him and walked him at night while he shook from withdrawals.  We were there to see his first smile, to give him his first “at-home” bath.  We were his world, and he was our sweet little boy, and then “poof” he was out of our lives and we’ve never heard about him again.  I know he will probably never know about us, but we will never forget him.  He is a part of our story forever.  So, yes, we mourn when they leave.  We cry, we talk, we cry some more.  We find a teeny stray sock in the wash and we cry some more.  We have pity parties and watch sad movies alone in the dark on the couch (okay, so yes, I did that once….not a moment I’m proud of…anyway….)  I always think somehow it should be easier because we always know it’s coming.  But it’s never easier, not if you’ve loved them right.  


“I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.”
 Alfred Lord Tennyson


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Foster Care Ponderings: Part 1, Our Story

We decided to start a series here on Foster Care.  When we first became foster parents I tried to find stories of others who had gone before us and found the pickings were slim.  It seemed not many people were sharing their experiences, and boy I sure could have learned a lot from what they had to say!  I know that fostering looks different for every family, in every state, but this is our story, our experience, and if it helps even one person along the fostering path than I think it’s worth spilling my guts.  🙂

Think back to spring break of 1993.  What were you doing?  I can tell you exactly what I was doing.  I was in Chihuahua. Mexico on my very first mission trip.  I was the youngest of the group, but just made the age deadline and there was no way I was going to miss that trip.  I honestly don’t remember much about that time, except the enormous amount of Noxzema I had to apply to my face to get all that mime makeup off my face.  (Oh Teen Mania!) I may not remember much in the way of specific encounters and experiences, but I do remember that it changed the course of my life.  I saw the world was bigger than my small town, and my worries over entering high school were nothing compared to the trials others around the world were surviving through every day.

 After that trip, I was hooked.  I proceeded to go on missions every single summer through high school and then through college.  One thing you see a lot of when you do any kind of short-term missions is orphans.  My heart broke for them.  I had forever dreamed of being a mommy anyway, so the plight of the orphan has always hit me right in the center of my gut.  I decided straight out of high school that I knew exactly what I was to do with my life.  I was to become a nurse so I could care for orphans.  BAM.  There you have it!  The goal was set, my application was accepted for nursing school, and I was off to the races!

Fast forward a few years and I’m back in my home town working at the local hospital as an RN and married to the fabulous, amazing, unbeatable Jed.  Okay, I know it’s Valentine’s Day and I may be gushing a bit, but seriously.  Jed is THE BEST.  If you haven’t met him you’ll just have to take my word for it, and if you do know him I dare you to argue with me.  🙂

Jed and Havalah.  One of Jed’s infamous self-portraits 🙂

 Anyway, it’s 2004, Jed and I have been married for a bit and we both know our desire is to live overseas.  We both have a heart for orphans and we are just eagerly awaiting our chance to get the heck outta’ dodge.  We wait…

and wait

 and wait.

We have two squeezable kiddos of our own and pray.  We look for the opportunity, we pray for God’s will and no matter what we do we always get the same answer.  “Stay put”.

“Huh??  What was that God?  I’m pretty sure we didn’t hear you right because we really want to love on some orphans and we know you feel pretty strongly about them…so what’s the holdup??”

Nope. That’s a negative.  He definitely wanted us to stay put.  So sadly, we put our dreams about orphan care on the shelf until later.  Then I happened to have a chat with a friend at a party and I moaned and groaned to her about our hearts, and being stuck in the US.  She then piped up with the words that forever changed our lives.

“You know, foster kids are America’s orphans.  Have you ever thought of fostering?”

What the???  Why no, we had not even considered that!  I mean no one else we knew fostered, it just didn’t occur to us.  Here was one of our answers as to why God had us remain here in the States.  Not so we would just hang our dreams up on a shelf- no, the fulfillment of those dreams was just going to look a lot different than we had imagined.

We were about to embark on one of the most difficult and wonderful journeys of our lives; one that we are still on today, and one that I don’t regret for a single second.

We contacted the State immediately, attended training, filled out massive amounts of paperwork, locked up any medications, picked up some fire extinguishers, installed smoke detectors, passed our home study- and lo and behold- we were foster parents!!  The process was long, but not excruciating.  Ezra, our second, was only 18 months old and we had told our certifier we weren’t going to take any babies until he turned 2, so we figured we had some time to get things ready for whoever our “new arrival” would be.

We should have known not to get too comfy, because 2 weeks later I got a phone call from the state.  “We have a baby who was just born and is in the NICU.  We feel we definitely need a home with a nurse.  Do you really want to wait, or do you think you could take one a little early?”

Deep breath.  Oh boy.  Are we really doing this?  Heck yes, we are!

Let the games begin!!

 To be continued…

 P.S.  We plan to cover several different topics concerning foster care in the next couple of weeks, so if there is something in particular you are wondering about please feel free to leave a question in the comments or you can email us at johnson commune @ gmail dot com (no spaces).   

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