My name is Jill Burrows and together with my husband and our children we became a licensed foster family in November of 2017.
I had always thought foster families were some seriously amazing people. I thought you must be amazing to insert yourself into brokenness and pain, to take in a stranger’s child who has been traumatized in ways you can’t even begin to imagine, and make raising them your mission! I saw foster care as one of the most selfless acts anyone can ever do. I had honestly accepted the fact that my God did not create me with the ability to do it… But my passion for the mission of foster care just never went away.
In the fall of 2016, I was juror #5 on a domestic violence case. I watched a 10 year old girl take the stand and testify (against her grandmother, mind you) as a witness to a fight between her mother and grandmother over drugs and money. It was absolutely horrifying to hear the story of the life that this little girl was living, the stuff that she was witnessing on a daily basis, and for her to think this was normal was more than I could handle. I could not hold back the tears (are jurors allowed to cry?!)
Honestly, that was the turning point for me. That’s when I realized the immediate need for loving families to provide a safe and protective life for these children. I believe that my God put an actual face to foster care, so I could literally see the need.
I continued to sit on this passion for fostering for several weeks, and then my 10-year-old son got to me. One day he just randomly said to me “Mom, I want to be a foster family.” I had to ask him to repeat himself at least a dozen times and made him define what a foster family is at least twice to make sure that I had heard him right and that he understood what he was saying. Y’all, he nailed it. He knew exactly what he was saying. I couldn’t even believe it. So, that night I mentioned it to my husband, and while it took him a few days to really process what I was asking, we agreed to entertain the idea of becoming a licensed foster family and at least attend an orientation to see if it was something we wanted to commit to.
In February of 2017, we decided, as a family, to move forward with the process and open our home and our hearts to whatever the fostering journey had in store. We never, ever in our wildest dreams imagined that fostering would lead us to adoption.
I honestly was afraid of foster care. I was afraid of the unknown. I was afraid of the complicated mess, and the endless sacrifices that have to be made. My life was comfortable and predictable and I was afraid of messing that up. I also doubted myself as a mom. I doubted that I had the ability to love a child that’s not my own like he/she is my own, and to be able to continue to provide a loving home for my own children while adding the stresses of fostering.
In November, a few weeks before we were officially licensed, we were asked to provide respite care for two sisters (ages three and four) for two days. We said a very shaky, but excited, yes. We were ready to have a little taste of what this could be like. Before the girls came to stay with us, we learned that they had been in the foster system for two years (most foster cases are moving towards permanency after 1 year, so this case was very old) and that the process to terminate parental rights had already begun, which meant these girls would be eligible for adoption soon. We also knew that their current foster family was not interested in adopting, and that there were not any suitable family members eligible to adopt. We felt like it was becoming clear to us… These girls might be meant to be our girls… (Ahem, let’s just take a moment to let this sink in, nowhere did we agree to two children permanently, we said one, and we said temporary…)
Friends, it was instant love. These girls were the sweetest little girls EVER. My mama heart was breaking and overflowing at the same time. We soaked in every single moment we had with them during this short visit and cried all the tears when they left, and that’s when we knew this was the beginning of our journey to bring our girls home.
Parental rights were terminated in the beginning of January and by the end of January our girls came home. We are still in the process of making them officially ours (allllllll the paperwork….) but in the meantime we are settling in as a family of six and embracing the chaos that is our new normal.
Honestly, foster care is the big scary mess that I always thought that it was. But what I didn’t see from the outside looking in is the big beautiful eyes longing to feel loved and for a safe place to call home. To look into the face of an innocent and helpless child and be able to be their voice, to be able to stand up for them when the people that should be standing up for them aren’t, to be able to say you ARE worth loving and you DO have a purpose, that is worth the big scary mess.
Keep saying no to the doubts and the fears; they will rob you of the joy in the journey! Surround yourself with friends and family that will encourage and support you, make sure some of those are experienced foster families! Their advice, love and prayers will be invaluable to you! If you have children of your own, involve them in every step of the way. This was not a decision my husband and I made on our own. Our children were very much a part of every single step in the process, this affects them just as much as it affects us and they deserve to be heard too!