It is imprinted on our spirits to father and mother the fatherless, to bring healing and peace to the broken and battered. We both have, for a long time, known that God was calling us to a place where most people run from. We know there are countless children out there who’s destiny would change if they were introduced to love.
We are Mike and Angela Gill and we are foster parents in South West Florida. We are involved in foster care because we want to be a part of the solution to the problem.
We saw the need and we knew that we had the desire and the means to meet it. Our passion is to equip kids to create a life for themselves that is different than what they are going through right now. We want to do so much more than “house kids in need”, we want to invest in them and then teach them how to invest in those around them. We want them to realize their life doesn’t have to stay this way and their story doesn’t have to end here but in-fact it can start here and go to places and be what they never thought was possible. You see, the need isn’t “just” a bed. The need is love, investment, time, grace, patience, kindness, safety and so much more. We believe that when these children are in our care, we are reversing the injustice that has happened in their lives. Although they may only be with us for a moment, we are their family and they have our love for their lifetime.
Both Mike and I were adopted through different circumstances which made us familiar with the foster care process, and were continually reminded of the need for foster homes and loving families for kids who’s worlds had been turned upside down and torn apart.
For Mike, it was a dad who wasn’t in the picture and his mom passing away at a very young age that left him to wondering who was going to take care of him. He was left to wondering why things like this happen and he lost all hope in his future. His whole life became blurry overnight. But because of that he is able to have a different understanding, a different perspective for these kids. He understands the process of the unfamiliar face, the offices that are cold and bright and full of unknown strangers. Then you are placed in a home with, yet again, more people you’ve never met and you’re expected to function as normal and adapt to their life and their pace and their standards. To then only have more disappointment come your way, more hurt, more confusion and it’s a heavy burden to feel like you are supposed to go on as normal and pretend or act or believe everything is okay but the reality is nothing is okay. You are not okay.
Mike was 15 and lived with his mother who was struggling with heart disease, kidney failure, diabetes and several other health issues. He went to wake her up on a Wednesday morning before he went to school and he found her unresponsive. It was just Mike and his mom so he had to call 911 for help as well as his neighbor. Five days his mom laid in a coma in the hospital. The doctors informed Mike and his brother that they were going to have to make a decision. Their mother had little to no brain activity happening and she was simply living through machines. So Mikes brother had to tell the doctors to unplug her from the machines. There was nothing more they could do. Mike and his brother stood by their mother’s side as the ventilator was removed and the machines turned off. They witnessed their mother taking her last breath.
Mike went to live with his brother, who would be his home placement instead of having to go into traditional foster care. He became involved with an after school program for teenagers and was introduced to a local church. That’s where he met Doug and Mandy. The youth pastors at Back Mountain Harvest Assembly. Doug and Mandy were also foster parents through the state agency. They had a heart for the next generation and children in need. A relationship began to form and healing started to take place in Mike’s life. Soon they were inviting him over for meals, then weekends, then holidays and eventually it was like he was part of the family. Part of the family. It only seemed right. After research and much prayer, they asked Mike to be “officially” part of the family. He was 19 years old and adopted into his forever family, the Chapmans. Mike has seven siblings, one of whom is Doug and Mandy’s biological child, and six who are adopted or in the process of being adopted.
I, Angela, was adopted from Peru. My biological mother was a prostitute and my biological father was never known. I had several older siblings but my mother was unable to provide us with even the most basic of needs such as formula, clothes or a home. We lived in the slums. We had nothing. Not even a house. To be honest, I should be dead. I received none of the essential nutrients needed to grow and develop. For an unknown time I was given sugar and water in a bottle because my mom couldn’t afford formula. Some of my siblings had physical disabilities that my mother couldn’t tend to. Due to sever malnourishment, I was placed into an orphanage and while I was there missionaries from the United States were serving the country of Peru in the city of Lima. While serving they realized how bad the “system” was in the country and knew they had to do something. When they returned to the states, they made it their mission to come back with the funds and ability to provide quality care to the orphans of Peru. Because of their advocacy and determination, they brought awareness to those in America and that is how my adoptive parents got connected to Peru. Through a series of miracles, I came home to a family that the missionaries personally knew and walked through the adoption process.
Those missionaries became my God parents. My adoptive family made it a priority to keep me connected with my foster mother from Peru. Every birthday, Christmas, or other holiday, my adoptive family made it a point to connect me with my foster mother from Peru. While my family was never a “foster family” they were an adoptive family and we always loved when people asked about our story. My parents always showed us that love conquers all and family isn’t restricted to blood. I am alive today because someone said yes to fostering. They said yes regardless that it wasn’t for forever. I am who I am today because I was saved me from the slums of Peru. This is how I got to be the mother I am today to hurting and broken children.
As a result of our journey, our story, our past, we can love on and understand these foster kids. When we read through why they are angry or confused—we’ve been there!
We were scared and we were nervous because we knew we were walking into and saying yes to an emotional rollercoaster. We knew the heartache we were signing up for. We knew it was messy. So why would we say yes to messy, hurtful, emotional torment? I mean you hear horror stories of families saying goodbye after years of care, or how “the system fail this child and sent them back even though it was unsafe” ya know? I mean wow. Why say yes? Not to mention you’re giving up any and all privacy of your life. Background checks, financial checks, home visits, references… I mean it’s a lot. We were reluctant. How were we going to work with a system that we didn’t always agree with? Then there is the “fear of the biological”. How would we ever handle meeting these “horrible people”? We listened to the stereotypes. We heard the “word on the street” and it didn’t always sound good.
All that said, we had the desire and we had the love and we were ready to face our fears. Foster care is the hardest but most rewarding thing we have ever done. Hardest because you are bringing in children, and loving them like you own. Investing in them, caring for them, providing for them and processing grief with them. You create memories with them and have a special, intentional bond with them and then before you know it, they are gone. And there is no promise you will ever see them again. You pour out all you have and advocate for them with everything you can and before you know it, they move on and your left with nothing but memories.
It’s messy. You have to advocate for a child and yet at the same time you have to remember the goal is to reunite family so as much as you are supposed to love them with all you’ve got, the goal is for them to leave. Wow. That’s hard. BUT! The reward to know that when a child’s life fell apart and they were left to wonder- you were there. When they would have had no one to be there for them, no one to love them or help them through the process of grief, you were there. When they wouldn’t have had every meal, or clothes and shoes that fit, you provided those needs and put their mind to rest.
Yes, it’s hard and it’s messy and it’s not always fair but it is the best choice we have ever made. The way your heart and spirit feel when you have impacted a child’s life and given them all we had—it’s amazing. When you see a family do the work to come back together and be a family, it’s absolutely incredible!
If you’re not sure about foster care, take your time. Make sure your marriage is in a good and solid place and that you and your spouse are both 100% in. If not, wait. Prepare your heart. Prepare for the ups and downs of the system because they are there. They are real. A lot can happen in a small amount of time and a case can change in a minute, be the calm in the chaos.
Accept biological families. Give them grace and show them love. You are not automatically a horrible person when you lose your children. You’re really not!
You don’t know what these parents have walked through so don’t be afraid to reach out and extend love, grace and kindness. Don’t let the horror stories scare you. Don’t let the bad experience of others make your decision. Do what you feel is best. Enjoy the journey of foster care! Breathe in and take in each moment. Don’t for a second think you are not making a difference or impacting lives, because you are!