One teenager’s story of how her parent’s decision to foster changed her life forever!
My family took in our first foster child when my life was in bare, shambled pieces.
We had just moved to a new area of Austin away from everything and everyone I knew. I had just faced the daunting task of walking into a big, scary high school as one lonely 14 year old among 2,200 teenagers who had belonged to friend groups for years. I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of an empty bedroom because we had moved into a home that we planned to quickly exit and remodel (but of course the month turned into a year and a half). My life was fragile, and I was desperate for comfort and community.
Flashback 1.5 years before our first baby arrived: I attended a private Christian school and had only a vague understanding of what caring for orphaned and vulnerable children meant. In fact, I watched and envied many of my friends whose families were called across the world to adopt, and I was annoyed that my parents seemed to have no interest in doing the same. I did not have some deep, burning desire to care for an orphan. Rather, in all honesty, I wanted people to idolize my family and our courageous journey across the Atlantic ocean to rescue a troubled, yet perfect, African baby boy. I wanted to post pictures with my new baby brother on Instagram and be showered with comments of “wow, y’all are amazing” or “fam goals.”
When my parents first told me and my sisters that they were considering becoming foster parents, I was far from excited. Actually, I was devastated.
To me, fostering connoted a kind of long term babysitting job that would attract minimal attention and praise. And when I learned that fostering would potentially mean giving up my bedroom (any foster children that are not infants are required to have their own room, and our home had only 4 bedrooms), my bitterness towards my parent’s decision only grew.
Shortly after announcing their decision to my family, my dad led us together in a bible study about what Jesus really means and says throughout scripture about those in need. Jesus seems to define those in need as those who are marginalized, orphaned or estranged. They are often poor with respect to earthly material, but, more so, they are poor with respect to relationships and community. Children in foster care are in need with respect to attentive and nurturing families.
Through our Bible study, and my parent’s adamant pursuit of the Gospel, I quickly discovered that, in a sense, I too was in need. I was spiritually thirsty and a complete stranger in my new, big high school. This opened my eyes to where those in need really exist. They do not just live overseas. They live right under our noses. Right around our corners and down our streets.
I considered myself poor in community and relationships because of my experiences at school; but, in reality, I have had/have community for which so many people long: a family. And it is not just a family who feeds me and gives me a place to sleep. I have an attentive family…a family that attends every single piano recital and athletic event. I have a family that gets excited when I’m excited and heartbroken when I’m heartbroken. I have a family that joins hands in prayer and walks through bible studies together. I have a family that cares for me deeply.
How, after tasting a small piece of the loneliness that many foster children experience daily, could I resent the idea of sharing my family?
4 years later, I have walked with my family through two foster care placements. They were heart-wrenching and painful, and yet completely sweet, encouraging and beautiful. My attention-seeking mentality has crumbled as I have watched my parents humbly step up to mentor the parents of our own foster children and several other parents who have also had their children removed. They have taken on these roles out of a pure desire to see families reunited… to see other parents learn to get excited when their kids get excited and heartbroken when their kids get heartbroken … to see kids escape the cycle of foster care.
Watching my parents find and meet needs in our own city has instilled in me desires to do the same. I no longer feel that I must cross oceans to create change. Rather, I have found ways to serve through my role as a biological sister, foster sister, and mentor to two sisters living in inner city Austin.
Being a foster sister broke and mended my heart all at once and I am forever grateful.