Monday, June 24, 2013

real life stories: fostering and adoption {jason and jennifer}

[after a bit of a break, we have another story in our "real life stories: fostering and adoption" series.  today we are going to hear from Jennifer and Jason in Ohio...]

Tell us about your family (how long you have been married, where you live, ages of your children, etc)

Hi! I am Jennifer and my husband, Jason, and I are high school sweethearts who have been married for twelve and a half years. We live in a small town in Ohio and currently have three biological children ages 5 ½, 8, and 10.  Jason is a computer programmer and I am a teacher turned stay-at-home, homeschooling mom (which I wouldn’t trade for any other job in the world).  We have been licensed foster parents for a little over a year and have had one placement (a precious eight month old boy, J, who was with us for two months). We are also currently in the process of adopting from China through the special needs program, and we hope to welcome a new addition (or two) to the family sometime this year.

What got you interested in fostering/adoption? Why did you decide to do it?

We first began to consider foster/adoption when we heard through our church that our local foster care coordinator had visited local church offices and shared that there was a need for foster parents in our county.  We love kids and had been talking off and on about adding to our family and had been seriously considering adoption. We felt that God might be trying to tell us something about His plan for our family, and although we were very hesitant and scared about entering into foster care we decided to take the 36 hours of training to find out more.  We went into the training with our goal being to adopt and were originally going to be licensed for adoption only (not foster care), but after a few classes we learned that our best option for adoption would be to foster to adopt and decided to get certified for both.  Our pre-service trainer said something that I will never forget and it ultimately became our reason for deciding to go ahead with our application. When our trainer talked about how hard foster parenting is she said, “You will cry. You will want to quit. It will be one of the hardest things you’ve done. It will push you to your limits. But in the end…it’s not about you.” [note from sarah: emphasis is mine.  this is a really great quote.]  As Christians this went straight to our hearts and we said, “Wow! You know what…she’s right. It’s not about us; it’s about the children, and ultimately, it’s about God.” It’s about the one who gave His life for us and told His disciples “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25)

Has anything surprised you about the process?

We were completely and utterly unprepared for the pre-service training and the tragic stories we heard. We had no idea what many of the children in the foster system endured and our hearts ached for them. We were also unprepared for how broken the system is, and how hard and frustrating it can be to work with and within the system at times.
I also didn’t expect to love J so quickly or so deeply! I knew I would get attached, but I honestly thought it would be different (easier somehow) because he wasn’t ‘mine’ and I was surprised by how completely and utterly wrong I was on that. It’s not possible to love a little bit or half way, and I don’t think I would want to even if I could. Love is what makes good foster (and adoptive) parents because love is what these children need. All of these children desperately need our love and to know that they have a Savior who loves them more than they could ever dream.

How have you/your family/your spouse grown in this process?  How have your biological children handled it?

We have grown so much in this process, and although that doesn’t make it any easier it does make it worth it. We have learned to trust God so much more and I have had to lean on Him more than I ever have. I believe God has used this experience to show me how much I need Him every hour of every day.  When J left it was very difficult on all of us (and particularly on our oldest daughter and I), but Jason and I have used it as a learning opportunity for the kids (and ourselves) and although it is hard we have grown in our walk with God through the experience.

What difficulties or frustrations have you faced in the process?  What motivates you to keep going on in spite of this?

The biggest difficulty we faced in our experience was saying goodbye. I know several other foster families who have been very frustrated with their social worker and the agency, but we did not experience that in our particular situation.
We keep going because it truly isn’t about us. It is about the children who need us and it is about a Savior who gave up everything, sacrificed everything, and lost everything for us.  It is because Jesus said, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
When I feel like quitting God speaks to me from His Word:
This is too hard! Nevertheless, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I can’t do this! Nevertheless, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9); I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
I don’t understand! Nevertheless, “…we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28); For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:9)
Why? ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

Do you have a relationship with the birth parents? What does that look like?

We do not currently have a relationship with the biological parents, but we do have a very good relationship with the maternal grandparents who currently have custody of J. We babysit for J about every week and his grandma and I have become friends. We continue to pray for them and try to show them the love of Jesus at every opportunity.  I know that one day soon we may not be as involved in J’s life as we currently are and that is going to be hard because up to this point I have not had to truly let go, but I know God will be there through it all, that He is in control, and that He has a much bigger plan for J than I could ever imagine.

What advice would you give to other couples considering fostering/adoption? (What questions should they ask? How should they seek out support? etc)

Lean on God because He is the great comforter and know that He has a plan for you, your family, and the children whose lives you will touch!
Spend time in His Word every day even if it is only five minutes! Pray!
Construct a support system that includes family, friends, and fellow foster/adoptive parents.
Realize that fostering is one of the hardest jobs on earth, but it is also rewarding.
Understand that things will often not go as planned, hoped, or expected.

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