foster care awareness month

Hi there! First of all, sorry I have been a bit radio silent over here lately. There has been so much going on.. and I haven’t had the opportunity to sit and write.

May is a great month! One, because summer is around the corner. I LOVE SUMMER!

Another reason is because it is Foster Care Awareness Month. It is a time where a lot of people talk about the realities of what is going on around us in the foster care system. It is a month that for first time, many people find out what’s happening in their own backyards!

There are currently more than 430,000 children living within the American foster care system. In our backyard there are 2500 children in DCF Care.

If you are local to my area.. you can find the latest numbers here on this interactive map.

https://www.4kids.us/ClosetoHome

There are also hundreds of thousands of those children in foster care that are available to be adopted. Their cases are done.. they have no one.

I heard a crazy stat… that if just one family out of three churches would adopt one of thse children.. it would eliminate our orphans in America. Certainly three churches can come alongside one family and support them?

But.. it’s not happening. The average child waits THREE years to be adopted. Over 25% will wait FIVE years or more (and end up aging out of foster care).

So, each day this month on Facebook I have been sharing ideas of you can get involved.

I thought I would also put that list here.. so it’s easy to share and have all together. I will be adding to it each day this month. Maybe an idea or two will inspire you!

May 1-  First idea, and this is a fun and delicious one. Provide a meal once a month for a family who fosters. I can’t tell you how awesome it is when someone has done this for us. Whether it’s a home cooked meal, a gift card, or even someone picking up our bill when we are out to eat. It’s a little breath of encouragement!

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May 2– Buy Birthday or Christmas gifts for children in foster care. Contact local agencies and add them to your list of presents!

May 3- Here is Day 3! And it’s an easy one. Donate your gently used items you don’t need want or need anymore. A lot of us have been into simplifying and cleaning out. So give your items to places that will provide them to foster families!

Place of Hope, Friends of Foster Children of Palm Beach County, Inc , Community Of Hope Foster Closet are just some of the foster closets in our area. (If you know of others put them in the comments)

It’s so awesome as a foster parent to grab items you need for FREE when you take in a new child. My boys sleep on a donated bunk bed currently.

Treasures for Hope is a thrift shop that sells items with proceeds going to those in foster care. Win win. You clean out things and it benefits others!

 

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May 4- Pay for an activity for a foster child. Offer to pay for their music lessons or dance classes. Or maybe for them to play a season of soccer or baseball? These things get really expensive the more kids you have… so as a foster parent when someone takes the financial burden away for something like that… it’s so amazing! Plus, these kids should be able to be involved in extra curricular activities too! And if the other children in the home are doing them, it helps them to feel included.

If you don’t know a foster family personally… but your children are involved in extra curricular activities, maybe approach the director or owner and offer to them you are willing to help out if they know of a foster child. There are more foster families around then you think!

May 5- Offer a service to help out a foster family that will free up their time. For example, mowing/cleaning up their lawn, cleaning a pool, cleaning their home.. whether it’s you personally or you pay for a service for a little while, this is a huge help. Foster parents have extremely long days at times and have seasons where a lot of their time is just thrown into parenting children who have experienced horrible traumas. I know personally, those everyday house things can be hard to even manage in the midst of hard seasons (our pool may or may not be green currently.. and you don’t want to see my bathrooms 😬 lol).

If you own a pool or lawn company.. add that family to your rotation maybe once a month or every other. It does really help!

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May 6- Help watch the kiddos! This could look like a few different things…

Watch all the kids and let the parents go out or even get an overnight to themselves. This gives us a much needed break to breathe, talk, and regroup. What we do is so hard emotionally and physically.. we need breaks.

Now, I know from experience that sometimes babysitting without us there just doesn’t work and it’s only more stressful because we are worried how our foster child may respond to someone else… so in those seasons…

Be an extra pair of hands when foster families go somewhere – offer to come along to the zoo, to the playground, to the beach. It gives you an opportunity to get to know the kids more.. and it’s gives the parents some help!
I’m so thankful for the times our parents, siblings, or friends have come along to spend time with us. Especially if we have a child who is in a hard season.. it allows us to take the time we need to with that child to get them back on track without it impacting everyone else as much.

Just offer and see what happens!

May 7- This is an easy one. Talk about it.

We have a crisis and need in our area. 8-11 children are being removed from their homes daily in our county. And just in Palm Beach County alone there are currently over 1600 kids under DCF supervision.

Choose to be aware.
Choose to tell others.
Choose to share ways to help.
Choose to help yourself.

https://www.4kids.us/CloseToHome
https://www.fosterpalmbeach.org/
https://www.placeofhope.com/foster/

May 8- Pray. And pray intentionally and specifically. Get to know the families fostering or the children in the foster care system.
Pray for the parents.
Pray for the children.
Pray for the children that have come and gone.
Pray for our judges and lawyers and case workers.

Commit to prayer.

May 9- Where are all my teachers, retired teachers, or really anyone who can teach?

You can help out foster children by offering to tutor. These children have so much transition and trauma in their lives.. often times keeping up in school is nearly impossible. A tutor goes a long way! Even just someone to work with them on their homework!

May 10- Here is day 10 of ways you can get involved.

We have seen a lot of news stories like this one lately.

https://www.tallahassee.com/…/mother-and-boyfri…/1139919001/

The system failed to protect this child. It is broken.. and the system knows it. It’s overworked.. overloaded.

Take a minute today to contact your elected officials. Tell the people we vote for that something needs to change.

https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/…/Rep…/myrepresentative.aspx…

May 11-  This one isn’t easy. I say this to be real and honest.. but so worth it. It will open your eyes to things you never thought you’d see and feelings you never thought you’d feel.

Become a foster parent.

We need them so very badly!

One of the biggest impacts you can have on these kids to bring them in your home and love and care for them. Go to an orientation. Take that first step.

May 12- Pick up groceries or ask a foster family if they need to run an errand for them. Taking kids to the grocery store at times is near impossible.. someone calling up and saying.. “I have an hour, what I can get done for you today?” is a lifesaver!

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May 13- Many people have more space in their hearts and family to take in additional children.. but literally don’t have enough space.

So… you can help by providing more!

Buy a foster family a bigger car.
Build an addition on their home.
Sell your bigger home at a great price to a foster family.

Or organize a fundraiser to raise money towards things that will provide more space!

I know from experience.. Foster parents feel bad to ask about those kinds of things.. but they would be a HUGE blessing.

 

May 14- It is a simple one.. but send a quick note or message to encourage a foster family. This journey is not easy.. but knowing others are thinking and praying for you is huge!

May 15- Donate bags and items towards Friends of Foster Children of Palm Beach County, Inc emergency bags.

Most of the time when children get removed.. it’s quick and they come without the every day items they need. These bags are an awesome gift!

May 16- Become a GAL. A Guardian Ad Litem is an advocate for foster children. They are a voice. They represent them in court and build a personal relationship with them and those involved in their case. If you aren’t in a position to foster or adopt.. but want to help make a real difference, this is it.

It’s maybe 10 hours a month. So you can do this while working or if you have your own children!

To learn more.. visit Guardian ad Litem Program-Palm Beach County, Floridaor Speak Up for Kids Palm Beach County

 

May 17- Mentor a young adult who has just aged out of foster care. If you are looking for a local connection, contact Villages of Hope. The stats are not good for children who come out of foster care. 20% end up homeless instantly. Less than 3% graduate from college. 7 out of 10 girls who age out of foster care become pregnant.. which keeps the cycle going. Many of these children will be arrested and serve time. They need a stable adult who can help them learn. Would you consider?

May 18th- Write a number. Write 1600 on your hand. When other’s ask, explain that is how many children are in foster care here in Palm Beach County. Tell them about some of the things you have learned! Spread the word!

May 19th- Be patient with foster children. These children come from some hard places. They may have only felt rejection. If you volunteer at a church, coach a team, work in a school, shop at the store… please be patient. A little kindness and understanding goes a LONG way.

May 20th- Buy diapers and wipes and donate them to a local Foster
Closet. Foster babies need them! You can help provide them!

May 21st- Donate your airline miles to a foster family so they can go on a trip. Or maybe pay for a gas card? Traveling with extra children is more expensive.. but can also create really memorable experiences for these kids!

May 22- This goes out to my fellow foster parents… let someone know when you need a break! Reach out to someone when you need a shoulder to cry on. Too often we think because this is something we signed up for (literally.. we signed so many things)… that we need to keep the hardships to ourselves. Kinda that “you made your bed, now lay in it mentality.” Listen just because we knew this would be hard.. doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel like it at times. Send an SOS… we all have our moments we need them!
May 23- Did you know that the graduation rate for children in foster care is right at 50%? Can you imagine being 18-20 and living in a group home or on your own and having no one to celebrate the fact that you successfully completed high school or college? Imagine no more, Friends of Foster Children of Palm Beach County, Inc is having a graduation party for the 35 foster children who are graduating from high school or college this year. All of their resources will be used to get laptops for these children so if you have any left over graduation decorations that you will just throw out after the festivities are over, would you be willing to give them? They are also collecting gift cards to give them for teen friendly places like Starbucks, Dunkin, Gamestop, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, Mcdonalds,Burger King, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, Amazon, etc. Head over to their FB Page for more info!

May 24- Donate your formal wear… from prom, weddings, cruises, etc. This will give foster teens a chance to shop for free for their big events.

May 25- If you see something, do something. Sometimes people are struggling. They need help. Get to know others in our community. Maybe your help or relationship can prevent their children having to be removed. Sometimes kids can’t speak for themselves… so say something (report it if needed). Maybe it can prevent further abuse or neglect. Please just choose to do something.

May 26– Mamas… done having kiddos? Donate your maternity clothes to Place of Hope JoAnn’s cottage. This is a home for foster teens who are expecting.

May 27- Donate your luggage or duffles. Unfortunately, many foster children have to bounce around due to placement issues. They need bags to be able to carry their possessions. Foster families and Emergency shelters always need extra bags or luggage to be able to send with children when they leave.

May 28- Are you great at organizing? Contact a local foster closet like Community Of Hope Foster Closet Group Friends of Foster Children of Palm Beach County, Inc and more… Let them know you are willing to come in and help sort and organize donations!

May 29- Host a Date Night! Get with your friends, line up a bunch of volunteers and a location… and offer to watch children for foster parents so they can get a dinner out by themselves.

May 30- Be an Advocate at your church for Foster Care. Talk to your church leadership about the ways your church family can get involved.

May 31- Check out the book, Everyone Can Do Something by Jason Johnson here. Maybe it will spark some fresh and even better ideas of ways you can support foster children and families where you are.

 

Thanks for reading! I look forward to seeing the love you will show and the differences it will make!

baby steps

When this little boy first came to our home.. he would react in ways that didn’t make sense. For example, if there was an emotional moment (happy or sad) in a movie or tv show… he often times would do something odd like punch the person closest to him or go in his room and knock something down.

He had feelings.. but didn’t know what to do with them.

As I sit here tonight I think about the progress and growth he has made. We are watching a movie… and there was a sad part. Instead of doing something explosive.. he came over and sat with me gently. He’s relaxed and secure. Next month he turns 5 (I know he looks like he’s 7). That’s means for half of his life he has lived with us. I am super grateful for these glimpses of redemption… because the first half of his life was a rollercoaster.

I’m just so thankful I get to see his story play out. We are still in the beginning in so many ways… and there are still times this is super hard. But God is good. He heals. He restores. I’m already seeing this. God will redeem. Just like the meaning of this guy’s name. ❤️

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give me a break

Give me a break.. Give me a break.. break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar! Actually.. we do utilize chocolate therapy quite often… but this post isn’t about that today.

I am learning after almost 15 years of marriage… we need breaks!

We need to be able to get away together (and honestly we need to work better at this.. it is hard with four kids)… like vacations, date nights, even a night away here and there.

But, we also need to provide protected time for each other to take breathers.

Parenting. Marriage. Work. Friends. Family. Ministry. Neighbors….  Life is well, very full at times. Not bad.. just a lot.

I think of Jesus’ example in scripture. Him and the disciples had been going going going… and Jesus stops and says, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31) Jesus invites His disciples to stop, sit, be still and be renewed.

We need to take breaks on purpose and with purpose. Not just doing something to waste time.. but time to get away from the loud. Be still and listen. Collect thoughts. Be renewed.

We need to be intentional.

And wives, can I just talk to you for a minute? We need to give our husbands the chance to do this.. guilt free.

Think of it as being on a team. Sometimes the other person needs to tag out for a bit. And if we think of this as being a thing we are doing for each other TOGETHER.. it doesn’t become a “me vs him” thing. Are there going to be seasons where he may need more breaks than I do? And vice versa.. Yes.  Absolutely.  Let’s give them freely. Make it a priority.

Get with your hubby.. look at the calendar and pencil in some sanity hours for you both! Some together.. some individually.

Happy resting!

 

 

pulling weeds, planting seeds

I’m not going to lie… I am really discouraged. It was one of those days I couldn’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel.. 😭 which for me is pretty bad because I’m usually the “upside” kinda girl.

I committed to doing this “what are you grateful for today” thing every day in November (you can follow that journey on social media if you want to).

But today, I wanted to sulk. Today was hard. I didn’t want to be grateful.

But, as a laid down to go to sleep… I felt convicted.

I do have a lot to be grateful for.. way more then the amount of days in November.

And especially on a night like tonight, I’m thankful for a Heavenly Father who walks with us during those rough times, whose promises never fail. I’m thankful I get to be a mom.. even though it was not fun or easy today… I know it is a gift.

We have seasons like these as parents where we are planting seeds and pulling weeds… in order to produce a fruit later. I know this, I just need to remember it. So I choose to “think on these things” as I sleep tonight. And I’m very thankful tomorrow is a new day. ❤️

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adoption

It is national adoption day tomorrow. I’m so thankful for adoption and also for the journey leading up to it.

Gosh SO. MANY. EMOTIONS. So many times I have felt out of my league. In way over my head. But I’m learning God didn’t invite us into this expecting that we will always have what it takes, but He does promise that when we don’t, He still does.

I love what another foster parent said, “That’s our hope and assurance – that what’s completely out of our capacity and control is absolutely in His.”

You guys have heard me talk about the bittersweet aspects of adoption. It’s beautiful. It’s heartbreaking. It’s a lot. But I’m so thankful we said yes. I am thankful to have an opportunity to love beyond my own means. To feel Gods love in a way I never had before.

adoptionrocksToday, I’m so very thankful for these two silly faces and that I get to be their mommy.

heavy

May is filled with so many amazing things. My son Jax graduated preschool and turns 5, my other son Josiah turned 4, and we just had Mother’s Day last weekend. And… summer starts!

And while these events bring so many smiles, there is also a sense of sadness.

It is hard to explain, but today I decided to try.

Adoption is beautiful. It truly is. Everyday I am overwhelmed with gratitude that God stepped in and changed the path for them. Jax and Josiah bring so much joy to our lives. I am very blessed to be their mom.

But, the reality is there is no adoption without loss and pain . . . and grief.

We became a foster family to these boys through hard circumstances. We became their forever family because attempts to reunify them with their biological family failed.

I grieve the loss of my boy’s birth parents (all four of them). I am sad they are missing these big moments. I am sad for my boys that something so precious as a bond between a parent and child had to be broken. I know ultimately this is what was best for everyone involved. But, it’s still loss.

So, the past few weeks I kept wondering why I felt so all over the place with my emotions.  I think it is just this journey we are on. And I know they are still so young, but I think there will be a day when it becomes bittersweet for my boys as well.  Luke and I pray all of the time that we will have the wisdom to listen, guide, and love them through it.

It’s easy for any of us to sit in our circumstances in life and judge others who are in a different place. 

This week Luke and I brought a young woman we found on the street to the hospital. I spent hours with her and the more of her story I learned and put together, the more I understood she was in a very desperate, dark place. So young. So beautiful. So Broken.

I couldn’t help but cry my eyes out on the drove home. Her story was so similar to many of the parents that have children removed by child services. Honestly, her story was freakishly similar to my own boy’s moms. 

I couldn’t help but think, what if I had been born into different circumstances? It could have been me. And I know what people say (I agree) that your past and current circumstances don’t have to define you. But, the reality is when its been generation after generation, it is not easy to break the cycle. I am just incredibly grateful that my boys were given the gift of life despite the hardships their parents were facing. 

So I will pray for my children’s birth parents. I will think about them often. I will grieve their loss, even in the moments I am celebrating.  

direction

I like having a plan.

It sounds like something that I should go to a group counseling session for: “Hi, my name’s Jenny and I need a plan, no seriously”

Can anyone else relate?

I am a little over half way through this study from Priscilla Shier called Discerning the Voice of God. Guys, it’s so great. Truly one of my favorites and I am not even finished! And it has been incredibly timely because I have been in this, “ok, what’s next God?” mood.

The study has had so many nuggets of truth, I can’t even begin to share them all. But I did want to tell you about one today.

So she compares God (the Holy Spirit) to your smart phone’s Maps App. You know the destination and type it in. Then you just simply follow instructions. Turn right here. Exit here.  And every once an awhile.. when she doesn’t speak up.. you check your phone to make sure it is still on. Yep, its still there. It just isn’t time to change course yet.

It’s funny because the same thing can happen in life.

We go through stages where we just want to know ok, what’s next? Is it time to turn now God? Ok, what about now?

Sometimes when we don’t get an answer. That can make us feel confused and maybe even doubt that God is still with us.  But what we may not realize is the answer could be that we need to keep on going. Stay the course.

Luke and I have been talking and praying recently about whether or not we should keep our fostering license open (our renewal is up).

Sometimes, if I am being honest, I am totally overwhelmed with four kids and the thought of adding a fifth seems way out of my league. Other times I worry about where we are even going to fit more children (our house is only 1500 sq ft and we already have 6 people in it!) Selfishly, there are a ton of other reasons to not keep fostering. It’s not easy.

But, we don’t make decisions based on easy.

So, because we do not feel the Lord is asking us to stop or change course. We keep on.

We will be keeping our doors open.

I have no idea what exactly that means or what turns or direction that has us heading towards, but I trust that HIS ways are better.

Bringing it back to the illustration. I was driving home from Miami a week or so ago. Caught some traffic (big shocker there). Decided to myself Siri doesn’t know what she’s talking about, I am going to go another way.  Why? Because I know better. Well, my detour ended up costing me almost another hour. If I would have stayed the course and been patient.. I would have saved myself the headache, pain, and precious time of going a worse way.

We always appreciate your prayers and support while our family continues on this journey. Please pray for wisdom and lots of patience 🙂

 

back to school

They are growing way too fast!

School may be a hard transition for some of our kiddos (so prayers appreciated for that).. but this morning they all seem pretty excited!

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josiah’s adoption day

This day was so special! Our family felt incredibly loved and supported by our tribe and of course we had the blessing of adding Josiah permanently to our family.

God is good. In the hard times and in the beautiful ones like this day.

So its my pleasure to introduce to you our son, Josiah (his name means “God has redeemed”).

and then there were 4

So today is a great day! It is this adorable guy’s 3rd birthday!

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He’s a blend of sweet kisses and defiant scowls.. haha. He is incredibly bright, in fact he may be the most perceptive kid I have ever met. His laugh is just perfect and very contagious. He loves to dance. Oh, and he’s built like a tank (45 lbs of awesome)!

In his short life he has had to overcome so much already. I have no doubt God can use this child to do great things. I pray for that each day!

You may remember us announcing his arrival to our home last September. And the past 7+ months have been a journey for him and for us. I can’t get in to all of the details, but I can say this… God works in ways we do not see or can’t truly know at the moment.

My daughter Ellie was asking some pretty deep questions about God the other day. “Mom, how does God know everything that has happened and will happen? And why doesn’t He allow us to know everything?” It’s hard to explain an all-knowing God to anyone, never mind a nine year old.

But, I told her I think that God keeps certain pieces of information from us, not to prevent us from knowing things or because He wants to be sneaky, but to protect us from the burden of knowing things before we are ready.

A great example of this is foster care. Five years ago, he said “do this.” We asked why? What if? He said don’t worry about that right now, just obey.

I am so grateful we did, though it has been a journey.

The grief, the struggle, the weight of each child’s story we read, take in, and experience first hand… all that, is way harder than I realized it would be. You become aware of the brokenness all around. If we knew how hard this would be five years ago, we probably would have been too scared to do it. But He didn’t show us all at one time, God allowed us to grow throughout the process. And, He was with us each step of the way.

And all the goods, they were so unexpected! We have been able to grow closer together as a family and closer to God. My girls learned to live selflessly by sharing their home, parents, and things with other children.We have received the blessing of adding to our family through adoption. And, because our family is a little different, it has created many opportunities for us to talk to others and have conversations we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Also, I don’t think we realized just how passionate we were about defending the cause of the fatherless or the privilege it is to be a parent before we were on this road. No, if God had told us how good this whole thing was going to be, we probably wouldn’t have believed it back then.

But it is good. Foster parenting continues to change our family in ways I never could have imagined. So many things we couldn’t have prepared for. So many moments along the way, some ending in very beautiful ways while others still sting every day. It’s exciting to think about all of the things ahead that God still has in store!

I just wanted to share those thoughts. If you are in a place where you have a lot of “whys?” Or you just wish God would just tell you whats going on.. and now. Trust that maybe, out of love, He is waiting. Maybe there is something for you to learn along the way. Maybe you can’t handle knowing it all just yet. Just trust and obey. His promises are true. He is good.

We also wanted to share some big news for us…

This adorable birthday boy will be joining our family permanently! And soon! Yes, we are officially adopting him in June!

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We are excited for the opportunity to be his mommy and daddy and his forever family. And we are thankful for you, our support system, because we know you will help us love on him and encourage him in the years to come!

Yay! We will be updating once the big day is set!