Becoming a foster, kinship, or adoptive family affects every part of your marriage, your life, and the kids you decide to care for. How do you keep your marriage a priority when a crisis is always at your door? It can be hard on both of you as individuals and as a family.
Here are four tips to try with your partner during this month of love!
By Krissie Yamagucchi, ECHOflex Support Manager
Eighteen months ago, we got an email we had greatly anticipated. We had just been approved by the Neighbor Program to be matched with a foster family.
Our car pulled out of the driveway one bright sunny August day. It might as well have been the holiday season with the audible merriment and laughter coming from our car as we drove the two miles that separated our home from our matched family’s house. Every hand was full of bags and hot pans as we made our way to an unfamiliar front porch.
With smiles, cheer, and laughter, we were instantly friends, and no one knew we were complete strangers only a moment ago. After a short time and before the food got cold, we left empty-handed and returned home with fuller hearts than before.
In the Neighbor Program, our main volunteer commitment is to bring the family one meal once a month, for six months. (This is, of course, after we passed a background check and 1-hour training.) We loved that we could add more to this monthly rotation, making it personal to their needs and our abilities.
What else did we do with the family? In October, we went trick-or-treating together. In November, we did all their Thanksgiving baking for them. In December, we went to our small-town Christmas parade together, and closer to Christmas, we bought all the kids gift certificates to a local coffee shop and holiday cookies. In February, we dropped off sugar cookies, frosting, and decorations with their meal and did the same for Easter.
By this time, we had truly adopted this family. We were far beyond the six-month agreement with the Neighbor Program, and our relationship had become a devoted friendship. Finally, in July, we hosted an un-birthday party for them because we had missed everyone’s birthday that year. Our un-birthday party came with dinner, cake, decorations, and a gift certificate to the local Kids Zone arcade. Sadly for us and happily for the kids in that foster family, it also became our farewell gift because the kids were going back home to their mom.
And what did we get from our year together? A lot of laughter, a lot of tears, both happy and sad, lots of photos of the kids enjoying our meals and cookies, and a lot of smiles that I will never forget. They know that although our paths have gone in different directions now, they will never forget that a family still loves them. A little piece of us will always go with them.
What are my regrets? Well, I didn’t do everything I had planned for the family. Also, I worry that our paths may not cross again. But one thing is for certain: I have no regrets about giving them my time.
By Trudy Wakefield, originally published in The Bloom
To become a Neighbor click here or email Neighbor@project127.org
Foster parenting presents a complex set of challenges due to the trauma and neglect children have experienced in their families of origin. Like all parenting, fostering is a deeply rewarding experience and like parenting can be challenging. You put so much energy and love into being a foster parent and providing a stable home you forget about your own needs.
In February, a month when we celebrate love for others, remember it’s important to be proactive in showing love for yourself through self-care. Self-care is essential for anyone balancing parenthood with life’s other demands, it has been shown to lower stress and anxiety while increasing self-compassion. Modeling self-compassion will show your foster or adoptive children how they can best care for themselves. We know it can be hard to fit self-care into an already busy schedule, but it is a healthy and productive habit to build.
Part of practicing good self-care is setting boundaries. Be honest with yourself and others about what you can handle and begin turning down opportunities. Saying no begins to set a boundary and others will begin to be respectful of your time. When you begin to say no, you’ll be able to give better attention to the things you want to do and help to eliminate feeling overwhelmed. Self-care isn’t only about your mental health and physical health but involves all areas of your life. Here are a few self-care areas and ideas to begin focusing on.
By Marilyn Robinson, Family Care Director
Statistics show that 50% of foster families quit after the first year, so what allows one family to continue fostering for more than 20 years?
Lisa and Paul McGinnett always knew they would adopt. Early in their marriage, they planned to serve orphaned street children in Bolivia. However, an illness prevented Lisa from living in a developing country. Their pastor then encouraged them to look for ways to serve children in the United States.
After trying to conceive for ten years, the McGinnetts began exploring the adoption process, which led them to become foster parents. Over their 22 years as foster parents, the McGinnetts have had over 96 placements, including respite, and have adopted five children. Their oldest adopted child is 22, and their youngest is only 2.
Lisa shared, "I would say that we started fostering for one reason but continued for another set of reasons. So many times, I didn't think I could go on fostering because of the heartache and how deeply I loved the children placed with us." She remembers a time when they were fostering a baby boy. The situation allowed them to welcome the boy's mother into their home to spend time with her son while Paul and Lisa supervised. One night, while grilling hamburgers, Lisa looked at her watch and realized they would be late getting the mom back for curfew. Lisa grabbed a quick burger, threw everything in the car, and started backing out of the driveway. Suddenly, the young mom started to cry.
"She looked into my eyes and said something that changed my reason and purpose for fostering," Lisa remembers. "She said, 'I have never had anyone ever be so kind to me.' Her words stopped me in my tracks. In my mind, it was JUST a hamburger! But to her, it was kindness." Since that night, Lisa believes God has given her a heart of compassion for the biological families of the children she fosters.
The new year is bringing some significant changes to the McGinnetts. After 22 years, they've decided to close their home. They will still welcome back any prior children they've cared for but are no longer looking for any long-term or potential adoptive placements. Lisa shared, "Paul and I have always had an open door policy…but as we age, it becomes harder and harder to commit to raising a young child to adulthood without thinking of our capacity and mortality." Lisa has realized that, for now, her two younger boys need her full time and attention. "But who knows?" Lisa shared, "We may jump back in with older kids in the future."
When asked what advice she would give someone interested in becoming a foster parent, Lisa enthusiastically said, "Just do it! Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's challenging, but isn't everything worthwhile?" Lisa and Paul have learned the importance of being committed to the children in their home, recognizing that there will often be reasons to quit. She remembers hearing about a story of a teenager who was about to age out of the foster care system. "He was asked what he would tell foster parents," Lisa said. "He said that he wishes foster parents knew that children aren't like a pair of shoes you get to try on and see if they fit." His words stick with Lisa to this day, helping her to serve children even when it's hard.
By Jenny Watson, Director of Communication and Events
When was the last time someone visited your church because of a catchy joke on the reader board out front? We can put “All are welcome” on the reader board, but alas, “all” don’t show up on a Sunday morning. So, how does a congregation that wants to serve its neighbors make those initial connection points? How does a church get to the business of loving its neighbors if they have difficulty meeting the neighbors who would welcome their care?
At Project 1.27, we talk with churches around our state about how they connect with families in their communities. And not just any families but those who are vulnerable and looking for relational and spiritual support. Funny enough, it takes more than a funny reader board in front of a building for introductions and true connections (those that stick) to happen.
We are here to help churches make those “sticky” connections a reality. We bridge churches to local families connected to child welfare. Last year we rolled out two new programs intended to introduce churches to families involved with child welfare so churches can do what churches do so well, care for those who need some extra help. We then resource those church volunteers as they grow in relationship with families.
The first is the Neighbor Program, an existing program that was folded into Project 1.27’s offerings this year. Through the Neighbor Program an individual volunteer signs up to be matched with a foster or kinship family to provide a meal once a month for six months. This is meant to be an introduction where an organic relationship of support can grow. Volunteers, or “neighbors” as we call them, have a clearly defined commitment that is easy to fit into a variety of schedules. Whether it’s a retiree who wants to help, but doesn’t know how, or a busy family that wants a way to serve together that works with their schedule, the Neighbor Program allows members of a congregation to be involved regardless of their stage of life.
The second is FamiliesCare, a family preservation program designed to keep families in tact BEFORE a child is removed by Child Protective Services. Because Project 1.27 has longstanding relationships with various counties and their child welfare offices, we are piloting a program where select counties refer families who need additional support to us, and we match these families with trained church groups who are ready to care for them. Members of a congregation go through training together and then commit to being in a supportive relationship with a family for a year. This support could include bringing meals on a regular basis, helping with driving, doing outings together, or offering occasional childcare. The main focus is relational support for a family in need that might otherwise be isolated.
These are two programs intended to help the local church fulfill her mission to care for the orphan. James 1.27 is the root of our calling at Project 1.27 and drives everything we do. Part of this includes introducing you as a church to families who are open to a relationship with YOU. We can help you get past the cheesy reader board as an outreach tool, though a good church-themed pun is never out of style.
As of now we are not operating these programs in every corner of the state, but we do have them in many. If you would like more information on how to get your church involved in one of these two programs, visit 127familiescare.org/contact. Let us know your church is interested in participating and we can see if we have families nearby ready for YOU to be knocking on THEIR doors.
By Alexandra Kuykendall, Director of New Development and the National Network
It’s a New Year and time for, you guessed it, Resolutions! Or. Maybe not. I know before becoming a parent, resolutions were much easier to make and keep past Valentine’s Day. Children challenge our desire to have order, peace, and CONTROL.
So, what can we do when we want to make improvements in ourselves, our homes, and our families, but also don’t want to be disappointed when things go off the rails? I spent some time researching this and thinking about how I can set my family and me up for success with any goals, not resolutions, we have for 2024.
Many of you have probably seen the acronym SMART for goals, but if you are new to the idea, here is the explanation.
Goals Should Be:
Here is an example of how to change a vague goal into a SMART goal.
A vague goal may be, I want to read my Bible more this year. This goal is not Specific or Measurable. It is probably Achievable and Realistic, but there isn’t a way to evaluate if you have met your goal.
To turn it into a SMART goal it would look something like this:
My goal is to read through the Bible this year. This goal meets all the requirements of a SMART goal, but how do we achieve it? By making a PLAN!
To meet my New Year’s Goal:
I will get up 20 minutes earlier each day to add time to read my Bible.
I will follow a plan so that I am reading the Bible in an achievable way.
I will write down each time I complete a book of the Bible.
I will not quit when I miss a day or two, or even a week, but will get back to my PLAN.
I will celebrate when my goal is met!
Goals are good. Change is good. Our kids need to see us setting goals and working toward them. They need to see that we never stop growing and learning. They need to see us succeed and they need to see us fail – they will learn from how we handle each of those situations. Maybe your family can set individual and family goals and help each other succeed, spend time cheering for each other.
We pray that this year is a year of growth for your children, your family and you! That you will all grow closer as a family and closer to Jesus!
If you would like to know more about goal setting, check out the Podcast “Our Time to Rise” Episode 436, A New Way of Effective Goal Setting.
By Kym Schnittker, Arapahoe County FamiliesCare Manager
Christmas is our collective annual reminder that God chose to come as a baby to reconcile himself to us. The weary world truly rejoices at this good news. The heartache and hurt we carry throughout the year weigh us down, and we need to remember that God came near as a baby and will come again. This is the good news of Christmas!
At Project 1.27, we feel especially close to the Christmas story because we care for vulnerable kids and families. Not only is God’s heartbeat to care for the orphan (James 1:27), but Jesus’s actual heartbeat is in his baby-sized chest. Our savior chose to arrive on earth as an infant to a family in precarious circumstances. These details make that first Christmas a tender tale. One that’s not just about humanity’s directional pivot but also about a family needing care.
All year, local congregations around Colorado demonstrate the spirit of James 1:27 by promoting the care of vulnerable kids in their communities. They do this through promoting foster care and adoption from the pulpit on a Sunday morning, hosting Project 1.27 family events or trainings, signing up to provide meals for foster families through our Neighbor Program, or developing a FamiliesCare ministry with trained members of their congregations wrapping around families at risk of having children removed through practical and relational supports.
Jesus could have arrived on earth forcefully and powerfully. Instead, he chose the humble skin of a child who needed a place to rest his head. This season, let’s remember that God calls us as his followers to care for our communities' vulnerable children all year. At Project 1.27, we’d like to help your church do just that.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” -Luke 2:10-1
By Alex Kuykendall, Director of New Development and the National Network
It’s that time of year. Presents are under the tree, lights are hung around town, and there are 100 fun activities in the area. Your family is planning a cookie decorating party with Christmas music, hot chocolate, and maybe watching The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. One of your friends just began fostering and has two kids in her home. You immediately extend an invitation, and she accepts. The festivities have begun, and most kids are having a great time. You notice, though, that the two kids who are in your friend's care don’t seem happy about anything- in fact, the more fun that is happening (music, dancing, decorating…), the more amped up they are getting- they’re starting fights, snapping at each other and even throwing cookies. When the party's over, you find yourself wondering what went wrong.
3 Things to consider before inviting foster families into your home:
The truth is that the Holiday season can be very chaotic for kids who have experienced loss and trauma. Sometimes, just a few steps or a lens of empathy and understanding can be a game-changing experience for your friends and family stepping into foster care. It’s possible to help your friends and the kids in their care enjoy the holiday season. Invite them and be willing to alter some things so everyone can have fun!
By Rhonda Denison, Metro Relationships and Support Manager
On the Western Slope, Canyon View Vineyard Church hosts Pure Religion Sunday (formerly Orphan Sunday or Stand Sunday) every November. The senior pastors adopted two girls internationally and created a church ministry called Woven. This ministry seeks to support families on their fostering and adoption journeys through resources, community, or other means of support. It’s not only for families that are actively on a fostering or adoption journey, but also for those that wish to support families on that journey. On Pure Religion Sunday, the church invites local foster and adoption agencies to set up booths in the lobby of the church to share resources and information about their work. This year, there were over ten agencies present. The pastor also gave a powerful message asking the congregation to think of one thing they could do to help vulnerable children today.
As a church leader, there are a few ways your church can help with the Biblical call to serve orphans and widows:
By Krissie Yamagucchi, ECHOflex Support Manager
When our friend or family member is hurting, it’s natural to want to help. And as a foster family support team member, it’s our job to help! After all, we signed up for this AND went through training.
So why is our question, “What do you need?” Often met with, “Nothing, we’re okay.” Or our offers of “How can I help?” met with, “I can’t think of anything right now.”
Whenever we welcomed new children into our home, people asked how they could help. I loved and appreciated it, but usually, my brain and body were exhausted, and I couldn’t come up with any ideas for ways people could help! Plus, I often didn’t even have a second to breathe, let alone time to answer a phone call or text.
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is skip asking and get to doing!
1. Bring food for the freezer.
One day, after we’d brought home a high-energy three-year-old, my friend, Megan, texted me. “I just stopped by your house and left a gallon of frozen soup in your freezer. When we were saying goodbye to a sibling set of four who lived with us for two years, my friend, Lisa, texted me, “I just left some food on your porch! Praying for you all today!” I was so thankful that my friends just brought the food. They didn’t ask and I didn’t have to think about what we liked to eat or didn’t like to eat or what I was going to feed everyone that day. Meal trains and food schedules are great (and needed in the beginning) but sometimes just having an extra meal on the porch or backup food in the freezer helps give tired parents the energy needed to make it to bedtime.
2. Grab items from the store.
With naps, caseworker visits, school drop-offs, therapies and all the other things a foster family crams into their day, finding time to run errands isn’t even possible. Sometimes I would get all the children in the car with the intention of checking a few things off my list, only to have a child meltdown, have a diaper blowout, or hurt the other children in the car. When we first welcomed a sibling set of three high-needs children right before Christmas, my neighbor would text a few times a week, “I’m heading to the store, do you need milk? What else do you need?” Because she was my neighbor and she was already going to the store, I didn’t feel like I was bothering her to ask for a few groceries.
3. Offer to help with the other children.
After we would bring new children into our homes, friends would ask if we needed any help with childcare. I usually said no because I needed to be home with the new children working on building trust and routine, plus I didn’t want to overwhelm the new kiddos with too many new people and faces in our home. We had other children who were older and still needed rides to their activities every weeknight, and often throwing all the kids in the car and driving to soccer was overwhelming. One time, I had a friend ask, “Can I drive Lily to soccer tomorrow? I’ll be heading that direction anyway and I’m happy to take her.” I was so thankful to be able to stay home for the night with the other children and get everyone bathed and to bed at an earlier hour.
4. Check-in after everyone else has forgotten.
In the early days, everyone wants to help! But after the weeks turn into months, the offers wane and new foster parents are left feeling forgotten. I remember receiving a text from a friend every week well into the first year with new kiddos. She had a reminder set on her phone to check-in every week and she would send prayers and Bible verses. Sometimes I would respond with specific prayer requests, and sometimes I’d completely forget to even let her know I read the text. Either way, she never stopped checking in and never stopped sending a weekly prayer. Another time, I remember a friend mailing a card full of gift cards for a few of our family’s favorite restaurants. The new kids had lived with us for almost six months at that point, and she knew we were finally getting settled into our new routine and braving leaving the house more. The card said, “Here are some gift cards to your favorite spots to make memories with the new kids in your home.” The gift was sweet but knowing we hadn’t been forgotten was even sweeter.
By Jenny Watson, Director of Communication and Events