A Foster Family Stepping In
Shauna & Scott Spoede's hearts for kids can be seen in every area of their lives. Scott is an assistant principal at a local elementary school, and Shauna taught middle school science before staying home to raise their biological children. For years the two had discussed becoming foster parents, and whether or not the time was right to step into the lives of hurting children and families while raising a young family of their own. Their foster care journey started as a kinship placement, when Scott called from school and said, “I have this boy here, can I bring him home?”. A child asked for a safe place to stay, and the Spoede’s said yes to being that place, that family for him. They’ve done the same for the eight children they’ve fostered since.
Their experience as a kinship placement for a student at school led them to walk alongside another family that was struggling. “God laid this family on our hearts and God said to me, ‘you’ve got to pop the bubble, Shauna.’ You can live your perfect life, without any hard things, OR you can step down into it like God did. “I just knew it was time. He stepped down into the world and he was calling us to step into the lives of this family. I heard him say: We need a family transformed and they need help”.
Like many families share, God had been at work in the hearts of the Spoede’s for years, calling and convicting them to jump into foster care. With four biological children seven and under, one with special needs and the youngest still nursing, years of discussion led to Shauna accepting God’s invitation to “lay it down” and wait on his timing. To her surprise, that prompting was followed up with a call from her husband that ultimately led the Spoede family to step into ministry as foster parents. The Spoede’s have fostered nine children, three of whom are teens currently living with them, bringing the grand total to seven children currently in their home.
After their first kinship placement, the Spoede’s knew they wanted to get to a Project 1.27 training and find their niche in foster care. At the time they had been pouring into a relationship with a young family. The mom, facing many challenges, just needed support. One day Shauna got a frantic call from this mom, law enforcement and child protective services were involved. So Shauna decided to jump in and let the family, case workers, etc. know that they were there to support mom and kids however they could. Shauna and Scott went to a family engagement meeting where case plans and decisions about where the children would be placed were being made. Biological family members were volunteering to take the children, but they would have been split up. The Spoede’s offered to take all four children as an option for everyone to consider. A judge decided that was the only option for the children, and Shauna got another call from Scott as he left the courthouse. “They’re all coming home now”.
Over the next ten months the Spoede’s got certified while caring for eight children all under the age of six. The Spoede’s navigated trauma, challenging behaviors, training, and relationships with biological parents, case managers, therapists, and more. “We had one little one who really started struggling. Screaming for hours on end… not sleeping. We actually had a therapist coming into our home to help us manage it and figure out ways to help. That was the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” says Shauna. Then COVID hit. “No one could go anywhere. No appointments. No therapy. And it was like all of a sudden this little person was okay.” That sense of safety and connection is something that the Spoede’s prioritized during the pandemic and offer to every child in their home. “We connect in fun ways, serious ways, in hospitals. All levels. Our hearts are forever connected.”
After the sibling set of four reunified with mom, the Spoede’s took “a break” for the summer. Then they started answering the calls for placements. Lots of “yes” to young children ended up with those children being placed with other families. So Shauna and Scott started saying yes to teens and they are loving it. Shauna says, “I love that they can care for themselves in so many ways. I don’t have to bathe teens. They can feed themselves. And teens let you know what they’re thinking or if they’re having a hard time, and then we can talk about it”.
“Kids are hard. They show up so scared. My family has been the healing balm for these teens. My younger kids can hug a teen that won’t take a hug from me. As a family we step into these teens’ world and then they are slowly able to come out of what they’ve gone through. They’re willing to work and that means I have to work too. You can kind of fake it as a mom to younger kids, but you can’t fake it with teens. They will call you on it. So if I say I want you to eat healthy, I have to eat healthy. If I want an apology for something that was said, then I have to give apologies for things I’ve said and mistakes I’ve made. No double standards. You have to be real with teens. We went through six months of hard things. Teens feel things so deeply. We’ve walked through lots of self harm, suicide attempts, running away, smoking in the house, my four-year- old knowing the “right” way to use of the F word and B word. But that has helped us connect in deeper ways. We stick with the kids. Sometimes we spend time sitting in their closet, talking through different things. We don’t separate at all. If kids are in our house, they’re our kids. We do everything together. We include them as part of the whole family and let them know ‘while you’re with us you’re family’. We teach them a new way to look at life and live. We have been learning more too. It’s a lesson on the go. Teachable moments and grabbing hold of them. Talking about dating, fights with friends, drama. We listen to their hearts and teach them not to be judgmental but help them process things for themselves. Their families before may not have done that, or maybe didn’t know how to do that themselves”.
“We can’t imagine life without our teens. We want their families to be whole again. We are praying for their parents. The future looks hard. These teens are wondering about the future and what it looks like and who it's with. We say we’re not sending you away, but we don’t know what it looks like. It would break our hearts but we know it's ok to say goodbye and be sad, but maybe they’ll stay with us longer. I hope we get answers soon for them. The wondering can be so hard when they are asking about getting a driver's license and who might walk them down the aisle at their wedding”.
The Spoede’s have had an incredible support system to help them navigate through challenges. “A friend would bring a meal every week when COVID first hit. We were broken and exhausted by the end of the school year. It was a hard season. But those hard seasons always show up with blessings in disguise. We've made lot’s of mistakes trying to figure out new kids, we’ve pushed too hard with some kids. We’ve learned and grown. Some stuff gets easier, some gets harder, and some never gets easy. We’ve felt very supported by DHS, Project 1.27, friends and church. The dinner church frozen meals have been really great.”
Shauna wants to offer these words of encouragement to people that have been thinking about foster care:
“Go for it! Sign up for Info class. Be a CASA or a mentor. Do something. Step in somehow. Obviously PRAY and read the Bible, but it’s very clear what God wants you to do. He calls us all to foster care. You just have to find your niche. Be open when you first step in. You might have an idea of where you think your niche might be and God might have a different plan. See where God will take you on that journey. He changed Scott’s and my heart. We thought we’d be taking in babies and it turns out we do great with teens. We’re much better parents to our own kids. Training we’ve received as foster parents has helped us understand our own kids, their brains, their behaviors. It’s helping Scott with kids at school in crisis. I always had this thing of telling myself or Scott and I telling each other, ‘we already have kids, one of them has special needs, I was nursing a baby… there will always be an excuse that seems justifiable. But God can take care of every excuse. I don’t need to worry about those things. I just have to show up. We are not perfect, we make mistakes. We apologize for things and move forward and don’t dwell on the past. God gives grace to us.”
Please pray for more families like the Spoede's, to be willing to pop the bubbles in their lives and step into care for children and teens in foster care that need them.
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