A Journey of Foster Care, Faith, and God’s Strength
When people ask how our foster care journey is going, we usually want to respond with, “How much time do you have?”
It’s great, frustrating, all-consuming, exhausting, and fulfilling. It’s all of these things and more, but most of all, it’s hard. It’s probably the most difficult thing we have ever done in our marriage and family. Opening our home to kids who are not our own, creating bonds with their hearts that could be torn apart at any time, and walking alongside them as they react in ways only explainable by trauma; all of these things are hard.
But we knew it would be hard. Friends, family, other foster parents, and even our training instructor told us, “You know, foster care is hard!” However, as we reflect on the difficulty of this journey, we are consistently taken back to a comment made by the instructor during one of our training courses. She said, “You can always do more than what you think.” It stuck with us in the early days of our journey.
Finding Strength in God’s Words
As we meditated on those words, though, we realized that for a Christian foster parent, the phrase is incomplete. Yes, we can do more than we think, but only in His strength. As we walk the challenging road of being foster parents, it is only through the daily strength given to us by our heavenly Father. In His strength, we can faithfully fulfill the call to care for kids that come from hard places. The words of John 15 are the sustaining power that keeps us on the journey. “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b)
From Empty Space to Opening Our Home
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized we had space we weren’t stewarding well as we looked around our empty house with our makeshift home offices. We had the desire to grow our family but were in a season where God was not answering our prayer through having our own biological children.
After reading, praying, and having lots of conversations, we began the process of becoming licensed foster parents. We were officially licensed in November 2020. On December 8th, we received a call about two boys, eleven and nine, that recently entered care but needed a new home. In His strength, we said yes.
On December 9th, they walked through our doors, and our lives have never been the same. The first month was intense, chaotic, and life-altering, but most of all, it was a clear display of God’s faithfulness to our family as we walked in obedience to Him. We fully realized in those days what others meant when they said foster care is hard. Little did we know, it was only the beginning.
Embracing the Unexpected
A few weeks after the boys arrived, DSS called to ask if we’d consider taking their eight-year-old little sister. We knew this question might be coming but told each other it wouldn’t be possible because we weren’t licensed for three children. We felt we had our hands full with the boys. Introducing their sister could potentially change the dynamics of our family. And yet, God had other plans because you can always do more than what you think in His strength. On December 15th, 2021, the boys’ little sister walked (or ran) through the doors of our home. Again, everything changed.
The next few weeks were nothing short of the most chaotic and difficult weeks of our lives. The “honeymoon phase” quickly wore off and we entered a season where every day brought new challenges. Endless appointments with doctors, counselors, mental health professionals, case workers, and guardian ad litems filled our calendar.
A few weeks after all three were in our home, several of us got COVID and had to quarantine for two weeks. We were constantly getting changing updates about the kids’ case in court and being asked really big questions about adoption and our long-term plans. It began to feel overwhelming.
Unexpected Pregnancy and God’s Provision
Then, as if we didn’t already have enough kids, surprise – we found we were pregnant! In December, two boys. In January, their sister. And in February, another one is coming?! We would be going from zero to four kids in less than a year. God was answering our prayer. Once again, we were reminded, “You can always do more than what you think… in His strength.”
The longer we journeyned through foster care, we realized that the picture of our family we imagined wouldn’t come to fruition. Each day we felt that we were unpacking more and more of the baggage that comes with trauma.
Challenging the Notion of “Normal Parenting”
There were days when friends would misunderstand what we were going through. So many times, those closest to us would say, “That’s typical for all kids,” or “You’re just experiencing normal parenting.” But the reality was that this was not normal parenting; there was nothing typical about our family. And yet, God continued to provide. His constant reminder was that He called us to foster care, and what He calls us to, He equips and sustains us to do.
Foster care became a daily grind that forced us to personally and collectively lean into the strength of the Lord. As we sought His strength, He was faithful to provide in several ways. Couples aren’t the only ones who feel called to foster care; extended families also play a major role.
Both sets of our parents became grandparents to preteens overnight and quickly realized how difficult caring for children in care can be. And yet, they have not only been a constant support to us, but they have loved and cared for our kids with unwavering compassion.
Another sustaining support has been our licensing agency, Connie Maxwell Children’s Ministry. Their foster care staff has been one of God’s greatest blessings to our family. Their love, care, and wisdom have guided us through the process and lifted us up when we felt we had nothing to give. Connie Maxwell has been a constant source of strength, a true gift to us by God as we have walked this journey.
A Church Family’s Unwavering Support
We often say there is no way we could have remained foster parents without Lake Murray Baptist Church. From the first day we welcomed the boys into our home, our church family blessed us with meals, clothes, free babysitting, and much more. In the weeks after the boys arrived, we created an Amazon wish list of items the boys needed. Every day we would come home to at least three or four packages at our doorstep. One day our delivery lady asked, where are all these packages coming from? The people of Lake Murray Baptist Church!
Embracing the Beauty of Foster Care
As we reflect on our call to foster care, the support we have received, and the days ahead on our journey, it can be easy to dwell on the difficulties, including negative behavior, frustrating state agencies, slow adoption processes, and the seemingly endless unexpected challenges that come every month.
However, if we only dwell on how hard this is, we miss out on the beauty of foster care. In His love and grace, God reached into our brokenness and made us whole through Christ. In foster care, we have the opportunity to reflect Christ by reaching into the brokenness of our world and bringing the hope of the Gospel. But the reality is that we can’t do it on our own. Yes, we can always do more than what we think, but only in His strength.
David Bennett is the Pastor of Missions & Ministry at Lake Murray Baptist Church in Lexington, SC. David and his wife, Katie, were married in 2014.