When Karin and I got married we thought we would have a large family. Of course if you’ve read our story then you know that we have two sons. This has not stopped us from attempting to expand our family and to take dozens of kids into our homes and our hearts.
Shortly after we were married we decided to pursue foster parenting. We signed up for the training and completed the class. I wanted to do it but left to my own initiative it would never have happened. Karin pushed me each step of the way but I went because I knew it’s what we had said we wanted. Keep in mind I was a young 27 when we went through the classes and she was 24.
Almost as soon as we completed the class we received “the call”. There were two little girls named Stephanie and Crystal that needed a placement. It was Halloween 2002. We were told a little bit about them but that we would need to go get lice shampoo. I commented to Karin that the guy at CVS never saw a guy smiling so big buying lice treatment.
We met the girls at a Target to buy them all new clothes. Instantly I bonded with Stephanie and Karin with Crystal. They looked like they could be our kids- one was a little blond and the other was brunette. Their speech was heavily delayed and we were told about behavioral issues that they had.
To make a long story short we kept them for a year before we decided to move to Indiana. We knew when we moved that we would say good-bye to them forever. It was a wonderful, life changing year. We loved those girls and had hoped to adopt them. We made a few efforts over the year and even after we moved our case worker reached out to try and do an interstate adoption. However, the court system drug their feet and the girls bonded with their new family. We knew it would not be fair for anyone to pursue adoption and had to let go of them.
They were not the only kids we fostered that year. We kept babies, a group of siblings and several teenagers. It was a challenge to do but we were overwhelmed with the reality of the need. But, we also came to the realization that before we could “save the world” we had to save our marriage which was taking a beating.
We moved to Indiana and it would be several years before we would attempt to foster. When we finally took the plunge there was still a huge hole in my heart from having to say good-bye to our girls. My heart wasn’t in it the second time but I thought we would try. Again, immediately after we completed the class they called about two girls.
This time the girls mom was dying of cancer and their case worker was trying to find a home for them for when their mom died. The first weekend we kept them we had a lot of problems but thought we would keep at it and see if would click. When we dropped the girls off one of them made us promise that we would come back the next weekend to get them. We said we promised but the following Friday my mom passed away unexpectedly.
When we got back home we went to get the girls but we were not mentally or emotionally available. We told the case worker to find another family. A few months later their mom did die and the girls were placed with an older couple.
Fast forward to the end of 2010- my wife took a mission trip to Haiti. It really came out of nowhere. But, she went and they visited an orphanage. Her heart was broken again for the great need that she saw there. I knew I was in trouble and should prepare for her to bring home a few orphans.
I went a few months later- just earlier this year. My trip was about 95% construction but we did get to visit the orphanage briefly. It really is hard to be around those kids, to see the need and shrug it off. The men I was with walked away from the orphanage with tears in their eyes and wanting to do more.
The thing that compelled Karin and I to consider fostering and adoption in the first place is realizing that every child deserves a family. Many times kids are orphaned by no fault of their own-they are orphaned due to abuse, neglect, death or some other separation such as incarceration. They do not understand why their mom and/ or dad can’t take care of them and why they are left in this home with other kids with no parents. They don’t know why they are being shuffled from home to home- the average foster child can go through multiple homes in their lifetime. They learn the system and the “game”.
I’ve heard someone say that the reason they adopt is not because they need more kids but because the kids need a family. We learned at a fundraiser that we attended recently that there are 160 million orphans in the world. Out of those 160 million only 1% of those actually get adopted. I can’t even begin to wrap my brain around how massive of a need this is and what can be done to address it.
I know that Scripture says that pure religion is taking care of widows and orphans but it is not as easy as saying that you want to take in kids. Like everything in life there is red tape, beuracracies, politics and massive amounts of paperwork, home studies and money involved. There are large amounts of corruption as well. Because of the great barriers it is easier to retreat from the problem and ignore it- but this is injustice.
I understand that not everyone will want to adopt. It requires a lot of an individual and couple. But, it also demands a lot of extended family. I remember that we were offended that not everyone in our family was as thrilled as we were to have foster kids at the family holidays. I understand that now because we were just assuming everyone would feel as passionate as we did about what we were doing. Of course some of that was immaturity on our part.
Karin and I have been through many changes over the past 11 years but one thing that has not changed is our passion for orphans. We are praying and preparing as though the answer was “yes” to adopt. The plan is to pay off our debt, start the paperwork next summer and then adopt when our teenager graduates in 2013. Of course we are open to where and when because we realize most of our plans don’t work out perfectly anyway. But, we feel compelled that this is the time to start moving forward and are excited to see where it leads.
If you want to help raise awareness of the need of orphans domestically and around the world then take part in orphan Sunday http://orphansunday.org/ It’s November 6th this year.