At my workplace, we have a training room that can fit anywhere from 25-30 people. That’s about the same sample size as some neighboring counties have for foster families. Barely enough to fit a classroom. There are hundreds of kids in the Atlanta metro area in foster care right now. Not nearly enough families.
Where do the children go? Sometimes the local DFCS offices have to get creative. One last resort I heard of is for the DFCS office to rent a motel room and a babysitter until the case manager can work the phones with private agencies and find placement, but even there, the families are still few. Where then? Sometimes a group home, or they will bounce around foster homes. Imagine your child, with no relatives to go to, at the worst moment of his or her life, being babysat in a motel room or walking into a group setting rather than living with a family who has been trained and feels called to provide for them? That is happening right now. These children have been put in an impossible situation. The agencies tasked with helping them are facing tremendous challenges with resources and manpower that simply cannot handle the burden.
It’s not OK.
This is not someone else’s problem. It’s ours. Everyone in a community is responsible for this. If each church in the Atlanta area had one foster family – one – the need would be met.
Our process to fostering took about ten years — with me basically dragging my feet.
We were newlyweds and just getting started in our careers. My wife was a social worker for a county north of Atlanta. Her hours were long, her caseload pretty substantial, and the amount of heartache she witnessed was staggering. I could never have a worse day editing or writing than she did trying her best to put a band-aid on what amounted to the traumatic for so many broken families.
My first experience installing a car seat was actually for two foster children who needed to be transported from an appointment to their foster mom. We were going on a trip and would passing through the area so I agreed to play car-pooler for an hour. I can remember fiddling with the straps and thinking “man, I am glad I don’t have to do THIS all the time.” A few years later I’d be bumbling with an infant car seat at the hospital while a nurse looked on with an amused grin on his face at Northside waiting for the new dad to finish one rite of passage.
The two foster children were about as old then as my two boys are now. Goofy, happy, glancing out the car window at the world around them. They were so NORMAL. I can’t remember what naïve thoughts I may have had about children in foster care at that point, but I do remember thinking how incredibly unfair it was that they were in the situation they were in, and deep down, that maybe there was something I could do.
My wife had broached the subject of fostering, but for us, newly married, it was more an academic exercise should we not be able to have kids. Would I be open to adoption? Of course. Fostering? Sure, maybe. But not right now – we just got married and our careers going, and besides – that sounds like a huge commitment.
Years passed, Katie moved on from social work to being an amazing mother of two, and those foster children became a faded memory. The idea of fostering or adoption was still there, but it was always conditional. IF we had a certain size house. IF I was making more money (how much? Who knows). IF it somehow met a list of criteria I had never explored or defined. IF.
Through a series of events that are hard to describe, I came to realize two things – God placed a calling in our hearts a long time ago, and I had continually refused it because of conditions I wanted met. But I could not ignore that there was a need. I guess the heart change began there.