Written by Betsy Gwartney Catrett
Well, what does THAT mean? Everyone? You might be thinking “I thought foster care was for abused and neglected children? It even works to help bio-parents learn additional skills and to obtain resources to reunite families, right? Foster care can lead to adoption for the children into a forever family–yes?” But really, how does THAT help everyone? Follow me for a few as I set this up.
I met a man nearly 15 years ago along with a few other very inspirational people. I worked for Oklahoma Department of Human Services Child Welfare Division (DHS) 15 years ago. I was speaking at a mission’s banquet for a local church when someone pressed a piece of paper into my hand. They said, “Call this man.” So, I did. His name was Randy Martin. I was so utterly impressed with what I heard on the phone, that I flew where he lived to meet him and see for myself.
Randy’s story started when challenged by a friend to attend a Royal Kids Camp (a camp for foster children). The following year his wife, Kim, also attended the camp. That was in 1995-96. It has been non-stop ever since. Needless to say, “it got in their blood” – so much so that they shared their experience and thoughts with their church family and had literally hundreds get involved in the foster care work. They met with their CA Child Welfare organization, learning the gaps in the program and the various needs they had. Then they created solutions. Eventually, Randy resigned from the pastoral staff of this large and caring church and started Covenant Community Services. At the present time his organization runs a host of complementary programs serving the fostering community and is influencing on a national level! Check them out at www.covenantcs.net.
Randy’s story is only one of a myriad of unbelievable stories I encountered in my DHS days. There was a single parent with teenagers.
Her passion was for babies born to drug addicts. With her dedicated heart, starting one at a time, she helped over 40 babies, many of whom needed support during withdrawal from hard drugs used by their mommy during pregnancy! (40 BABIES!).
Another family stood out in a completely different way. This grandmother and grandfather, who moved to Oklahoma for the husband’s work, were living far from their own grandchildren. The silence of their home didn’t feel like home-so they got involved. The first children placed in their home came with an opportunity to mentor a very loving mother, who was just not mentally able to care for her children. This lovely grandparent couple was able to provide a forever family for these precious children, but also an understanding and supportive place for their biological mother and grandmother to come and connect. This couple went on to adopt 2 more children into their forever family. This made a whole new second family after guiding their own 4 children to adulthood.
The last family is one that had a special heart for special needs children. I was totally blown away by their tenacity and love. They were not especially well off, but they were very generous. They remodeled their home and built on extra rooms to accommodate the wheel chairs and special equipment that was needed for the special needs children they served. When I asked the mother of the home about her plans for retirement and how she would care for all these children (who would never be leaving the home), she assured me that she was not worried in the least. Why? Because her own biological children had the same passion as that of her husband and herself. She stated that they were already having lively discussions about who would take whom when they grew up and left home themselves.
You may be concerned that you just aren’t cut out to work with abused and neglected children. And, maybe you aren’t. You could be built with totally different gifts. However, everyone can do something. For example, if a couple in your church is willing to take on the day-in-day-out responsibilities of a child, you and others in your church could empower them with the diapers, formula, prom dresses, fees for summer camp, respite care, date night resources, birthday party and Christmas gifts, etc. etc. etc. Chris Campbell is heading up a program called “111Tulsa” which believes that if every church in OK would support one family as a foster family, to care for one foster child, there would be no children in foster care in OK. Wouldn’t that be a testament for the “Buckle of the Bible Belt?”
But until that day comes, foster parents are needed, good foster parents who can show these kids the love of Christ. What good is just talking about it? The magazine’s theme is Go. Do. Be. Why don’t you? Go call DHS. Do request the paperwork to file, find a family fostering and help support them. The open doors before you are quite limitless. The biggest surprise you will find is you might not be changing these children’s lives for the better as much as THEY are changing yours. Hurt people tend to hurt people. Changed people tend to change people. Take the first step to heal the hurt and change the rest of your life AND theirs. †