Guest Author – Julie Warkentin
Southland’s impact on our decision to foster was huge! No one there ever told us we should foster or adopt, though sometimes people wonder if they do because of the high percentage of families who do. What we are taught is what it means to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, how to follow Him, hear His voice, receive healing from past hurts, and to serve God and others. It was out of those foundational truths that our fostering journey really began.
My dream was never to foster. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking in a child who I would grow to love and then endure the pain of ‘losing’ them when they’d be moved or reunited with their families.
I wanted to adopt children, not foster. But even with adoption, I had some big reservations about what I was willing to accept. I was afraid of things like FASD and HIV in particular. At the time, I couldn’t see that these reservations were about ‘me’ – my hopes, my comfort and my preferences.
As I spent more time in the Bible and growing in relationship with Jesus, I realized that God’s heart was not like mine. He is love and has no fear in Him. And He has called His body, the church, to follow His example. As these truths were coming to life for us we sensed God was asking us to take a step toward fostering.
Before we even began investing ourselves in another child we decided not to hold back love from any child placed with us – no trying to protect ourselves from the pain of future loss. God is love and, if we wanted to follow His lead, we couldn’t make this about ourselves.
We resolved that any child placed in our home would be loved as if they had been born to us. We wouldn’t cause them more pain by treating them differently or introducing them as ‘foster kids’. They would belong in our family. They would know we would do anything for them. If the agency would move them or a reunification would happen, then we would do our best to ease the pain for them. While in our home and under our influence, each child would know they were precious, valued, and wanted.
The first baby we welcomed in suffered from drug withdrawal. We knew he’d probably be moved, but he deserved nothing less than our full love. He had my heart from day one, and I spent many nights in his room on my knees.
We were told this little baby would be with us for a minimum of one year. He was moved to be with siblings two and a half months later. It was one of the most painful times our family has ever gone through; the loss was huge.
Our biological children mourned deeply and there were many tears. To top it off, many people didn’t understand our grief and felt we should’ve known better. He was ‘just’ a foster baby, after all. To hear time and again this evidence that others didn’t recognize his great worth and value really deepened our family’s grief.
My husband and I decided we couldn’t continue to do this to our biological children unless God called them too, so we told the kids we wouldn’t foster anymore. Both of them, despite their deep grief, almost immediately said they wanted to continue to foster.
“There are more children that need a family to love them, Mom!”
Less than two months later a beautiful sweet little 18 month-old girl was placed with us. She had some attachment issues and was quite guarded for such a young age. We were told she might be reunited with her biological parents so we decided to do whatever we could to help the biological parents succeed and be healthy while we gave our hearts to this precious little girl. She was never a ‘foster’ daughter to us. She was our daughter. Whether she would move or not, we would not withhold from her.
Four months later we were asked to take a little baby boy who had been exposed to alcohol. We were told they were actively looking to put him back in his community and probably wouldn’t be with us for more than a couple of months. Eleven months later, he was still with us when we got a call that his biological sister had just been born. She was experiencing intense withdrawal and had a fairly high chance of developing HIV, but they would place her with us if we’d like.
My fear levels were high. How could we do this? HIV was one of my big ‘no’s and I had a lot of fear in it. We prayed about it and God reminded us of Jesus’ example here on earth. He had never been afraid of disease and didn’t avoid sick people – in fact, He sought them out. We would follow His lead and move forward with confidence.
Many of the things I had on my list of ‘no’s I have since said ‘yes’ to. My heart and will have been transformed to align more and more with God’s. He is love and there is no fear in Him. By listening and following Him we have been able to let go of fear and embrace love instead. As a result, we have experienced many more blessings than we ever dreamed possible.
I wouldn’t trade any of it. Not the pain, the loss, the struggle, all the sleepless nights and hospital stays, not the court cases, and none of the tears. I wouldn’t go back. These kids are worth it. They are just like you and me, born into circumstances that they didn’t create. They have incredible value and, as a Christian, I am called to protect, love, and care for the weak and helpless. For our family following that call meant fostering and adopting.
I am so thankful for Southland and how they have encouraged us to get to know Jesus personally and to hear His voice and follow Him. I personally would’ve never had the courage to foster or had the ability to love and press forward, without the relationship I have with Jesus. We are also deeply thankful for the tremendous support of our family and church cell group who have prayed with us through it all. We’ve seen many miracles and answers to prayer in this fostering journey. We are thankful!