Watson #ForeverFamilyFriday

David and I were married in May, 1990. We had our first baby, Hannah, 10 1/2 months later in March of 1991!! Our son, Jacob, and another daughter, Ella, would soon follow! I loved being a momma to my sweet crew. I longed for more children and didn’t feel like my family was complete.
The year I prepared to send Ella to kindergarten, I learned from a friend, about foster care. I immediately knew this was what I was meant to do! It took David a little longer to see the light, but God moved in his heart and in 2002 we started fostering through a private non-profit in town.
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In 2005 we were burdened by the overwhelming need for foster families for DCFS so we went through the process of opening with the State. Our first placement with DCFS was a beautiful 8 day old baby girl, Mariah. And though adoption had not been our plan, it WAS God’s amazing plan- Mariah became our daughter forever, 2 1/2 years later!!
We continued to foster and in January, 2011, God placed it on both our hearts the desire to adopt again- in March of 2011, a beautiful 6 1/2 year old girl, Makayla, moved into our hearts and home forever!!
We are currently in our 17th year of fostering and have had the privilege of loving and caring for over 50 children.
Adoption and foster care have been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, but it has not been without its share of difficulties and heartache.
Foster care and adoption have impacted and changed me and my family in ways that nothing else could have. I am forever grateful that God chose us for this journey!
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Instant Family – Instant Action

I love movies. All kinds of movies…war movies, westerns, suspense movies, romantic comedies, movies about bravery and heroism, and movies where love conquers all. Just this past year, the movie Instant Family made a big splash at the theatre, bringing into focus the kids in care, the need for foster families and adoptive families, and the process for earning your foster family stripes. Foster families who saw the movie shared it was an accurate portrayal of foster life (despite some irreverence), and that they were moved to laugh and cry.

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Have you ever watched a scene from a movie that you wanted to turn away, but you couldn’t? The action unfolding on the screen had you riveted? That’s foster care and adoption. God is calling you to follow him into that scene and you just can’t turn away. He’s calling you to do something on behalf of His precious kids in care. Everyone can do something…

What can you do today? It’s pretty simple. Today you can register for Walk for the Waiting as a sponsored walker. Build a team of sponsored walkers. Invite your church family to participate. You can raise funds to support 3 nonprofits – The CALL, Immerse  and Project Zero. Every dollar you raise as a sponsored walker will connect children and youth in care with a foster or adoptive family or connect a youth in transitioning out of foster care with a support network. 

We need you to walk. We need you to engage your network to support the work of these three organizations. But, most of all, the kids in foster care need you. Go to https://www.walkforthewaiting.org right now to register as a sponsored walker and walk with us on Saturday, May 4, 2019 at War Memorial Stadium!

~ Lauri Currier, Executive Director, The CALL

What is Spring Break like for foster children?

For many children and teenagers Spring Break means freedom. It means freedom from tests and teachers, freedom from the rigidity of the school schedule, and the occasional freedom to travel. A single week of possibility.

However, many children in foster care have a drastically different experience. Spring Break can mean loneliness without the familiar faces of teachers and peers, it can mean anxiety and rest disruption without the structure of the normal week, and it can also mean being completely overwhelmed by the fear of missing out on whatever their biological families are, or would be, doing.

Youth who find themselves in the foster care system are removed from everything that anchors them. The people in their lives with whom they have the strongest attachment, their parents, are not able to be with them every day. Their relationships are reduced with greater community of individuals with whom they have attachments: pastors, neighbors, coaches, teachers, etc.

For these children, Spring Break doesn’t equal freedom, but even more loss.

If they are in a foster home, they have a family that loves and provides for them until they are able to be reunited with their biological family. But that doesn’t always mean it’s comfortable. And school, though difficult and not-super-fun, can many times act in a way that normalizes their experience.

After suffering the loss of their parents, their pets, their physical home, routines, they have a full week where they are forced to take a break from the thing that has kept them grounded.

A week of guessing what their bio parents are doing.

A week of scary new experiences and destinations.

A week where they don’t have their friends and teachers, school counselors and lunch-ladies to help them have a break emotionally from all that is going on around them.

A week of exploring and enjoying, drawing close to and falling in love with a family to whom they will one day have to say “goodbye.”

A week rid of distractions, allowing more time to reflect on the trauma or neglect they witnessed in their home and the traumatic experience of being removed from their home.

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How do we help? What can we do to relieve as much of the stress and anxiety from these children and teens as possible?

  • You can pray. Pray for these children and families to continue healing, to continue growing.
  • You can give.  More financial resources for The CALL, Project Zero, and Immerse means more families, more adoptions, and more resources for the teens who are homeless, living in group homes, or aging out of the foster care system.
  • You can show more mercy and grace to the foster families and children with whom you interact. Don’t assume you know what they are going through, but provide them more compassion and empathy than ever before.

“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Hagan #foreverFamilyFriday

When we were both 23 years old, 2 years after we got married, I came home and told my husband (Heath) I wanted to start fostering. He laughed it off and said maybe later, because at this time we were living in my in-laws basement and newly weds. God kept calling though; He kept placing me in direct contact with foster children — at church, at work, with friends — all intentional to continue and cultivate that desire in my heart. A couple of years later God put it on Heath’s heart too, and in “God fashion” The CALL was at our church the next day promoting info meetings for fostering. We immediately filled out our paperwork to foster one child without intentions of adopting; 4 months later our home was opened, a day later we had our first placement, and two weeks later we had our second placement.

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Eleven months after our newborn was placed with us he became our first adopted son, Carter. We continued to foster and then a few years later learned that we struggled with infertility. Still deep in the trenches of fostering and raising our son, we were deep in the trenches of infertility treatments. Treatments lasted about 9 months and we both decided that wasn’t for us; we had adopted before and knew that adoption was an option we were both on board with.

 

Not long after that, God put a specific girl on our hearts to adopt, we called her our “angel baby”. We prayed for her, but through a series of events we ended up not getting her.  Although heartbroken, we trudged on of waiting and longing. A few months later we decided that fostering was our heart’s desire and that we would continue to bring kids in our home to love for that season. In January we took a newborn baby boy home to love on while his mom was getting the help she needed. A few months later God surprised me and allowed me to meet “angel baby” that we had prayed for months earlier. I got to share with her pre-adoptive mom our story and how we prayed for her little girl and what a blessing it was to put a face to our prayers; how praying for her had increased our faith and brought us back to fostering. We continued on caring for this boy, Channing, and saw reunification as the goal, but were still thankful that we got to care for him and help his mom some in the process.

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Around June we were asked if we could keep our “angel baby” for respite while her pre-adoptive mom had surgery. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to love on this girl and were naive to the emotional rollercoaster it would be to care for a baby we thought was going to be ours. During this time, Channing’s mom was doing really well and we just knew he was going to go back to her. The time came for us to do respite and, honestly, keeping “angel baby” was very hard on my heart, to love both babies and know that neither were going to be ours. I began looking into private adoption agencies. I didn’t want to keep fostering if our heart wasn’t in the right place for reunification. We called every agency in Arkansas and many families we knew that had adopted privately, and were set to go this route, when we got a call from “angel baby’s” guardian. I remember exactly where I was standing as we spoke on the phone, “Because of some complications, we are feeling like we shouldn’t adopt her, would you and your husband like to adopt this baby?” Are. You. Serious. I jumped at the opportunity to say yes and then remembered I should ask my husband to make sure he was good with it.

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A few weeks went by and we heard from the caseworker through an e-mail that said we were approved to keep her and be her pre-adoptive family and at the bottom of the message it said, “FYI she has a baby brother who was just born and he’s in the NICU, would you like to adopt him too?” Shocked, we said YES!! So now in a few short months we went from a 3-year-old adopted son, an 8 month old foster son, a 10 month old “angel baby” to adopt, and now a preemie baby boy! To say we were overwhelmed with excitement and fear was an understatement! Our heads were spinning with what to do with our sweet Channing. “Do we wait until he is reunified with his mom? Do we find another sweet family to love on him? Can we handle 3 babies at once?” A few weeks went by and we got another phone call, this time from Channing’s caseworker. “Mrs. Hagan, something happened at his visit today. Channing’s mom said she’s not able to continue with his care. Would you like to adopt him?” I literally busted out laughing on the phone. I couldn’t contain the emotions of hysterics! When I told Heath the phone was silent. We prayed and processed and pray and processed, finally one day Heath walked in and said, “Well do you want to change his name or keep it the same?” He had felt peace about adopting all 3 kids and becoming a family of 6.

Now our kids are Carter (5), Laney Kate (3), Channing (3), and Cayden (2) and have all been officially Hagans for almost a year. God’s ways are always perfect and his timing is always right. I can say 100 times over that the journey has not been easy but it has been one we wouldn’t trade for anything!
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Stricklin #ForeverFamilyFriday

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I ventured down this path toward foster care by myself at first… My husband and I had been married for a few years by that point and had three young boys. And it wasn’t that he was unwilling to talk about it. He actually thought it was a great idea. For later. At some unspecified time in our distant future.  But i was certain that now was the right time.
In early 2014, God radically gripped my heart as I read His Word and had prompted a surrender that was unprecedented in my life. I’d been a church girl my whole life, daughter of a pastor and now wife to one. I knew all the spiritual things to do and say and had a plate full of leadership roles and responsibilities alongside my husband. But in that little window of time, God totally remodeled my thinking and revealed more of His heart, and as a result, I began to sense his calling toward the orphans in foster care. Over time, conviction grew, and I longed to open my home and welcome kids into it. But instead…. I was forced to wait.
 
I knew my husband loved Jesus. I was confident in His ability to hear and follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. So whyyyyyy didn’t he feel the calling and urgency I did? I tried to be patient. I volunteered in other ways. But I felt compelled to act, and I just knew God Himself had stirred up this desire. 
 
There were baby steps a long the way, glimmers of hope on the long road of waiting. After at least a year of talking about it, we agreed to begin our foster parent training with The Call the Summer of 2015. And though BJ and I were “reading the same book” as Jason Johnson puts it, we were apparently nowhere close to being on the same page. For two separate weekends we sat through our Pride Training, and as I brushed away a continuous stream of tears, burdened by this weight and fully persuaded that God was in it, BJ was visibly unconvinced.
 
So we walked out of training that last day and halted the process. I was so disappointed – more unwelcome waiting. BUT I was sure God knew where to find us if or when He needed us. And if he had no need to use us in this area, then who was I to elbow my way in? 
 
A year and a half later, the Lord unexpectedly prompted BJ to resurface the conversation. My “yes” was still on the table, and God had, in His timing, brought BJ to a point of action.  In ways that only He could, He whispered (shouted!) confirmations to our hearts as we soon opened our home to foster. Three days after we were cleared, we got our first call, for a tiny pink newborn bundle, who we nervously and eagerly welcomed into our home. And then as if we were trying to make up for lost time, we shocked even our own selves by saying “yes” to her toddler sister joining us 6 weeks later. 
 
By God’s grace, despite the obvious challenges of going from three to five kids almost overnight, we were instantly “all in.” And I remember clearly the unmistakable thrill of knowing that God was delivering on the promise and prayer he’d put in my heart those years before. And as God’s mysterious ways go, those two little girls never left our home! Nineteen months later, in December 2018, we had the privilege of officially adopting them into our forever family!
 
And then it hit me. Had we opened our home back when I wanted to, my girls would not have even been born yet! What I saw as delay, was actually divine. What I saw as a set-back, became nothing less than supernatural.  I could not understand the waiting. I fought it. I hated it! But God used even my husband’s resistance to perfectly align us with His ultimate plan for our family!  
 
So be encouraged! If you’re currently on hold like I was, keep praying & asking, refuse to be embittered, serve where you can, and of course…. WALK FOR THE WAITING! 
 
 
(Watch the link to hear a snippet of my husband’s side of the story.)

 

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