Category: Personal Stories

Foster Care: A Sibling Story

“He has your eyes…”

We are sitting in a hospital room.  Our daughter has just given birth to our first grandchild and her biological and adopted siblings are gathered about.  Each taking a turn holding and admiring the newest addition to our family.

It was a traditional scene.  One where the family will “ooh” and “aww” over the beautiful life that has just entered the world.  But a certain comment took my breath away.

“He has your eyes Jose.”

Uncle Jose, only 14, looked up with pride.  It was an important moment.  Because in adoption, you don’t always get to see another who has your eyes.  A small symbol that provides a silent and powerful connection.

Our family is a patch quilt of sorts.  My husband and I have two daughters adopted from foster care.  They have a biological sister and brother adopted by my parents.  It’s a complicated little family that doesn’t make sense on paper and confuses most people who meet us.   But it’s our family.  And when those four children entered our lives, we knew they all needed to stay together.

And here we are ten years later in a delivery room and I am again struck by the power of the sibling bond. And so grateful that they could experience this miracle together.  That they could all take a turn holding the next generation of their family, of our family, and see tangibly the power of that sibling connection.

We are all woven together now, they and us.  Biology doesn’t define our family; the love and commitment knit throughout that hospital room is what makes our family.  But I don’t deny the power of biology – the miracle that is witnessed when you hold another and see your own eyes looking back.

Everyday siblings in foster care are separated because there are not enough families to keep them together.  And when that separation turns into permanency, these children will inevitably be denied the basic privileges and experiences that siblings deserve and need.  From the big moments like births and weddings to the small moments like raiding your sister’s closet or playing with your brother after school.

It’s hard work taking in a sibling group.  Helping each individual child heal and work through their trauma while also caring for multiple children with multiple needs.  But can I tell you something?  It’s worth it.

“He has your eyes Jose.”

Interested in knowing what it takes to be a part of this amazing work?  Check out our orientation page and get started today!

Arizona Faith and Families was founded by Paul and Nikki Lehman.  Paul and Nikki started their family by adopting two teenage girls from foster care.  They are now the proud parents to five children and one grandchild and work to equip others toward successful foster care and adoption. 

Astonishing Acts of 2017

Arizona Faith and Families is a family operated agency.  It is one of the unique characteristics that sets us apart and allows us to have rich and intimate relationships with each of our foster families and the children placed in their home.  We are also a Christian agency, centering our practices on faith in God, the power of prayer, and the redemptive work of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

As we prepare to begin a new year, we wanted to step back and praise God for some of the amazing ways He has worked through our foster families in 2017.  We are humbled by the incredible people we work with and thank all of you for stepping out in faith to serve Arizona’s foster children.

In 2017, our foster families showed that they not only love the children in their home, but the people connected to them.  Do you know how many of you emailed and asked to bring the children’s biological family to our agency’s Christmas party?  I promise you that is not standard!  We are humbled.  You never cease to amaze us with your generosity and fearlessness.  You supervise visits when parent aid contracts expire and the children are set to go weeks without contact with their loved ones.  You coordinate with other foster families to ensure the children see siblings they are separated from and even drive across the county to do so!  You model how to be a good parent.  This year, you attended doctor appointments and parent-teacher conferences with the children’s biological parents, ensuring they knew what kind of questions to ask and how to advocate for each child’s needs.  You even co-hosted birthday parties!  We know you were nervous at first, but did that hold you back?  No.  You are not a group of people ruled by fear but by courage and grace.  Thank you.  And did you stop there?  No. So many of you kept going further.  Whether it was having the single mom over to take her children trick or treating or inviting the family with nowhere to go over for Thanksgiving, you continually assessed each situation and found ways to show love and support.  Your love is relentless and it is a testimony to the true love of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for every awkward encounter, difficult conversation, and uncomfortable situation you overcame to ensure the children in your home were loved, supported, and connected to the important people in their lives.   We are so thankful for you.

In 2017, our foster parents persevered.  Twice a year, agencies are required to report on the number of disruptions in their foster homes.  Do you know how many reports we submitted this year?  One.  Just one.  I promise you, this too is not standard!  While we do take pride in the training and support we provide, we know ultimately the decision to keep going lies with you.  It is through trauma that the children placed in your home have come to live with you.  Children need a place to heal.  To bear the ugliness of their trauma in a home that will not judge them for it, but lead them through it.  IT – IS – HARD.  But you do it.  Every day you step up to the plate and do it.  Some of you have had a really rough 2017.  Thank you for persevering.

In 2017, our foster parents exchanged the ordinary for the extraordinary.  There are the empty nesters who gave up quietness and freedom to continue raising children.  From newborns to teens this group does it all!  And can we all just give a huge round of applause to our single parents?  You never cease to amaze us.  And our adoptive parents, thank you!  Over a dozen children found permanency through adoption into your homes and many more of you are set to finalize in 2018.  Such a beautiful picture of redemption and love. 

2017 astonished us.  To quote the apostle Paul “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6

Want to be a part of this amazing journey?  Attend an orientation today and find out if 2018 is your year to start the foster care or adoption journey: Orientation Events

Battling Mom Guilt

This morning I woke up in a cold sweat.  It’s the day before Thanksgiving.  I home school my children and I woke up realizing that I’m a horrible mother because I have not taken the time to prepare a lesson on the Pilgrims.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I haven’t taught my kids about the Mayflower; I am a total failure.

This is a small snippet of the ridiculous and absurd thoughts that I have to intentionally flush down the toilet each day.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’m not alone.  Mom guilt is real, and it is vicious.

As a foster parent, you will be more susceptible to these assaults of guilty thoughts.  Did I make the right decision?  Am I capable?  Did I force my family into this?  What am I doing to my children?  These kids would be better somewhere else.  And it goes round and round and round.

It is funny how only the bad and negative thoughts seem to get whispered in our ears.   There is definitely no cheerleader in my subconscious.  Just an angry, bitter spirit who seems to hone in on all my fears and anxieties with some super powered magnifying glass.  What’s up with that?

As Christians, we know what’s up with that.  We just have to remind ourselves.

Ephesians 6:12 tells us

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

We are at war.  We are at war with an enemy we can’t see.  It should be no surprise that he whispers.  But how to silence those whispers?  I don’t want to wake up each day feeling like I’ve failed before I have even started.

Ephesians 6:10-11 tells us

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 

The ability to defeat mom guilt has been provided for us. The Bible tells us to be strong in the Lord.  The Bible tells us to depend on His might.  The Bible doesn’t just tell us to put on armor.  It tells us to put on the armor of God.  Our God is aware of our enemies’ tactics; He has not left us defenseless.

When I wake up in a panic about some area of failure, my temptation is to pull the covers over my head and go back to bed.  Being a mother is such an important role.  Our enemy knows that, so we must not be surprised that we will be frequently assaulted, and often from within our own minds.

Ephesians 4:22-23

lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

Those twinges of mom guilt are important.  They are important reminders that I must lay aside those feelings and fears and instead be renewed in the spirit of my mind.  I must put on the new self, a self that has been created in the likeness of God, created in righteousness and holiness and truth.  A creation like that can recognize a guilty lie.  A creation like that can laugh when mom guilt sails their way in the form of pilgrims and the Mayflower.

So I woke up today freaking out.  But I will not live the day that way.  I will begin my day with joy and in victory.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

To read about the approach of Arizona Faith and Families to foster care and adoption click here.  Or to find out more about becoming a foster parent in Arizona please visit our Licensing page.

The Gift of Adoption

A personal post from 2013:

I just spent the day getting my daughter ready for her junior prom.  Moments like these are bittersweet for moms.  Shopping, nails, shoes, makeup, and hair are all on this mom’s list of favorites.  Watching your daughter combine all those activities and emerge looking less like a teen and more like a young woman, changes the dynamics.

As an adoptive mom it’s even a little harder.  Prom night is just another reminder that the time is slipping faster than I can savor it.  It’s another reminder that graduation and that 18th birthday are just around the corner.  It’s another reminder of all those missed moments that have led to this milestone event.

But it serves as another reminder too.  Seeing my daughter so beautiful and happy is just another bow on the gift of adoption.  We may have missed many moments, but the memories we’ve been a part of can’t compare to the ones we lost.

I wasn’t there the day she was born.  I wasn’t there when she took her first steps or said her first words.  I missed the first day of kindergarten and the chance to teach her to ride a bike.  But I was there today.  Today I helped my daughter get ready for prom.  And it reminds me that the moments missed just can’t compare to the memories made.  And that my friends, is the gift of adoption.

To find out more about adopting from foster care please visit our FAQ page and Contact us today.

Saying Goodbye and other reasons we foster

This is the second entry in a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.

Do you want to know the number one reason people tell us they can’t consider fostering children?  It’s not lack of space, time, money, or ability.  It’s not lack of care, concern, or information.  While those might be valid reasons, the number one reason people tell us they cannot foster is because they don’t believe they could say goodbye.  They believe they do not have the capacity to love, bond, and attach with a child they may not get to keep.

Saying goodbye is tough. What would be worse?  Never saying hello.

I have mothered many children over the past ten years.  Only four claim me on their birth certificate.  I’ve said goodbye to more pieces of my heart than I can count.  And I wouldn’t demand a single piece of it back.  Not one single time did I wish I hadn’t said hello, fallen in love, and bonded with a child I didn’t get to keep.  Not once, not even for a moment.

If saying goodbye isn’t hard, you’re doing something wrong.

We don’t become parents because we want a child to love us.  We become parents because we have love to give.  There is no one more deserving of this love than a child in foster care.

We don’t bond and attach with our children because we need to boost our own confidence.  We bond and attach with our children because they need to understand healthy relationships, experience care, and grow as individuals.  There is no one more deserving of strong bonds and attachment than a child in foster care.

We become so paralyzed with the end of the story, we don’t realize all the amazing chapters in between.  There are many reasons not to become a foster parent.  I promise you, saying goodbye is not one of them.  The difficulty of goodbyes means you have experienced a phenomenal journey that takes place after saying hello.

This is not a break up, this is a gift.

Love and attachment will cost you.  It will cost your pieces of your heart.  But does not our God promise to meet all our needs in Christ Jesus our Lord?  Does He who has called us to care for such as these leave us empty when we obey this command?  Absolutely not!  He is faithful.  And He will refill the Christian who dares to travel the beautifully broken journey of goodbye.

Luke 9:47-48

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side,  and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

Next part

Click here to view the next part of this series which will explore the topic of home inspections.

This blog entry is part of a 6-part series on foster parenting.  To view a list of all the videos and blogs available in this series, please click here.