Support Group

Support group is open to prospective, current, and former foster and adoptive parents of Arizona Faith and Families. We meet every other month at different host churches around the valley. Join us for a fun night with fellow foster and adoptive parents as we eat, vent, and look to God’s word for strength and encouragement. Dinner and child care are provided.

Email with any questions.

May topic: Staying renewed during difficult days.

May 14th at 6:30 Pm @ Illuminate Community Church

Sign up:

Info Session 05.23.2021 6:00pm

With 14,000 children in the Arizona Foster Care system, foster parents are needed now more than ever. Whether this is the first time you are hearing about the need, or you have been praying about it for years, join us for a biblical look at the call to foster and practical ways you can get involved in this ministry today.

Hi there,

You are invited to a Zoom meeting.
When: May 23, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona

Register in advance for this meeting:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Matthew 9:35-38″Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

But how will fostering affect my kids?

A narrative written by Lydia Goshow, a graduating senior from Glendale, Arizona, who shares her perspective on her family’s role as foster parents.

Interested in knowing more about becoming a foster parent? Visit the orientation page to see the first steps.

In Webster’s dictionary, it defines the word foster as two things, 1. to promote the growth or development of… ENCOURAGE and 2. to give parental care to…NURTURE. It is a verb, which means it is an action. This is exactly what being a foster parent is, an action you do where you encourage and nurture a child. And just like encourage and nurture, the concept of fostering is pretty easy to grasp, but to live out those actions, to make them a way of everyday life can be incredibly difficult.

My parents have been foster parents for twenty years. They did Foster Care when my two bio siblings were both young. They fostered multiple children over those years, they decided to stop a few years before I came along. Flash forward a decade or so,  my parents were getting licensed once again; but this time I was able to experience the joy and heartache that comes with Foster Care. 

After plenty of training hours, house inspections and paperwork, they were officially licensed foster parents again! As a family, we needed to decide what age group to foster, which age group that we could pour our love into, and nurture, and encourage;  we decided fostering infants would be the perfect fit for us. We never had the intent to adopt any of the children; but instead, be their home and family until their forever-family was found.  Even if you decide that you are not going to adopt, it becomes so hard not to want to  once you spend time with the children. Whether you foster a child for a year, a month, or a day you never forget them.

Getting the call is always a combination of excitement and pain. Excitement because you’re going to go pick up a brand new little human who is just yearning for love and stability, that you can provide them! Then pain because you know that that baby or child has already had to face so much suffering in their little life and it’s hard to be confronted with that reality.  Our first placement was a very tiny two-week-old baby girl named Rosie.* We picked her up from the placement office.When we walked in, the worker pulled my mom aside and explained to her that Evelyn’s nine-year-old sister had been taking care of  Rosie and her other younger siblings by herself for quite some time. My mom was asked to talk to that little nine-year old girl and tell her that we were going to take care of her baby sister, and we thanked her for letting us do that. All of the children in that office were in the same boat, needing a place that they can feel safe and loved. My mom and I couldn’t even get out of the building before we started sobbing. 

We took Rosie home and gave her as much love as we possibly could. A week later, while at our friend’s house, we got the other call, the call that you think you’re prepared for, but once it comes, you learn that as hard as you try, you can never  be emotionally and mentally prepared for this call. Rosie was leaving us in less than two hours. This was my first time ever going through this. It’s amazing how many new emotions you  experience when it’s time for what feels like your own baby to leave. Rosie ended up getting placed in a home that was able to take her and her other siblings as well. I was sad, but I knew that Rosie’s sister was going to be able to see her again and take care of her once more. We mourned, prayed and rejoiced for Rosie and then were put back on the list for another baby.

We got our next placement, Jenna,* at a few weeks old! We had her for a few months while her grandparents in a different city were getting approved to keep her.  Even though I knew it was coming, that second call came and that same wave of emotions fell over me. We mourned, prayed and rejoiced for Jenna and were put back on the list.

 Our next baby felt different from the previous babies, we connected to her almost immediately and still think of  her often. Marilyn,* she came to us at three-months-old. She was one of the most fun babies we have ever had. We loved her very, very much. She was a tough case. Her case plan consisted of a lot of ups and downs. We had her for over a year, which doesn’t seem like long, but in the fostering world, it is. We got that second call once again. I will never forget the day we got it. I was sitting at my dining room table, Marilyn was napping, and my mom was in the other room still in earshot. I heard her phone ring, she answered, and I just knew. I immediately started crying, and then my mom started crying while she was still on the phone. They said that they were coming to get her in the next day or so. My mom was shell shocked and asked if they could give us a few weeks to let our family and friends say goodbye, because the reality was that Marilyn was a part of our family. They let us have those few weeks, which was sweet. We loved on her as much as possible in those weeks.  Unfortunately, the day we had to say goodbye was a day I was at my summer camp, hours away. I didn’t get to say goodbye for that last, last time. I didn’t get to drive with her, I didn’t get that last snuggle or giggle. We said goodbye, mourned, prayed and rejoiced for Marilyn. As I said earlier, you have that wave of emotions that you didn’t know you had. I felt that wave, but this time it felt like a tsunami. 

After that heartache, we decided to take a little break and refresh. I feel like it is very important to give yourself time to reflect and refresh otherwise, you could be depriving the next child of your full love and it  isn’t fair to deprive that child of one more thing. 

After a few months of living life, we were itching to pour out our love and have a baby around. We went on the list and didn’t get any calls for a while, until one night while I was at a party my parents got the call to pick up our first baby boy, who hadn’t even been named yet! My parents did not tell me prior to picking me up, that we had gotten a new baby. He was so little that I just assumed the car seat was empty until I took a second look and saw the smallest, wrinkliest baby ever! I was so surprised, my emotions overcame me, I started crying, I was so happy! When we got home that night we knew we had to give him a name; this was such a cool experience. After a lot of googling definitions, asking friends for suggestions and debating, we settled on my choice, Isaiah. 

Isaiah’s story is my favorite one to tell because it’s a joyful one. We have family friends, the Linds,  who have three biological girls, they were more than ready for a boy! They were in the process of becoming foster parents when we got Isaiah. They watched him countless times for us and they fell in love with him. We had Isaiah for six months then we joyfully transitioned him to his forever family, our family friends, the Linds. After months and months of waiting on severance and all the paperwork, they were finally able to adopt him! I am so thankful to the Lind family for adopting him and letting us stay in his life. We get to see this little boy grow up and still give him all our love. He has a wonderful family that will always love him along with so many other people in his life that love him and were there  in court for his adoption, cheering him on. If you ever have to go to court I hope it is to experience an adoption, they are one of the most beautiful things you could ever encounter. We continue to pray and rejoice for Isaiah.

After Isaiah, we made the decision to not continue doing foster care, that decision changed quickly when my mom bought a stroller because it was “on-sale” and my dad and I practically begged my mom to put us back on the list. A few weeks later, we got  a call! We had what seemed like a rapid-fire of placements, each of them only lasted about two weeks each! We had Maggie, Isabella, and Joel.* One story that I think that really captures what getting the call is like is when I was at a Bible study, sharing my prayer request, I had asked for prayer because we were back on the list and that we could have a new baby by the time my parents came to get me. During the prayer I got a text from my mom, after the prayer I read it and it said that we had just gotten the call for Serenity! I shared that with my group, we all laughed and were flabbergasted at the timing of it all. 

After those few quick placements, we got yet another little girl. Her name was Charlotte and she was a teensy little baby. We had her for about 6 months, got that second call and she went to her dad and grandma. We mourned, prayed and rejoiced for Charlotte. We didn’t go back on the list, because like last time we swore Charlotte was our last placement. 

A few months passed, my mom had caught up on her sleep and my dad and I begged a little more. So we did one more, and this one was truly our last one. We went back on the list and got a call: a baby girl named Taylor.* We very quickly nicknamed her Tay. Little did I know that this little girl was going to be my little girl. Tay was the goofiest little baby but one of the best. Tay’s case plan ended up going to reunification which means she was going back to her mom. And reunification was something I had not gone through before. This process brought on yet another set of emotions that I hadn’t experienced. Tay’s mom did all the correct steps to get her back. Luckily, we were able to help her mom out during that time and encourage her. We still get to see Tay every once and awhile, but the goodbyes are always hard. She truly felt like my baby, if I could’ve, I would have adopted her as my own faster than you can say, “ you’re not legally old enough yet”. I love her so much and know that she is a permanent part of me. I know that being with her mom and sisters will benefit her but I cannot help being selfish and wanting to have her with me, so I can protect her.  Reunification requires a lot of trust, not only trust for the mom to make the right decisions and keep making them but trust in God. My parents and I continue to mourn, pray and rejoice for Tay. 

Contrary to popular belief, Tay was our last placement. I know that my personal Foster Care journey is not over. I hope to have a family of my own one day that I can continue fostering and maybe in my journey, I will adopt! My mom couldn’t stay away from Foster Care long, after 29 years out of the workforce my mother got a job as a licensing worker  for a Foster Care agency. My family and I are Foster Care advocates and will always be. I did not tell you these stories and share my experiences to prove myself or with selfish intent, I wanted to share these things so that I can tell you about foster care and how incredibly important it is. 

Every time I mention foster care and having foster siblings I always hear the thing, “How do you guys do it? I bet it is so hard, I could never do it!”. Yes, it is hard. We do it for the children. We do it for God’s glory. We do it because there are roughly 13,400 children in the foster care system in my state alone. We do it because there are approximately 443,000 children in the foster system any given day in America. I do it because the babies that come into the system have already gone through more than I have in my entire life. In reality, I can’t do it, at least not by myself.  I can only do it because I have the comfort in knowing that my savior Jesus Christ did the same thing for me. He actually went a step further and DIED for me, to save me. He adopted and called me his child, he did that for me, a sinner, someone who is lowly. He didn’t have to do that for me, but he did. I can do it because I have the comfort of knowing that God created that child and has a plan for their life. I can do it because I have faith in God and his sovereign will. That child is in God’s hands, and whose hands could be better?  I can do it because I have the love of God in my heart that needs to be poured into these children, to care for them and give them the ability to connect. I want you to know that I do this not for me, but for them. Being a foster parent is not about being selfish, it’s about being selfless. The Bible calls us to love one another and our neighbors as ourselves, it also calls us to care for the widows and the orphans. I know, truly, that being a foster parent is not for everyone. I believe that God blesses us in many different ways with many different gifts and abilities. If being a foster parent is frankly not for you, do not do it but instead, support your family and friends who are. Being a foster parent is hard, but it is so worth it.

Find out about becoming a foster parent by visiting the Faith and Families orientation page today!

*Names have been changed

Tips for Virtual Visitation

In light of the recent pandemic, the Department of Child Safety has enacted Social Distancing Protocol – Level 2 which means all court hearings, TDMS, parenting time, and home visitation from case managers and licensing staff will be temporarily conducted virtually. To get the latest news regarding Covid-19 and the Department of Child Safety please visit the State’s information and resources.

We understand the level of stress and uncertainty this can cause for all parties involved and as an agency want you to know we are here to support you. Everyone will be new to this virtual visitation thing. We appreciate your grace and patience as details and technology are navigated.

We also understand that virtual visits aren’t the most engaging for children and their families. One goal of visitation is to promote bonding and another is to assure safety for children and their biological families. Here are some helpful tips for virtual visits written by our staff member and former foster mom Amy Goshow. We hope these tips will help your foster children and their parents have successful visitations while they are unable to be in the same physical space.

Remember, change is hard and scary. Some children may feel awkward, sad or frightened having to visit their family virtually. 

~ have a quiet place away from the other children

~ let the child have their favorite toy/ stuffed (or real) animal to show their parent

~ have the child read their favorite book to their parent

~ discuss beforehand some topics the child can bring up, or a couple jokes or riddles

~ younger children can play with playdough or color while visiting 

~If you have a performer let them play their instrument, or sing 

~ Let this time be as stress-free as possible for all involved. A great way to model that is through your patience and kindness

Remember that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Psalm 46:1

Praying for you and the children in your care.

Coronavirus and Foster Care

DCS is continually updating information regarding their response to the pandemic as information evolves. Please see the link below for the latest news and procedures from the Arizona Department of Child Safety:

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources

Caregivers are needed now more than ever. Did you know that teachers are generally among the top reporters of suspected abuse and neglect of children? As children re-enter the classroom, the state is preparing for a surge in the foster care population. Many children who are currently in abusive situations have been hidden away from the public eye, unable to physically access the school professionals who would generally identify their need for help.

With over 14,000 children in care, and fewer than 4,000 foster homes, Arizona’s children need your help today. For information on becoming a foster parent in Arizona, please visit our orientation page to learn about the process and get started today. Or share this information on your social media pages to spread awareness about the need of safe and loving homes for children in foster care.

Mandated Reporting, Why it Matters

All foster parents are mandated reporters.  What this means is that if we see or suspect abuse, we are required to report it.  Most of the time this feels awkward and uncomfortable.  It can be strange to call the hotline about suspected abuse, especially when you aren’t familiar with the family or the situation.  Sometimes we have to call because a child mentions something in passing, sometimes we have to call because we see a strange mark or a strange behavior that could indicate abuse.  Because it is never the job of the foster parent to investigate the comment, the mark, or the behavior, we often times are calling with very limited information and trusting the process to do its job.

This is so important. 

Recently one of our licensed foster parents were placed with a pair of sisters.  Their brother was placed into a separate foster home due to his special needs.  A few days into the placement, and following a visit, the girls came home sobbing and reported that their brother shared he was being abused in his foster home.  The foster mother was dubious of these claims.  For one, their brother is four years old.  For another, he is largely non-verbal.  She struggled to believe he could communicate in this manner and feared the girls were making false accusations in hopes of having their brother placed elsewhere. 

However, as a mandated reporter, she called the hotline to report the accusation and filed an incident report with the children’s case manager and the agency. 

An investigation was conducted and the child was ultimately removed from the home and placed in a safer setting.  The accusations were not false and indeed were found to be a legitimate concern.  It would have been so easy to dismiss the children.  To not listen to, or justify their complaint.  But as mandated reporters it is always important to report any and all suspected abuse.  Children need to know that they can trust the process.  That if they feel unsafe, or fear for someone’s safety, that there is a place to voice those concerns.  Many times we are that voice.  And we need to make sure we use that voice to share any and all information.  And please know, it really does make a difference. 

See or suspect abuse?  Please report it to the hotline at 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445)

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. 

Left Behind: Teens in Foster Care

When people hear the word “teen” and “foster care” in the same sentence, they tend to tense up. All too often they picture a pierced and tatted teenager full of angst and bad choices.  But what if I challenged that view? What if I told you all too often they look nothing like that at all? What if it’s a doting sixteen-year-old girl who just wants to be near her three-year-old brother that she has helped raise since birth. What if it’s a 12-year-old boy who loves soccer and his 13-year-old brother who loves the outdoors. What if it was just normal teenage kids whose parents were the ones who made the bad choices, not them.

Teens do not enter care because they are “bad kids”; they enter care for the same reason all other children do, because of abuse or neglect. Teens, like all children are longing for safety, a loving home and the ability to be near their siblings. In the state of Arizona alone teens make up over 60% of the children in group homes.

A few weeks ago, during our “Night of Hope” event Arizona Faith and Families heard from Amber Smith, a woman who is changing the way siblings and teens are viewed in foster care. Amber runs a co-ed group home in Gilbert, Arizona. She provides a place for brothers and sisters to remain together under the same roof. Something that is almost unheard of in the state of Arizona. All too often homes are willing to take in just females or just males. They are willing to take in just teens or just littles. But Amber challenges how things are “normally” run and instead says give me the largest sibling group you have and I’ll provide the home they need. Currently she is housing a sibling group of 5 under her roof. Five brothers and sisters ranging from ages 6-17. I asked Amber why she decided to do this and she responded by saying “children deserve to be with their siblings no matter their age or gender”. She went on to share how special it is to see all five siblings sitting at a dinner table together praying and eating with one another. She believes it helps reduce some of the trauma that they have encountered by entering care when they can remain with their family.

Amber shared that a typical sibling group is around 3 children and comprised of mixed genders. She shared that they can range in age from 5-17 or 6-13. When asked what the greatest barrier from getting teens into foster homes she said it was peoples fear of teens and teens fear of people. She shared that she has found the teens in care constantly fear being judged. They fear that people are talking about them and thinking of them as “the bad kids”. They fear that people won’t want to take them in and will not accept them for who they are. The sad reality is that this is all too true. So many times, people are fearful of the teens, thinking they are scary or bad.  Foster parents are also hesitant to take in a teen who may have trouble bonding or is careful to express love and gratitude.

So what do we do? How do we challenge and change this view of thinking? I asked Amber what are teens looking for in a family? And she shared the following…

Teens are looking for someone who cares about their interests. In their deep heart of hearts, they want a mom and dad. They want the mother who braids their hair and the father who attends their soccer games. They want to be loved and accepted rather than judged and feared. Teens want what every other child in foster care wants: to be loved and to be safe. These children; who at the end of the day are still children, just want a safe family to come home to at night and that’s what they deserve no matter their age.

So I challenge you today to rethink the way you see teens in care. Rethink the way you see family or your home. If you have an open heart and a home with enough space, maybe God is calling you to care for these sibling groups. IF you really want to help foster children in Arizona, consider meeting the largest need we have: Teens and siblings.

Interested in finding out more about becoming a foster parent?  Visit our orientation page and get started today!

 Don’t miss our next Night of Hope, visit our events page for more details and be sure to “like” us on facebook to stay up to date on future events and blogs. 


Separating Siblings

Today I received six different emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups.  Today I had to reply that I did not have any foster families available who could take in these siblings.  May I share this with you?

6 year old boy, 1 year old girl

3 year old boy, 1 year old boy, 2 year old boy

7 month old girl, 2 year old girl, 4 year old girl, 7 year old boy

Newborn girl, 3 year old boy, 1 year old boy

8 year old boy, 12 year old girl

8 year old girl, 9 year old boy, 11 year old girl, 13 year old girl

This was just yesterday.  Every day our office receives dozens of emails requesting foster homes for sibling groups, a surprisingly difficult population to place.

This is because sibling groups range in age and size.  While a new foster family might feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5 year old, not too many feel equipped and prepared to parent a 5, 7, and 10 year old.  And that’s ok, because it is no easy task!

But what happens when foster homes aren’t available for these sibling groups?  They are forced to be separated; often times into multiple homes or into group home settings.   Today they will not only experience the loss of their home and parents, but will also be torn from their siblings.

This is a tragedy.  Praise God we no longer have children sleeping in DCS offices (remember 20015??).  But the work is not done.  Arizona has nearly 200% more homes than it needs for children ages 0-2 but falls far short of what we need for children over age 7 and especially for children who are a part of a sibling group.  You can view the statistics on the DCS website.

Arizona needs foster parents.  Foster parents who are willing to step out in faith, possibly have a very hard 12 – 18 months of parenting multiple children with multiple traumas, and stick around long enough to inspire others.  This is hard.  It requires people with real grit.  It takes people who are teachable and who are willing to be flexible.  Foster parents who have space, the time, and the ability to transport multiple children.  Foster parents who have a strong support system for when things get tough (or are willing to build one).  Foster parents who understand our calling as Christians to care for the orphan and who are willing to follow this command despite how uncomfortable it may be.

This is a good work.  I would argue some of the best work that can be done.  But it is hard work.  Are you willing to work alongside us?  We’ve been there, done that and we want to give you the tools to do it too.  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. 

Back To School Basics for Foster Parents

Going back to school is always a refreshing switch from the summer schedule.  Routines are great for children, and though it may cause anxiety for some students, it is always nice to get into a good schedule.  Here are 5 quick tips for getting back into your school groove:

  1. Family meetings. Life can get busy and hectic, so plan family meetings or one-on-ones to re-connect.  Maybe this is done over an after-school snack, or maybe it’s a weekly check in during Saturday breakfast.  Either way, find time to slow down and connect with the kids in your care.  A lot can happen during an eight hour school day!
  2. Get free meals.  Sign your foster children up for free breakfast and lunch.  While you might have great aspirations to pack healthy meals, it is still a great back-up to have on hand.  All foster children automatically qualify for the free breakfast and lunch program so be sure to take advantage of this support.
  3. Order groceries online. Time seems to fly out the window during the school year and you can save time and money by ordering your groceries online and picking them up or having them delivered!  Walmart offers this service FREE of charge and other stores such as Frys and Sprouts charge a nominal fee.  Pair this with a weekly meal plan and you will save yourself time, money, and energy!
  4. Prepare for battle. Homework can be your worst nightmare during school season.  If you have a child with a full visit schedule, counseling, and other appointments, school work becomes nearly impossible to get done.  Add in a learning disability or behavior challenges and you have a nice recipe for a migraine.  Work with your child’s teacher if needed.  Oftentimes homework demands need to be modified.  If you find that your child’s day involves school, an appointment, homework, and sleep…there needs to be some adjustment to include play!  Don’t be afraid to work with your child’s teacher if homework becomes too much or is difficult to fit into their schedule.  You are their best advocate.
  5. Get talking. Inevitably someone this school year is going to ask your foster child about their parents or their family.  It might be a teacher, some friends, or that nosy stranger, but the conversation is bound to happen.  Role play with your child to help them learn what they would like to say when the uncomfortable questions get asked.  Practicing these conversations helps children identify what they are comfortable sharing and gives them great tools to protect their own privacy. Remember your foster child’s right to confidentiality and work to protect their privacy.

Praying for all our families as they get back into the school groove!  Please feel free to share your own special tips, we’d love to hear them.