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How You Can Help Support Foster and Adoptive Families

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
November 8, 2021 5:00 am

How You Can Help Support Foster and Adoptive Families

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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November 8, 2021 5:00 am

Jenn and Josh Hook, joined by Mike Berry, offer advice to help foster and adoptive families find training and support. And, they describe how anyone can help care for hurting kids.

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Christmas memories of baking and sharing stories with your family. That's depicted in the giclee from Focus on the Family titled Family Traditions. This story and paint by artist Morgan Weisling, a portrait of a lively family kitchen scene, will find a special place in your home and heart. Find out how to get a signed version of this special edition print at slash family traditions.

That's slash family traditions. There's something so powerful to be in a group of people who get it, who can say, I see you, I love you, you're not a bad parent, and we're going to come alongside you and walk with you through this difficult and challenging situation. We've got you.

We're with you. Dr. Josh Hook is our guest today on Focus on the Family, along with his wife, Jen, and co-author, Mike Berry. And together, we'll be discussing the joys and challenges of foster care and adoption and how anyone, including you, can help care for hurting children.

Thanks for joining us today. I'm John Fuller and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly. John, November is National Adoption Month in the United States and Adoption Awareness Month in Canada. It's an opportunity for us to highlight a great need. And in the United States, there are more than 400,000 children in foster care and over 100,000 that are waiting to be adopted. Scripture teaches again and again that each of us is called to care for the vulnerable. The question is, how can we do that?

And we're going to explore that today. Maybe God has placed it on your heart to adopt and provide a permanent home for a hurting child, but it also could be helping a family in your church who's already answered that call and needs help. That is dramatic. Jean and I, we did foster care and it was so good when we had one or two couples that could come alongside us to help us.

If you're thinking, that might be me, to any of those scenarios, stay tuned to today's broadcast. Right. Focus on the Family can help if you'd like to make a difference in a child's life. We have a lot of great resources. I'll point out Wait No More, which is our foster care and adoption program, and we can connect you with that team and those resources when you call 800, the letter A in the word family, or click the link in the episode notes. And our guests are Jen and Josh Hook, along with Mike Berry. Jen is the founder of Replanted, that's a ministry that serves foster and adoptive families through support groups and conferences.

And Josh is a professor of psychology at the University of North Texas. Mike Berry is a return guest, and he and his wife Kristen fostered children for eight years, and they now have eight adopted children and a really popular website called Honestly Adoption. And together, our three guests have written a book called Replanted, faith-based support for adoptive and foster families.

And of course, reach out to us if you'd like to learn more about getting a copy of that. All right, Jen, Josh, and Mike, welcome to Focus. Mike, welcome back.

Thank you, it's good to be back with you. Jen and Josh, let me aim this one at you. You've worked with both foster parents and their children.

Mike, you've lived this. I think you and your wife fostered 22 children. Describe why foster care and adoption can be such a meaningful experience, and I can attest to it. You learn so much in that role. It can be challenging. Jean and I both said we wish we would have had the training for our own children, our bio kids that we received through fostering. So who wants to take a crack at that?

Yeah, I can take a crack at it. You know, I think when you have an opportunity to step into a child's story and walk alongside them in their experience and the healing, that's just a really beautiful opportunity. A lot of our kiddos have experienced really hard things. They've experienced trauma, separation from their birth families, especially foster care.

You're living a life of in limbo. That can be really hard for our kids and our parents. And so it's a great opportunity as a church, as support systems, as parents to be able to come alongside and say we see you, we love you, and we're going to walk this journey with you.

Let me ask you this too, Jen, and you can kick it off and Josh and Mike jump in. But one of the things that you see as you're fostering is the trauma that these children suffer. And you know, sometimes if we're living in kind of normal suburbia, you don't understand what's really going on. I remember one of the children that we fostered actually a sibling set, and we got the call at 10 at night. The state was looking for some home. They'd already called 10 homes.

We're the last one on the list. They were doing a drug raid that night. They said there may be children involved. We may have to bring you these kids at one, two in the morning.

Are you able to do that? And I was traveling. And Jean said yes. And it worked out exactly like that. One, two in the morning, the kids showed up with the social worker, and they had their hefty bag of clothes. And there they were. And I think we don't understand, you know, what a child expresses in that unfamiliarity.

I mean, what's happening to me? And these kids were two and four at the time. So speak to that trauma effect. Yeah, I mean, every child that has been impacted by foster care adoption has experienced trauma. And that's something that we really need to understand if we're going to support our children well.

I worked as a therapist in the foster care system in Illinois for several years. And, you know, trauma drives our emotions and our behaviors. And so if you have children that are experiencing these hard things, you know, I had kiddos that, you know, were neglected or abused or, you know, their parents were addicted to drugs, and they couldn't understand like, why isn't my parent getting sober to get me back? You know, these are hard things our kids are going through. And they pick that up early. Let me ask you too, Josh, when it comes to attachment issues.

That's very common, because they're being sometimes moved from home to home to home to home, depending upon their situation. And that really plays a role in a child's under development. They don't know how to attach to an adult. How do those behaviors express themselves? When there's attachment issues?

Yes. So attachment involves our primary relationships with our caregivers early on in life. And that provides the template for how we think about relationships moving forward. So ideally, when we're young, our needs are met in a consistent way by our caregivers.

And we have that expectation and relationships going forward. But for kids who might have been abused or neglected or have dealt with other very significant challenges early in life, they might be avoidantly attached, which means they have trouble connecting and they keep people at arm's length. Or they might have an anxious attachment. And this sometimes happens when parents are inconsistently meeting their child's needs. And so, in that case, kids might be clingy, they might be, you know, over trying or over active in their in trying to get their needs met. Right now, that's, that's really well said, Mike, let me bring in, Jean and I can relate to the experience of foster care, you've had 22 kids, we had probably 15.

In that context, working with the state, I mean, these are people that are very committed. I remember when I was a foster child at nine years old. I mean, the person I clung to was a foster agent, you know, a social worker, who was probably like 24. But she was such a breath of fresh air.

I was like, Can I just hang out with you all day? And I felt like she was the adult in the room, if you know what I mean. But from both the child's perspective, like I had, and then from a foster parenting perspective, the state relationship can be a little daunting.

In some ways, you have to get your home certified, they're telling you what you need to do. Just speak to that issue and that attitude as you get into fostering what that looks like. Yeah, I think it's important to remember, and we have a big heart for case managers and the people who are working in the social services system. They do have good hearts, generally.

Yeah, generally. And we have had, I would say, out of all the case managers that we worked with, 95% were great. But it's important to remember that these are folks who are massively overworked.

They are. And ridiculously underpaid for the job that they're doing. And I think it's important for caregivers to remember, what we do is we place ourselves a lot in the roles of, at least cognitively, like what they're going through. A case manager has to go in and remove a child from sometimes horrific situations, dangerous situations, and then place them in a home that the child doesn't know, with strangers that they've never met.

And that child has no control over how long they stay there or really anything. And the case manager's on the front lines of this. And so to put ourselves in their shoes and to think through that and imagine what that's like, it gives you a compassion for caseworkers. It gives you an understanding of what they go through. And for us, it's helped us to do that because when we want to respond in frustration, we have to step back.

And we have, let's just be honest, we're human beings, right? Oh, some things are frustrating. It is frustrating, right. There's lots of paperwork. There are a lot of things you've got to go through.

It's a mountain of paperwork. And recently our oldest daughter became a foster parent and she and her family were living in a guest house that was on our property. And we suddenly found ourselves filling out a mountain of paperwork and we're thinking, we're not even foster parents. We're just on the property with you. And yet we have to go through background checks. And we had been out of the system in terms of foster parenting since 2012. So here we are right in the middle of this.

Yeah. And we're thinking, this is not what we signed up for. This is a good place to insert this because, you know, one of the difficulties and one of the reasons we started Wait No More, and I believe the reason that all of us are involved in this space of foster care, foster adoption, respite care, is our faith. I mean, this is a compelling reason for Christians to engage. One of the saddest things I had a state worker say to me was, we just need more loving Christian families to be involved.

She meant it sweetly. I took it as an indictment that with 80 million Christians in the country, we can't take care of 400,000 kids. I mean, it is, there's about 400,000 churches in the country. That'd be like one kid per church. Right.

But it's frustrating. I think if we all did something, the problem would be not solved. It isn't a problem to be solved, but these kids would feel loved and they would hopefully have loving good homes where the fruit of the spirit is active, not impatience, but patience, not, you know, harsh discipline, but loving, kind, nurturing. So you speak to that, just that if you taste it like I taste it, if the church were really active, what a dent we could make in this problem. Yeah.

Yeah. You know, I think that unfortunately for a lot of churches in the United States, they're very program driven. They're very, I would say cue sheet driven. And oftentimes through lack of understanding of what the foster care system entails and what families who foster go through, I think that it's kind of, it's pushed to the side just because it doesn't fit a program necessarily. And I think if we can shift our perspective to this is more than a program, this is a calling, not just necessarily to be a parent, to be an active foster parent, but to participate in some way. I think what's valuable about a book like replanted and what Josh and Jen do in the book is that they're Josh and Jen do through the replanted ministry. What we do through the honestly adoption company is that we are equipping people to not just become an active foster parent. We are equipping them to do something. If you want to put it like that, to participate, to get involved, there's more than just active fostering. I think that's what freaks people out. Like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, you want me to do what with who?

You know, it's like, I can't, I don't have the ability to do that. Mike, to your point, I would say there are great success stories as well. I know a church here, New Life Church, Brady Boyd, the pastor, when he and I had lunch and I mentioned at the beginning of Wait No More, he said, I'm in, what can I do? And that church adopted over 100 children out of foster care and then additional families that did wraparound care.

And that's a great success story. It's a big church, you know, there's 12,000 people in that church and I get that. But man, they stepped up. And again, if there can be a handful of churches in every medium, large, small town that can step up and do that, we can achieve it.

Yeah. And that's a witness to the world for the gospel. Ultimately, they're watching to see how do we care about these kids? And we step up. So I hope you're being encouraged along the way here as we're talking to our guest today on Focus on the Family.

We've got Dr. Josh Hook, his wife, Jen Hook, and then Mike Berry. We're obviously talking about hard things, but there are so many resources and you're not alone in this journey. And if the Lord is nudging you to maybe explore a bit more, reach out to us, get a copy of the book that we've mentioned, Replanted, faith-based support for adoptive and foster families. Check out more about what Focus on the Family is doing.

We're a phone call away, 800-AFAMILY, or click the link in the episode notes. Jen, describe the replanted model and the three types of support foster and adoptive families need. Yeah. So I think this is a really great opportunity for the church because if they can come alongside our families with support, this really sets our families up for success. We know that about 50% of foster parents quit after the first year.

50%. And so if we can come and we know that the number one predictor of a family thriving is support. There's been tons of research on this. And so what we really need to key in on is how do we support our families well and the kiddos well. And so we know that there's three areas that are really important for families to be set up for success. One is emotional support.

So being surrounded with people that understand your story. And this is just as important for the kids. So when we talk about emotional support, yes, it's great for parents to come in and be able to share their experience. But think about a child who's never met their birth family before, or they're wrestling with why their parents didn't get sober to get them back, or the experiences of having their siblings and them be separated in foster care. This is really important stuff for kiddos to come and be in relationship with others who get it.

The second area is tangible support. So that's like practical resources. Adoption costs can be really expensive.

You get a phone call, right? And that one in the morning, all of a sudden you've got three kids that have been impacted by foster care and you don't have beds or cribs or whatever they need for the age group, right? So meeting tangible needs for families is really important. And then the other area that's really crucial is informational support. And so that's understanding trauma and its impact on our kiddos and attachment.

And it's understanding and giving parenting resources so that we're helping our kids and not hurting them further. And so we have this model of replanted in the sunlight, right? You can't just have a plant only getting sun.

If they don't have good soil or water, that plant's not going to thrive. And so those three areas of support, the emotional, informational, intangible, all three are very important. Yeah, that is so good. And then you had a story in the book about Joseph and Sally who did feel alone when they, you know, had a five-year-old foster son with them. That's a good story to illustrate your point.

What happened with them? Yeah, so this little boy had been severely abused. A lot of times when children have experienced trauma, there is this anxiety response that they feel. And so when they know they're going to experience abuse, there's almost this, after abuse has been experienced, this decline in anxiety that they feel because they know that they're not going to be hurt again.

And then as the days go on and they're waiting for it to happen again, the anxiety gets higher and higher. And so this little boy was struggling and got to a point where he was asking his foster parents to hurt him. And so his behaviors were out of control.

Obviously, he had a lot of emotions, a lot of behaviors that were happening. And so, and his parents felt so overwhelmed and alone. And I think for a lot of parents that haven't adopted or fostered, you think of typical parenting strategies on how to respond. They're not always helpful, right?

Because they can be more, you know, consequence or punitive focused. And so these parents felt really alone, like no one was understanding their journey. They felt like they were in the trenches with their son who is just really struggling in his healing process and to know that he was safe and loved and cared for. And honestly, I think that's where I would love the church to say, like, we see you, all the families that are fostering and adopting, we love you so much, and we love your kids so much that we're all going to get trauma informed so that we can wrap around you, our children's programs, our Sunday school programs, we can all wrap around you and love your kids well as they're experiencing healing, as they're waiting in limbo to see if they're reunifying with their families, you know, whatever it might be.

And I think if the church takes that posture and support systems take that posture, our families are going to feel a lot less alone. They're going to feel really loved and cared for. And, you know, the bottom line there is, and thankfully we've experienced this, the two children, two of the children that were with us, a sibling set, they're doing so well. We just had them at the house. They live out of state.

We brought them to our home for a little vacation and the dad is doing much better and the kids are doing wonderfully. So that's the reward that you feel. It doesn't always turn out like that.

I know that. But if you risk taking the step to move in this direction and to help, I mean, it's what the Lord calls us to, right? Bringing God's Shalom, his peace to a world of chaos. And I've said this often, John, there is no greater chaos than in foster. I mean, the parents are in trouble. Often there's drug or alcohol abuse.

They they've had their own child trauma typically. So, I mean, it's just this repetitive thing going on. And they're trying to experience their healing and trying to get their kids back and to be able to bring God's peace into that. That's what we're called to do everybody. And it's challenging. It's not easy. The Lord didn't say, you know, it's going to be simple, but man, is it rewarding to have those kids that are home now and they're doing well in school and dad's doing well and it's all moving in a really good way. That makes you feel pretty good. Absolutely.

Jen, let me ask you this too. You know, again, if you look at the funnel, I referred to it as a funnel at the big end of the funnel, the wide mouth, that's where a family can do respite care, where maybe they provide a weekend for that foster family to, to just, you know, be together and do the things that they need to do to reconnect that way without, you know, the demands of the foster child that's been with them. And that's a good thing. And then there's also in that wide end of the funnel, the ability to do laundry for that family or to go shopping for that family or run some errands for that family. That's really helpful because that becomes overwhelming, right?

Those are, boy, those are easy things that we should be able to participate in. Then it becomes a little more commitment to be respite, even deeper respite care, be regular on those things. And then finally, where you're making that commitment to foster.

And then the most commitment obviously is the adoption of a child. Do you kind of see it in that funnel context as well? Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, part of why we wrote the book is it's for anyone, whether you're wanting to foster or adopt or whether you want to support a family, I think everyone can play a role in their role.

And so where can you fit on that funnel, right? And I think it's important that if you're thinking about it, really critically assess what do you have capacity and bandwidth for and what are your capabilities? Because I think what's the most hurtful for our families and especially our kids having people in and out of their lives is when we say, yes, I'm in, I'm going to support you. And then six months later you vanish because it's too much. And so we always say, start small, start with something manageable, critically evaluate what can you commit to every month? If it's a meal once a month, start there. If it's stepping up to respite once a month, what is your commitment?

You know, and be consistent because it's about relationship. We know that if our kids develop a trusting relationship with somebody outside of their family, it drastically changes the trajectory of their lives. This is not just babysitting. This isn't just about providing a meal. It's about investing in the lives of our kiddos and our families. And so we have a really important role to play in their trajectory healing process. And so it's important to critically evaluate that. Let me add to that. I mean, there's no formula in the approach.

I mean, willingness is the key. But one of the things I noticed because we started fostering when our boys were nine and 11. And I think at a younger age that had more complications to it because the kids that were coming into our home were about the same age. And it created a lot of conflict. And then as they were older, like 14 and 16, and we were still getting seven, eight, nine year olds, that was far better. I mean, they jumped in, they became big brothers to these kids.

They played. I mean, it's beautiful to see. But families need to consider that as well. And I don't know if you've seen that that was our experience. But I don't know if that's typical of your own children engaging with these foster kids and what advice you might have. Yeah.

So we unpack a lot of this in the book as well. It is so important that you're honest with your children in age appropriate ways about what you're engaging in. If you're stepping into foster care, talking about that, having them be part of those conversations, clearly outlining foster care, you know, foster care's typical goal is reunification and talking to your kids honestly about living in limbo together as a family about what that might look like is really, really important. You know, our kids are feeling it as well. And so we can't just act like this is just our decision and they live it out with us, right? They need to be a part of that process and fully engaged because this is part of their experience as well. You know, when we're looking at ages of kids, we ask families to really critically evaluate what their family is capable of. You know, there used to be an understanding that you didn't want to disrupt the birth order. And for some families, that's true. But for some families, that's okay. And so it's really important to kind of assess like, for the kids who are already in your home, you know, what is their emotional health look like?

What are they capable of as well? And kind of evaluating what your family can step into and say yes to. Yeah. Let's end with encouragement. What would you say to encourage Christians to consider jumping in? I mean, this is the last shot.

I hope people do. At least commit to pray about it and see if the Lord is nudging you. Sometimes in marriage, it'll work this way.

The wife has an inclination and the husband does not. So, you know, it's important you're on the same page, right? And so at least committing to pray is a good way to start this process.

What would you add to that? The encouragement that I would give is, it's a reminder that you have more ability. You have more strength in you than you think you do.

That's what I learned. And I also learned that your heart, this is never a question of love. We have the love in our hearts. Our hearts are a deep ocean with the ability to love, ability to open up, right? It's a question of, are you willing to take this step?

Are you willing to step into this and become a change agent, become a difference maker in the life of a child? You know, I really think it starts with grace. Having grace for yourself, grace for the kids' experience, and then also grace for the birth families. This isn't, this is a triad relationship that you're going to step into. And it's really important that you have a support system around you. And that's partly why we wrote the book. We wanted to set families up for success. And so that's why we unpack trauma and attachment. And we talk about discerning with wisdom, what is right for your family, but how to support our families well, and what sort of support you need is really important to evaluate. Because good intentions aren't enough, you know? And the last thing that we ever want is for a family to jump in with eagerness and realize a couple months in that this is so hard.

You know, because it really hurts our kiddos. And so it's really important that if you're thinking about this journey, you need to wrap around and find support. You know, with Replanted, we help churches and organizations launch support groups.

We host a national conference. There's so many opportunities to get the support you need and for the church to say, yes, I see you, I love you, and we're going to do this with you and wrap around you. I think it's a really beautiful opportunity. So yeah, I think at the foundation of that is just having this heart of grace and love for yourself and for everyone.

No, those are all good things. This has been actually a great conversation. I hope the listeners will consider what they can do. It's demanding, but it's rewarding. And I think that is hopefully what you've heard today.

We emphasize the importance of supporting families after they've made that decision to do foster or adopt. And we have a program here, Wait No More. I'm sure John will put everything, all the links and all the information that we've talked about with Josh and Jen and Mike today. And you'll have no excuse. At least you'll be informed. And then you can take it up with the Lord.

There you go. That's good advice, Jim. And so pray and then reach out to us. We do have a great team and they've really pulled together so much of what we've talked about today, including details about Wait No More, which is our program to help families begin the foster care or adoption journey. And it also provides crucial post-adoption training like we discussed today. And if God's not calling you personally to foster care or to adoption, you can still join the support team for Wait No More. Make a gift of any amount today to support that work, and we'll send you a copy of the book by Jen and Josh Hook and Mike Berry. Again, that title is replanted faith-based support for adoptive and foster families. Donate, get the book and find further details about Wait No More when you call 800, the letter A in the word family, 800-232-6459.

Or stop by the episode notes and you'll find all the links right there. And again, let me thank all of you for being with us, Josh, Jen, Mike. It's great to hear from you. Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us. Thanks for having us. Make plans to join us again next time as we hear some great wisdom and encouragement for grandparents.

This is what we can do as grandparents. So we're kind of on the sidelines. We're ready. We're suited up. If you need me, Mom and Dad, I'm here. But when we're caught up, when they blow the whistle or whatever they call us in, we're fresher.

You know, we're not like embedded in the nuts and bolts of the raising the kids. And so we can come with fresh strength. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once more help you and your family thrive in Christ. and remind you of the hope we have in Jesus. You can enjoy that podcast at slash Christmas Stories. That's slash Christmas Stories.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-26 07:22:44 / 2023-07-26 07:34:51 / 12

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