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What You Can Do to Help Kids in Foster Care

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
The Truth Network Radio
May 17, 2024 3:23 am

What You Can Do to Help Kids in Foster Care

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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May 17, 2024 3:23 am

Julie Bagamary never set out to be a foster parent, but she felt God’s call to help needy children. She and her husband, Randy, provided a safe and loving home for lots of children in the foster care system. But many more Christian families are needed – to become foster parents, or to encourage and support other foster families.



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Today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly, we'll explore some of the unusual challenges facing parents in foster care. And I said to him, I'm going to go out, I'm going to go meet with these people who he knew, and you know, I'll be back at nine. And he just lost it.

Had a meltdown? He was, he would definitely meltdown, and he asked me what day, and I didn't know what he meant. What he meant was what day at nine o'clock was I was coming back, because he had been abandoned, you know, for days on end as a child, and I didn't foresee that happening.

That night in particular, his bedroom window was near where I backed my car in, and he peeked out the window. And when I was home on time, I was very thankful for that because he was waiting. That's Julie Bagamary describing her experience as a foster care mom. And since May is National Foster Care Month here in the U.S., we've invited this 12-year veteran to share more of her stories and insights with us.

Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller, and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly. John, this is one of those topics that usually isn't top of mind unless you've been a foster child like I was, or you fostered children, which Jean and I later did. I remember coming home and saying to Jean, actually, she said to me, you know, if you're going to ask other couples to do foster care, we should do it. And I was like, no, no, I was a foster kid. I already paid my dues, and she gave me that eye, you know, the awesome eye. Thank the Lord for a godly wife, right?

I don't even know what you're talking about, Jim. So we got licensed, we did it, and we had probably 15 kids through the home. I think we had two sets of siblings, one set for three years.

So it's a big commitment, and we're going to talk about that commitment today. When you look in the U.S., there's about 400,000 children in the foster care system. In Canada, that number is about 30,000, and that's the total number. And then within that group, there'll be a subset where the courts have terminated parental rights.

So they're wards of the state. They're just waiting to find a forever home, as we like to call it. And I'm really proud of the team here, Dr. Sharon Ford, who leads our effort.

Wait No More is what we call it, and that is to help children find that home that they can eventually live in and hopefully be adopted. Yeah, we're looking forward to the conversation today with Julie, and later on in the program, we'll also hear from Dr. Ford. It's our hope that maybe your family will feel called to get involved in this space. And the basis for our discussion today is a book that Julie Bagamary wrote called Foster Parenting Matters, Creating a Home for Hope and Healing. Learn more about it in the show notes. And I should mention, Jim, that Julie is our first mixed media textile artist, and we've had a lot of people from a variety of backgrounds.

She's very well known for her quilts and her wall hangings. That's outstanding. Julie, welcome to Focus. Thank you so much.

I'm honored to be here. That is so good. I didn't understand that quilting background.

Tell me about that. I have been interested in textiles all my life. My grandmother lived with us, and she quilted. I had a week one week with my granny, and she taught me to hand quilt. And it's just kind of, it's my thing.

It's my creative outlet. Yeah, that's so good. You know, this is a little sidebar that we're doing right now, but we have a quilting kit that moms or grandmoms and daughters can do together.

And then we encourage them to give those to the pregnancy resource centers for newborn babies. I love that. That's the whole thing. If you want to know more about it, call us. I don't have all the details, neither does John.

I don't. We'll link over to that. This is totally off the cuff, but yeah, I'm looking forward to it.

Julie, let's get into it. You and Randy were foster parents for like 12 years, right about that. And you're very open and honest about both the good and the bad days.

We experienced those too. I mean, kids of all stripes come into your home if you're fostering, and some kids come with a lot of pain, a lot of baggage. I guess the bottom line question right at the beginning here is why do it? Bottom line is that God called us to do it. Well, that's a good reason to do something. And, well, Hurricane Katrina happened in 2005, and our church was involved helping take, send water and go down and do things.

And we didn't feel called to do any of that, and after a few days, you know, I said to Randy, I don't know what we're supposed to do. You know, I want to do something, and I don't want to just give money. And he said, well, I've been thinking about maybe adopting some of the kids whose parents have died in the hurricane. Wow. And I thought, let's give money. But that began a process of the Lord just really dealing with my heart. I did not give in easily to my discredit.

Oh, no. I mean, I think it's normal, frankly, because it's very disruptive, to be honest. I mean, again, I've got that experience. You and Dina, John, have that experience too. Through adoption, yeah.

Yeah, and so, you know, it usually does cost you in some way. I mean, it's not an easy thing to bring kids in that have had difficulties, et cetera, where they've lost their parents, I mean, for whatever reason. It could be the drugs. Drugs is a big reason that so many kids are entering the foster care system now. So now fostering, there's different ways people can get involved, but fostering is one where you take kids in for a period of time. It's not always known because the parents or parent are trying to get back on track.

And so you take these kids in maybe for days, maybe for weeks, months, or sometimes even years. How did you ready your emotions for that kind of assignment? I don't know that I did a really good job in that I was all over the place. You know, when I finally surrendered to the Lord, I was scared, I was excited, I was hopeful, I was frustrated. I mean, there was also a part of, we were empty nesters, so it meant giving up what we had looked forward to, to kind of be our time.

And so my emotions were all over the place, and really sometimes from minute to minute, you know. Yeah, did you have like a timeline in mind that you would do this for a year or two, or were you thinking it's pretty open-ended? How did you go into it, you and Randy? Well, the caseworker that we had, when we met with him, he said, well, we needed to be foster parents first because they're not just going to give you a child to adopt.

Right. Which, so we went through that process to become foster parents. And we did respite, we did a lot of respite, and you know, just kept praying, Lord, show us, you know, which child that you wanted us to adopt. We didn't go into it wanting to be foster parents, we went into it wanting to adopt. Yeah, but what a good, you know, it is good to, I think, do some fostering ahead of time.

Oh, absolutely. The respite care, you know, I use that term now because I'm aware of it, and we did that. But before that, I didn't know what that meant when somebody would say respite care, I thought, is that end of life? But no, respite care is when you come alongside a foster family or an adoptive family and you give them support, maybe do grocery shopping for them or watch the kids for a day while the family can do some other things. So that's just providing respite care. Some interesting data on that, they found that for every foster parent or adoptive parent, five respite providers is a good number for them to have.

And I thought, wow, that's really, that's good. Great thing for a church to do if you want to get involved as a church. I remember Jean and I, when we had two of our foster kids, it was hard to find respite care, which means, you know, we couldn't get a break. You know, if we had to go somewhere and focus business even, it became more difficult for Jean to travel because we couldn't find qualified respite providers to leave the foster care kids with.

So anyway, let me ask you this, you really stress the importance in the book about having a like-minded group of therapists, physicians, et cetera, who can work with you. And I think that's becoming more critical now because worldview matters. Even in this area of foster-foster adoption, some Christian agencies are finding it very difficult to work with Christians exclusively because the state who licenses you tends to want a wider acceptance of family type, which is difficult for Christians to move toward. You know, same-sex adoption, all kinds of things. And some states now are beginning to screen off Christian families because they don't want to work with them because of their religious bias, which is amazing. I've had so many people in foster care say the best families for these kids are Christian families. There's just not enough of them, which is a little bit of an indictment to all of us, you know.

The numbers are not – they're big, but they're not doable, if I can use a double negative. Just the fact that we have 400,000 in the U.S. and we have 400,000 churches, roughly, in the U.S. It'd just be one child per church if we all did that. We found, too, though, that they wanted you to be a Christian family, but they didn't want you to be like Jesus-loving Christian people.

What is adding another difference? Well, but I think what that translated to was that they wanted you to be a good, safe home, but let's not bring too much relationship with the Lord into that. And that was an issue for us.

Yeah, it should be. You know, it's unfortunate that the state hymns people in that way because then you have that issue to talk about. But go back for a minute about the importance – you actually have a story, I think, about some of the difficulty you had with therapists that you were working with with your foster kids. Well, we had a young girl in our home that we didn't always realize that we had the opportunity to choose our own therapist.

And we had a caseworker who told us, a particular therapist, that we had to use. We didn't choose them. Our values were not at all the same. And it became apparent that the therapist was more about appeasing the child than really being part of a team.

And so we did not feel part of that team at all. And there was a lot of triangulation. You know, you tell this person that. You know, there was a lot of that going on. And it eventually ended horribly. We had to have the child removed. It ended – we'd never done that. And so we didn't know that was a thing.

And it was awful. And, you know, part of the issue is these kids are coming in – depending upon the age, obviously, but I'm thinking of the 7, 8, 9-year-old, which is a little more typical. Infants – there's usually homes that are willing to look after infants for a while until their parent or parents can get things together.

But those children will often come with some stuff. You know, they're feeling abandoned, I think, number one. Confused because they don't understand the circumstances. They don't know why they've ended up in this home.

Who are you and why am I here? I mean, all these things, they try to explain it. I'm sure the state social workers, many of them are good, good people. And they're trying to help in the best way they can. But let's go through some of those common challenges that foster parents face because of that. And I think even what you mentioned a moment ago, most of these children are going to test you to say, if I push you this far, will you still care about me? Will you still love me? If I push you even further, will you care about me? So it turns into this real test of commitment. And, you know, a lot of people, they snap and they can't do it. And then that's where things go a bit south.

But describe some of those challenges that you had. Well, I mean, our own bio children did that, you know, but the difference is that our biological children knew my husband and I loved each other. They knew that we loved them. They knew that we were committed to them. And the children that came through our home didn't know that. They had trusted so many people along the way who had not followed through. And so we in some I think in some of their minds, we were just another step along the way. And that was sad because we really did care, you know, about the children, whether it was for a weekend or we had some for years as well.

It's so true. And, you know, in fact, you have a story about Austin, who I think at the time was five years old. What what happened with Austin when he came into your home? Well, my habit when we would get new children in our home was to kind of pull back on my own activities and not especially not go do anything at night. You know, where I would be away, you know, have consistent mealtimes, you know, just really be consistent for them so that to hopefully build that trust. And it had been about three months and I decided to resume a Friday night quilt group that I was involved in. And I didn't tell him right away because he would stress over details. So we usually let him know things as they were happening. And I said to him, I'm going to go out. I'm going to go meet with these people who he knew. And, you know, I'll be back at nine. And he just lost it.

He was he was he would definitely melt down. And he asked me what day. And I didn't know what he meant. He what he meant was what day at nine o'clock was I was coming back because he had been abandoned, you know, for days on end as a child.

And I, I didn't foresee that happening that night in particular. His bedroom window was near where I backed my car in and he peeked out the window and I was home on time. I was very thankful for that because he was waiting. That all makes a difference.

It does. It is those little things. And I went in and I kissed him good night and tucked him in.

He went to sleep. Yeah. Well, we're talking today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly to Julie Bagamary. And you can hear her heart for foster care and for kids from trauma. And she's really captured some great stories and thoughts in a little book called Foster Parenting Matters, creating a home for hope and healing. And of course, you've got details about that in our show notes.

So check those out. Julie, I was really curious about a term that you used in your book. It was rejection spirit.

I think that's so important for us to kind of lean into. How do you describe that? What's the definition of a rejection spirit? I mean, this applies to foster kids, obviously, and adopted foster children. But probably any children that have any trauma in their life, the rejection spirit, what is it? Well, I think everybody has a little bit of that in them, whether it's been a big trauma or just life.

It's that spirit of you're going to reject me or that I'm carrying that rejection with me that maybe somebody hurt my feelings. For the foster children we had in our home, it was just big. Many had been abandoned. Parents had chosen drugs or other things over them. Or some kids, they just had a traumatic event like the hurricane. They don't always know what that is. And I learned about the rejection spirit from a book I read. We were always reading books to learn to be better parents, and one of them addressed this. And a lot of times the children would reject us before they perceived that we would reject them. And so I think they thought they were safe that way to hopefully preserve their heart.

Yeah, it's a mechanism. It's on full display at that age. I think we as adults don't recognize it in ourselves or those around us. But in children it's just there because these kids particularly have been in extreme situations. That behavior is kind of plain sight.

It's out in plain sight. And you can see it like food hoarding and other things that some of these kids come with. Right here at the end, the thing that I'm so struck by is the book of James, of course.

I think it's James 127, where he's telling the church, you know, pure religion, if you want to get right down to it, is taking care of the widow and the orphan. And of course fostering. They are orphan children, whether they had parents or not. They're separated from their parents. And there is something about God's heart for these young people. I mean, they need help. And I think God's heart breaks for them. Therefore, our heart should break for them. And then what do we do with that? I think we've done a lot to kind of both encourage and maybe scare people. But you need that kind of eyes wide open attitude.

And if I could get down in the next just couple of questions here. One is just the reality that this is not going to be, you know, happily ever after necessarily. And the energy it takes to heal these spiritual and emotional wounds that occur in these children.

It will test you. And you have to be ready emotionally, spiritually to be able to do that work, wouldn't you say? Oh, absolutely. And I have a chapter in the book about self-care that I had to up my level of self-care, taking care of my needs to be with other women, my needs to eat healthy, you know, to be in the Word more. Take care of yourself. Yes, take care of myself. So you're strong enough to take care of them, right?

Exactly. And I was on my way to a retreat that I was reluctant to go to. The retreat leader suggested that an older lady come and pick me up because I was not in a good place.

We had a really rough placement. And this lady took me about ten years older than me, spunky, never married, and we just became fast friends. I did not want any more friends at that point because I didn't feel like I had time. I felt like everything I had was being given out. And yet the Lord used that for her to come alongside me. A lot of times on Mondays, I would go to her house and we would have tea and cookies, and she would help me process and see things from an outside perspective and help me get perspective. But one of my favorite things, one Monday night, she called me early and said, Bring a cooler. And when I got there, she filled it with four containers, pretty good-sized containers of handmade soup that she had made and some bread. And it was frozen.

I put it in my cooler, and I used that soup on therapy days, and it became a comfort that I would put it in the crock pot before I went to therapy with the kids for their therapy. And I always stopped by the playground on the way home and let them burn off some energy, go home. If the soup was ready, we would have that, and sometimes she would bring cookies or sometimes she would sneak me cookies. That's awesome. But she did that for four years. Yeah, not one and done.

No, no. I always had soup in my freezer, and if I needed it twice during the week, she would just make more. Well, that's a great example of just one of the many ways families can participate in foster care ministry. Not to be a big deal, but just a lot of little deals that make a huge difference for that foster family. And I know Jean and I experienced that personally.

And I really enjoyed that conversation with Julie, and I want to kind of turn a corner, and we've brought in our own Dr. Sharon Ford into the studio to talk to her about what's happening here at Focus so people can better understand what we're doing as a ministry and what they can do through Focus to participate in the foster effort. So what would be some additional things that families could do, Christian families particularly? Boy, you know, one of the things I think about, the ability of families to bake bread. Yeah, that's a good one. You know, because you're kneading, that physical action, that physical motion of kneading the bread, and then smelling it as it bakes.

I'm getting hungry already. It's very comforting for us to smell that, and it allows for the family, the foster family, to step away while maybe the person who's baking the bread to be actually interacting with the kids who are in the home. Do you need to be licensed for that kind of relief or that kind of respite work? You know, in some states you do, but in other states you don't. So it's just state by state? It is.

Let me ask you this, because this is relatively new, and I wanted to bring this up. I think there's now 28 states that are severely restricting Christians from participating in the foster care programs by being very specific and targeted toward Christian homes by saying, with gender dysphoria issues, the foster parents can't, they need to use the proper pronoun that the child wants. They need to support, in some states, they need to support their medical intervention that's designated by the state to help them with gender transition, etc. They can't take them to church unless the child has asked to go. So there's just all these restrictions being placed on Christian families now. And I really want to encourage those families to take a hard look at the state, because I'm finding it increasingly more and more difficult in those states particularly to recommend Christians engage in foster care, because the bottom line is this, the state is using the foster care system to force its ideology through these homes.

And what would be your response to that? One thing I would say to our audience is pray. The second thing is if God has told you to step forward and to become a foster parent, do just what God tells you to do. That's a great piece of advice, and the answer may be I'm concerned about engaging the state, and that's okay too. You know, I understand that they're concerned, but if they don't step forward, then no one can make the argument that I thought you wanted to serve.

We do want to serve. That's what the body of Christ is called to do, to serve vulnerable children. And so please do step forward and make your desire known to be a qualified foster parent. Go to the training.

Do all the steps that you're required to do by law. And then when they ask the question about what about your faith, well, my faith is part of that foundation of why I'm stepping forward, because the Bible says we are called to take care of the fatherless, to take care of those who are in need. Sharon, the other part that we need to make sure people are aware of is a description of what you're doing every day, walking in the doors here at Focus on the Family with the Wait No More program. What is it, and what's the other thing that we're doing with suitcases to help kids?

Well, every day I have the opportunity to engage with our constituents by email, by phone. It's a wonderful opportunity by sharing with them that we have a website,, that has all kinds of content, videos, information that will help them in their walk of being a foster parent, an adoptive parent, a kinship care parent, or supporting, wrapping around supportive services around those who are caring for kids. But the other thing I have the opportunity of being engaged with is our suitcase bundle program. I can tell you that we are overjoyed that donors have given dollars to the ministry so that we can put a brand new 30-inch wheeled suitcase in the hands of a child who would otherwise have their things in a black trash bag and brand new suitcase, brand new Bible, and a brand new stuffed animal. We want the children to know that they have value, that they have dignity, and that we're supporting them while they're getting their needs met as they enter foster care. You know, Sharon, I think Jean and I, we probably had 15 kids come through the home, some for one day, some for literally years.

All of them came in with black garbage bags full of their things. So the suitcase program does bring that dignity, so thank you for doing that. It's our pleasure to serve. And let me also say thank you for the great work you and the team are doing to equip and encourage families to get engaged in this Wait No More ministry. And I want to invite listeners and viewers to check out the Wait No More website that Sharon mentioned. This is where you may be called to serve, and it certainly is both rewarding and challenging.

And, you know, it's going to knock some of the edges off of your selfishness, for sure. But we welcome your gift of $100 to help purchase these suitcases with a Bible and a teddy bear to go with it. It's a wonderful way to support children in foster care. Yeah, donate today. Make a difference. Offer that child dignity. The details for Wait No More and that suitcase opportunity are at our website.

We've got the details in the show notes or give us a call. 800 the letter A and the word family. And when you make a generous gift of any amount to focus today, we'll say thank you by sending a copy of Julie Bagmary's great book, Foster Parenting Matters, Creating a Home for Hope and Healing. Well, have a great weekend with your family and your church family as well and plan to be with us on Monday. Dr. Gregory Jantz will offer encouragement about finding your purpose in life.

God said what? We are his workmanship created to do good works that he prepared for us in advance. So there is a plan for you. You may have had some derailments along the way, but there is still a plan. Thanks for joining us for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. We can't wait to see you there.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-17 05:22:28 / 2024-05-17 05:33:35 / 11

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