“Mommy calls me her princess, and I’m her special little daughter,” my 3-year-old adopted daughter explained matter of factly one day last week, as her gorgeous brown eyes sparkled and she smiled at my mom. My mom hugged her close, as a tear of thankfulness for her precious little granddaughter slipped down her cheek. My husband and I have 5 kids, 2 of whom we adopted from foster care, and we imperfectly do our best to express our love to them through words, actions, and choices we make in parenting them every day. We often fall short, but as our daughter expressed, our kids know they are loved.
But what about the biological parents of kids adopted from foster care or of kids in the foster system? It’s easy for us to villainize them as those responsible for abusing and neglecting their kids, who now fill the foster care system. Far too often, however, the reason their children ended up in the system can be connected back to the lack of love these parents received when they were kids themselves. As a foster parent, I’ve heard countless stories of kids in foster care whose parents were abused and bounced around in the foster system until they aged out. Far too soon, they had kids and having never been well-loved themselves, parented them the only way they knew how, which led to their own kids being taken into the foster system because of abuse and neglect… and the cycle quickly repeats itself.
In Bexar County alone, in 2018 there were over 5,500 children in the foster care system, victims of abuse and neglect by parents and family members; the very people who should be trusted to love and care for them the most. How do we stop the cycle of abuse and neglect? What can be done to prevent these precious children from growing up with such a void of brokenness within them that they abuse and neglect their own children or suffer other terrible outcomes? The statistics are shocking: of children who spend time in/ age out of foster care, 76% will become sex trafficking victims, 40% will experience homelessness, and 40% will become incarcerated. A very high percentage will become parents of more children who will be taken into foster care in just a few short years. Just writing these statistics takes my breath away. What is the answer? What can be done?
The beginning of the answer is San Antonio families who say YES, we will love foster children, embrace them, and welcome them into our homes. San Antonio families who say “We will step into the gap and be your family for as long as you need one. We will love you unconditionally.” When a child has the stability of knowing they are loved by a family who is committed to their well-being, it can be life changing for them and what is broken inside can begin to heal. Children in foster care have as much potential and giftedness as other children. But children were created to thrive in a family, and when a child is denied a loving family and instead is abused, neglected and then spends time being bounced around between shelters and multiple foster families and perhaps placed in a foster care facility or group home, the results are reflected in the statistics I shared above. However, when a child comes into foster care and is placed with a family who is committed to loving them for as long as they need to be in foster care, the outcome is much more positive and there is great potential for changing the trajectory of the child’s life as well as the lives of their future children.
In some cases, foster parents are able to build relationships with their foster kids’ biological parents. Encouraging conversations and notes given at parent visits, pictures of their kids, small gestures of kindness and encouragement can mean so much to the biological parents. In some instances, if the kids return to the biological parents, foster parents are able to take on a mentoring role and have an ongoing friendship with the biological parents and previous foster children. What an opportunity to influence lives!
Could you be a foster parent? If you’re reading this, you love kids, and want to use your life to make a difference for someone else, the answer is yes! You can be young or old or somewhere in between. You can be married or single. You can have other kids, no kids, little kids, grown kids or even grandkids.
Do you need extra money to support a foster child? No, the government will give you a monthly amount that will cover all of their needs.
Are there agencies in San Antonio that provide support for foster families and show you the ropes? Absolutely! One that I highly recommend is 1Hope for Kids. My husband and I were licensed as a foster family by this agency, and they are doing a tremendous job of supporting foster families in many specific ways!
Do you get to decide what age range/ gender/ special needs/ other specifications you are willing to accept? For sure! And you also get to say yea or nay on any specific placement before a caseworker brings a child to your home.
Is fostering hard? Yes. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it is worth it. Making a difference in the life of another human being is an incredible privilege, and as hard as it is, I am so thankful for our fostering journey and we plan to do it again. And if you are licensed by a supportive agency like 1Hope for Kids, they will help you through even the most difficult parts.
How will this affect my biological kids? Well, we have 3 bio kids and fostering is one of the best things we’ve done for them. They learned about sacrifice and loving others unconditionally and taking risks for the sake of something greater at a very young age. And those are irreplaceable life lessons and experiences. Was it hard for them? Yes. But was it good for them? YES. Are THEY glad we fostered and adopted? YES!!!
If you’ve read this far and you have more questions, there are many people and resources to turn to in our city who are equipped to share more with you about what’s needed and are glad to answer your questions. If you’d like to help children in foster care but don’t feel able to become a foster parent right now, there are many supportive roles that you can consider jumping into… check out these opportunities/ websites below:
1Hope For Kids is a wonderful agency to consider if you’re interested in becoming a foster parent. They also offer many volunteer opportunities such as delivering diapers and care packages to foster families, transporting foster children to weekly visits with biological parents, or just writing notes of encouragement to foster families.
CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates) are invaluable for children in foster care, and in San Antonio many foster children don’t have a CASA because more volunteers are needed. To find out more, check out their website here: https://www.casa-satx.org/
The South Texas Alliance for Orphans offers short one day training opportunities to become certified to babysit for foster children, and even helps you get connected with foster families. The Alliance also offers many other ways to get connected and help support foster children and foster families on any level at which you are ready to serve.
The Vault Fostering Community provides tangible resources to foster families and accepts donations of car seats, boosters, children’s clothing of all sizes, beds, baby equipment, etc., which foster families can borrow / have for their foster children. They always need volunteers who can spare a few hours per week or even a few hours per month.
The Vault Fostering Community
Many local churches have started foster care ministries and also provide various opportunities for people to support foster families in their midst. These ministries are invaluable in giving foster families the support they need to persevere and continue to care for children. Some churches in San Antonio with active foster care ministries are:
Shearer Hills Baptist Church
Community Bible Church
Grace Point Church
Grace Northridge Church
Nineteen: Ten Church
Mission Community Church
First Baptist Church
First Presbyterian Church
CrossBridge Community Church
University United Methodist Church
Oakhill’s Church Alamo Ranch
Alamo Ranch Community Church
By: Cindy Graves
Photo by: So Blessed Photography