My husband and I are foster parents – we made this decision having no children in our home to become parents by opening our home to children whose parents could not care for them temporarily. We got our license to foster/adopt shortly before joining as members of Kent United Church of Christ. We have fostered three newborn boys (one for four weeks, one for 11 months, and one for 18 months). It was overwhelming, exciting, and as all families of newborns can relate – exhausting; and we knew we were providing something so valuable towards each child’s development. It was exactly what we wanted to do. But we were quickly confronted with an awareness neither of us were prepared for – the reality of how families live, how they struggle to provide for themselves, and how there is just not enough support for some of these families to overcome so many obstacles – poverty, mental illness, drug & alcohol addictions, lack of adequate education or employment, deteriorating housing…
The greatest challenge in our first years as foster parents was not the actual parenting – it was learning how to have relationships with the mothers and fathers as well as extended family members of the babies in our home.
In our experience, we have learned how grateful some of the birth parents are for the time their child grew in our home. I must say I am grateful to Kent UCC – it’s members, leadership, support from other parents, and encouragement. The reminder each week, spoken by our pastor at the beginning of worship that, “We are an Open & Affirming congregation of the United Church of Christ. We worship a God of overflowing love who has invited us, in the gift of Jesus Christ, to share and fulfill that love through extravagant hospitality, building a community of reconciliation, justice, peace, and joy.” The mandate to love our neighbor, not the neighbors we choose to love – but all of our neighbors. And above all, regardless of any difference – gender, economic class, sexual orientation, age, race, ethnicity, physical abilities. And one of the hardest to swallow – regardless of the fear of the hurt it might cause ourselves.
Often we hear how others think that what we do is tremendous and that they themselves could never do it – become attached to a child who has been abused or neglected by their birth parent. But, I have learned in these last few years and whole heartedly believe that in being an Open & Affirming congregation that the welcoming of individuals, especially to those who are so upsettingly different – is exactly what we should be doing. If not us, then who? We are a community of faith opening our hearts – knowing that we are ALL welcome and wanted here.