I loved summer growing up! It was a break from the typical day to day structure of school—full of new adventures and opportunities that there wasn't time for during the school year. Sure, it wasn't all perfect, but overall, I loved the possibility that each summer brought. There were so many things to look forward to. This year, our summer has started early, and it's not feeling quite the same—for me or for our kids. Summer has started, well, with stress. It's started with a lack of stability and security as we look towards the unknown. For our kiddos who have experienced trauma, summer, and particularly, this summer brings fear. My friend, Kristin Berry, and I talk through what this season is like for our children who have experienced great loss in their lives. We can have a great summer; it might take a little more planning and a whole lot of grace.
Today's conversation with my guest, Monica Hunter, was a gift. We talked about hair and skincare, and in that, we explored how to help our children feel valued and loved. There is beauty in coming together to care for one another. As a foster and adoptive mom of a multi-racial family, I've had to ask so many questions, and I'm thankful for people like Monica who are willing to jump in and share their knowledge. We need spaces where we don't have to fear making a mistake but can simply learn with others together. I want my children to know I care about them, and part of that is showing them that I care about the hair and skin that God uniquely gave each of us.
I met Helen at Replanted Conference, and as I talked to her, I knew I wanted you all to hear her story too. To hear from those who have walked through foster care is a gift to us all; we need the perspective of those who have lived it. Helen's life had a tragic start when her father passed away at the age of three. With her mother unable to care for her, she entered foster care and was placed with a relative. Tragically, her mother died when Helen was just six years old. Right from the get-go of our conversation, my heart hurt for her childhood—the snapshot of memories painful to bear. Bounced from relative to relative and again several times more, Helen shares the journey she's lived, and I'm so encouraged by where she has landed today. I can't wait for you to hear how she's continuing to find hope and healing now as an adult.
It's time to celebrate! The Lord has graciously allowed TFI to be part of supporting the foster care community for 9 years! It's been a joy to walk with people who are passionate about Jesus and the foster care community as they launch and lead TFI Advocate Ministries all across the United States. Seriously, our Advocates are some of the best; they see and show up for agency workers, foster parents, vulnerable adults, and children involved with foster care, and not only personally do they do that, but they mobilize the church to do that too! The movement is multiplying, and I could not be more honored to be on this journey with so many great leaders. Because I love you and our Advocates so much, I want to share an inside look at the types of conversations our team gets to have each day. Listen in as Advocate Support Director, Jillian, chats with Kara, our Advocate in Northwest Oklahoma, about ministry and lessons she's learned throughout her 6 years as an Advocate.
This conversation was special—Clint has been by my side since the beginning of this foster care journey. He's been my cheerleader. He's believed in me. He's given me the freedom and push to stretch in ways maybe I wouldn't have otherwise. He lifts me up when I need it and brings me back down when I need that too. Together, we've grown as we caught the vision of how our family could serve in this foster care space, how our church could walk alongside this community, and even bigger, how we could encourage others across the US who wanted to do this work too. Man, it's been a lot of fun! And it's been hard. But, as we recount it all, we see the blessings. When we look back at the last ten years, it's clear the Lord has been working in us. I'm so excited for you to hear more about how faithful God has been through this unexpected road of foster care.
This was my first time meeting and getting the opportunity to talk with Cameron Lee Small, and it did not disappoint. Cam gets adoption. As a Korean adoptee who grew up in Wisconsin, Cam now uses his experience to walk with adoptive families as a clinical counselor. As we talked, I kept nodding my head in agreement. Cam wants to help people understand they are seen, heard, and to know that they matter—that they are not in this alone. It’s the same message I believe in for TFI and for my own family. Through our conversation, Cam helps identify fears when foster care moves to adoption. In naming both the good and hard emotions our children feel, we can begin to help them heal. That’s the goal in all of this today—to learn to walk with our children so that their story can move them to a place where healing can begin.
What a conversation! Tricia was once a teen mom, and now supports teen moms through Teen MOPS. Tricia understands what it’s like to walk through the teenage years while also trying to care for a new little one. Guilt and shame can feel like an everyday companion. For many youth aging out of foster care, pregnancy as a teen is a reality. In our conversation, Tricia offers compassionate wisdom to help us support both teen moms and teens in foster care. Whether you are a teen mom, walking alongside a teen mom, or raising teens, this episode will leave you encouraged to press on. Tricia has been where you are.
As I walk this parenting journey, I grow more and more thankful for teachers who lean into my kids. The student-teacher relationship can be a sweet one. For some students, teachers may be their only trusted adult. Needless to say, the impact of a caring teacher has the potential to be huge. My guest, Amanda Van Allen, is one of those teachers that loves her students in big ways. So, when she saw not only one student’s educational needs, but a greater need as it related to family, she knew her own family could do more to care for this student. Today, we’re talking about jumping into the role of fictive kin—taking on the characteristics of a family relationship for a child in the foster care system. It’s a role that more teachers are being asked to consider, and Amanda had some incredible insights about what she learned from going from teacher to parent in a matter of days.
Sitting down to talk with Sandra Stanley this week was a privilege!
She and Andy have journeyed down this road of foster care for the past ten years and have so much wisdom to share because of it. Much like my own story, they became aware of the need to care for children in their own backyard, and this awareness led them to action. We see this all the time at TFI—awareness leads to action. Sandra shares that the road has been bumpy, filled with moments that have left their hearts both broken and encouraged. As foster parents, we come to this journey so hopeful, so ready to help and love, and yet when there is no margin— when the uncertainty overtakes you—it is easy to feel hopeless. Sandra offers hope in our conversation. We can create space in our lives so that we are not overtaken by this hopelessness. We can live and serve with joy.
In terms of foster care, Tori has experienced it all. Entering the system at age four; reuniting with her mom; seeing the effects of mental illness; entering the system again; moving to twelve placements; living in a group home; and finally making the decision to emancipate, Tori’s life is one of ups and downs. At moments, she wanted to be out of foster care, and at moments, it was the best option she had. Tori is real and raw and helps us learn what life in foster care is really like. We have much to learn.