Today I have a special conversation that I’m excited to share with you. Most often, we view the world of foster care through the lens of foster parents, former foster youth, or those that support foster families and children. But today we get to hear Brenna Hunter’s story, a parent that had her kids removed and walked the path back to reunification. Brenna graciously shares her journey of growing up in a Christian, homeschool family, struggling with insecurities and an unhealthy relationship with food, the circumstances that led to her two children entering foster care, placing her dependency on Jesus, and the journey that ultimately led to reunification. Her story is powerful and I really appreciated Brenna joining me for this conversation. This episode holds some important reminders to both foster parents and biological parents alike. No matter your role, there is hope and you are not alone!
Friends, I have such a fun episode to share with you today! Isn’t it crazy how God can redirect our passions to make a difference in ways we never dreamed possible? This is Leah Johnson’s story. Leah lives in North Carolina and has been a TFI Advocate in Mitchell and Yancey Counties for over a year now and she is sharing how God has used her passion to lead her on a journey to ultimately partner with us at TFI. In this episode, she shares her story, the incredible God stories of being able to provide for various needs in her community, what her relationship has been like with local agencies, becoming God-conscious instead of self-conscious, and more. Hoping this conversation is an encouragement to you today!
You can sign up now to make a difference in your community: tfiadvocate.org
From the age of 15, Javian Shipley felt the desire to foster. It’s a calling she has passionately carried with her into her marriage and is living out today. But her journey has not been easy. In addition to the challenges of being a foster parent, she has also walked through infertility. In this episode, Javian shares what she has learned through the grief and pain of her own story, how she and her husband found unity in their decision to foster, why we need to be intentional about our perspective towards biological parents, the value of anchor Scriptures, and how God has continued to show up again and again and again.
My guests today know what it feels like to say “no.” AJ and Katrina Nowaczyk have fostered nine children, so far. And while they didn’t set out to only foster, they have learned a lot whenever the opportunity to adopt one of their foster kids came up. In many cases, circumstances pointed to needing to say “no.”
If you’ve ever felt the internal struggle between yes and no, I hope this episode is a support for you and a reminder that there’s simply no perfect formula for making hard decisions.
It’s not uncommon for us to talk about the unique balance of brokenness and beauty in foster care. In this episode, I am joined by someone who has experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of the foster care system. Darren Morris is a father and husband, a store manager of a Starbucks, small business owner, and founder of a soon-to-be nonprofit, A Foster’s Hope. He entered the foster care system at the age of four and was eventually adopted eight years later into a family that now has 17 kids. (You read that right! 17!) In this honest conversation, Darren shares the impact of being a young kid bouncing around in the system, how his foster care experience has shaped who he is today, the value of mentors in his life, the redemption he’s seen in his story, and how he’s navigated trauma and overwhelming emotions.
Britanie Ramirez and her family have said “yes” to opening their home 26 times. Like all of us, Britanie started out with some preconceived ideas about the goal of fostering but, through her journey, God has taught her about the meaningful and challenging realities of stepping into a family’s brokenness. In this conversation, she shares about seeing collateral beauty in brokenness, recognizing what we’re actually rooting for as foster parents, why it’s 100% worth it to step into foster care, and reminders to celebrate the small wins. I know you’ll be encouraged by this one!
What impact does a safe adult have in a child’s life? It’s nearly impossible to measure. In this episode, we have the incredible privilege to welcome Jaymi Matranga, who has experience across the gamut of foster care. Jaymi is not only a social worker today, but also a foster and adoptive parent (she took her first placement at 19!), and was in the foster care system herself. She was removed from her home at the age of 13 and considers herself to be one of the “lucky” ones as she truly felt heard and supported in a unique way by her caseworker. I know you’ll be inspired by her story and supported by the wisdom she has to share!
Does your child ever just get on your last nerve? Have you had a meltdown of your own after a really hard day? Does it feel like your parenting techniques that have worked with other kids in your care just aren't working anymore? As parents, we’ve all experienced this more times than we would care to count. When our kids have significant trauma in their past, and we have our own triggers from our past, it can make for a really challenging journey.
Ryan and Kayla North know firsthand what that is like! They have 10 years under their belt as foster parents and today they develop training and programs on childhood trauma. Join me as Ryan and Kayla share perspective shifts we need when raising kids with traumatic backgrounds, how our own childhood trauma may be impacting our relationship with our kids, practical ways to parent with connection as the primary goal, why we can’t care for our children if we’re not caring for ourselves, and so much more. This was such a rich episode, and I look forward to hearing what stands out most to you!
Chris and Jihae Watson are just two of the “Watson Nine” as they affectionately call their family. Over half of their children have come by way of adoption and they have been foster parents for six years. In today’s episode, my friends share how their relationship started, the joys and hard lessons they’ve picked up along the way, how they manage such a large family, and the importance of our role as foster, adoptive, and biological parents. I can’t wait to share this conversation with you!
When Jonathan Pitts took his wife of 15 years into his arms for their anniversary dance, he had no idea that within a month he would be on a completely different journey, navigating life after Wynter's sudden death at the age of 38.
Have you experienced loss? Difficult times? Frustrating circumstances? Most of us have felt grief at some point in our lives. In this episode, Jonathan openly shares his own experience of grief through the unexpected passing of his late wife, Wynter. He also shares how he has learned to be willing to process grief, how God shows up during difficult times, and his outlook on future hardships. This is such a powerful and honest conversation on how we can respond to difficult circumstances.
Today’s guest is familiar with saying goodbyes. Jamie Finn, host of the Real Mom Podcast, co-founder of Goods & Better, and the director of Foster the Family, has fostered many children over the years. In this episode, she shares her heart for foster care, how to renew and reorient your mind to do this work well, one of the most difficult decisions she’s ever made, and how she has coped with the fleetingness of fostering as well as the emotions that come along with it. If you are new to fostering or if you’ve been in this world a while, I know you will be encouraged and blessed by Jamie’s perspective!
If you are a long-time listener, you may notice this is an off-week for the podcast. Last month, we celebrated 10 years as a ministry! As we enter National Foster Care Month this month, what better time to imagine and reflect together on how we can continue to support our nation's foster care community effectively? In this bonus episode, I take some time to reflect on the last 10 years and share a little bit of what we're dreaming about here at The Forgotten Initiative!
Today’s guests are some of my favorite people and are no strangers to the call to foster or adopt. Jamey and Sarah McIntosh are TFI Advocates in Chippewa Valley, WI who felt the pull to this work early in their lives (even before they were married!). They have such a big heart for foster care, adoption, and advocacy. I hope you will be inspired by their journey and the lessons they have picked up along the way, how God has shaped them in the waiting periods, and even how they’ve learned to let go of control.
Each of us have a story. Hard seasons. Beautiful seasons. And times where we’ve seen God’s faithfulness. And today, I’m excited to share the powerful story of my guest, Annie Marek-Barta. Annie grew up in an unsafe home that ultimately led her to decide she would take her own life. Through a series of God-ordained conversations and events, she found hope and healing. In today’s conversation, she shares that whole story, what it was like to enter foster care at the age of 17, and the emotional experience of being adopted at 26. (And yes, that’s a thing!) I hope this episode inspires you and reminds you of the faithfulness of our God and why you do what you do.
Did you know that we’re celebrating 10 years of ministry this month!? God has truly been so faithful!
And what better way to celebrate than to share such a special conversation on the podcast?
This week’s guest is Amanda Auer, a mom of 4 who has an incredible story walking through a difficult journey of kinship care. You’ll hear her talk about what it was like to be educated about trauma on-the-fly, how challenging circumstances make our faith more concrete, what it looks like to live a life of compassion and surrender, and so much more. This conversation was incredibly rich, and I was just soaking in everything she said. I look forward to hearing what stands out to you!
Today’s episode is about a topic that’s actually quite common, but doesn’t often get talked about: food trauma. This episode is so informative, practical, and inspiring. My guest is Christa Jordan, who is an adoptive mom. She and her husband also both have a background in social work before they began careers as full-time writers. Christa is passionate about natural health, and equipping and encouraging others along the journey.
There is nothing I love more than hearing about God’s faithfulness in the midst of difficult situations, and that’s exactly what today’s episode is all about. Shaq Hardy is a youth pastor in Chattanooga, TN who spent the first 10 years of his life in foster care. Today, he openly shares about his experience in multiple foster homes, the challenge of living with Reactive Attachment Disorder, the hope he so clearly found in Jesus, and so much more. And towards the end of our conversation, he even shares a piece of spoken word poetry he wrote to process his life experience. Shaq’s story alone is powerful, but his perspective is even more compelling. Listen in!
Today’s guest truly is an inspiration. Dani Brewer is a full-time wedding and family photographer, a single foster parent, as well as a transracial adoptee. She shares about how God prompted her to step in to foster care even though she didn't feel ready and she shares honestly about how she’s been able to effectively care for a now-16-month-old and 4-month-old as a single mom, the barriers she’s overcome, and the irreplaceable value of strong community. Her spirit is so encouraging, and I look forward to hearing what stands out to you in this conversation!
I am so excited to be sharing this episode! My guest today has such a powerful story that needs to be shared. Born in India, Shreya Ramachandran was brought to the U.S. at only two years old. She struggled with her identity and culture growing up. She lost her father when she was ten years old. After this, a series of events led her into foster care, where she ultimately had to testify against her mother and abuser in court. And through it all, God’s presence and His Word were the anchors that kept her grounded. Her story inspired me, and I look forward to hearing how it impacts you as well.
To kick off Season 10, meet Toni Collier. Toni experienced a lot of brokenness in her home life growing up and is now the Co-Lead Pastor of Hillsong Atlanta and the Founder of Broken Crayons Still Color. In today’s conversation, she shares openly about tending our own brokenness, finding hope in the midst of pain, learning to value excellence over perfectionism, the importance of community, and a whole lot more. I believe this conversation will encourage you today and remind you that hurt and hope truly can coexist.
Before we kick-off Season 10 of The Forgotten Podcast, I have something special for you! I recently brought one of our podcast guests from Season 8, Gaelin Elmore, to the stage at an event that is dear to me with our friends in ministry, Lifesong for Orphans. Gaelin gave us insight into his experience of foster care. Beyond sharing his experience, though, Gaelin has a passion for encouraging others! He threw out a challenge to the live audience at the end of our interview that was so good. I pray it's a challenge that you'll take to heart too. I don't want to tell you more now because I want you to hear it directly from him. So, listen in as Gaelin shares his story and his call to action for you.
Parenting is hard work, and sometimes we wish there was a perfect formula we could use to make it easier. We seek parenting hacks and different tips to help streamline our lives, and while some of those things are helpful, most of the time, we still feel there’s something missing. We’re left wondering, “What’s the formula for success in parenting?”
My guest, Julie Lowe, is here to tell us that there isn’t a formula for successful parenting. But don’t be discouraged. God has already given us everything we need to parent well in his Word. Julie explores this topic in her book, Child Proof: Parenting by Faith, Not Formula. In this episode, Julie shares with us what it means to parent by faith, describes how this can play out in our homes, and explains why parenting methods based on biblical principles always work.
Today, I get to introduce you to someone who means a lot to my family. Brayden has been a part of our extended family for a long time through his mentor relationship with my dad. And let me tell you—we love this young man. Brayden’s journey through the foster care system started when he was only eight years old. Recently, we sat down to talk through this experience, how his mentor impacted his life and his plans for the future. I am so thankful for Brayden’s willingness to share his story so that we can better understand what it’s like to walk through foster care. Learning from the experiences of others helps us grow and love one another better.
My guest, Vermon Pierre, understands foster care because not only does he live it as a foster parent, but he is leading his church and community to think about foster care through the lens of the gospel. And what is at the heart of the gospel message? Redemption and Restoration. In today’s conversation, we talk through the difference between foster care and adoption, why the church is uniquely equipped to support families in crisis, and practical ways the church can engage in this work. I pray it is an encouragement to you as you think through how to walk out your faith in caring for families in crisis. You can be an instrument that the Lord uses to bring healing and offer hope.
Working together towards a common goal can both be extremely rewarding and incredibly challenging! Like my husband said recently about parenting, "We are imperfect humans, raising imperfect humans; why are we surprised when it doesn't go well?!" It seems to apply to working with people too. This is why we must show up with humility and understanding.
Our children in foster care rely on us to work together as a team, and in the foster care space, this team is made up of foster parents, biological parents, and agency workers. My guest, foster dad, and ministry leader, Peter Greer, helps us understand how we can come together on behalf of our children and navigate the complexities of foster care as allies rather than adversaries. Ooh, this is going to be a good one!