You don’t have to be married to be obedient…

“You don’t have to be married to be obedient”… 

I let these words wash over me the morning of my twenty-ninth birthday last year, just two months before the lockdown started. I knew exactly what these words meant, and I was met with anticipation, confusion, excitement, and a little bit of frustration, all at the same time.

Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a mom. When playing “house” with my siblings or friends, I always took on that role. Maybe it was my oldest child personality or strong “leadership” skills that consistently wanted me to be in charge. Let’s be real, I was bossy. But that was one thing I was certain of: children were meant to be part of my future family. There was no world or reality where that wasn’t going to be the case.

I remember finishing out college and the majority of my friends were getting married left and right. It felt like my weekends were spent driving or flying to a different city, preparing to celebrate another couple near and dear to my heart. In a five year span, I attended thirty-two weddings. Yes, you read that correctly. I watched these friends start their families with ease and I wondered why that wasn’t my story. I spent a lot of my twenties frustrated and confused, wondering why the Lord seemed endlessly silent on this topic. It felt like it didn’t matter how often I was praying or how honest I was in those conversations with Jesus; it appeared to always be met with radio silence.

On the morning of that birthday, I took the day off work and met my best friend for breakfast. If this isn’t something you’re already doing, I highly recommend it. I sat in a booth, at an empty restaurant in Campbell at 9am, and poured my heart out to this trusted confidant. She earnestly and graciously sat with me through my tears and pain. Part way through that conversation, it felt like time had briefly stopped. You know those moments in movies where the camera shows everyone frozen but the person can move and speak outside of time and space? That’s how this moment felt, for just a brief second. In that moment, I felt these words cover me like a giant blanket: “You don’t have to be married to be obedient…”

Believe me, this wasn’t what I was expecting. I was thoroughly enjoying my eggs and potatoes, and it felt like someone rubbed salt into a wound I wasn’t ready to reopen, especially on my birthday. Not only was I being reminded that I was still single, I also hadn’t been obedient. Ouch. I shared these words and instantaneous thoughts and it felt like something shifted in the atmosphere around us. As we began dissecting this, the conversation inevitably came back to foster care.

In conversations about my future family, foster care was always a non-negotiable for me. Call it what you will, but that’s what the Lord has called me to. For me, the gospel has always been so clear about opening our homes and caring “for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). I just always thought this was something I’d be starting and doing alongside a husband. Now, hear me when I say this: there is nothing wrong with raising kids independently. I have friends who are single parents and their stamina, grace, and dedication blow me away. It’s just that in my idyllic painted picture, I always envisioned that journey with a partner.

After I managed to wipe away a good amount of the tears from my eyes, with a restaurant napkin not meant for tears, I found myself looking through Foster the City’s website. Their vision and heart for foster youth was something that gripped my soul deeply. I remember thinking “I’m already on board”, which was convenient since there was an interest meeting just two weeks from that date. In the weeks leading up to this meeting, I created space to pray, ponder, and chat with trusted friends about what I was about to embark on. I asked them to pray with me, for me, and provide their most honest feedback. I was continually met with “wow, yes you should”.

As I walked through the doors into this meeting, alongside the same trusted friend, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. We found a spot at a table in the very front, which definitely isn’t my jam, and people from the stage began to speak. Staggering statistics, an undeniable vision, and a very clear call to action was set before me. For me, the call was even more clear after that night.

I want to get back to that initial prompting: “you don’t have to be married to be obedient”. These words run through my head often. Sure, it’s a gentle reminder about where I’m at, which didn’t feel great at first; but over the last thirteen months, it’s shifted my focus. It has pulled my gaze off of myself and to the grandness of our God. He’s been reminding me, “hey, I have this plan for you. Will you step into it with me?”, and that’s something I can’t ignore. And neither should you.

So, regardless of where you’re at in terms of life stage, family, schooling, parenting, etc… the reminder is we still need to be obedient. I’ll be the first to admit that this journey hasn’t been the easiest. I’ve been met with obstacles, difficult conversations, and preparation for what’s to come in my journey with foster care, but God’s calling and invitation still stands. I challenge you, friend, to walk in faith and obedience, because I know one thing is for sure: God is always worth it. 

Nicole Presley


A Unique Way to Show Up

In our experience, all bets are off on court days because there’s no way to know just how long you’ll be there or what the outcomes will be.

There are days where we’ve arranged the child care, packed the snacks, and had time to drink our coffee in preparation for a long day at court, but end up being in and out within an hour. These kind of court days usually mean that there is no movement in our foster child’s case.

My favorite court days are when my husband works from home to be with the kids because I can fully focus on our foster child’s biological family. Getting to connect with our foster child’s parents and family members without the kids running around at our feet is rare and really special. I love to listen to grandma share stories about when our foster son’s mom was little. I love to listen to mom and dad share their wins. They are so excited to share their wins. Dad signed up for an extra parenting class. Mom finished her first rehab program. I love that grandpa leaned in and whispered to me what he really thinks of the new social worker. The book I brought for the wait is not going come out of my bag and I’m ok with that because I love listening to and learning about these people in front of me. On these days it doesn’t really matter what happens in the court room.

Then there’s the trial. The trial is grueling. I remember holding back tears as I tapped as many notes as I could into my phone. I remember the way my face grew hot as the different players laid out the details of what our foster children had been through, what their parents had done, and what the county was currently doing. I remember thinking that there was no way I could ever look our foster children’s parents in the eyes again. But then it was over and as mom turned around we locked eyes. My heart instantaneously flooded with love and compassion for her. We both knew that what happened in the court room that day was going to change both of our lives forever.

Court hearings can be taxing but they also present such a unique opportunity to get to learn from and learn about the people that you are walking out this foster care journey with. And I’d encourage you to take that opportunity.

Anna F.


Cultivating Cultural & Racial Awareness

She was done writing up her Christmas wish list and was telling me about a dress she wanted. She proceeded to show me a picture of a big, puffy, extravagant dress for her Quinceañera party. Mind you, she’s 12 and this was the first we were hearing about this party that we’re apparently throwing her when she turns 15. However, hearing her dream up about celebrating this future rite of passage while under our care was a clear reminder that our foster daughter feels at home with us and that throwing her a Quinceañera party would be yet another way we can honor her culture and heritage.

We’ve all heard that representation matters, and it really does. It matters for people of color to feel seen, heard, and known by others, to see ourselves represented in different forms of media and creative expression. But what about feeling represented and known within our own families? What does that look like when you’ve been taken away from all that is familiar to you and forced to live with strangers who more than likely have a different cultural and racial heritage than your own?

It’s no surprise that there is racial and cultural disparity in foster care. Research and statistics show that foster care disproportionately affects communities of color and can be said to be deeply rooted in the systemic oppression and racism that has plagued the United States for so long. Obviously, there isn’t anything we can do as foster parents to change the past for this broken system, but we do get to play an important role in changing its future. We get to invest in the lives of future generations, and that is not something to take lightly. One very important way we get to do this is by raising children who are confident in their racial and cultural identity, especially when their heritage is different from our own. It can be argued that foster youth would benefit more from being placed with families that share their racial and cultural heritage, and although there is some truth to that, I believe children ultimately benefit from being placed in loving & caring homes with families that are willing to do the hard work, whether or not they share the same skin color.

Foster youth deal with and experience more trauma, repeated environment changes, and lower levels of social well being than most people. Research shows that a strong cultural identity contributes to “mental health resilience, higher levels of social well-being, and improved coping skills, among other benefits”(Supporting Cultural Identity for Children in Foster Care by Ariella Hope Stafanson). So how can we as foster parents help support strong cultural identity in our foster youth? The following is by no means an extensive list of how we can accomplish this, but merely some friendly suggestions that have surfaced from my years as an immigrant in this country in my formative adult years as well as the 2.5+ year journey in training and becoming a foster parent.

Learn about their heritage and share yours.
Ask questions and listen to their stories. Yes, memories can sometimes bring up emotions and wounds, but ultimately we have found them to be very helpful in bonding and creating healthy attachments.

Be genuinely interested in what they have to say, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.

Our current foster daughter grew up in a Mexican home, and although I’m Latinx myself, our culture and upbringing are/were very different. I like to ask questions about how her family would do things, and my husband and I share stories about our own upbringings as well.

Incorporate their traditions into your home

Sometimes it could be as simple as learning to cook their favorite meal that a family member used to make or making sure that at least once a week you eat something from their culture or family.

My husband, Jayson, is the cook in our home. One of our conversations with our foster daughter was about comfort food and from there, she began to share a dish that her grandmother used to make: sopa de frijoles (bean soup). Jayson took it upon himself to research the ingredients to see if he could make it. Our daughter got very emotional when he told her he would make the soup, as it brought up lots of great memories of her family of origin. Jayson made sure to say that he might not make it like her grandmother, but he would do his best. Our daughter asked if they could make it together because that is what her family did. The soup was really good, according to our daughter.

Pictures speak a thousand words

We tell our kids that as long as they are in our home, they are part of the family. Incorporating their family & traditions could be as simple as hanging pictures from their childhood around your home. This is also a small way to increase that attachment with your youth. We love displaying photos of our kids, whether it’s ones we’ve taken during their time with us or even from their childhood. Recently, our daughter gave us baby and toddler pictures of her. Some of them had her family of origin in them and we chose to hang them in our home to make her feel like all of her is welcome here.

Give them access to their culture

Do our kids have opportunities to hear their language spoken and their music played? Can they attend or participate in cultural holidays? Are they exposed to or allowed to wear cultural dress? Eat their culture’s food? Do they have opportunities to spend time with people that look like them or share their culture?

Hopefully, we can all work towards being able to answer YES to all of these questions. Embracing and loving who they are includes their culture as well.

Do the hard work

Take this as an opportunity for continued personal growth. It starts with us.

If you haven’t already, take cultural awareness training. My husband and I found it to be very helpful and educational.
Examine your own privileges and prejudices. How did these affect you growing up, and how are they affecting you today? The self introspection is hard, but we owe it to our kids to not only model it, but to continuously grow from it.

Doing all this honors God. He wants us to grow and extend who we bring to our metaphoric and literal tables. He challenges us to step out of our comfort zone, because a lot of times He calls us to do hard things, which at the end- are the BEST things.

“Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.” Isaiah 54:2

Brenda Aguilar Rice


From One Youth to Another

“If your own mother can’t love you, how do you expect anyone else to?”

These words pierced the heart of a young boy as he devastatingly watched his mother walk out on him. This tragedy only added to the trauma of abuse the boy had already experienced in his short life. He had never felt more alone.

Lonely in his new world, the boy entered foster care. Unfortunately, he bounced from home to home. Nine different times to be exact, and he didn’t have the best experiences in most of his foster homes. He was told he was only there because they needed money, and he was often differentiated from the biological children in the house. Finally, he made it to his last home, where he met the *Johnsons. At first, this was just another foster home to him. He was guarded, he was angry, and he did not, would not, trust anyone. You see, the Johnson’s had been foster parents for almost 37 years and had cared for roughly 800 youth (majority teenagers) in their home. The boy thought to himself that he would just be another number they could add to their “goody-two-shoes list”.

Although he often acted out, the boy noticed these people were different –  their love seemed genuine. It was through these foster parents that he was introduced to church. As a devoted Christian, every morning he would see and hear his foster mother praying for him. She would ask God, “If today is the day, please let him find you.” This experience of true and genuine love started to break down the walls this boy had built to protect himself. He became more vulnerable and open to people. To this day, he calls them Mama & Papa (Grandparents).

Through his foster parents, the boy met a family at church: the *Andersons. They took him under their wing. He would go over to their house often and eventually, they became family. Even though they were not able to become his legal parents, his brother said, “We don’t need a piece of paper. Last name or not, he is one of us, this is my brother.” This profound statement, along with the act of taking him in, turned this boy’s world upside down. He was verbally “adopted”. Not only did they make him feel like he belonged, but they also extended an invitation to his biological sisters. Instead of leaving one family behind, this allowed him to create a new family.

After four years of attending church, gathering knowledge of Jesus, and changing bad habits, the boy realized he needed a relationship with Jesus. He knew things about Him, but he did not know Him. He accepted Christ in his heart, and his life was forever changed.

Suffering allows one to perceive life in a way others can’t. Suffering allows one to see the power of Christ through circumstances.

This boy’s story is an illustration of God’s perfect sovereignty and provision. I know this because I lived his life. I was this boy. This is my story and the story isn’t over.

After emancipating at the age of 18, I began to feel a stirring in my heart… a calling to be a foster parent. I also remember asking God to allow me to work for a company that helps the faith community take in foster children. Although that calling to be a foster parent never left, as the years went by I totally forgot about this “ask” I had requested of God. Twelve years later, I was offered to join the staff at Foster the City. Before making a decision, I asked God for guidance and He gently reminded me, ”Remember what you asked for all those years ago”. At first, I was blown away that the Spirit of God remembered what I had asked, but I then recalled someone once told me that God exists beyond time and space. He is able to recall such things. Well, either that or He has a really great memory!

Years later I began dating the woman who would become my wife. Early on in our relationship, I opened up to her about my calling. I basically said, “If you don’t want to be a foster parent in the future, then we need to end this now.” Let’s just say, she passed the test. Shortly after we were married, we began the application process and we chose to go through an FFA that serves youth that requires extra care between the ages of 5 to 21 years old. A year and a half went by until we were finally approved. We were so thrilled and I remember wanting (and asking God) to have a youth in our home for Christmas (my favorite holiday).

We got a call for a sixteen-year-old teenage girl who had a lot of history. We said yes to *Jessica knowing it may be a difficult transition. I mean we went from having no kids to caring for a sixteen-year-old girl! Jessica nervously walked into our home and began to adjust to her new environment. The first night, as Jessica was going to bed, she came to the living room and asked, “I have a question. I know I’m sixteen and this may sound weird, but can one of you guys read me a bedtime story because it makes me feel safe.” Before I explain why this request was significant, let me back up for a second…

During our pre-approval phase, my wife was struggling with the idea of taking in teenagers because, since we don’t have biological children, we would be missing out on the earlier stages of their lives. One of my wife’s greatest desires as a parent has been reading to her kids at night, and being able to share a love for reading and storytelling. She gave it all to God and trusted in His plan for us and our family.

Going back to that night, you can see how that simple request from Jessica meant the world to my wife and she didn’t hesitate to say “I’d love to read to you.” That night as I heard my wife reading, I remember thanking God for hearing and answering her prayer. When she came to bed, I reminded her that God hears us, sees us, and often answers us in unique ways.

Our experience with Jessica has reminded me so much of my own experience as a foster youth. At the same time, however, it has helped me remember that each story is different and unique. My experience has helped me connect with her and understand some general concepts of why she does things or why she thinks a certain way. When I told Jessica I was a former foster child, her face seemed both confused and surprised. With confusion and sass, she asked, “And why do you want to be a foster parent?” At the time I didn’t have an answer for her, but I think I do now.

I’ve always loved Isaiah 1:17 (NIV): “Do right, seek justice. Defend the oppressed and take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” I believe this is what Jesus has done for us. He stepped into our lives to do right, to bring healing and justice. He defended and took the case of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the hurting. It took years for me to realize what God had done for me and through me. I knew something was different about the Johnsons. I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back now, their love for Jesus was evident. I believe it was that love for Jesus that helped them see me and care for me in a way that no other family had done before. I look at the Anderson family as well, and their choice to love me and bring me into their family brought so much positive change into my life.

So why do I want to be a foster parent? Because it is one of the ways I can reflect the image of Jesus to children and youth in need. Being a foster parent is stepping into a broken system and into broken lives while being an advocate and a vessel of healing. I want others to experience the restorative and healing power of Jesus that can come through the love of a family.

Note: *Names have been changed for people’s privacy