Fostering and Compassion Fatigue

If we, as doers of compassion, long to run the race (and not just the quick sprint) we can’t rely on our own strength. WE CAN NOT POWER THROUGH. God didn’t make us that way (proven in our neurological and emotional make-up) nor does he ask us to. Jesus stopped, Jesus had to consider His body, His mind, His Spirit.

Compassion Fatigue

It is not easy to work with people who have been exposed to trauma. Many who do can become weary. This weariness has been officially labeled “Compassion Fatigue.” It is also sometimes referred to as secondary traumatic stress (STS).

Compassion fatigue is a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others, often described as the negative cost of caring.

Many professional and volunteer workers are at risk of experiencing compassion fatigue. These include clergy, teachers, social workers, nurses, police officers, child protection workers and many more.

Signs of Compassion Fatigue
  • Are your thoughts irrational? There are studies that have proven if you are not moving at a healthy pace your brain will not function properly. This disruption throws off the chemical balance of your thought processes. Which disrupts critical thinking, rational thinking, problem solving and short term memory.
  • Are you overwhelmed with guilt? People who work in the world of care can often feel like they ‘don’t do enough’.
  • Are you isolating? Burn out can prevent connection. This could be the result of secondary or Vicarious trauma.
    • Both STS & VT mirror PTSD. : Vicarious trauma (VT) and Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) are frequently used interchangeably to refer to the indirect trauma that can occur when we are exposed to difficult or disturbing images and stories second-hand.
  • Is your body giving you signs? Tenseness, exhaustion, uncontrolled emotions ranging from anger to sadness. Listen to your body. Don’t ignore cues your body gives you, (longer term signs) sleeplessness, weight gain or weight loss or other health issues. *The check engine light comes on and we OFTEN ignore it.
  • Are you avoiding God? The ‘numbness’ that can be associated with Compassion Fatigue can affect our willingness to come before the Lord.
Practical Rhythms for working through Compassion Fatigue
  • Be gracious to yourself, it’s OK not to be ‘fine’.
  • Confess to God. CRY out to God. Lament.
  • Confess to others. Have accountability (Friend, Pastor, Spouse, Counselor, Mentor or Spiritual Director). Share that burden. We aren’t called to carry these loads alone. As Disciples of Christ we know this to be true. Set yourself up with accountability within relationships.
  • Honor the Sabbath.
  • Consider the Trinity of wellness: As image bearers we are created in the image of God. The trinity of wellness matches up with the trinity of God: Mind, Body and Spirit. (Author Beverly Kyer created the 3 R’s for quick reference)
    • Mind (Release): Be aware of clues and disruptions.“confess” acknowledge, let go, speak truth in grace and humility.
    • Body (Reboot): Don’t ignore clues your body gives you. Be intentional about sleeping, eating, exercising. Pause, breathe, allow for clarity, allow for reframing. This allows your body to sync back up with your mind.
    • Spirit (Recharge): as compassionate workers we can often get focused on what God is doing through us and no longer give the appropriate space for what God would do IN us.

Resources For Compassion Fatigue

  • Avoiding Burnout
  • Beyond Exhaustion, Creating Breathing Room as a Foster Parent: Sandra Stanley shares that the Foster Care 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.
  • Never Give Up Hope
  • The Adopting and Fostering Home: How to Avoid Compassion Fatigue: The children who enter into adoptive or foster homes are not the only ones who end up having to navigate trauma. Although adoptive and foster parents are the ones positioned to assist a child’s first-hand trauma, secondary trauma does exist and can become a challenge for parents. An informative chat with Katie Smith, a licensed clinical social worker and play therapist, Katie helps foster parents tackle the sometimes-overlooked matter of parents handling the trauma that emerges in their lives even as they parent.
  • The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God: Dallas Willard once said, “If you don’t come away for a while, you will come apart after a while.” Ruth Haley Barton, author of Invitation to Retreat, joins Nathan to talk about the gift and necessity of retreat where we rest, unplug, and relinquish ourselves to God.

Deana Terrell for Foster the City

Blog Foster Parent

To send them home: The heart and hope of reunification

“The goal of fostering is reunification whenever safe for the kids.” That is the typical answer when asked “What is the purpose of foster care?” Most people in the foster care space hold this stance, and I do as well. But to grasp a life focused on reunification is weighty in itself. It is an uncomfortable calling that ushers someone into the unstable and unknown, away from comfort and assurance. 


Fostering, as I see it, is mainly a form of stewardship. Similar to the way we steward time, treasures, and talents, the children that enter resource family homes have been entrusted to us as parents for a season. A lot of times, the end of that season is unknown at the start, but that should encourage us to greater love in service, knowing the days are limited while not knowing the limit. Every moment is meaningful. Each meal can be a memory. Daily mercies matter more and more. With a perspective of “being parents as long as we are needed,” we can shift our focus from the “as long” part to the “are needed.” Instead of dwelling on a future time when the kids have been reunified, we can love them as much as possible today, for tomorrow will worry about itself. 


Admittedly, this is no easy task, especially as time goes on. There is a real possibility for thoughts to creep in that are not inline with stewardship: “What if they stayed with me forever?”, “These kids deserve the life I can give them,” or “I could do such a better job than their actual parents.” While they seem good-natured at first, wanting what we believe is best for the kids, they disregard one of the key elements of the foster system: coming alongside a family in crisis. Foster families have the privilege of being on the frontline for a family impacted by the foster system. With a mix of emotions running through their minds, one of the last thoughts biological parents need in these vulnerable times is to have to worry about a resource family trying to replace them. And likewise, regardless of the circumstances of removal, the children should be reassured that their placement home’s number one priority is for the children’s well-being, not whether they are a possible “forever placement.”


Some might assume if the kids are going to be reunified, then they should not get “too attached” because it will be too painful when they leave. While I do not believe many will argue with the very real grief that comes after kids are reunified, to not love them to one’s fullest extent would be a disservice to everyone involved. Viewing foster care as a time of crisis for a family, how could we withhold attachment to a child that just had their world turned upside down? Are we really going to invite youth into our homes but not into our hearts? We should hold the cross in high regard as a symbol of sacrificial love, laying down the fullness of our lives. We love in preparation for loss, not to avoid it. 


If we were to take a step back and think about the notion of limiting attachment because of a lack of permanency, we might find that there are other areas in our life where we would not do the same. Part of that might be due to an assumption of permanency that is not really there, but we just pretend it is. When it comes to fostering, we are given notice up front, tempting us to begin guarding ourselves. But we don’t have assurance that our best friend will be in our life 2 years from now, yet we aren’t preparing for that friendship to fizzle. We rarely have guaranteed employment 18 months from now, but does that mean we should enter our workplaces every day, greeting co-workers with our walls up? We might not like to think about it, but there is no promise of loved ones being present a year from now. And yet we are comfortable investing attachment into all of these areas. Granted, that is what makes the loss of them feel weighty, but I ask again, are not the kids in foster homes worthy to be invested in the same way? Loss is inevitable, so let us love as much as possible until reunification, then bring the loss before the cross.


So we’ve stewarded our time with them well, loving unconditionally along the way, but what happens after they leave? The closet is emptied and the last mess is cleaned up. Despite all of the training for certification, there is nothing that prepares a foster parent for the return to quiet after a placement, no matter how long the duration. The rhythms of making meals and tucking in are no more, even if the desire persists. You take the time you think you need to process, then you take a little more. You continually ask yourself why you do what you do, and hopefully come to the conclusion that you’ll do it again, at least once more.


Not every placement continues with contact. I’ve been truly blessed that I am still in contact with the two girls who entered our home almost a year and a half ago, staying for just 4 months, but I know that is rare. People say fostering shouldn’t be about growing your family. I say yes and no. Yes, they were reunified and no longer live with us, but I do believe our family grew regardless and continues to grow in reunification. It grew when they showed up to our baby shower, their mom included, to celebrate with us. It grew when we were invited to “Special Friends’ Day” at their school. It grew with every overnight and spur of the moment visit, knowing there was a mutual joy with seeing one another again. And in it all, we have loved them, near or far. 


For the times in between visits, and the time we wait for the next one, if it comes, we have to continually fight to trust that they are in good hands, neither ours nor their parent’s, but God’s. That is pretty much the only way reunification works. God places the children in our life for us to give everything we have, relying on Him for grace. And we continue to rely on Him once the kids have moved out. When we let go of the need to influence the situation and stop believing they are only safe or happy in our homes, we are freed to trust a King with an ever-watchful eye. If I continually worried about their wellbeing every moment since reunification, I couldn’t bear the weight of helplessness. It is only when walking in the faith of a Savior who was working in their lives long before I showed up, and will continue to do so long after I am around, that I can rejoice in reunification. I don’t do it perfectly, and I can stand to do it more often. For my sake. For the kids I have reunified. And God willing for the next ones I’ll help reunify. 

-FTC Foster Parent


Blog Foster Parent

I lost my life to find it.

The Christian martyr Jim Elliott is quoted as saying, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” This quote is a snapshot of what the journey of being a fost-adopt parent has looked like for me.

Let me be honest, I was clearly closed to foster care. I had my one biological daughter and that was enough for me, the expression of love and DNA passed down. In my mind, there was no way that I could love a child that didn’t come from me biologically. What was the point?

Since my wife (and I deep down) had such a desire to conceive more children we did all the stuff couples do. Testing, talking, paying money, more testing, and paying more money, and all the other stuff that comes from inside the measurable and controlled white walls.

Through our secondary infertility journey, I realized my wife’s deep desire to become a foster-adoptive parent. This was a scary squall to me. It was no longer about me because I was hell bent on staying in my boat no matter what. I love counting the cost. I can do it forever. I think first then leap, but never really leap. Why should I? I can always rationalize away “counting the cost” but it gives birth to what I’m ultimately after, security and control.

I don’t think that Jesus came to offer me a safe and controlled life but I subconsciously swam in this mirage of the Christian-American dream. I concluded that this is my stuff and I am not willing to share. 

Truthfully, it came to a point that I knew I would need to lay down my life for my wife or it would always be the elephant in the room. Lose my life to find it. I wanted to save my life to keep it, thank you very much.

My wife asked if we could take some classes about the dire need for “parents to take in children removed from homes.” Why would I want to upset the “shalom of my home” to bring in “little squalls not from me”? Am I crazy?

After attending these classes I became aware that one, this is a crisis and two, there were very few men attending these meetings. This bothered me. It was the women who were stepping up to the challenge and getting out of the boat. It was God who was slowly unclenching my hands gripped on the boat.

After the classes, I took out my anger by punching the center of the steering wheel with such great force that it set off the car horn indefinitely. “Where are the men!” I yelled.

This was God’s way of interrupting my quiet and safe life. The horn was God’s way of symbolically asking me to get out of the boat. Asking me to lose my life so I can find it, and so we did.

Today I have had the privilege to welcome children and a teenager into my home, and I have adopted two of them.

Becoming a foster-adoptive parent was nothing what I expected. I realize that I have love to give. My heart has room, just as God’s heart has room with his many mansions.

The bottom line is that jumping in the pool and getting out of the boat has changed the trajectory of my life!

Saying yes to children who need a loving home is saying yes to God. I have lost my life to find it but the gift is that we were meant for love, created by Love to give love. 

Although foster care has been challenging at times, I find that it is rewarding because it has shaped me. I have had to depend on Jesus, keeping my eyes on him amidst the challenges and joys.

Children do not ask to be removed. They have no choice, but I do. To whom much is given, much is required. Being a foster parent is not about me. It is about the children and the Lord who welcomes them in his name because I remember that Jesus is the welcome and the welcomer.

Jim Elliot was right. I am no fool because I keep nothing down here but I gain everything that I can never lose.



Blog Foster Parent

Un-becoming His Mom

Reunification is the first and primary goal of foster care and I believe foster parents can play a key role in championing biological parents on that path. The journey isn’t easy- it’s full of emotional highs and lows, but getting to witness a family restored is one of the highest honors in life. For 20 months I loved and cared for my foster son as if he were my own. There were many moments where I truly didn’t know what the outcome of the case would be. There were twists and turns around every corner, but I always held hope and prayed that one day I’d be able to confidently hand him back to his mom, knowing that’s where he belonged. Over the course of almost 2 years, the Lord opened the door for me to build a beautiful relationship with her. It started out slowly, but over time we became friends. She began to trust me and open up to me and I was able to support and encourage her.  By the grace of God and lots of grit and determination on her part, she successfully completed her case plan. Her son has been home with her for over a year now and I am blessed to continue being part of their lives. She has always assured me that she wants me in his life forever, but when he first reunified, the dynamics of our relationship shifted. Our roles reversed: she became the primary caretaker and was in control, and I was the one who was now having visits. I began to understand (to a degree) what she had felt while he was in my care. My house was empty and my heart ached for him. It’s not natural to temporarily raise a baby and then have to say goodbye. As much as I wanted him to leave me, I grieved deeply.  It was challenging in many ways and I had to figure out who I was again, outside of being somebody’s mom. Through growing pains/adjusted expectations I’ve learned to respect her boundaries. There’s a mutual understanding that the relationship is on her terms. It’s been messy at times, but we have so much love for each other. She affectionately refers to me as her “Baby Mama” and we talk often. I still light up every time they FaceTime or invite me to hang out with them. We’ve spent holidays, birthdays, and special occasions together. We’re family now! Every day that passes since I un-became his mom (I mean in the practical sense, because of course my heart will always have a mother’s love for him) gets a tiny bit easier. This current season of life feels a little more “normal”.  But then some days, a random memory will pop into my head and tears fill my eyes. Today it was walking up to my porch and remembering all of his things that used to be scattered about for our daily porch hangs. I miss being his mom so much. And I know that’s okay. It’s okay to be so glad he’s home, but also miss momming him. It’s both/and. I recognize how unique and special our relationship is. It’s truly a gift that she continues to humbly allow me in. Oh what joy it brings me to see them thrive!  I am immensely proud of the mother she is and am grateful for the journey we’ve walked together. I look forward to all the memories we’ll make over the years! -Foster the City Foster Parent
Blog Foster Parent

What’s sown in tears is reaped in joy…

To longtime moms, and sometimes moms, and new moms, and waiting to be moms, and moms that don’t have children to call their own, but mother nonetheless – happy mother’s day. 

From as far back as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mum, and 24 years ago, when I was just 15 I found out I couldn’t have children biologically. 

6 years ago my Dad died from a short but aggressive battle with cancer, he was 62 years old. He was an amazing Daddy, and I love him dearly. 

In the final month with my Dad, he looked me in the eye, and asked, 

“Do you have any regrets?”

I answered, “Yes,” with tears choking my throat, “that you’ll never see me be a mum.” He took my hand, looked me straight in the eye and tenderly yet firmly responded, “Oh, but Ellie I have. I’ve seen how you’ve mothered in a thousand ways. I know one day you’ll be a Mum, but I’ve seen you be a ‘mum’ to so many.”  

After my dad died, the idea of dreaming or hoping for a family felt far fetched. One too many “no-s” in a long string of very closed doors to growing our family had me very firmly in the “it’s just not meant to be” camp. It was a season of deep sorrow and seemingly never ending waves of grief. I was thrown deep into the valley, and there didn’t seem a way out. My dad was a pastor, I was raised in the church, and I loved God deeply and passionately… but yet here in this moment, having lost my dad and that deep desire to have a family, the last thing I wanted was the comfort of God.  It remains one of the darkest seasons of my life. 

Time, patience, lots of tears, therapy, and lots and lots of grace allowed me to turn back to God. I finally allowed him to lead me beside still waters, embraced the valley, and began the journey out. 

As my dear friend says, “God can take our deepest wounds and turn them into our greatest calling.”

I joined the team at Foster the City almost a year after my Dad died, and I spent the next 8 months consistently hearing the need for foster families. Not only was I hearing the need, I was sharing the need and a solution to the crisis of more children entering into foster care than there are homes and families to care for them.

And so, in January 2019 my husband and I began the journey to become a Resource Home/Foster Parents. 

While plan A of foster care IS reunification with the parents, then kinship care, the ask is to be open to both outcomes – reunification whenever possible, then adoption/legal guardianship. Knowing this, and knowing the journey God and I had weathered, I felt firm in my conviction that despite our desire to grow our family we could do this – we could say yes and then say goodbye. 

We’ve said yes four times, and good bye three, and yes we got too attached. Yes, each of those good byes has meant a piece of my heart is always missing. But, I wouldn’t change a thing, I wouldn’t take back any one of those yes-es. Even when one of those goodbyes brought me to my knees.

I did indeed become a Mama, four times over.  I was each of our babies’ Mamas for a season/seasons in their lives when they so fiercely needed a Mum (or extra Mum). 

And that deep rooted desire to grow our family? It’s a running joke that I should be more specific in my prayers, as indeed God has grown our family. In ways unexpected, and full of joy and sorrow (but isn’t that every family?!) 

There’s a Children’s book called “Plant A Kiss.” The little girl in the book plants a solitary kiss, and waits for it to grow. There are days where she doubts, and pouts, yet still she waters that kiss. One day, it sprouts and all gather to see. She declares that she will share, and those gathered are aghast for surely she should keep it for herself. But no, share she does, and from that one little seed of love, the bowl is filled again and again to overflowing as she joyfully distributes love. 

“Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him.”

I have watered that kiss, that dream of motherhood with an endless flow of tears for years. 

As 2022 drew to a close, we did indeed see permanency, I did claim the official title of “Mama” to our darling boy. But long before the judge made it official, I knew what my Dad said in that hospital room was true – that the heart of who God had made me to be, a mother, had lived out in so many ways.

So today, as I celebrate Mother’s Day for the first time as a legal bonafide mother, I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to each and every one of you on the path of motherhood, whether it’s in full bloom, a seed freshly planted, or one that needs a little extra care this day.

With love,

Professional Photos from Laura Michele Photography, Kelsey Gann Photo, Anchored in Hope Productions


Blog Theology Thursday

Yātôm Week 1: What the Bible Really Says About the Orphan

I grew up with a deep love for the outdoors. From a young age, my dad would take my brother and me camping and backpacking. One year we were gearing up for a 50-mile backpacking trip with several of my friends and their parents in Lassen National forest through the beautiful Cascade Mountains of California. In preparation for the trip, everyone had to read about how and what to pack. Preparation was very important because primitive trails like these have no running water, bathrooms, or trash cans. You had to pack in and pack out everything you needed for the 4-day journey. Mount Lassen was a particularly difficult hike because the trails were covered in sand which made walking even more tiring. Carefully reading about how and what to pack was essential for completing the journey alive and healthy.

For the most part we had all prepared well and were equipped for the hike. That is, all of us except my friend Jason. Because Jason had lots of experience camping, he only skimmed the material that told him what to pack – but packing for camping and packing for a hike are completely different. Only a half-day into our wilderness journey, we noticed that Jason kept falling behind, so we stopped to see how he was doing. Jason told us that he felt exhausted and that his back was really hurting. We were all surprised by this, because Jason was in great shape! We decided to divide some of the items in his pack to help lighten his load, but when we opened his backpack, we couldn’t believe what we found. Jason had packed multiple non-essential items that were making his pack exceedingly heavy, including several cans of food, a large bottle of hair spray and – wait for it – a blow dryer! After we recovered from the shock of how poorly Jason had packed, we ate all the canned food, distributed some of Jason’s items among the other hikers and went on our way.  

I believe there are many ‘Jason’s’ among those seeking to advocate for children in foster care. There are many people who set out on the journey of foster care having read only part of the manual. Like Jason, they have made assumptions about what the Bible says about the fatherless and these assumptions have left well-intentioned travelers exhausted or unable to complete the journey. Advocating for children in foster care – like hiking the Cascade Mountains – is a beautiful yet changeling journey, and one that we must be diligent to prepare for. 

Pastor Rick Warren helps us unpack why seeing the Bible as a manual for life is so important. He says, 

life can be dangerous, so it’s essential that you use the right equipment. One of those pieces of equipment is the Bible. It’s like God’s owner’s manual for your life. Like any good owner’s manual, the Bible gives you instructions and you can consult it when you need help. (1)

The path of life can be dangerous and the Bible helps us find our way. It is a life manual, full of wisdom. It contains the teachings necessary to prepare us for the journey of foster care.  

The problem is that when people refer to the ‘manual’ about God’s heart for the fatherless, they often only point to one or two verses in the Bible. Be honest – how many times have you heard or read content about foster care or adoption that references either James’ call for “true religion” or the Psalmist reminder that “God sets the lonely in families?” Both passages are certainly important for helping us know how and what to pack for the journey of foster care, but is that really all the Bible has to say about the fatherless? Are these two passages really enough to understand God’s heart for vulnerable children? And most importantly, are they adequately preparing us for what’s ahead? Because unless we truly understand what to pack, we will not have the necessary supplies to finish the journey – let alone finish in a place of health. 

Part of the problem is that most people have neglected the Old Testament – the place where the vast majority of references to the fatherless are found. In fact, James 1:27 is the only place in the New Testament that orphans are explicitly mentioned. When we compare this one reference to the 42 mentions of the orphan in the Old Testament it becomes clear that the vast majority of the Bible’s teaching comes from the Hebrew Scriptures. 42 times in the Old Testament God reveals his heart towards children who do not have a home. 42 times God provides the insight and perspective we need to care for these amazing children. If we have any hope of truly understanding God’s heart for vulnerable children we can no longer neglect the truth these passages have to offer. 

I mean, can you imagine trying to do a 42 piece puzzle with only one or two pieces!? How frustrating!? How incomplete!? Yet I am proposing this is exactly what we do when we neglect the majority of God’s thoughts about vulnerable children. It’s time we stopped being content with one or two pieces of the puzzle. It’s time we go looking for the rest of the pieces so we can see the beautiful picture of God’s heart for the fatherless. 

So for the next few weeks we will open the manual and start gathering the missing pieces of the puzzle in hopes that we better prepare ourselves for the journey. But before we start, it would be helpful to understand a bit about the trail ahead. 

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew. Anytime you study the Old Testament, you should do a bit of research to discover what key Hebrew words are used and what insight those words offer regarding your topic. Most English translations use the words ‘fatherless’ and ‘orphan’ to describe children who need a home. But when we look at the Hebrew we learn that both English words are translated from the single Hebrew word yātôm [ya-TOME]. As I have mentioned already, yātôm is a common word occurring 42 times in the Old Testament. What is interesting – and very insightful – about the word yātôm is that it is constructed around the Hebrew verb meaning ‘to be lonely.’ One would expect the word to mean something like ‘to be without parents.’ Yet in the Hebrew mind, to be an orphan, is to be lonely

I believe this small insight offers profound wisdom to help us navigate the needs of adoptive children and kids in foster care. There is a cold isolation and loneliness that many children in foster care experience. Even once children find an adoptive home the experience and trauma of being removed from your birth family never completely goes away.

I was talking with a mom just the other day who was sharing how her teenage adopted daughter told her how isolating it was to be the only adoptee among her peers. This experience left her feeling like she was the only one who didn’t belong in the group.  Another adoptive mom shared how after her 4 year old daughter’s birth mom’s parental rights were terminated she sat in her lap crying out “mommy, mommy!” Even though this precious little girl was actively being held by her forever mom, somewhere deep down inside, she felt alone. 

I don’t cite such examples to be fatilist or hopeless. As one of the most quoted passages about yātôm says, we serve a God who is “a father to the fatherless.” A “God [who] sets the lonely in families.” (2) I mentioned these stories to highlight the brilliance of Hebrew wisdom. The very word yātôm gives us deep insight and direction on how we can best love children without a family – to be present with them in their loneliness. Once we correctly understand the word, yātôm becomes a safeguard against thinking there is an easy answer to meeting the needs of adoptive children and kids in foster care. It teaches us that yātôm’s very experience has been marked by loneliness and what they need most is for us to be with them. God calls his people to be the embodied presence of Christ – a presence that stands with yātôm through their best and worst days. 

Over the next few weeks we will be diving into the Old Testament scriptures to learn what the Bible actually says about yātôm. Each Thursday we will post a new blog that unpacks a new aspect of God’s heart for the fatherless. My hope and prayer is that by the end of our time together we will all be a little more equipped for the journey. And by God’s grace, more of us will not only make it to the end of the trail, but when we arrive at our destination, we will be healthy.  

Ryan MacDonald

1 –
2 –  Psalm 68:5-6


All and Nothing

“Go get your son.”

I will never forget the day I heard those words in the deepest part of my spirit. My boss had forwarded me an email for an upcoming project at work, and the email included the profile of a child in need of a foster home. Before I finished reading the first paragraph, I knew he was my son.

It sounds crazy, I know.

I wouldn’t believe it myself, if my best friend hadn’t walked in mere minutes later.

She found me sitting in front of my computer with tears streaming down my face.

“I think this is my son,” I whispered.

It would be three months before that little boy walked through the front door of my home and an additional two years before he shared my last name, but that still, small voice was true – he is my son.

We’ve shared incredible highs and weathered indescribable lows. We’ve watched each other change and grow. We’ve laughed and celebrated miraculous milestones. We’ve cried and endured immeasurable losses. We’ve learned new things and made new memories. We’ve learned how to apologize and offer forgiveness. None of it has been perfect, and every single bit has been holy.

Adoption has been nothing like I imagined and more than I could have ever hoped. Words feel inadequate, and I find myself struggling to describe our story in a way that captures its true beauty.

What I know is this – if I could go back to that moment and read that email again for the first time, I would run even faster and fight even harder to bring my son home again. I am so grateful I get to be his mom, and it is a privilege I will never take for granted. 

I don’t know what the future holds for us. Whatever it is, we’ll face it together – mother and son, forever.


What Does Love Require of Me?

June is National Reunification Month, and it is no coincidence that we are reunifying our sweet baby love with family this month. In the past 6 years, we have said “yes” to 12 children, and 11 of them have reunified with their parents or have moved into kinship care with family. When I think of the beginning of our family’s journey to where we are now, I can pinpoint the various moments when we chose to lay our desires, expectations and dreams at Jesus’ feet…when we chose to “get out of the way”, so to speak, so families could be made whole and children could remain with their families of origin.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Loving a child with everything in you…with your entire soul, body & mind and then watching them literally walk out of your life, majority of which we never see or hear from again, is incredibly heartbreaking. 12 goodbyes means that my heart is fractured in ways that will never be made whole this side of heaven. 12 goodbyes means there are moments that trigger memories from seasons of our life that bring a wave of immense joy and immense grief at the exact same time. And…yet…

Jesus laid down his life for mine. Jesus cried out to his Father, begging for another way. Jesus lavishly loved and gave and sacrificed knowing there was nothing that could be returned…knowing his heart, mind, body, and soul would also not receive the wholeness and redemption this side of heaven. When I think of championing reunification, it means I ask myself “What does loving this person at this moment mean? How can I bring a small glimpse of heaven down to them in this interaction? How can I use the love that is poured out onto me and lavish them with that love? How can I align my heart with the Father’s heart for families to be reconciled?”

I heard a question a few years ago that has become the foundation of our fostering journey: “What does love require of me today?” Not just the easy kind of love….not the kind where you only show up for the people who can reciprocate that love…but the Jesus, lay-down-your-life, expect-nothing-in-return, kind of love.

What does love require?

It means waving and smiling to bio dad from my car every visit for 18 months because I was not allowed to have contact with him. Loving him meant making sure he did not feel like the enemy…that even though he would never be able to hear my voice, he would know that he was seen.

What does love require?

It means making newborn footprints into a Christmas tree card framed side-by-side with a photo of baby smiling. It means wrapping that framed gift, tying it with a bow and a note of genuine affection and encouragement for a momma navigating the darkest season of her life.

What does love require?

It means hugging a mother during a Family Meeting as she sobs uncontrollably at the thought of losing her babies. It means holding her face in your hands and looking into her eyes and to tell her to keep fighting…that you will be there for as much of her journey as possible, and that her babies are safe in your care while she works tirelessly to find wholeness and healing so she could bring them home.

What does love require?

It means looking into the eyes of the little girl you’ve known all her life…that you love so deeply that you don’t even know where she ends and you begin….and come to the realization that loving her means you will need to say your hardest goodbye so she can live the rest of her life in the next city over with her siblings. It means actually fighting for that move to happen because, although it’ll break your heart, you know being with her siblings in kinship care is the best place for her.

What does love require?

It means putting on the necklace mom gave to her baby every visit so her beliefs and hopes are seen and respected. It means dressing that toddler for this week’s visit with the outfit mom gave you at last week’s visit. It means advocating for more visits because it is in the best interest of the child and parent to bond. It means texting mom after court and rejoicing with her after a long awaited ruling. It means praying for the mom or dad you will never have the chance to meet, but are loving their child for this season. It means smiling, showing up, adjusting your schedule, expecting the unexpected, looking someone in the eye…Love requires seeing the person in front of you for who they really are, not the choices they have made or the trauma they have endured, or the judgements that have been made of them. Every person I have met in this system over the past 6 years needs someone to see them and have deep compassion.

Choosing to step into this broken world of foster care means we are choosing to champion reunification…it means we are faithfully following the Father as he leads us on a messy, complicated, heartbreaking path toward what we hope and pray is healing and wholeness. It means that we step into every encounter and ask ourselves “what does love require of me in this moment?” 

Christina B.


Being a Support Friend During a Pandemic

When I think about our church’s involvement with Foster the Bay, the first phrase that comes to mind is “people stepped up.” Our church is rather small, and instead of wrapping a family in our own congregation, our first team of four wrapped a family who lived in our neighborhood but attended a separate church. There were definitely some steep learning curves, but we hit a stride. While some friends helped with rides and meals, other friends supported with babysitting and play-dates.

Then, March 2020 came, and with shelter-in-place, we didn’t really know what to do. Sure we could send texts and gift cards, but aside from that, we didn’t really know what else to do. If you remember, back then, we didn’t even feel safe bringing a meal or doing grocery shopping for ourselves. A few months later, the thought of expanding ways to serve to include acts such as social-distanced babysitting brought up some debates because there were still so many unknowns. Furthermore, there were different transitions as some folks were helping out our new church plant, and I was moving down to San Diego for a year-long residency.

Yet, in retrospect, I believe that my transitioning out of the Team Lead role was honestly the best thing for our first family. I do believe that God never needs you. He simply invites you into His plans and it is for your good. As I stepped out of the Support Friend Team Lead role, I saw just how much God didn’t need me because the new lead, a mother of three and a support friend, not only took the lead, but she enhanced and beautified it.

She sent out monthly, clear emails that shared updates and ways we could serve. She gently pushed back if our suggestions (such as zoom dates during a time where the kids were inundated with screens) were not the most helpful. Personally, she and her girls would create crafting kits to drop off at our Foster Family’s house and came up with other creative ways to support the family. Although I knew that her family was also experiencing the brunt of the pandemic, she exuded so much grace, hospitality, creativity, and love during a time when it would have been easy (and understandable) if she decided to retreat.

I also think about our other support friend group that actually formed after the shelter-in-place began. Without ever meeting the family they were serving, they began to efficiently meet her material needs using Google spreadsheets. At first, I was a little shocked at the generosity. I wondered about the sustainability — we recommend one big touch and one small touch a month for a reason. Then, I realized that in this moment, that team was ready and willing, and the family they were serving had their very unique circumstances as well (a single mother with two babies). God brought them to us for a reason because He knew what we could do.

This past year and a half has not been easy for anyone. The thought of taking even just 30-60 minutes a month to touch base or send out an email seems simple on paper, but the will to actually do so required so much! Yet once I did, I was the one who was blessed. I got to hear the small wins and testimonies, the ways that we were able to be God’s hands and feet. And, keeping our eyes on Christ and His glory, I was able to glimpse my fellow brothers’ and sisters’ being transformed into that “same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). My prayers for you is that in reading this, you would feel encouraged to go ahead and send that text, or make that phone call; and that you would find strength in knowing that our finite resources and capacity for love are made infinite through God’s power and His unconditional love.

Junia Kim


Our Journey to “Yes”

I remember learning in high school that there were so many children who were given up and needed families – either because their mother was too young or unable to care for them, their family was poor and had no way to support them or they were simply unwanted.  I came to the conclusion that if I were to have a family, I wanted to care for someone who is already here and needed a loving family.

My husband and I met at our church’s Young Adult group.  He had been adopted when he was 15 months old.  As we discussed marriage, he also did not have a desire to birth our own children.  We married in our late 20’s and were very busy with our careers.  He had his own business and I worked for a large corporation.  Time went by quickly.

About ten years ago, we started taking steps to share the blessings God had provided us with those children and youth who needed families and homes.  We had an extra bedroom, means, and love to share.  We heard about a group at another church which was exploring how churches could support homeless/foster youths who were graduating from high school.  The staff from the Mount Diablo School District, who worked with this population, was invited to come to our meeting to share information and help us with our goal.

After that meeting, we met with Mount Diablo School District Staff, another couple, and two foster youth to discuss more about how we might help those who were graduating and needed homes.  That year, everyone was placed.  One year later, we got a call from the Mount Diablo Staff that they had three siblings who had been living in their car with their Dad.  Their Dad had died suddenly and they needed a home.  We moved the two girls into our extra room, and my husband made part of our family room into a bedroom for the boy.  These were good kids that through no fault of their own, needed a loving family.  We helped the oldest girl through Vet Tech school, and were blessed to celebrate the youngest’s sixteenth birthday in our home.  That was our first experience with foster care.

Over the years, another sister in Christ and I used to talk about our mutual interest in foster care and our heart for these vulnerable children.  Through a Christian business group called Barnabas, we heard about a wonderful organization called Foster the City.  We learned that in Contra Costa County there are about 1000 children in foster care, and roughly 30 percent of them need to be placed out of county due to lack of available homes.  We were inspired by Foster the City’s dream to have a waiting list of families, rather than a waiting list of children.

We quickly decided to become advocates for this cause and our church leadership approved for us to become a FTC partner church.  When we became a partner church, we were not aware of any families in our church with foster children.  In less than a year, we had four families in various stages of becoming or considering becoming foster parents, and one family with a placement.  We also trained 8 support friends.  This was truly exciting to see God moving in our church!

That one family with a placement was us.  I had already retired from my corporate position and my husband had finished building our new house.  We had even more room to share, and time to give!  We went through the Resource Parent training, and requested a youth in the 16-21 category.  We knew that could be a difficult, yet rewarding time of life.  We trusted God to lead and protect us all.

Shortly after we were certified, we got a call that they had a 15-year old youth who needed placement.  We met with him, his current care giver, and the Social Workers at a park just to see how we clicked (or not).  He has been part of our family now for over seven months. He is an amazing kid and we have been so blessed.  He plays sports and wants to go to college.  It has been a challenge learning how to relate, discipline, and care for a youth we have not raised from birth.  We have had to work on becoming a family, learn how to develop and enforce expectations, share our values and our faith, and ensure we were always loving, respectful, and approachable.  Our support friends are a God-send.  They pray for us, supply meals twice a month and really help lighten the load.  It is a great model.

In our retirement years, there are many ways we could spend our time and money, but none more worthy and rewarding than pouring our lives into caring for the vulnerable and orphaned. We may not be able to change the world for everyone, but we are changing the world for this someone.

1 Cor. 15:58  Be strong and immovable.  Always work enthusiastically for the Lord. For you know that anything you do for the Lord is never useless.

Jan Gordon