Remarkable Hospitality

One of the things my husband and I most enjoy is hosting, and opening our home to friends and family. We both love to cook, and I love to bake, and we like to create a space that welcomes others. We’ve been living in our apartment building for almost 10 years. The spring before we actively began fostering (knowing that a baby in our midst would probably limit some of our activities), we hosted an open house, complete with drinks and a table laden with food. We assumed that “Open House” meant people would stay for a bit, but mosey on out. We assumed wrong! Our 2 bedroom, 1100SqFt apartment was packed with our neighbors the whole evening – like 100 people for 4+ hours! This act of opening our home, of breaking bread with honestly mostly strangers, of toasting a drink with people who didn’t look or believe like we do, changed the dynamic in the building for us. It opened doors to build relationships, and it removed walls. These neighbors became friends. They’ve welcomed each of our four babies, and seen us live out the joy and sorrow of fostering, and our son, Jack, he is deeply loved in our building. 

Scripture encourages us to practice hospitality, telling us that we should seek to show hospitality (Romans 12:13)—literally, to “pursue the love of strangers” (Heb. 13:2)—and that doesn’t mean to simply hang out with our best friends. If we want to demonstrate obedience to our heavenly Father, we will practice biblical hospitality. 

Maybe you’re thinking, this isn’t for me, I don’t like to cook, my house has constant stacks of laundry, I work 2 jobs, and my kids are crazy, I want to encourage you that Hospitality and entertaining are not synonymous.

Throughout the Bible we see numerous occasions of God’s people stepping into places of hospitality, most notably the Good Samaritan, but also in the stories of how Jesus sat with tax collectors, and outcasts of society at the time. 

God invites us to a place of remarkable yet practical hospitality. Jesus set before us two commandments, to Love God with all our heart, mind, and soul, AND to Love our neighbor. Hospitality at its core is loving your neighbor. Practical hospitality looks like painting teacher’s lounges at your local school, writing cards to social workers, it looks like inviting your co-worker and their family to dinner, neighbors to s’mores around the fire pit this summer, extending an arm of grace and a Starbucks card to your unhoused neighbor you pass daily as you jump on the freeway. And it looks like, welcoming a child in Jesus’ name into your home, and saying yes wholeheartedly to the implications of loving with open arms (getting “too attached”, saying goodbye, saying yes to the whole family). 

4 years ago, we were in the midst of transitioning our second foster love to an auntie. It was the height of Covid, courts were shut down, agency engagement was limited, and this goodbye was unimaginably difficult. The trajectory of her story changed multiple times from adoption to reunification, to visits, to adoption, to finally a less than 24 hour notice of a final goodbye. Those early visits with Auntie were strained, I won’t lie, and I have a photo of Auntie and our little love sitting on our couch, and our faces tell that hard story. In the four years since we said goodbye, we kept showing up for that little girl, and her auntie. We kept loving her, we kept demonstrating remarkable hospitality as we continued to welcome them into our family, and auntie too, demonstrated a sacrificial love, allowing us to stay in contact, building relationships. We have that little girl about once a month for sleepovers and offering respite to auntie, we drop off mother’s day gifts for auntie, and are welcomed to birthday parties with the whole family. And now I have new photos of us sitting on our couch, this time as only God could do, the strangest blended family, celebrating birthdays and holidays. God can take our deepest wounds, and turn them into our greatest calling.

May is Foster Care Awareness Month, but the call to action isn’t limited to May, and the specific highlight of Foster Care Awareness Month, the invitation to love and care for some of the most vulnerable, exists daily. Multiple times a week our team hears of children in need of a home, in need of a temporary but wholeheartedly committed family to provide stability and love. Time and time again in the Bible God calls us to step outside of our comfort zone, to go beyond our city walls, and to love our neighbor. For some this may look like welcoming children into your homes and families, for others this could look like showing up with a meal, with offers of tutoring, or babysitting, or yard work. 

This month marks 7 years since my dad died. He is known for many things, including his deep love for Jesus, his family, and football (and soccer), but for those that knew him, what he was most known for saying and living, is “don’t take care, take risks.” Take risks for Jesus. It’s risky business loving without guarantee of forever, it’s risky saying yes to kids who have experienced trauma, it’s risky welcoming extended family into your home. BUT this risk, this example of remarkable (practical) hospitality in a hostile world is an expression of God’s love. It’s putting that extra leaf in the table, it’s building an IKEA bed, it’s looking into the face of a child and seeing how desperately they just need a place to call home.

My prayer is that at as God moves on your heart this month, and in the months to come, that there is a family – single, married, with or without bio kids, empty nester even, to say yes to these 12, 13, 14 year old girls who need to know the love of God, and the love and stability of a family. Families to say yes to sibling groups, because too many of our young neighbors are being sent out of county and away from their schools and communities because we don’t have enough homes to welcome them. 

But, even still my prayer is that beyond a step of faith into the remarkable hospitality of foster care, that each of us today would seek to show practical hospitality, that our hearts would be open for ways that we can demonstrate the love of God, so freely lavished upon us, in practical ways – within our communities. 



Asking For & Accepting Help

Does anybody else have a hard time accepting help, let alone asking for help? No, just me?! I always knew going into foster care and embracing the model of Foster the City of having support friends was going to be the more challenging aspect. Oh for sure, saying goodbye and walking through that grief were some of the hardest moments of my life, but in the day to day, inviting others in has overwhelmed me.

We just welcomed a new little one into our home, so we’re back in the new placement stage. Baby boy is our third little one in our home, and I don’t know how I would have finished this first month standing without the tangible and emotional support of our community. Coffee, dinners, lunch, breakfast, check in texts, postage stamped cards (I love getting mail that isn’t junk mail!), flowers, baby supplies, gifts for me, gifts for baby, sanity (masked) walks, and arms to cuddle baby (because his favorite place is right in your arms!

Just a quick glimpse into our first week: on his day of discharge I fielded 10 calls regarding his case. In the first 2 days home we had two social worker visits, and an extended doctor’s visit – all quickly followed in the next 6 days with a visit, multiple additional calls and emails, a court hearing, and a 90 minute phone meeting.

So those meals delivered meant my brain didn’t have to think of what’s for dinner, nor did we have to clean up from making dinner which, when evenings are hardest for baby, makes life so much easier.

Sanity walks provided me with accountability to actually get out and breathe, and offered adult conversation that wasn’t baby centered.

One friend dropped off fresh baked bread, and it became my daily bread for three days straight. Good bread and good butter will always be a go to comfort food.

Let me tell you something – my deep dark secret (OK, one of many) – this support, it brings me to my knees. Even though I just expounded on how meaningful and impactful this support is, my biggest struggle is in receiving this support. My inclination is to say, “We’re good. We’ve got it. Thanks, though.” On the flip side I love being able to be the giver. I take joy in providing meals, sending cards, and texting. But to receive it… it brings me to my knees; in humility and in praise.

One of the joys for me of working with Foster the City is to be an active speaker for our Interest and Launch Meetings, and the irony is never lost on me as I share about the impact of having support friends on your foster care journey. God and I often discuss the journey we’ve walked together and the absolute sense of irony that exists in so many areas of my life. Here’s the thing – as someone walking the journey of foster care as a foster mama, a support for others, and working behind-the-scenes for an organization championing for these vulnerable children, I can confidently say that tangible emotional and spiritual support really does make a difference. The national statistic says that 60% of foster families don’t continue after their first year or first placement. If it wasn’t for the support we received in our season of saying goodbye and in turn saying hello again, I’m not sure of the depth of my yes. There are many taxing parts of foster care – physical, spiritual, and emotional – and we need a community around us willing and able to show up.

One of our Foster Families recently shared that they prefer referring to their “team” as a “Support Army” because that’s how it has felt.

“We’ve just been overwhelmed by the way they’ve shown up. We could go on and on about the ways (meals, supplies, date nights, child care, prayer). One thing I’ve loved seeing is how they jump into action, they ‘deploy’ the moment we get a placement. When we got our first placement a few years ago; there were diapers at our door, clothes, formula, a stroller and this was all within a few hours. The intensity of that commitment was such a comfort, a simple reminder that ‘ok, they really are in this with you.’

We’ve seen it in the way our team prays, we’ve gone through some pretty harrowing experiences, and just getting that text from our team lead, saying, ‘OK, here’s what we need to be praying about.’ It’s been the reinforcements we need.” – Jeff and Kashelle

You can hear more of their story and the stories of their support friends in their own words HERE.

In addition to the practical support, foster families need to be supported by the practice of prayer. Foster care is a spiritual battle. The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy but the Son of God brings life, and life in abundance. (John 10:10). The very fact that these children are entering care is a demonstration of that brokenness, and as foster parents entering into that trauma they need the protection of prayer.

By asking and receiving help from our community of support, I’ve experienced a depth of encouragement that has carried me through both the joy and sadness of foster care. I’ve forged deeper friendships, and enjoyed a vast array of meals. Furthermore, the little ones in our home have an army cheering them on in life, covering them in prayer, celebrating their life milestones, and rejoicing together when key moments happen. We’re not meant to do life alone, and I don’t believe we’re meant to foster alone. Not everyone can foster, but we can all do something. Take the help – say yes to that meal drop off, welcome an extra set of arms to cuddle baby, a fresh batch of energy to hang out with that teen; you might be surprised what it adds to your life.

A Challenge For You

*If you’re a foster parent or a potential foster parent and you don’t have support, especially as a Foster the City family, can I encourage you to ask for that help? It can be humbling, but there can be so much beauty in the ask. I’m linking to our Foster Family Information Form, and if you’ve never completed the form, please do it now. There are 19 different avenues of support you can check, as well as space to write in your own needs.

*If you’ve completed one in the past, and your needs have changed can I encourage you to complete it again.

We had one family recently share how their needs changed during this last year of the pandemic. She shared that being home all day with a preschooler was wearying, and in keeping safety a priority they weren’t using their support friends as babysitters, but the little girl needed a break from home. So, she reached out to one support friend who had guinea pigs. They created a time for the little girl to play on the front lawn surrounded by the guinea pigs, and those playdates made a tangible difference in the life of that family.

Another Foster Parent shared that initially she had thought asking for someone to walk the dog didn’t qualify as a need, and loved the idea of receiving meals. It turns out that the children in her care were incredibly picky eaters and the meals were going to waste, but that the dog was packing on the pounds! Needs arise as life happens, and every family’s needs look different. You never know what little things may add up, but getting support in those areas make a tremendous difference.

Questions to ask yourself
  1. What lightens the load?
    1. For some babysitting just isn’t an option, but there are innumerable ways to be supported.
  2. What are ways that make you feel loved?
    1. Think about the 5 Love Languages (Gifts, Touch, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service).
  3. Who is my Support Friend Team Lead?
    1. Rather than communicate with multiple people on an already loaded communication schedule, the support friend team lead serves to be the bridge between you and your support friend team.
  4. Who already exists in my circle of friends that I could invite in to be a support friend?
    1. Inviting Others In
  1. Figure out what works for you, your family, and support friend team in terms of sharing information.
    1. A shared Google calendar is one way to see at a glance what’s happening-meal drop offs, important dates (I like to share court hearings, visits, birthdays).
  2. Know your own boundaries.
    1. One family likes to cocoon for the first few weeks so they limit outside interactions.
  3. As your needs change, don’t be afraid to voice those changing needs.

Partnering with a Grieving Child

Five foster homes inhabited by strangers.
Four languages shouting unintelligible words.
Three siblings separated and estranged.
Two parents ensnared in addiction and abuse.
One baby brother requiring protection.

His shadowed eyes stared warily into mine. Their depths held such sorrow… At 3 1/2 years old, this little man needed more than just a safe home. He needed a safe space to grieve and rage and cry and be loved through each big emotion.

Welcoming children from hard places into our homes and churches means inviting in their sorrow and grief as well. We are choosing to actively enter their pain and loss and anger. Families and churches will experience grief and a deep sense of loss as we walk with children in foster care. True stories of abuse, neglect, cycles of addiction, and broken families will break our hearts. Saying good-bye to children we love will overwhelm us with grief. We will struggle to comfort the children that remain in our homes after hard good-byes. In addition to helping our kids from hard places access professional therapy and counseling services, let’s be ready to comfort them as they grieve. Let’s take time to acknowledge their sadness and anger. Let’s sit with them in their sorrow. Let’s comfort their hurting hearts. Here are some activities to do together with children we love as they process grief. Instead of trying to “fix” things or “make things better,” let’s focus on comforting them and connecting with their hearts.

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able give them the same comfort God has given us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)

Grieving Together
  • Actively Listen
  • Take a walk
  • Quietly sit side-by-side
  • Cry together
  • Share a hug
Mourning Alone
  • Write letters to birth family
  • Process through journaling
  • Compose a Lament Psalm
  • Walk a labyrinth
  • Listen to music
Creating Memorials
  • Decorate a jar for “collecting” tears
  • Create a Lifebook or photo album
  • Frame a picture of birth family
  • Paint comfort rock or picture
  • Construct memory box
Providing Comfort
  • Say a prayer
  • Nourish with food
  • Savor a warm beverage
  • Wrap in a blanket
  • Read a story aloud

Walking Through Grief as a Foster Parent

Experiencing Grief
Coping with the loss of a child in care

As foster parents, you have opened your hearts and home to vulnerable children in need. Often you have welcomed a child into your home who has experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect and you have taken on the large task of teaching them to trust, love, care and become responsible or independent by patterning such behavior for them. Attachment is often inevitable. Placement changes and transitions can be heart wrenching for you, your family, and the child in care. There is no way that separation can be made easy and painless. The following however, are suggestions for making the separation as positive an experience as possible.

For the Child that is Leaving:
  • Give them permission to express their feelings
  • In addition to accepting a child’s feelings, help them to identify them
  • Talk straight to the child about why they are leaving and where they are going
  • Make a life book or souvenir box
  • Share information about the child with the social worker so the best plan can be made for the child’s next placement
  • Give the child permission to leave you
  • Do not let the child “make” your reject them
For Your Biological Children:
  • Talk straight with your own children about the move and why
  • Give them permission to identify and express their feelings about the move
  • Communicate the positive aspects of the change
  • Allow your child to grieve
For Yourself:
  • Take time to sort out your feelings and think about where they are coming from
  • Allow yourself time to grieve
  • Talk to someone about your feelings
  • Work with the Social Worker and the family to speak about the steps of the transition
  • Establish what future contact could look like
  • Remember your good times and accomplishments
  • Plan time for a trip or a chance to “regroup”
  • Make a scrapbook of events and times spent together
  • Make an album with pictures of each child you have cared for
  • Start a garden in which you add a plant each time a child leaves your home in remembrance of the child
Consequences of Unresolved Grief in Foster Parents:
  • Emotional distancing / unavailability
  • Anger
  • Guilt
  • Depression and loss of energy
Who Unresolved Grief can Impact:
  • New foster placement(s)
  • Other foster kids in the home
  • Family members – spouse, partner, children
  • Self
  • Other relationships
Suggestions of Helpful Things You Can Do:
  • Talk about loss
  • Accept help and support when offered
  • Exercise moderately
  • Keep a journal
  • Be attentive to maintaining healthy eating and sleep patterns
  • Read
  • Listen to music
  • Seek spiritual support
  • Be patient with yourself
How to Support Others Who are Grieving
  • Be a good listener
  • Let them feel sad
  • Do not minimize grief
  • Do not be judgmental
  • Ask about their feelings
  • Acknowledge the pain
  • Be available when you can
  • Talk openly and honestly about the situation unless the person does not want to
You know you are recovering when…
  • You can laugh and enjoy being with others
  • Taking care of yourself is not only O.K., but it feels good
  • The future is not so frightening
  • You can handle special days without falling apart
  • You want to reach out to others in need or pain
  • You now enjoy activities that you had given up
  • You can share humorous memories without crying
  • Your emotional roller coaster is slowing down
  • You can actually see the progress you’ve made

Caution: Don’t get alarmed if you’re suddenly feeling the pain of grief again, this doesn’t mean you are regressing, these feelings will come up from time to time when you least expect them.

Additional Resources

The Forgotten Initiative: Saying Good Bye: Navigating Reunification as a Foster Parent
Offers thoughtful insights and practical tools to guide children through hard goodbyes with honor and intentionality.

The Forgotten Initiative: Good Grief: Navigating Loss in Foster Care
In foster care, we know we will be met by loss. God does not ask us to see our losses or our child’s losses as good. It’s not about minimizing our loss, and still, our perspective on grief matters.

The Forgotten Initiative: Walking Through Grief with Hope
A child’s foster care journey begins with loss, loss of what they know, who they love, and all that is familiar. Grief follows right behind and exhibits itself in various ways. As a foster parent, you and those close to you are also well-acquainted with loss and grief as the very nature of your role is to love and let go.


A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
An honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss.

The Goodbye Book, Todd Parr
Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye. Touching upon the host of emotions children experience, Todd reminds readers that it’s okay not to know all the answers, and that someone will always be there to support them. An invaluable resource for life’s toughest moments.

In My Heart, Jo Witek and Christine Roussey
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside, with language that is lyrical but also direct to empower readers to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions.


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

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2 –  Psalm 68:5-6