Photo credit: Arielle Peters Photography
Born to Foster Mini-Series: Part I
I was in elementary school when I first carried a baby doll in my arms and proudly shared that it was the baby girl I’d adopted.
Before the words “adopt” or “foster” were in my vocabulary, the seeds for it were planted in my heart.
I was seven years old the first time I realized that some kids need a safe place to live.
I realized it because I was one of them…a child in need of a temporary safe place until reunification was possible.
My parents were divorced, and it was my birthday weekend at Dad’s house. Unfortunately, he and my step-mother (at the time) got into a physical altercation that landed one in jail and the other in the hospital.
I remember the blood, the screams, the shattering of glass. I remember swooping up my baby sister, an infant at the time, and hiding her in my bedroom closet. I remember dialing 9-1-1 and to this day have no clue how the police and paramedics knew the address because I sure didn’t.
My seventh birthday was a giant catastrophe. One that’s been the catalyst for my calling.
How a volunteer opportunity solidified my calling
Years later, I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic and spent my time volunteering at a preschool for children who had lost one or both of their parents. On that trip, my heart grew in size.
Upon my return to the States, I couldn’t stop thinking about Angelina, one of the little girls who sat in my lap everyday. I needed a way to tangibly love her and invest in her life from so many miles away. That’s when I first learned about sponsoring a child.
In college, I was surrounded by friends and other women who dreamt of becoming a wife and getting pregnant. I respected their aspirations, but I simply could not relate. I had no burning desire to be a wife, and there was no part of me interested in pregnancy. I wrote it off as age, thinking one day that might change.
When the best guy I’d ever known, my friend at the time, Eric, began to pursue me, I fell hard. We began dating and suddenly I had dreams of getting married after all. (Apparently meeting the right person will do that to you!)
I knew that I wanted a partner in doing the work God was calling me to, but every guy I had dated prior to Eric seemed to be more of a distraction and an obstacle in the way.
During our dating relationship, I decided to take a spontaneous, solo trip to Zambia to volunteer with an organization that educated orphans specifically. On that trip, I met a little boy named Frankie. He was seven years old, or so they thought. His parents were both deceased and no one had birth records to determine his birthdate.
If my previous trip to the Dominican made my heart grow in size, Frankie made my heart beat. I could only describe my love and bond with him similar to the way my own mom loved me. Leaving him was devastating, but bringing him back home with me was no option either.
I considered uprooting my life and moving to Zambia, but amidst praying about that possibility I found out Frankie’s uncle had taken custody of him and moved. They could no longer locate him.
How my boyfriend fit into my calling
During all of this, Eric and I began to have some very serious discussions about the future. I cried as I expressed to him that I thought we should break up.
I told him that I knew without a shadow of doubt I was meant to be a foster parent and to someday adopt. I told him that, as hard as it was for me to admit, I needed to follow God’s call on my life and that if he wasn’t also being called to foster and adopt, we would never work out.
Eric did not give me the answer I wanted to hear, but he also refused to accept the fact that I was ending our incredible relationship. Instead, he challenged me, “Have you ever asked me if I am willing to foster or adopt? Or have you assumed that just because I don’t necessarily feel called to do it, I won’t?”
As one could imagine, this began a series of longer, in-depth conversations. Having no prior exposure or awareness of the foster care system, Eric had a lot of questions. We learned together. And we continued dating.
Not for one second did my dreams, callings, or passions intimidate him. Nor did his intimidate me. Instead, the more we explored and discussed a future life together, the more we felt confirmation that we wanted the same thing. A life bigger than ourselves, one that’s built on loving others.
As we headed into marriage, it was clear we were on the same page about becoming foster parents. However, neither of us knew when.
People love to ask questions. First, it’s “when are you two going to get married?” Then, it’s “when are you two going to have kids?”
Personally, I’ve always found this question, though well-intentioned, to be insensitive.
Family and friends would pressure us, asking when we would likely expand our family. However, anytime we brought up our desire to become parents through foster care, they made it seem like we weren’t ready and began projecting all of their fears onto us.
Photo credit: Jordan Lee Dooley Photography
Taking steps forward into marriage
Two years into our marriage, I still believed and wanted to become a foster mom…‘in the future, someday.’
My conscience would remind me frequently…‘It’s the right thing to do. There are so many kids in need. You have an extra room. You love God and desire to follow His call.’
However, my conscience was easy to negotiate with:
‘It’s the right thing to do, but the wrong time.’
‘There are so many kids in need, but we’ll never make a dent in the ocean of needs we’re surrounded by.’
‘Where will our friends or family stay when they come to visit?’
‘We haven’t been married long enough and this could ruin us.’
‘We deserve to be traveling, spending our time and money on us!’
‘It will be overwhelming and I know God doesn’t want us to be overwhelmed.’
Despite the tug-of-war with my conscience, there was a deep sense that my idea of our future was God’s idea of now.
So we continued praying and inviting God into the decision. That’s when the Holy Spirit became relentless.
We would be driving and spot a billboard advertising the question, “Could you be a safe place for a child in need?” I couldn’t get away from the question pressing on my heart.
An opportunity to volunteer at an orphanage overseas came knocking at my door and I couldn’t pass it up. It was on that trip I felt this deep knowing I could love a child I did not birth just the same.
Our savings account was on the rise, and I felt the Spirit nudging us to give more. We increased our giving and the numbers rose further still. It didn’t make sense. The Spirit was showing us that we could trust; that we didn’t need to fear. That we would be provided for and it was our turn to provide for another.
I found myself desiring and praying that God would give me a home well-lived. I thought I was praying about hosting more parties with our friends and cultivating community in our little apartment, but the Spirit was leading me to pray that prayer for something greater than I could’ve ever envisioned.
The Spirit was preparing me for the two toddlers who would be coming in to destroy my home and take up residency in my heart.
Editor’s Note: Amanda’s story will be continued in subsequent posts as part of a mini-series on what it’s like to be a millennial foster parent. In the upcoming week, we invite you to join us in meditating on how God might be calling each of us in our own lives.