A Summary of the First Week of School

In InterVarsity lingo, NSO stands for “New Student Outreach,” the first few weeks of the school year in which InterVarsity staff and student leaders meet incoming freshmen and other new friends and invite them to become part of our communities on campuses all over the country. These posts are a few snapshots of the beginning of the school year on a few of the campuses where I either staff or oversee other IV staff.  Click below to read blog posts from the first week of school.

NSO Day #0 – Find Your Faith at UMSL
NSO Day #1 – Free Lunch with Kale
NSO Day #2 – Proxe Stations at Webster
NSO Day #3 – Fall Expo at UMSL
NSO Day #4 – Exploring at Flo Valley

There Goes the Guest Room

New Guest RoomThe following post was written by my incredibly talented wife, Emily, about our journey into the foster care process.

Thank you to all of you who have come to visit over the years. You chose one of the following fantastic options: sleep on couches, share my twin size bed with me, or take a sleeping bag to the floor.

One very lucky couple (I’m looking at you Justin and Maggie!) got to enjoy our real, grown up guest room! When Kale and I got married we slept in his (childhood) full size bed for about 18 months before we (by God’s sweet grace) inherited a semi-new queen size bed. Not only did this vastly improve our sleeping patterns, but it allowed us to donate our mattress to our guest room. It wasn’t glamorous but it fit 2 humans rather comfortably. One full size human for sure…probably up to two standard deviations.

Ok, ok, so the doors to our fabulous new guest room only semi-shut, and it housed all the extra junk that had no real place to be put…but this was quite the upgrade from our living room couch.

But Kale and I are clearing out the guest room as we speak.

Because the guest room is dying.

But it’s ok. Because the death of our guest room equals the birth of a new room.

The room where the kids we’re planning to welcome into our home in a few months will sleep. And do a lot of playing. And some living.

What kids you ask? Well, we actually don’t know who they will be. Or how old they’ll be. Or exactly how many kids there will be. Or when exactly they’ll come. Actually, we don’t know too much about these kids right now.

But we do know that we’ll wrap up our foster care classes in mid-October and hopefully finish a successful home study soon after. We’ve been fingerprinting, filling out oodles of paperwork, doing lots of studying and homework, and attending weekly 3 hour classes to get ready for these little ones. We’re open to two kids, preferably under the age of 5, but we’re somewhat flexible.

The teachers of our foster care class say we’re supposed to be preparing our family and friends for this change that will soon take place in our lives. So consider this the first step of your preparing.

Why are we doing foster care, you ask?

That’s a good question. And I have had a breakdown or two where I myself say “what the heck are we doing?!” But that’s good because it has led to some really good question asking, soul searching and praying. So back to your question,

Why are we doing foster care?

 1.  Adoption and foster care are on our hearts. My first fight with Kale was about adoption. We had only been dating a few months but I didn’t want to go any farther in our relationship without having some big questions answered. I wanted to know if Kale was the kind of person who would pick up and move to Haiti if he felt God called him there. I wanted to know if he cared more about chasing God than chasing the American dream. And I needed to know if he was open to adoption. I felt pretty strongly that I wanted to adopt and if we were on different pages about that then I wasn’t sure I wanted to move forward in our relationship.

Let me add a bit of clarification here (especially for all my social work friends that are reading along). You don’t do foster care to adopt kids. At least not in Missouri. You do foster care to provide support to families who need it. The goal is to reunify the family and you are part the team that is helping the family do this. After about a year (sometimes more), that family support team may start making concurrent plans about where the child could be placed if it doesn’t seem like reunification will be an option. Guardianship with another family member is often the next goal; outcomes for kids who live with family members tend to be better than for kids who don’t. If all of those options don’t work, then the foster family may be considered as potential adoptive parents.

We’ve also learned that you can’t adopt kids (through the state) that are under the age of 10, at least not at this moment. Adopting through the state would honestly be the option we are most interested in, but at least right now we’d really like to welcome kids that are age 5 or under (we are very new parents after all). We’ve considered some other adoption options (more on that in #2) but have ultimately decided to pursue fostering. If the need arose, however, we would be open to adopting foster kids in our care.

I do want to be REALLY clear though, especially for those of you who will be meeting the kids that stay with us. Foster kids are not our kids. We are providing temporary care for them. We are cheering for reunification with their family. We are preparing to love their family and provide massive support however we can.

2.  We’ve decided not to pursue private adoption. If you made it through #1 you may be thinking “wait a minute, if you want to adopt and you can’t adopt a younger kid through the state, why aren’t you doing private adoption”.

We’ve thought about this A LOT. And we are open to someday pursuing private adoption,but we don’t feel like this is for us right now. We would need to raise a rather sizeable amount of money. We know we have a lot of loving and supportive friends who would likely jump in with support, we also know that we can apply for grants and tax credits. We also know that God would provide. But with Kale raising his salary and the costs to plant and run campus ministries at two local colleges, we are slow to take on more fundraising. Many friends, family members, and more support our family financially and we are deeply grateful. Someday we may also share with you about our plans to pursue private adoption and ask you to consider supporting us financially. We’ve supported a lot of our friends as they’ve adopted and we have been HONORED to do so.  But for now, we’ve decided this isn’t the right path for us.

Furthermore, my job affords me the opportunity to learn a lot about foster care in our region. I’ve learned about the thousands of Missouri kids in the foster care system and the lack of foster families to provide care for them. Many potential foster families don’t make it through the (rather lengthy and intensive) application and licensure process. Of those that do, only 40% will do foster care for more than a year. While there is a need for all types of adoption, Kale and I felt our heart tugged toward the kids in the state’s care.

So we recognize the foster care decision is hard. We honestly don’t know that we’ll make it through the process. It’s incredibly vulnerable to share with the world wide web that we are trying this. But we are humbly and slowly moving forward, hoping that we can provide support to kids and families who may need it. We think that someday we may also pursue private adoption, but for right now we think foster care is right for us.

3.  We can. I know it seems simple, but when you add up our answers to 1 and 2…you get our 3. God has opened up our hearts (at least right now) to care for kids that are not biologically or legally ours. We specifically feel burdened for the many kids that are in the state’s custody. He has given us a home with a spare room. He has provided us with jobs that allow us to financially support a child. And although it’s simple, it makes sense to us.

Now if you’re making the same assumption as some of our foster care training materials, you may be wondering if we are able to have kids biologically. Honestly, we don’t know. I’ll let you mull over that mystery, but I can tell you that right now this is our plan – to pursue this prompting that we feel like God has put on our hearts. I hope that someday we have a family full of kids, some of whom are adopted and some who are homemade. We don’t need all of our kids to start with us as babies, but we hope to have a few of those too.

We don’t have a ton of answers right now, but we are on the path to foster care. So if you come over, you will be sleeping on the couch. And there may be some kids (and one fat dog) climbing all over you as you try to rest.

Thank you for caring to read about our life update. Thank you for your support and love as part of our community. To those of you that might be interested in offering support, we’ll have more about ways to do that coming soon!