When we attended the Together for Adoption conference in 2010, we had no idea that the Lord would give us 4 kids over the course of 1 year. But, here we are, a family of 6, all by the wonderful grace of God.
When asked how we knew we were “meant” to do foster care, I just can't help but say “we just knew.” But that's not what people want to hear. So, I'll try something else.
When we were first learning about the orphan crisis, we attended a conference. That's when we heard the numbers. Yes, we heard there were 167 million orphans world wide, and there are terrible orphanages in foreign places. But for both me and my husband, the numbers that stuck out to us were the ones that reflected the orphan crisis here at home.
-In 2005 there were 513,000 kids in the US foster system
-Kids stay in the system an average of 28.6 months (over 2 years!)
-20,000 kids age out of the system every year
-Of those 20,000, only 54% graduate high school, 25% become homeless, 51% are unemployed, and 84% become parents
These numbers wrecked us. For us, the Lord clearly moved our hearts to care for the orphan here in Austin.
We decided we would do something minimal. After all, we had only been married for a year. We took all the necessary classes to be respite certified. This meant that we could care for children in foster homes when families needed to go out of town, had an emergency, or needed a break. But once we got started, God said keep going. We eventually became certified foster parents and within a month got our first placement of 2 young boys, 6 months and 18 months old. They stayed with us for 6 months before being reunited with their birth mother. It was a very hard experience, but one that taught us many things. One, that the system is in need of Christians. The Church needs to be in there ministering to children, parents, case workers, and lawyers. Also, the Lord revealed to us that we had a lot of judgment in our hearts toward parents that would be in the position to lose their children. Meeting the boys' mother and interacting with her, forming a relationship with her, and loving her helped me realize that these birth moms (and dads) are broken sinners just like me and are in need of Jesus. And we can love them like He loved us. Finally, we learned that the Lord can use “middle families” to shine His light, even if we end up only being in a child's life for a short time. There is a need for a middle, and who better to fill it than those of us who can fully love others with the love Christ gave us?
After the boys left, and after a much needed vacation, we got the call for our second placement. 3 beautiful girls, ages 6, 22 months, and 5 months, walked into our door. They were hungry, dirty, confused, frightened, and full of energy. We watched them change from shy, cautious, and obedient little gals into energetic, lively, glowing, beautiful girls. We adopted them 10 months after they walked into our lives, and 3 months later welcomed our first biological child, our son.
There you have it. 4 kids in about 13 months. It's the crazy life, but God called us all to crazy if you ask me.
Cara Griswold lives in Austin, TX with her 4 kids and husband, Jeff, who works as a software developer for Austin Stone Community Church. She loves music, reading memoirs, eating Tex-Mex, and good conversation. You can follow her on twitter at @caragriswold or catch a glimpse of her world at chippinaway.wordpress.com.