Our Family Is Larger Than It Looks

Jenkins family

Josh & Katie Jenkins
Northwest Arkansas
Foster and adoptive family

We are the Jenkins family. Josh, Katie, Trinity, Gracie, Levi, and Amelia. When we look at this picture of our family, we are exceedingly proud and filled with joy. However, it also doesn’t seem quite right… like something is missing. This is probably because our family actually feels much larger than this. 31 children in Northwest Arkansas have once been part of our family, and even though they don’t live in our home anymore, we are forever connected to them and their families in some way.

We first became foster parents in July of 2009, and we had no idea that the next two years would be the hardest two years of our life (up to this point, of course). We were trained through the Division of Children and Family Services in Arkansas, and The CALL had not yet been started here in Northwest Arkansas. The training we received was certainly adequate, but sometimes we wonder how differently that first couple of years might have felt if we had the support of The CALL back then.

We took the placement of a sibling group on the very day we opened in 2009. In fact, we agreed to the placement before the resource worker left our front doorstep, following our final home walk through. We had never been parents. Nevertheless, there we were with an instant family of five, trying to navigate a new world of parenting. This wasn’t typical parenting though- it was parenting mixed with the behavior challenges, chronic illness, malnourishment, learning disabilities, and pain that often accompany children who have experienced trauma.

Through our first year and a half as foster parents, we went on exactly one date. We spent every spare moment trying to build attachment with these three young lives that were placed in our care, and we knew almost no one who had traveled down the road we were on. We had a supportive family and church friends who appreciated this step that we had taken, but nobody who understood what we were going through. It was a time of a lot of personal growth, and we absolutely fell in love with our three young children. However, it was also an incredibly lonely time.

Ultimately, these three children were placed in an adoptive home. When they left, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. We realized that fostering in the way that we had been doing it was not sustainable. If we were going to continue in this ministry, we were going to need support. Fortunately, in 2011, God led us to a support meeting put on by an organization just getting started in Northwest Arkansas — The CALL.

Through the CALL we found the support that we needed to continue pursuing our passion for helping with the foster crisis in our area. We now had a network of resources, babysitters, opportunities for continuing education hours, and a group of people who we could go to with our questions, frustrations, hopes, and heartaches. We also suddenly had a pool of families from which we could ask for help with needs we may have (whether that need be a bunk bed, a weekend of respite care, or some size three diapers) and whom we could give back to in return. This group has been a beautiful picture of living out the example of the early church found in Acts 2.

In September of 2011, our lives were changed forever when we took another sibling group of three (a 4-year-old girl, a 3-year-old girl, and a 20-month-old boy) into our home. We were instantly smitten, and it seemed from very early in the process that reunification was going to be unlikely. Just a few weeks into their time with us, we were shocked to learn that we were pregnant. On June 25, 2012, we suddenly had 4 children ages 5 and under. This period of our lives was amazing, but also a bit of a blur, and we leaned heavily upon our new CALL friends. Our case wound up taking all sorts of interesting twists and turns through paperwork errors and appeals, but on April 24, 2014, we officially welcomed Trinity Joy, Abigail Grace, and Levi Joshua into our Forever Family.

We did not necessarily intend ever to have four children. We certainly did not plan ever to have more than four. However, our time as an open home and our continued growth in our faith has made us even more passionate about foster care. Over the years, the dynamics of fostering in our home have evolved. Most importantly, we are no longer foster parents, but a foster family now. We discuss all potential placements with our children; we rejoice together when reunifications occur and mourn the loss of our family members when they leave. We have been so blessed to see our children’s hearts be incredibly positively impacted by our family’s decision to continue fostering. They are more empathetic, more willing to share their belongings, and more free with their love. After a recent placement left, our family was heartbroken. We had a family meeting to discuss how we were all feeling and when asked if we all still wanted to continue fostering our 10-year-old daughter replied, “Do kids still need safe homes? Then Yes.” So, we continue to remain an open foster home.

Our involvement with the CALL has also evolved over time. We still benefit greatly from the support and community that the CALL provides, but we also have been blessed with the opportunity to help the CALL with opening new homes. We have both spoken on multiple foster parent panels during CALL trainings, and last year Katie became certified to be a CALL trainer. So far she has co-led two trainings that have combined to open approximately 30 new CALL homes. One of our newest greatest joys has been mentoring new foster families, sharing what we’ve learned, and making sure they are connected to support to avoid the feeling of isolation that we felt.

The foster care community is growing in Northwest Arkansas thanks to The CALL. It’s becoming larger, stronger and more sustainable. We are so thankful to be a part of it and are certain that we are right where we should be, with pieces of our “family” all over Northwest Arkansas.

“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Psalm 82:3-4

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