Sunshine and Rainbows : The Norman’s Story

Sunshine and Rainbows

From guest blogger Tamra Norman, a foster/adoptive mom. Find more stories from the Norman family visiting their blog.

On my last blog post about adopting, I made a comment about this journey not being all sunshine and rainbows.  But then I filled your Facebook feed yesterday with picture perfect pictures and smiling faces of a little baby who was adopted as an infant and came to us from the hospital.  So I have felt this burden to make sure as an advocate for these kids, I clear up a few things.

  • We will begin our 7th year of fostering in May and out of 20+ kids there have been 5 total that have gone up for adoption.  Our girls, Henry, and 2 others.  5.  Let that number sink in.
  • In 6 years of fostering we have only brought 2 babies straight home from the hospital at birth.  Henry, and one who only spent one night with us.  Our first placement was 4 weeks old.  Still a newborn but not straight from the hospital.
  • The majority of our kids have reunified with family members or parents.
  • Henry is number 7 and there’s been one born recently.  He has a half sister who went to live with her father, 5 half siblings (these 5 have the same mom and dad) who are in an adoptive placement, and 1 born in December who is currently in the care of birth family.
  • Henry was on track to leave us and go with his birth dad.  His case was kept completely separate because termination had already happened on the others and reunification with his father was the plan.  I  had actually built a good relationship with dad so I could help out after he left.
  • I couldn’t send him to daycare for the first 8-9 months.  Like it was court and doctor ordered because he was too fragile.  This meant I worked, had 4 other kids, and had to work out his schedule as well.
  • Henry was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  FAS is currently a leading diagnosis only behind autism.  So I decided instead of keeping this as some dark and dirty secret, awareness is key.
Why do I tell you all of this?
  • Because bringing a newborn home from the hospital and adopting them a year later is not the norm.
  • Because if you foster to eventually adopt a newborn, you may get tired of waiting.  I would’ve waited for almost 7 years and let me tell you something…when you are fostering just to hopefully get a newborn you can keep, you won’t make it 7 years.
  • Because sometimes all we get are the pretty pictures on Facebook and we don’t get the real picture behind them.
Am I thrilled Henry is a part of our family?  Absolutely!!  Do I foster babies/kids in the hopes they will stay with us forever?  Absolutely not.  That’s called adoption.  And there is a huge need for adoption with older kids and sibling groups.  We choose to foster, pray for reunification, and pray for restoration in families.  And most of the time, that is exactly what happens.

“He wanted to help”

When The CALL started a mentoring program for foster teens it was an easy call for Jason Pederson to get involved.  “I love The CALL, I love kids and I loved the idea of giving foster teens an advantage over their peers since so often during their tumultuous lives they have been at a disadvantage.”

When Darian Green’s caseworker recommended that he sign up for a mentor, he was not as sold on the idea. “I had a lot going on in my life at that time.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to add one more thing.  I’m glad I did.”

After a year of getting to know one another by going out to eat, going to sporting events and talking on the phone, Pederson admits he started wondering if his pairing with Darian was really making much of a difference.

“Then Darian got in some trouble at school.  It’s all been resolved and is all behind him now, but it was fairly serious.  I was in a perfect position to advocate for him and make sure that the people in authority making decisions about his future knew the young man that I had gotten to know.  Darian has a plan for his life that includes college, military service and possibly political office and I didn’t want that plan to be derailed by one bad day.”

Many foster teens have a greater potential for “one bad day” because of the pent-up anger and frustrations that their journeys can produce.  Darian and his sister were together during their elementary school years.  Then a summer in Florida was followed by a return to Arkansas…and homelessness…which is when DHS stepped in and placed them in foster care.

“My sister and I were split up.  I have had three different foster families and attended four different schools since 6th grade.  When placements disrupted it was usually my fault.  I consider the family I am with now my true family.  I call my foster parents Mom and Dad.  They are a big reason why I am ready to launch into adulthood.”

Darian says a good mentor needs to be consistent, patient, smart (both book-smart and life-smart), kind-hearted, open-minded and funny. “A lot of foster teens live under a lot of restrictions.  We need a break.  Mentors can become a lot more, but in the beginning…getting something to eat and visiting with my mentor was a welcome break from everything else I had going on in my life.”

“Mr. Pederson was an advocate, and that means a lot to me.  Other people…caseworkers, attorneys, even family…have to help.  He wanted to help.  Meeting with him every month was like a living diary.  I could open up and share things.  He listened and offered good advice and guidance.”

Darian will be a freshman at UA-PB this fall and he is also a member of the Arkansas National Guard.  He says his mentor helped him settle on a college choice and helped make sure his plans for military service stayed on track.

He First Loved Us: Bradshaw Family

Long before the Bradshaws became involved in foster care, they would tell you, “We don’t do that”. God, in His unsearchable grace and mercy, changed that for them. God entered in and spoke to Sarah at an information meeting a few years ago. She would tell you that she couldn’t unhear the things God had told her that night. She knew that the only way forward was to care for these children, and walk towards God, or to reject these children and backaway from God. Sarah knew this would be too much for her, but God encouraged her heart, “I will care for these children!”. Since the Bradshaws stepped out in obedience, they have had the opportunity to love many children, children they call their own. In January 2017, they had the opportunity to provide a forever home for a young girl who had come back to their home. that girl is now officially their daughter. Read about God’s great love, grace, and mercy below!

In August 2017, our daughter officially became a “Bradshaw”. Despite being in our home for over two years, we felt this official document would grant us a fresh start. It would prove to be a new beginning for us and a new beginning for her. Until we realized that wasn’t the case at all. You see, a “new beginning” meant that her previous story was over…null and void. Yet, the characters in her story remained unchanged and the previous pages could never be erased. So, we began praying. We sought God’s direction on how we could honor her story and all those within it. And we found that God led us to bring her mother back into our daughter’s life.

We knew that God was leading us back to her, so in January 2018, we reached out to our daughter’s mother. It was with fear and trepidation that I dialed her phone number and choked out the words, “She is my daughter, too.” Completely unsure of how that phone call would end, we stepped out in faith to carry out what God was clearly instructing. He was faithful, just as He is always is. We ended the phone call in tears and with a mutual understanding that “our” girl was worthy of both of our loves.

Our daughter now has two mothers. One didn’t replace the other and whether we liked it or not, both held the title “Momma”. We realized that there was a place at our table for anyone who loved our daughter. Our daughter was worth that and so much more. So, we began talking with her and explained that although a new chapter had begun, we never wanted to erase or rewrite her history. Our daughter immediately took a deep breath and began to confide in us all of her fears and heartache. She missed her mother. She longed to return to the life she once knew. Yet, she never wanted to leave us. No child should ever have that struggle, and we never wanted her to have to choose.

Since that phone call, our daughter has reconnected with her mother. Healthy boundaries were established and understood, and we continue charting the unknown waters before us. Our family hardly looks like what I envisioned five years ago. It’s complicated and messy. It’s hard and often confusing. It’s chaotic and many times, uncomfortable.

But, it’s full of grace and love, full of healing and trust, both for our daughter, her mother, and us! It’s a beautiful song of forgiveness and redemption. And we have no better example to follow than the grace-filled love our Father lavishes on us.

“We love because He first loved us.” I John 4:19

God’s Got This: DeClue Family

“You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance; You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you. GOD, my God, I can’t thank you enough.”  ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭30:11-12‬ ‭MSG‬‬

This thing we call foster care has rocked our little world and tiny home greatly. We opened our home to a teenager who had aged out of foster care in September of 2014 working with Immerse Arkansas. We opened as a  foster home with The CALL on June 30th, 2015. We became adoptive parents on August 2nd, 2017. We became biological parents on January 16th, 2018. In this seemingly short span of time listed we have had just over 20 humans enter our home to shape our house and lives for the better.

God has been evident in everything. I have continued to cling to the statement, “God’s got this. He has a really cool plan. I can’t see it, but He has a plan.” Even when those words were uttered through clinched teeth and tear soaked cheeks.  – Chrissy DeClue

Worth Our Time: The Hirscheiders

My call to foster care came at a point in my life where my faith was weak. I was profoundly missing the close relationship with Christ that I knew I needed and kept hearing his gentle invitation through the words of James 1:27. I was seeking the “pure religion” described by James and nothing seemed to draw me closer to Jesus than to care for his children.

My husband and I fostered for a few years while our biological family grew, mostly providing respite care. During this time, a handful of foster families and supporters at our church, Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, held a small brainstorming meeting to explore new ways to expand our reach. We began by just acting on the needs God revealed to us. We hosted a Pride training, began trying out new ways to show support to our families, looked into how we could work with existing ministries at our church, and created more fellowship opportunities to build our community.

My role as the CALL church advocate served us well as we planned our efforts. The CALL has provided an enormous amount of support and encouragement over the years and continues to do so, as we navigate the system, learn how to reach out to our church body, and decipher the most practical next steps to take at each point.

Since that initial meeting, about five years ago, God has grown our ministry from about ten households to over 80. I have been immeasurably blessed to get to see Jesus in each of them. The vast majority are not foster parents, but they support in more ways than I can count, and I continue to see love and care for orphans spreading through our church body.

My family and I also grew quite a bit during that time. Both physically and spiritually. My husband and I have four children. Their ages are nine, six, four and two. One came to our family through adoption, and all have been positively affected by our involvement in this ministry. Ministering to children has taught our children more than we, as parents, could have ever accomplished on our own. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for each of them!

Of course, this road has not been easy. There is always a level of chaos and stress lurking below the surface – and more often than I’d like to admit – coming to the top. But working together as a family in this ministry brings us closer together as we all draw closer to Christ. I could not begin to put in the time I have in this ministry without the support and help I get from my husband, and the understanding from our children that this work is close to the heart of God and worth our time as a family.

– Courtney Hirscheider