The Emmerling Family

It’s National Foster Care Awareness Month, and we want to celebrate our families! First up is the Emmerling Family!

Bryan and Stephanie opened their home in 2013 and have been blown away by how God has used fostering within their family. In Stephanie’s own words,

“Through our journey of fostering and adopting, God has blessed my family with 2 beautiful, smart, fun loving little girls. These girls have taught us how to love fiercely, forgive whole heartedly, and how to truly enjoy each and every day that God has blessed us with. Our family dynamics have changed so much since and each member of our family, extended as well, has welcomed the girls with open hearts and open arms. Its changed us all for the better.” 

Foster homes, like the Emmerlings, can change the course of a child’s life. While we will never understand the full impact of a foster family, we want to celebrate that incredible impact anyway! Thank you Bryan and Stephanie for answering the CALL to open your home and for sharing your story!

 

The Impact of Foster Parents: Tammy’s Story

Editor’s note: The following is a true story written by, and from the perspective of, a woman who spent her youth in foster care in Pulaski County. Not every child that enters foster care has experienced abuse as Tammy did. This post is not intended to imply that Tammy’s story is a typical experience of a child entering foster care, nor is her family a representation of any other family whose children have entered care.  The purpose of this post is to show the impact a foster family can have upon the children and teenagers in their home. 

 

Let me tell you a little bit about what foster parents mean to me:

I was born to two parents at different ends of the spectrum. My dad was a musician, very quiet, kind, and calm. He was also an alcoholic. My mom was a rage filled woman from the time of my birth.

My early childhood was filled with my parents fighting, screaming in the home, and getting beat by my mother. If I had been really “bad”, my punishment was the closet. The worst part of this was the darkness and isolation for hours, maybe more.

When I was around 6 years old my mom began to have an affair with my brother’s boy scout leader. Little did I know that the next nine years would be the worst years of my life. These were the years when I was being shaped to a young woman, the years when I should’ve been taught love and affection.

At age seven my parents’ divorce was final. My dad had spent every dime he had to get custody of his four children. A child of seven, I was required to get on the stand at court and testify about my mom, testify about physical abuse and torment, testify about my mom and her lover having sex in front of me. At age seven, I was required to explain all of this in detail.

Thanks to people at our church and family members my mom had manipulated, she got custody of us after a six month stay in a foster home. This foster home was first glimpse I ever had of how a family should actually function.  But we moved back in with mom, and were only able to see dad every other weekend. That didn’t actually get to happen much as he was an alcoholic.

For a while we stayed with her in the home that she was specifically required to obtain apart from her lover.  She was ordered to keep us away from him, but she didn’t listen.  After six months in this house we moved again, and once more were living with him.

For the next 9 years I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by both my mom’s lover and my mom.

At thirteen I started being sexually active with boys, smoking cigarettes, marijuana and drinking a lot, anything to take away the pain or to fill the hole in my heart. Nothing worked and I daydreamed often about how I could end my pain forever.

Finally, on March 15, 1986, at fifteen years of age, I overdosed on every medication I found in the medicine cabinet.

I did not realize my sister had seen me and alerted my mom. I was taken to St. Vincent Hospital where I stayed for several days, then taken to the Adolescent Stress Unit at UAMS. This was a turning point for me, as I never went back to my mom’s house. Not a single night! I was there for three months until I was “healed”, or so they claimed.

My healing had only begun. After I left, I remember meeting a very sweet social worker named Brenda Fite. She told me she was going to find me a home. It’s very weird going to the homes of people you don’t know and, well, living there.  To say I felt out of place was an understatement. I am grateful, but wasn’t at the time. All I had known for years was pain, and didn’t see how these people were going to change that.

I would sneak around and hang out with the wrong crowd, doing the wrong things once again. For some reason I felt “accepted” by this friend group. Four foster homes later I became pregnant at sixteen. The foster parents I lived with at the time decided (after I had the baby) that it wasn’t a good idea for me to live with them anymore. I can’t really blame them. Where was I to go?

 

Let me tell you…

 

I was to go to Jim and Mary Larmoyeux’s home. The hospital was a turning point, but the short stay in this home would be life changing. You see, the Larmoyeux parents lived like Christ. They showed me love like Christ loved. I know they had many hours of training before they could open their home, you see it was considered a “treatment” home for kids that had been through more than usual, and I am thankful for that training. But I am even more thankful for the training they got from God’s Word. I remember the Bible being read from on a daily basis. I also remember a lot of praying, a lot of love that was “real”.

I would love to tell you I became a believer in Christ and made a complete turnaround while I lived with them. I can’t. But I can tell you that the seed they planted within me was watered and, over time, grew. At eighteen, I gave birth to my second child, out of wedlock, with the nephew of one of my foster parents. We were married a month later. We started attending a church and two years later accepted Jesus as my savior and began to follow him with my life.

I will forever be grateful to the families that take children, like me, into their homes, show them love without return, and plant seeds of which they may not see results. If you are a foster parent, I can tell you that you may not ever see the fruit of your labor, but I am proof that you do make a difference!

I am now 47 years old. I have three wonderful adult children and two school aged step-daughters. My oldest daughter is married to a wonderful Christian man. They have six children, three of whom have been adopted through foster care, with one more on the way. I am so thankful for these children and they have blessed me beyond measure. My prayer for my children and grandchildren is that I can help plant that same seed of love in them that was planted in me so many years ago.

I once heard a popular story of a man walking on the beach picking up starfish that had been washed up the night before and throwing them back in the ocean. A skeptic walked up to him and asked, “do you really think you’re making a difference?” Then the man replied as he was throwing a starfish back in the ocean, “it makes a difference to this one.”

I was “this one” Thank You!!!

-Tammy

The impact of foster parents cannot be quantified. It may seem a small thing, the service and sacrifice foster parents give to the children and teenagers who enter their home. But just as with Tammy, their lives will forever be changed by that loving foster home who affords compassion, patience, and grace.

 

 

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.