Lindsey and Heather – Supporting Biological Families

It’s National Foster Care Awareness Month, and we want to celebrate our families! We love both our foster families and biological families! Foster families exist to SUPPORT biological families until their kids can return home, and even after.

One of our foster moms, Lindsey Snyder, shared a part of her story….

“Meeting Heather and truly getting to know her allowed me to see foster care through a different lens. Her son was the third placement we took after we opened as a foster home in 2015. While I got to know her, I was able to look past her situation and see her for who she was. God blew me away with how He used that relationship to bless my family and hers!

One of the hardest parts of foster care is the simultaneous celebration of a child who returns home and the loss you feel when your relationship with the child being diminished. But when we allowed our relationship with Heather to grow we found so much beauty that we weren’t expecting.

I gained a friend, a fellow mother who was now raising 4 kids by herself. And she’s pretty awesome! She’s so very hard working for her kids and one of the most selfless people I have ever met. We get the joy of being able to babysit occasionally and having family meals together. While it hurt to lose a foster son, I gained what can only truly be described as a nephew! 

I had no idea before entering the world of foster care that the relationship I would have with the biological family would be one of the biggest blessings of my life.”

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.

Hope and a future

Closeup of girl's face, showing eye, nose and hair in profile

With over 5,000 children in foster care and less than 2,000 foster homes, Arkansas is in a crisis. Since 2014, the number of children in foster care has steadily increased. The State of Arkansas is scratching its head, trying to figure out what to do about the problem.

James 1:27 states, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”

Since 2007, The CALL has gone into churches to challenge people to do one of two things: Foster or support those who are able to foster. Little by little, The CALL breaks down the barriers that have kept people from fostering for so long. Over the past 10 years, The CALL has answered the hard questions for numerous families. Once those questions were answered, many families were ready to start the foster care/adoption process.

The Bible tells us the church is the answer, so that is where The CALL starts. We go into churches and host recruitments. We share our hearts and the need for foster families and challenge people to support foster families. Then, it is up to the churches. We host an informational meeting for interested couples to hear more about becoming a foster or adoption family.

Potential families have to complete a massive amount of paperwork, 30 hours of training, CPR, and more in order to open up as a foster or adoption home. Without The CALL, these families would be left to navigate the process by themselves. Many families who do this on their own quit or take longer to open because of the lack of support. The CALL guides families through this process, answering any questions and helping iron out wrinkles.

Once a foster family is open, The CALL becomes a part of their village. The CALL Mall helps families with clothes, baby furniture, diapers, and other necessities at no cost. The CALL stays in touch with these families to ensure they have what they need physically, emotionally, and spiritually to be great foster parents.

In the past 10 years, The CALL has helped open over 1,161 foster homes and 369 adoption homes. Over 501 children have been adopted by families supported by The CALL.

When you become a foster parent or volunteer with The CALL or donate to The CALL, you are making a difference locally. You can see the fruits of your labor because the foster children you pour your life into will grow up to be contributing members of your community.
There is a great need for foster families, but we understand that not every is called or able to foster. Even if you cannot foster, there’s still something you can do. If it takes a village to raise a family, it takes an entire church to support a foster family. The CALL needs people willing to donate their time, talent, and resources to help us eliminate the crisis in Arkansas. Do you have an extra hour a week? Can you help out a few hours a month or maybe more? If so, check out the volunteer page to find out where you can get plugged in. The CALL has a place for you.

Can’t foster or volunteer? Donate. The CALL is a non-profit organization and we cannot do anything to support these families without the financial support of generous individuals and churches.

We are not all meant to do the same thing, but we are all supposed to do something.

Support!

support group meeting collage: woman presenting, The CALL cake, 2 smiling women

sup·port
səˈpôrt/
verb
1. bear all or part of the weight of; hold up

For months we have prayed for the time when we could host our first CALL Support Group Meeting in Lonoke and Prairie Counties. Finally, this past Sunday, a group of families gathered together at Fellowship Bible Church in Cabot!

​Obviously, a great time was had by all!

See that lovely cake in the photo? Well, it’s true. We genuinely love our families, and we hope they know it! It was so much fun to be able to give away a cd, books, party favors, and gift certificates and eat cake with all of them. They are a genuinely incredible group of people, and the fact that they’re fun is just a BONUS!

The CALL support meeting collage: The CALL banner, people talking, gift bags, counter with food and books, counter with books and cake
Being surrounded by those who have adopted, who have fostered for just a year, fostered for many years, and those who are in the certification process was an absolute pleasure. It was a joy watching families connect for the first time while others reconnected, As they shared within their small groups, there were moments of laughter, serious conversation, and honest sharing.

The day before this gathering, this was posted on a social media page:
What if every adoptive and foster family had everything they needed for their journey? What if they had all of the resources, preparation, education, support, encouragement, acceptance, insight, perspective and skills they needed? What if at no point in this journey were they ever alone, isolated, or misunderstood?
We believe this way of traveling the adoption and foster care journey is not a dream…we believe it can be a reality. This journey was not meant to be traveled alone.

“A reality”.

Yes! Our hope and prayer is for that to be true of the families we work with. May God continue to provide us with the means to support them and enable us to cultivate a community of support among each of them and their community.

Blessings come in all shapes and sizes and in a myriad of ways

The CALL display

This week, one came to us in a large cardboard box from the FedEx man! Do you ever order something and then the delivery truck drops by and you think to yourself “Oh, yeah, I did order that a few weeks ago…”?

Not this time.

We were eagerly awaiting this particular package…

As soon as the kids got it into the house, I opened it and began piecing it together. I stood back and admired it like some work of art by Monet or Degas. However, it was not a painting of any kind. It was a display board!!

I realize this photo may not be that impressive to most, but it is impressive to us. Why?

For many months now, due to changes and unforeseen circumstances, The CALL in our area has had little to no activity.

No new homes being opened through The CALL.

No new volunteers being recruited.

No presence at community events.

However, all that time, one local church was still giving. Each month, diligently giving.

As we rebuild and restructure, we are eager to see more foster homes opened, to have a viable presence in the community again, and to essentially enable people to live out God’s call to serve orphans. All of that can happen a bit faster thanks to one church’s faithfulness. Our display board is a reminder of that. Yes, it simply came in a cardboard box, and it is certainly not a ‘work of art’ as some might say. However, it is a “display” of faithfulness and an encouragement to us! Display boards are not free. Finances are essential to our ministry. We are so thankful to have the ability to take this step forward and utilize this valuable new tool to share and spread awareness. Personally, I hope we wear that sucker out going here and there and everywhere sharing about God’s heart and this ministry!

May God bless those who give and multiply the gift for the good of foster children and for His glory!

Chris and Melissa Furnell, County Coordinators