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.

Your Brokenness is Welcome Here

The problem with “before and after pictures” is the lack of the “right now”.

Our culture celebrates transformation. Posting a picture on social media of your DIY kitchen remodel will garner plenty of compliments and congratulations from people with whom you haven’t spoken in years.

And here’s the interesting thing to me: If you were to post a “before picture” without the “after picture” you won’t get anywhere close to the same response. Why is that?

Why will our dated countertops and cabinet doors that hang off-level bring so very much adoration and honor to us once they are nothing more than a memory but mean absolutely nothing to us while they still exist? Here’s my guess…

Our world doesn’t welcome brokenness.

I have a buddy named Joey who has just the right amount of crazy. He shares my love of restoring old, broken, discarded things.

The thing is, he can see the beauty in something long before it has been restored. We have stood together in front of a a 100 year old car dealership built of brick, a pair of apartment buildings that were very nearly falling down, a  rusty and broken-down 1977 Volkswagon Campervan, multiple cars and motorcycles, vintage radios and record players, furniture, technology, and so many more items that you would get bored and stop reading this blog post if I named them all.  And, typically, our conversation goes something like…

“Look how incredible this is, and they don’t realize how much value is here.”

“But it will take a whole lot of work.”

“Yeah… but we can do it.”

“But do we want to do it?”

“Can you imagine how satisfying it would be to rebuild this (insert whatever we happen to be looking at).”

“You could just buy a new one.”

“You can’t buy history and character like this.” (At this point we both know he’s already made up his mind and we’re totally going to do it.)

You see, it’s not just about the end result.

This culture of showing off the finished work is in stark contrast to the heart of our Savior.

Our world likes to see the complete and a memory of the broken.

Christ gave everything for the broken.

What is incredible is that while we have been fully embraced by Christ while being broken and hurt, sinful and scarred, we get to pass along that embrace and welcome to the people in this world who are utterly rebuffed.

In this world with its “let me know when it’s fixed” mentality, we can be the ones who offer sanctuary.

There are currently thousands of children in foster care who are broken.

How will you respond to them? They are not an “after picture”.

They are broken, hurt, discarded, anxious, and alone. Will you welcome their brokenness? Will you love and accept them before they get everything figured out without the promise that they ever will? Will you do as Christ has done and go to them, sacrificing your comfort, time, energy, money to meet them where they are?  Will you get up close and personal, so close that their problems and worries affect you as well?

In a culture that simply wants to hear the story of how they overcame their past, will you embrace their past, their pain?

Jesus did.

He doesn’t demand that we adopt a facade, to cover our brokenness, to be tough and not let those things affect us. He lets us be broken.

It’s only through the brokenness that He can rebuild.

Something we say in our home quite often is, “don’t waste your suffering.” What we mean by this is a fairly simple. While we didn’t enjoy what we have gone through, the pain and the shameful, we are determined to leverage it to show God’s grace and love in our lives. Instead of hiding our scars, our brokenness, we will allow our neighbors, friends, family, coworkers, strangers to see them. And through them they will also see the glorious love of Christ in our lives.

So, for those thousands of children and youth who are foster care and in need of a family for a season or possibly forever, what will you do?

Will you look away until their are “fixed”?

Will you share your brokenness with them and allow them to be honest about their own problems, fears, challenges?

Will we invite them into our home with the message that “your brokenness is welcome here.”?

 

 

 

Joe Snyder // County Coordinator

The CALL in Pulaski County

Stop telling someone to dial 911

first aid

Stop telling someone to dial 911

You know the scene, it’s nearly the same in every movie, someone chokes on popcorn at a movie theatre, a fan gets hit by a foul ball at a baseball game, a dad steps on his kids legos while walking barefoot.  And every time, without fail, a good samaritan yells, “Someone dial 911!”

If you’ve ever taken a CPR or first aid class you know the problem with that statement. The problem is that we will in a world full of assumptions. We assume the grocery store shelves will be restocked. We assume that when we turn on the kitchen faucet water will always come out.  We assume that, when we see a friends post on Facebook asking for prayer for a situation, someone else is seeking the Father on their behalf. And, unfortunately, we assume that someone else is dialing 911. Our directive was not specific enough for our audience. To counter this, CPR and first aid trainers instruct you to call on a single individual and tell them to call 911.

There is power in this individualized call to action as it takes away the assumption that someone else is responding.

As of August 6th, there are 4,500 children in foster care in the state of Arkansas. Only 75.8 percent of those children are in a family home. There are 5,956 in Arkansas. I’m sure you’ve seen the posts, heard the statements that if we could have one family from each church in Arkansas we would easily be able to care for all of these children.  And once we hear that we assume someone else is that one family.

So what if we can remove the assumption?  What if we can better communicate the call to action?

I need you, whoever you are reading this post, to get us one foster family from your church and four families to support them. That foster family may be your family, or someone that you know within your church body. I need you to find them. Not “someone” find them, but you find them.

In Isaiah 6, the question is asked, “Who shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah doesn’t look around to see who else might be responding, he jumps at the chance to serve his God and responds, “Here am I, send me.” Isaiah was not the savior of the people, Jesus was. He just took it upon himself to ensure that his people knew.

This is how we are going to provide homes for the 8,300 children who spend time in foster care each year.

Ok, you haven’t stopped reading so maybe you’re not too upset with me yet. The above call to action isn’t to prove a point, it’s not to help you understand how we need to clarify the message about needing foster parents in Arkansas. The statement above is a legitimate instruction for you to take personal responsibility and help us find a foster family in your church.

Your church needs to be part of the answer to the foster care need in our state, and since you are an ambassador for your church and the one to whom I am currently communicating, you are volunteered! But don’t stress out…

Your church doesnt need to add ministries, remove ministries, rethink how they do anything. You just need one foster family and four families committed to supporting them.

If you can do this, it changes everything.

We will still have hundred of kids in need of homes. We will still need hundreds of new foster homes. But for the children placed in that home, it changes everything.

In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

You can’t be a foster parent? That’s fine. You can’t give steps one through one hundred of how to tackle the foster care crisis in our state? That’s fine. You aren’t your church’s pastor or leader? That’s fine.

We don’t have time to wait on the perfect person to come forward to meet the need. We need you.

Not someone… you.

We can’t solve this issue and provide families for our waiting children unless we are all willing to stop assuming that someone else is taking action, and instead, take personal responsibility.  Can you imagine how many children would be placed into families instead of facilities if we all said, “Here am I, send me?

Joe Snyder
County Coordinator
The CALL in Pulaski County

You can learn more about partnering with The CALL in Arkansas to provide homes for children in foster care and how to support current and future foster and adoptive homes by visiting
TheCALLinArkansas.org

 

Lemonade Love

What began in the heart of a little girl and one family in 2017, grew into a county-wide movement for The CALL this summer! Her goal then was to raise awareness of and funds for the needs of children in foster care in Pulaski County. That was our goal with Lemonade Love!

The CALL is grateful for the 21 families that participated in the Lemonade Love: Stand for Foster Kids campaign. We touched hundreds of people throughout the month of June, many who were not aware of the foster care crisis in our state or the work of The CALL

When the last glass of lemonade was served, the campaign raised over $12,000 dollars for the work to recruit, train and support families who foster and adopt. In addition, we are profoundly grateful for the sponsorship of the Metro Chick-fil-A stores and their teams who wholeheartedly lent their support to Lemonade Love. Thanks as well to Chris and Collette Shilcutt of Wild River County, Arkansas’ Largest Water Park, who blessed us with season passes or our winning families in each of these three categories –

Prize winning families were:
Kevin and Judy Hoggard and Oasis for Most Guests served
Brooke Pember for Most Funds raised at an individual stand
Ryne and Alyssa Pruitt (pictured) for Most Creative Lemonade Love stand

We also want to congratulate the Grand Prize winner of a Chick-fil-A meal a week for a year who was Jim Wyatt from Otter Creek!

Thanks to all those who stopped by to help, engage and bless a child in foster care and for making the Lemonade Love: Stand for Foster Kids campaign!

“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.