There is a fire in my spirit for orphaned children that I cannot begin to understand for myself let alone articulate to others. It's written in my bones - it always has been. I hit the ground running towards the cause at eighteen-years-old and today, almost four years later, I'm only beginning to understand the incredibly sensitive and deeply complex nature of the depth and breadth of the orphan care crisis.
There are more ways to add to the crisis than there are to aide it and I can say with all the humble certainty in the world that I have done both. It is impossible to fully understand right from wrong without trial and error (and a very, very open ear to mentors who have walked before you) when it comes to an epidemic rooted in something as complex and deeply sensitive as caring for another person's baby.
After two and a half years as an orphan care worker and orphan crisis photographer in four different third world countries I felt compelled to stand at the feet of Jesus and ask...."where is the most good that I can do right now, in this season, with the resources that are presently available to me."
The answer, with resounding certainty, lay in a system completely foreign and unknown to me - The San Diego foster system. I struggled for many months to understand why in the world I would feel so absolutely - and so suddenly - called to become a foster parent in my own city after investing my heart into international orphan care but ultimately surrendered myself to the calling in September of 2016.
For thirteen months I have prepared my heart and home for a little person to join my messy, unconventional, and beautiful life. While I felt so unavoidably called to enter into the San Diego foster system my compromise was that I would enter into something called the "Adoption Ready Families" program. The Adoption Ready Families program is a program unique to San Diego that essentially pairs adoption ready parents with adoption ready children. It's an extensive program that registers your home as both a foster home and an adoption-ready placement home and it means that you are matched with and take priority of children in the system who need a forever home, not just a temporary or emergency placement.
Up until two weeks ago I was, by choice, listed in the system as an adoption-only placement home meaning that I would only be placed with a child legally freed to be adopted through the Adoption Ready Families program. My intention at the beginning of this journey was to be placed with an adoptable child, adopt the child, and leave the system.
Last month, in the wake of a series of unprecedented tragedies around the world, I realized that I had made a grave mistake by not extending my heart and home to temporary foster placements - children that I am legally allowed to take on as a registered adoption ready home. Something about taking on another woman's child scared me and I no longer want to live in that space of fear. Next week I meet with my social worker to rework my paperwork so that I can make myself available to any child in San Diego ages 0-6 who may need a place of refuge for a season or for a lifetime. I am deeply unconventional in my nature and fully prepared for whatever my family may look like - or may have looked like - at the end of this season.
While it is still my heart to adopt my first forever babe through this system that I have entered into it is also my heart to stand shoulder to shoulder with other mamas who may need me to Shepard their little ones for a season while they heal themselves. Foster care was something that I never thought I'd enter into but my heart has been opened to its place and purpose both in the world and in my home. I believe that carefully and tenderly wrapping Christmas presents for someone else's baby may be the most meaningful and honest work I ever do. People have said again and again as I ventured into the foster system, "but you could lose them, won't that break your heart?" I've heard this so many times that I became afraid of taking on foster placements and funneled my vision towards adoption-ready children.
I no longer want to feel enslaved by my own fear of eventual heartache that will come from loving a child and then having to send them home because the weight of the good that I can do for a child in their darkest hour will always, always overshadow my own heartache. So I want to stand corrected on my original announcement and make it very, very clear in no uncertain terms that I am going to be accepting foster children into my home while waiting to meet my forever babe and that I cannot wait to share our story here with you all.
Each day I feel with resounding certainty and absolute conviction that I am exactly where I need to be in this season of my life and while the application and preparation process was not without certain trials and heartaches I am officially in waiting to meet my first child or perhaps more accurately - in waiting to meet her child that I will Shepard as my own. While I have no idea who this little one is or how long they will be a part of my story I am running with open hands and an open heart towards this unwritten chapter.
Foster motherhood is something that matters just as much to me as adoption motherhood and all I can share so far at the gates of this season is that I don't know who my child or children will be or what my season - or lifetime - with them will look like but that I do believe that they are known by the Jesus that led me here and the Jesus that will lead them home - wherever that may be.