In honor of National Foster Care Month, I am so excited to introduce Sara Gabbard to our Texting the Truth community today. Welcome, Sara!
Thanks, Katie. I’m excited to have the opportunity to share today!
Can you tell us a little about your family and this adorable picture of you all?
This photo was taken on a recent family vacation. My husband and I have three biological children. Our daughter is 7 and our twin sons are 5. About a year ago, we also welcomed a baby boy into our home through foster care.
How did you sense God was leading you to foster care?
A dear friend of mine from college lost a baby boy in a tragic car accident caused by a distracted driver. Years after that we got to have front row seats as she and her husband adopted a beautiful baby girl that she had been dreaming of in detail for years. It was truly meant to be in every way. This experience made me start praying dangerous prayers. Use me God. What is my purpose? What am I supposed to do? How can I do “big things” while I’m raising these three children of ours (who were all under the age of 6 at the time ?)?
God kept putting foster care in front of us. We were suddenly surrounded by all of these amazing foster parents and foster to adoptive parents. We would try a new church on Sunday and the sermon would be about foster care or a related topic, then we would go to another church and it would happen again. After a tragic child abuse story was on the news, my aunt said she thought my husband and I would make excellent foster parents. God wouldn’t leave us alone. So we went to an informational meeting and decided to start our certification process. About 7 months after our first class, we were placed with a beautiful 8 week old baby boy who has changed our entire family for the better.
I love hearing about how God was orchestrating so many details in your life and introducing you to specific people along the way! I can definitely also relate to feeling like God wouldn’t leave me about something specific He was leading me to.? Now that you have begun this journey of foster care, what have you been learning through the experience?
I think there are two major lessons we have learned in our first year as foster parents. The first was a realization of how hard it was to trust God in all of this. I am a doer, a fixer, a get it done kind of girl and a self-professed control freak. Foster care will make you acutely aware of how little control you have and how much you need to rely on God to protect this little one in your care. All we can control is how well we love him. We can’t control the magistrates, the biological parents, the case workers or the prosecutors. All we can do is love him well.
The second lesson is the stark realization that the only part of the foster care system that is about the kids is the work we as foster parents do. Caseworkers work to get resources and treatment for biological parents to help them improve themselves so they are fit to parent. Court dates are about the progress parents have or have not made and adjustments to the things they need to do to become safe. This part of the process has been disheartening and frustrating. However, it has also made me want to work even harder as an individual foster parent and with non-profits like Hope’s Closet, that support us locally in the Cincinnati area to advocate for children in foster care as a whole.
Do you have any advice for other foster moms in the trenches with you?
The advice I try to continually give myself is to always lead with grace. When dealing with overworked and overwhelmed case workers, lead with grace. When dealing with challenging moments with biological parents, lead with grace. When questioning my ability to parent, give myself grace. Grace covers a multitude of sin, right?
Amen and amen!? That is advice I always need to hear, too, because it truly applies in so many situations!!
The other thing that has been critical for us was to find community. We have found that the support of other good foster parents and our own family has been essential in our first year of foster parenting. Having friends who can answer questions because they have been where you are is so amazing. And I need to give so much credit to our families. They did not receive this call to foster care that we did but they have jumped in and love this little guy with the same intensity that they have loved the ones we birthed.
Strong support is so important! Are there ways that other families can support foster families like yours? I’m always looking for suggestions about how my family can be involved!
For those families you know personally who foster, treat their new placements like a new baby regardless of age. Make them dinner in that first week when things are crazy. Ask if there are physical needs you can help with like what shampoo or soap the child is accustomed to using. Give grace for challenging behaviors. There is so much trauma that many children go through before coming into foster care and then being placed into a stranger’s home is another trauma.
Find out if there is a non-profit in your area that supports foster children and foster families. Reach out to them to find out their needs. Pray for foster families, for children in foster care, and for their biological parents to be restored. Regardless of what a child endures before coming into care, nearly every child loves their parents and it’s a huge win when a child can safely go home.
Thank you for sharing your journey and your heart with us today, Sara. I am so encouraged to hear about how God has been at work in you and your family and how we all can get involved in supporting children in our area!