A family everywhere they go: How Doug and Teresa opened their hearts and home to foster children

Doug and Theresa Lovett like to say they entered foster care through the back door. Their first placement was unconventional and without formal training, as they quite suddenly chose to offer their home to a few children in need. The experience allowed Doug and Theresa to bless a family, but in the end, it was they who received the blessing; they found their calling through foster care.

Doug, a pastor for Faith Independent Baptist Church in an east Texas town of Waskom, runs a bus ministry for the congregation. Through that ministry, the Lovetts met five siblings who were being removed from their mother’s care. Not wanting them to go to a stranger’s home, they offered to take in a few of the children while another couple in their church fostered the rest.

“We don’t understand the complexity of providing children homes,” Doug says. “It’s simple. Give them a room and then let everything happen and allow them to be in the right environment to grow. For us, it’s more unnatural not to have kids than to have them.”

At the time, the Lovetts did not have much extra space in their house. They shifted office furniture into the bedroom to allow the kids from the bus ministry to have their own room.

“It was a no-brainer for us, and we didn’t hesitate much,” Doug says. However, foster care was a family affair. “Our three daughters were teenagers already at this time,” Theresa says. “They agreed with us that we needed to help them.”

Four years later, the Lovetts continue to be foster parents. Two of their daughters are attending college, and the couple has built a home in the country with the intention of fostering children. Today, they have a total of four foster children -- one from their original placement and three others placed through Buckner.

For Doug and Theresa, fostering is more than providing a home and caring for children. It’s providing an example of how to be a family and allowing children the opportunity to just be kids. Often, foster children have come from difficult situations and may have been forced to act as adults and fend for themselves.

“They need stability, and they need to know there is someone they can come to if they need something,” Theresa says.

That includes letting them have a little bit of fun. Living on 20 acresof land, the kids love to play on the farm. They run around, dig holes, chase the dogs and chickens and even jump into mud holes from time to time. During it all, Doug and Theresa -- or “Brother Doug” and “Mama T” as their foster children call them -- are there, enjoying their laughter and encouraging them to act like kids.

“This is not an everyday thing,” Theresa says about jumping in the mud hole. “It’s fun stuff. They don’t get screamed and yelled at. They just want to play in the mud. Just be kids and do things. They don’t have to worry about getting into trouble.”

The children appreciate the influence of Doug and Theresa. Currently, they have a 6-year-old boy who follows Doug around the farm and wears the same hats and clothes as he does.

“I know it’s a mimicking thing, but I think there is something else too,” Theresa says. “I think he just wants to know he belongs.”

The Lovetts are intentional about making sure they are involved in their children’s lives. Doug drops the kids off at school and Theresa picks them up. They both try to attend the afterschool activities as well.

“Anything they have going on, I like to be involved in, whether it’s graduation or other school activities,” Theresa says. “I want to be there because most of the time, their moms weren’t there for them, and now they expect it of me.”

Most importantly, the Lovetts teach the children about Jesus. Doug admits that they spend a lot of time at church. There are a lot of children at their church, so they fit right in. They not only attend church on Sunday, but also during the week at prayer meetings and other functions. They also take an active part in serving and worship.

Usually, when the children first come, they have never uttered a prayer. Theresa teaches them small, one-line prayers to begin with, but she says it isn’t long before they are rambling extremely long prayers.

“They know now that their prayers will be answered, and that God listens to children. They’re so sweet, and they pray for everything,” Theresa says.

Sometimes, the children pray for each other and for each other’s families as well.

“They care about each other. They’re praying that their parents get well and get out of jail, so you know something is clicking,” Doug says. “Their perspective is right, and their priorities are in line because they know there are some people that are taking care of them, but their parents still need help, so they pray for them.”

The Lovetts hope the lessons stay with the children no matter where they go after they leave the Lovett home. “I know that just hearing the Bible stories stayed with me,” Doug says. “A lot of that I forgot, but a lot I never forgot, so we hope we give them something they will never forget.”

Being foster parents has influenced many aspects of the Lovetts’ lives, including their daughters. Two of their daughters have expressed interest in pursing careers that involve social work or child advocacy.

“One of the things we should have calculated, and didn’t, but really enjoyed seeing was how our daughters have received this and how it has affected them,” Doug says. “They love the children and want to be better parents because they have seen what these kids go through.”

The Lovetts admit that with having three grown daughters, their favorite thing about foster care is having the ability to be parents all over again and having young children’s antics in their home. The Lovetts embrace the meaning of family, and whether they are going to the movies, the park or church, they enjoy just being together.

“We’re a family everywhere we go,” Doug says. “As long as we have an empty bed, there’s a spot for another one, whenever another
one comes our way.”

Aimee Freston is the print publications editor for Buckner International. She can be reached at afreston[at]buckner[dot]org. Photography by John Hall.

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