Ministry while waiting

Story and photos by Chelsea Quackenbush

David and Beth Roberts* were both at work when Buckner staff in Beaumont called to say their first foster care placement had arrived.

The pair quickly left work, picked up their two daughters from school and met Beth's parents at the Buckner campus to meet 5-month-old Rose* for the first time. It was a family event for the Roberts and even though Rose only stayed for three months, she became a part of the family.

At first, the Roberts thought they would be able to adopt Rose; after all, that’s why they had gotten into foster care in the first place. But once they realized Rose would be going back to her birth mom, everything changed.

“Once I realized Rose was probably going home to mom, my focus turned from doing for Rose, but also doing for mom because I’ve got to get mom healthy,” Beth said. “She’s got to take care of this child I love. So I started writing the letters and praying for her more intensely and helping her to understand that she’s a part of this, she’s a part of our family.”

The Roberts started foster care in hopes of adopting a child who would be placed in their home once they became available. But over the past two years, their focus has changed dramatically. They’ve realized their ministry is caring for each child while they’re with the Roberts and caring for the birth parent while they get healthy.

Beth said their two daughters, Emily*, 8, and Elsie*, 6, are a huge help and love having foster children in their home. While she and David were in training, they asked a million questions and couldn’t wait for a new sibling.

“If someone were to come and ask, how does it affect your children, your biological children? They are the reason we do it, in a lot of ways, because I want them to have a greater worldview,” Beth said. “I want them to understand the challenges of this world. I want them to know that others struggle in ways they don’t, and I want them to be compassionate and loving. And our kids have learned that and they love these kids. These are their brothers and their sisters.”

The Roberts family continues to pray for the children after they leave their home. They check in periodically to see how they’re doing.

One night, Elsie made a comment to her mom about seeing their foster siblings in heaven. She thought about what it would be like to spend eternity together.

“I said, yeah, baby, that’s exactly why we do this. We want them to know about Jesus. We want them to be in our home and hear about God, which they may never do that in any other home, and we want to spend an eternity with them.”

Kingdom work isn’t always easy

The first night with a new child is always hard, Beth said. “The very first night of every placement was a lot of work. They’re sad. They cry and they’re scared. And so usually that’s my job; I’m rocking and holding babies all night.”

The hardest part – and it never gets easier, she said – is giving the child back to their parents.

“And it doesn’t get easier. I’ve been asked does it get any easier. No,” she said. “And it doesn’t matter how long we’ve had them in our home. The last one we had said goodbye to had been four weeks, and that was the hardest one so far. It’s just how much they need us, and I felt like she did, but the Lord takes care of us and takes care of them. I trust Him to do that, so that’s the only way we’re able to let go.”

Beth and her family brought Rose back to her mom. While they kept her, Beth created a baby book, documenting important events like eating solids foods and learning to crawl. Beth's mom made her a quilt to take and she found out later that sewn inside each quilt is a prayer for the child.

Since Rose, the Roberts have had five foster children and have made a book and quilt for each one. Beth said it’s been helpful for her to have a relationship with their parents, and in most situations, she has.

She gets to know moms during visitations. She writes letters and sends pictures, and they grow to trust her, she said.

“It is a lot of work, but it’s a part of it,” she said. “It’s a difficult part because you have such mixed emotions toward this person because sometimes they’re coming to you black and blue, and you have to really forgive them for what happened, and not judge, and love them through it so that they can be healthy, because this child will probably go home to them, so you’re doing what’s best for the child by investing in the parent.”

The Roberts family is still waiting to adopt but for the meantime, they’re eyes have been opened to their true ministry as foster parents: caring for God’s children as long as they’re needed.

“What makes Buckner foster families different is their commitment and dedication and the Roberts are no different,” said Samela Macon, Buckner director of foster care and adoption in Beaumont. “They really look at the individual child. They don’t have their own set of expectations as to who they think the child should be; they accept them as they are. And it’s such a wonderful testimony to how we really serve as the hands and feet of Christ in the lives of these children in a tangible way because we really accept them for where they are.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

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