This blog was written by Dustin Hahn, from Midland, Texas, describing his family’s experience fostering children who were reunited with their parents.
When my wife, Kara, and I had our fourth child via C-section, the doctor recommended we not attempt any more biological children. However, we still felt our family wasn’t quite complete.
Our church was actively involved in the “One more home” initiative, encouraging people to meet a need for fostering in our community. Several of our friends decided to jump in. Kara pushed hard to attend an informational meeting in May of 2019, and I reluctantly followed.
Amidst my ever-present reservations, we started training in August. That’s when God began to change my heart.
“We have room in our home, and we have room in our car. We have room in our heart for another child,” was the reason I gave for pursuing fostering.
Foster care need outweighs personal preferences
Even still, I wanted to be pretty specific about how we went about it – we wanted to adopt at some point, and we wanted a specific gender and age group.
But I began to see the need. In Midland/Odessa, 60% of kids placed in foster care were being sent out of the area. How could this be in such an affluent area?
The more I thought about it and the more I looked at our community’s demographics, I realized there were many children who might need help that didn’t fit our initial requests. So we checked more boxes, becoming less specific about gender, age and ethnicity.
It takes time and commitment to become foster parents
The training classes opened our eyes to the trauma, some foster kids might endure. Honestly, I seriously questioned whether I’d rather wake up in the middle of the night and change diapers than deal with a kid who had been abused or neglected.
Parts of licensing were a chore. Fingerprinting my 17-year-old. Getting locking boxes for medications and thermometers to keep in the fridge. TB testing all six of us, including literally immobilizing my 8-year-old daughter to get poked in the arm.
We thought all our paperwork was done and turned in. Multiple times. Every time, we found out there was more.
But we completed training and was licensed to be foster parents. Just a couple days later we received a call – two siblings, a boy and a girl, one not yet in school, removed for the unfortunately common horrible environment, needed a safe place. A loving place. A structured, secure place where they can get everything they need and more. A place in which every kid deserves to reside. They absolutely did not meet our preconceived notions of what we wanted in foster children.
We threw those notions out the window.
Foster care = heart thrills and heart aches
They came running into our house on a rainy day with their CPS and Buckner case workers in tow. We introduced them to pets, bedrooms and new toys while trying to sign a whole pile of paperwork.
When everyone left an hour later, we had a couple young strangers in our house. Our lives were changed in an instant!
Lots of sweet things would happen over the next few months. We went from Mrs. Kara and Mr. Dustin to a secondary “mom” and “dad.” New foster siblings became good friends. Big hugs happened quickly and lots of laughs, songs, cuddles and bedtime prayers. Occasionally, we even received a heartfelt “I love you.” The kids were pumped to go to church, and excited to make new friends.
Of course, it’s not all bells and roses. Four kids to six kids isn’t an easy transition. And wait, we have another counseling, doctor, dentist, court, CPS, CASA, Buckner, mom visitation?! And the paperwork! Good Lord, this paperwork!
Then there were the many other nuggets, we consistently had to enforce and embed in their sweet little hearts:
- “Toilet paper goes in the toilet, not the trash can.”
- “We don’t sneak food here. I promise we won’t run out.”
- “Hitting pets isn’t OK.”
- “We take turns.”
- “We don’t lie.”
- “We only play after chores and responsibilities.”
It’s exhausting. Without breaks. Even for my biological kids, who are incredibly patient and understanding through it all.
Foster care is about redemption
But here’s the thing: God adopted me into his family. He loved me despite all my junk, and he has blessed me and my family beyond what I could imagine. He has reconciled us to himself, but 1 Corinthians 5:18 doesn’t end there – he “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”
God loves his children, and he loves families. He wants freedom and restoration for the broken and lost. Drugs, alcohol, abuse, neglect: God makes a way by the blood of Christ and through his Spirit to overcome all of it.
He wants moms and dads redeemed. He wants families restored and healthy, and he can and will do it. And he uses us to help by letting us love children and provide for them while their parents get the help they need to make sure they’re healthy and equipped to give their children what they need.
Foster care changes lives
That’s why we’ve done this. It's why we’ve put so much life on hold and majorly inconvenienced family, friends, our schedules and our routines. It’s showing us lots of gross stuff in our hearts, and it’s chiseling us and molding us, sometimes painfully, into image bearers of Jesus.
We love these beautiful people who have come into our lives. We always will, and we’ll never be the same because of them.
We’re excited to see David* and Anna* reunited with their family in a safe, loving place. But it still hurts to see them go.
*names changed to protect privacy.