“How did you and your husband begin to foster?” I get that question a lot. Lots of people wonder what made us say yes to this calling. Well, there were a lot of things. On our very first date, we talked about how we both thought we would like to adopt one day. We didn’t really know what we were saying and we didn’t know all that it would entail, but we knew we wanted to adopt children into our families. Fast forward nine months later, and we got married.
We said that we would wait for a while before we had “our own kids.” We were like a lot of people who are on our journey, thinking that it was important to establish “our own” family before taking other kids into our home. But boy did we have a lot to learn. When we had been married for about two years, we started trying to get pregnant, but nothing was happening. It was a dark and painful time for both of us
, but God taught us so much. Through those sorrowful times we still thought about adoption. Then we went to a conference at our church for fostering and adoptive families. It was there that we learned about the foster care crisis in our state and in our nation. Our eyes were opened and the scales fell off. When we left the parking lot that day, we began to talk about what we sensed God was telling our family and said to each other, “I think we’re supposed to foster.”
We began the process a few months later and started filling out all the paperwork and taking the classes and doing the home study to open our home to children in need. We were so ready and scared, but willing. There were so many questions. We had no idea what the future would hold for us – how long would the process take? What if it was harder than we thought? What if the kids didn’t like us? What if we felt pressured to take on something that was more than we were equipped for?
All of these questions were scary and loomed large, but we couldn’t let go of the fact that we had not one, but two empty bedrooms, and while we slept safe and sound in our comfortable bed each night, there were hundreds of displaced children in our area in need of a loving home.
Our first placement was a sibling group of three. We were entirely over our heads. And it wasn’t just because there were three of them and we were outnumbered! Their needs were great, their hearts were broken, and we were overwhelmed. We thought that we had done the work to be prepared and we thought that we knew what we were doing. In our naïveté and pride, we assumed that we could do a better job than their parents since their kids had been removed and placed in foster care, right?
But oh how many slices of humble pie we ate when we realized that we were not their saviors and that they were not in our home to be saved by us. The only thing we could do was love them. We just got to be a small part of it. We knew that as we introduced them to new ways of living that we were planting seeds. During the short window of time they were with us, we saw some fruit from our labor. There were glimpses of hope and beautiful moments that made us say to one another, “This is so worth it.” And then there were moments that were so excruciatingly painful, we didn’t know how we would recover. We found that the more we got to know our little loves, the more we grew to understand that we could never meet their deepest needs. Their wounds were not for us to heal. But we could be a safe place for them in which many different people and the gift of time would allow them to heal and learn what true love is.
It has been almost two years since that first placement, and we are now parents to the sweetest teen daughter through foster care and an infant son through biology. Our lives look nothing like what we had planned, and we are immensely grateful. We have found that our nontraditional life is oh so sweet, and we honestly wouldn’t trade it for the world. We are grateful for the ways we have been able to bring awareness to the foster care crisis by being a voice for the voiceless and opening our home to children who just want a family to care for and love them.
Jessica Mathisen lives in Athens, Georgia with her husband and two kids. She is a recovering perfectionist, a former teacher, and a lover of people. Her passion is to communicate God’s love to others through writing and relationships. She is honored to be the Development Director at Athens Pregnancy Center, but her most favorite things are hanging with her family, eating chips and salsa, and reading good books.