Arms of Love Foster Care: A Heart Like His

Foster care. Two words that spark sadness, compassion, interest, confusion, anger and action. The plight of many thousands of children being removed from their family, often permanently, should stir these emotions. Some families are moved to open their homes to children in foster care, whether it’s for one month, or a lifetime. As a licensing agency contracted with the state of Arizona to work with foster and adoptive parents, we are privileged to walk alongside families who serve these vulnerable children.

We view foster care as a mission field and foster families as missionaries. Foster parents minister in their own living rooms as they open their hearts and homes to children and care for their varied and often challenging needs. Opportunities to show the love and hope found in Jesus abound as families not only serve children, but also support and minister to their biological families and all those involved in the case. The impact stretches beyond one child to entire families and even future generations.

In 2017, we celebrated a record number of adoptions with 102 children finding forever homes. Adoption is a beautiful image of God’s adoption of us into his family. Just as God knits his family together, he knits together families here on earth. While adoption is wonderful, it also represents loss. When parental rights are severed, the hope of reunifying with the biological family is gone. Even for young children, there will be loss when they are old enough to realize that their parents were not able to care for them. Our ministry prioritizes reunification and emphasizes working with
biological families.

We asked a few families who recently adopted to share about their experiences. They represent the 492 foster families we’ve licensed since 2012, who cared for 2,124 children and adopted 419 of those children. Common themes included stepping into the unknown, fear, prayer, blessings, trust in God and love. Lots of love. An analogy used was a roller
coaster ride. Foster dad Mark DeYoung had this to say: “Imagine that someone blindfolded you, asked you to strap into an unfamiliar roller coaster, and told you to enjoy the ride. Would you be screaming to get the safety harness loose and bolt out of the ride before the car started up the track, or would you be saying a quick prayer of “HELP ME GOD!” as you tightly grasp onto the safety bar of the car as it clicks up the track? Welcome to the life of faith in God as a foster parent.”

The DeYoungs had an extremely challenging time with the first child placed with them. Their foster son ended up in a treatment facility for depression, self-harm and threatening behaviors, despite the fact that he had been making progress and God had given them His love for this child. The wild ride of their first placement prepared them well for their second. Rachael and Mark DeYoung are now a family of three as they adopted their daughter. The ride is not over as they adjust to being a forever family.

The Ryberg family has been licensed with ABCS since 2013. They adopted two boys from separate families with different reasons for being in foster care and having the parental rights severed. However, two things are the same – an extra 21st chromosome as both boys have Down syndrome – and blessing their family with two wonderful little boys created by God. Lori Ryberg says, “We have always seen special needs adoption as a way to help. To show Christ to the world.”

Andrew and Shelly McGuire spent years trying to have children with no success. God answered their prayers by leading them to adopt through foster care. They have adopted three children, Melody, Stephen and Jasmyn, all from different families. The McGuires feel blessed to have such wonderful children, and shared with us that “Some days are very difficult when dealing with the emotional trauma the children have endured. It’s not a sprint in developing a healthy child but rather a race of endurance. I suspect the greatest joy will come when the hard work is finished, and we can rest assured that we gave all we had to give.”

The Franklands are a kinship family, adopting their three grandchildren, Olivia, Trey and Sophia. According to the Franklands, when a family member adopts children it is both joyful and sad. Kinship adoption puts less stress on the children because they are usually familiar with the family members, but the family grieves for the birth parents. Their three grandchildren are well-adjusted and had a smooth transition. “The kids have kept us busy, but also kept us younger. What a blessing they have been to us, watching them grow and develop into fine young men and women.”

Melinda Coveris gave a perfect description of adoption, “When I think about adoption I see a beautiful story of the Gospel. I see brokenness transformed into hope through sacrificial love.” Melinda and her husband, Anthony, adopted little Jase after fostering him for 13 months. Their journey was a roller coaster ride of emotions and fears as they never knew where they were heading or how it was going to end up. They feared losing Jase, but also understood that there was a family that could end up with hurt and pain from their loss. “I needed to put my selfishness aside and pray for the best interest of Jase and for God’s will. God challenged our patience and our faith which strengthened us as a family,” says Melinda.

The Edwards family summed up how many feel, “Our family has forever been changed by our foster care and adoption experience.” They added, “We are so grateful for the love and support we received from ABCS throughout our family’s journey with foster care and adoption!” Arizona Baptist Children’s Services & Family Ministries has a long history of serving and caring for orphans and children in the state’s custody. Our ministry was founded as a home for displaced children and now, nearly 60 years later, our reach has expanded through ministries like Arms of Love Foster Care. We are grateful to be able to work alongside foster, adoptive and biological families. We praise God for his work in this ministry throughout the years, and for supporters like you who make it possible.