Thursday, March 12, 2015

Church: we are overlooking the overlooked

Question: How many foster families thru DHR in Shelby County, AL are available and willing to take children with special needs? Just take a guess......

Answer: One. And it is me.

Church, that is a problem. A BIG BIG problem.

I know what you are already thinking...."foster care is hard enough I just don't think I could handle a child with special needs"...."this is just not what I am called to do"....."i have enough on my plate already"..... "these kids should go to someone with a medical background"....and on and on it goes.

Let me give you the facts. When a child with special needs comes in to foster care, their county DHR office searches their database and typically they find no where to place the child.....especially in the smaller counties. No one who has said "I desire to care for this type of child". The county will then contact private agencies like Lifeline and Alabama Baptist but they rarely have families that will take kids with special needs. Side note: if you are a private agency foster family you would have to specifically request to be contacted about children with special needs, otherwise you will never hear about them.

At this point DHR will send out a statewide email to all the counties in the State. This is the last ditch effort so to speak before the child ends up elsewhere. And by elsewhere I mean living in a hospital for their whole lives. Or a group home. Or a nursing home.

Zee was a statewide email baby. I won't even let myself imagine where he would be right now if I had said no.

So my challenge to the church is simple. We need more people to step up and care for these kids. They are right here under our noses and we can't ignore them. 

We can't simply sign up to be foster parents to the cute cuddly shiny new babies and toddlers and feel like we are doing all we can. Shouldn't we let God tell us which children he wants us to care for?

Just take a look at this "Child Desired" form. I imagine when most people fill this out, they are simply overwhelmed by the idea of bringing a child in to their home who will someday leave. And I imagine because of that reason alone, many families think they just couldn't handle a child with special needs. I get it. Trust me.

But my mind says...what if I had to measure up to a form to have God DESIRE ME. 

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in Him.
Psalm 40:1-3

(This form has since been updated because a certain person got on the phone with the people who made the form and told them that is was ridiculous and offensive and they needed to change it. Halleluier. )

If you are in process to become a foster parent, please consider opening your heart to the least of these! If you are a seasoned foster parent, consider updating your child desired form!

I know. This is not for everyone. But it is for me, and I will continue to advocate for these kids....because THEY will bless YOU more than you can ever imagine.



Tuesday, March 3, 2015

To my ex-friends: I know you think I am crazy

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of single moms at a Foster Care retreat recently. I knew going in to it the "gist" of what I was going to talk about, but I didn't think about it too much because I knew the group would be small and I wanted it to feel more like a conversation instead of a "speech".

As I went through my single mom story, we started talking about how, as single foster moms, many people think we are crazy. They think we are not whole or equipped enough to do a job like this on our own. Then I said something I didn't expect. I began to talk about all of the "Christian" friends from my past who I had lost along the way because of this journey.

I knew that this was the case, but I guess I never really said it out loud before, and certainly not out loud to a room full of strangers. And it stung. A lot.

But the sad reality is, they just don't get it. We haven't always seen eye to eye, and over the years I have become more and more crazy, and they have become more and more...the same.

Jojo wasn't too big of a shock, because he was a newborn. And white. And although he has Down syndrome, he didn't have any major medical issues so he just appears to be a "normal" baby.

The 2 school age boys we took in for 10 weeks was pushing it. Why would I want to do this? Why add stress on myself and my "own kids"?

Then came Zee. He is just a whole situation as far as "they" are concerned. He has tubes running out of him for goodness sake. I think that was the nail in our friendship coffin. I was way overwhelmed when Zee came home. Way a lot. And you know what? My true friends were there for me with diapers and meals and prayers and support even from far away. And you know where my "church friends" were? No where to be found.

I think maybe they are under the impression that I am just trying to get attention.

Let me be clear: if I wanted attention, I would become a stripper. Not take on a medically fragile foster child on a ventilator. I barely leave the house now for craps sake.

However, I can see why they think I am crazy. I would have thought the same thing not too many years ago....I am so grateful I allowed God to take hold of my life and open my eyes. But I have come to a conclusion. It's not me. It's them. Let me tell you what I think is crazy:

People who put on the same fancy clothes and go sit in the same building 1-2 times a week. They stand. They sit. They stand. They sit. They hear a message. They worship GOD. The Holy God of the UNIVERSE....and they somehow manage to leave week after week....totally unchanged. Their lives stay the same. Aside from the fact that they attend church, they look just like the world. THAT is what I think is crazy.

“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Luke 6:46-49

I choose to have a crazy house on a firm foundation. 

I pray more Christians would stand up and be crazy with me.



Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Merry Christmas update from our little family

I have never done a Christmas newsletter, blog, update etc....but I had the bright idea to make my bigs write an update about their year and it turned out to be pretty adorable (complete with their own fonts, colors and formatting which is making me a wee bit cray but they insisted I leave it)! Plus, we added a whole new person to the family so I figured lots of people would get our Christmas card and think...what!?!?!? So, here it goes!



I had a good year in 2014. I fell like I showed respect to other people and got more in to football. I felt good about getting baptized and how Christ became my savior. It took me along time to decide if I should get baptized or not. The two foster kids we had were pretty fun and happy. I made the competitive soccer league and my dad posted it to over 3,000 people on twitter. I had good grades this year in school. My whole life changed to a better life.


(you can see the video of his baptism here )

 MY YEAR IN 2014

Ella MAE:

I have 3 brothrs. Aidan is 10, Jojo is 18 months and Baby Zee is 11 months. I also have 2 pets. One is a dog named Zachy and one is a cat named Fudge. We used to have 2 foster kids at our house and that made 5 kids in our house. And 1 mom. The foster kids were 5 and 9. They went to live with another family because Baby Zee was coming home. :-(
I am in 2nd grade now and I am 7. I love Science, Art and Music. I love to help my mom with the babies.  


Oh my goodness this baby. How could he have turned ONE this year?? He is spoiled ROTTEN (I solely blame his Papa). He has finally given up the army crawl and now switches back and forth from one knee and one foot, to normal crawling on all fours. He had some trouble with trying and actually consuming new solid foods, but we worked hard on that and now he eats like a little piggy. Just don't give him more than one thing at a time or he will throw all but one in the floor! He is ALMOST ready to out world!

Baby Zee

This guy.....he has literally turned our house upside down this year! Shortly after Jojo's 1st birthday, I felt like the Lord was leading me to finish up my foster care licensing (which was originally interrupted by Jojo's adoption!) JUST IN CASE there was ever a child locally that had special needs and was therefor difficult to place. JUST IN CASE. Well, I have learned about God and His sense of humor so I should have know that this wasn't a "just in case" situation!

I finalized my licensing on a Friday, and got "the call" about Baby Zee the following Monday! He was 8 months old at the time and has Down syndrome, along with a whole bunch of medical issues including being on a trach and a ventilator. I met him in late July and committed to bring him home when he was ready. The original plan was that he would be weaned off the ventilator before he came home, but he had some complications and that was no longer possible. As my parents and I began to think through the reality that we were bringing home a medically fragile child who would require quite a lot of machines and constant monitoring, we realized that it wasn't really going to work out for him to sleep upstairs where the kids and I have always been. SO, we decided to finish off the basement! My parents now have their own bedroom and living room downstairs, and Zee and I have taken over their room.

I can't say enough about how great my parents have been through all of this. My mom and I went through 4 weeks of training at the hospital to learn how to care for Zee. Not to mention the cost of the re-model, Papa having to pick up our slack at work etc....I am so blessed and LITERALLY could not do any of this without them!

Zee is doing so well at home! He is getting stronger and happier each day. The plan at this point is for him to have heart surgery at 18 months and hopefully then we will be able to wean him off the vent. Please pray for his health and for all of us as we adjust to this new normal!


This year has been awesomely crazy! Between the time I committed to Zee and the time he came home, we had 2 other boys (ages 5 and 9) who stayed with us for about 10 weeks. It was our first foster care placement, and God taught us all a lot during that time! Those sweet boys have moved on to a more permanent home, but we still get to see them often and they will always hold a special place in my heart!

So, I have spent this year doing what I always wanted to do....being a mommy. Most days I lay my head down totally worn slap out, but in a totally good, God you have me right where you want me and this is what I was always meant to do, kind of way.

Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Jenny and kids 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Jojo's 1st year. There are some things you need to know....

Jojo had an amazing year!

We have said time and again that we can't remember a time when he was not a part of our family. He just fits and we are all so in love with him!

Expecting a baby with Down syndrome? 

One of the biggest challenges of having a baby with Down syndrome is working with them to meet their milestones. Things that "typical" babies do naturally don't happen as easily for our babies. We have to work for them. So, for those expecting a baby with Down syndrome, or thinking of adopting, I thought I would share some of Jojo's first year milestones with you.

9 weeks- rolls over
3 months-bringing hands to mid line
4 months-ate first solid food and started sleeping through the night
6 months- started sitting up in a propped position and learned to hold his own bottle
7 months- sitting up without being propped
10 months- started pulling up
10 1/2 month- finally figured out how to crawl!
1 year- army crawling all over the house!

Of course those are just the broad strokes, and every baby is different, but you may notice that he really isn't behind at all! That is because we go to therapy twice a week, and work on his goals at home. Another contributing factor is that he hasn't had any major health problems, which does set many babies back.

Considering adopting a child with special needs domestically?

These are the things "they" don't tell you.

They may not sound like a big deal to some people, but to me they were HUGE so I wanted to share just in case it could help someone else.

I was actually in the process of finishing my foster care licensing when I got chosen to be Jojo's mom. I had only 2 months to get my home study done, lots of paperwork filled out, and lots of money raised! So I really didn't have time to ask a lot of questions. But, if I had been in a position where I was considering adopting a child with special needs from the US, these are the things I would have wanted someone to tell me:

-If you are a foster parent to a child, and that child cannot be re-united with family, you can adopt them. And it is FREE. Free. (this goes for non special needs kids too)

-When you adopt a child with any special need (emotional, behavioral, physical etc) from the US, you qualify for an adoption subsidy from your State. You can learn more about what your state offers here. Let me be clear, this amount of money will not make you rich lol but it is helpful when paying for therapies etc.

-Adopted children who have special needs and many kids who are adopted from foster care get FREE insurance. Like as in I pay nothing for Jojo's health care. Free.

*Disclaimer: this is clearly not an exhaustive list of all the things you should know. I am also NOT suggesting that these things should motivate anyone to pursue adopting a child with special needs. That would be cray. No representation is made that the quality of adoption advice by me is better than the quality of adoption advice from others. Some exclusions may apply. Tax, title and tag not included. 

This I know to be true: Jojo has forever changed us all. He blesses people in ways I would have never imagined. People tell me ALL THE TIME that just seeing pictures of him makes their day. He it truly a blessing to many!!

This kid is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

If you are considering adoption or just want to have your day made, watch this video. It will shed some light on what "special needs" REALLY means when it comes to adoption! I am proud to have had a part in making it, my kids are in it, and Aidan is the narrator!



Project Hopeful: Adoption is Redemption from Lantern Vision on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dear Birth Mom, Happy Mothers Day.

I am the one who changes his diapers.

I take him to therapy,
to help him build his strength.

I wipe his snotty nose and take
him to the doctor when he is sick.

I get up with him in the middle of the night.

I make the bottles, wash the bottles
and repeat over and over again.

I have the distinct privilege of watching him
grow every single day.

I will love him all the days of my life.

But you.....

You gave him life.

You made a choice that many
would never be brave enough to make.

You made a choice that many do not make.

You gave him life.

You made the most selfless sacrifice
that any person can make.

You chose him above yourself.

For that I will be eternally grateful.

You are a hero in my eyes and in the eyes
of everyone who meets him.

He is a little world changer, and that would not
be possible without you.

I pray every day that my life, your life, and his
life will bring Glory to God.

You made a difference.

You gave him life!

Happy Mothers Day!


Jenny and Jojo


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mercedes Marathon Weekend: From the other side.

We are no strangers to the Mercedes Marathon weekend.

Aidan in Kindergarten. He had strep throat but I made him run anyway....for some reason he hasn't wanted to do it since......

Ella Mae in Kindergarten! (I don't know why I look so mad in that pic)

I even ran the 5K last year....just for fun. Hmmmm.

Little did I know that one day, this weekend would mean so much more to me. I had no idea that one day I would not only be a Bell Runner, but a Bell Center parent!

It hit me like a ton of bricks on Sunday while waiting at my relay exchange point.

All of the Bell Runners (people who sign up to run for a specific child and raise funds for the Bell Center) wear the picture of "their" Bell Center child on their backs.

But I was wearing a picture of MY child on my back. 

Not a child I am running for but MY child.

One dad tweeted this after the race: 

Oh my heart. 

The very idea that not only my team members, but so many other runners participated to help MY CHILD. The Mercedes Marathon is the biggest fundraiser of the year for The Bell Center and because of the funds that were raised (and continue to be raised), my son has learned to sit up almost totally on his own, is almost crawling, and will eventually learn to walk. He is able to hold his own bottle, communicate (mostly babbling but that is age appropriate), eat baby food with no problems. These are things that as a parent of a typical child, I used to take for granted. Now, as a parent of a child with Down syndrome, each and every milestone is celebrated. Simple things that most kids do on their own, many kids with Down syndrome and other special needs have a hard time accomplishing. Without Early Intervention help, many kids fall way behind in their development..... BUT, because of the Bell Center and our wonderful team, Jojo is right on track and doing EVERYTHING he should be for his age. 

So enjoy some pictures from this years race weekend! Thank you SO MUCH to all who donated, thank you to my amazing team, and to my mom for helping me navigate the insanity with 3 kids!

Oh, and if you want to pitch in and be part of helping Jojo and so many others reach their potential, there is still time....just click the link below.

They have capes for all the kids! So cute....ready to run!
Aidan and Ella Mae pushing Jojo in the Bell Kids run

Bell Center graduates and siblings race. Call me cray but pretty sure Aidan won!

Jojo biting his medal to make sure it is real.

Ella Mae and I ready to run her mile in the 1st grade kids race.

Finish line!

She did it!

Team JOJO!!!!!



Thursday, February 20, 2014

Birmingham Parent Magazine Article

This is the article that ran in Birmingham Parent Magazine in November! As long as the link stays live you can view it here.....but I wanted to post it on my blog too so I wouldn't ever lose it!