Monday, June 22, 2015

Zee's surgery: I had a come apart in church.

As I sat in church yesterday morning, all the stress and emotions I have been trying to control came crashing down. 

My prayer from the beginning of this journey with Baby Zee has been for God to be glorified. Not that I don't want that for the lives of all of my kids, but he is special. He is different. Because of his special needs, medical conditions, the whole ventilator situation and because of me being a single mom with a different color skin than his, we sort of stick out like a sore thumb. And I have always felt like that is a good thing. When people see me wheeling around my rolling ICU they notice us. And I want them to. When they ask me questions I am able to tell the story of how God brought us together, and I know He has already been glorified much in that respect.

However, now it is time for his surgery. 

We sang this song as he slept in my arms and I just couldn't make the tears stop.
And take my life 
Let it be everything
All of me here I am
Use me for Your Glory 
In everything I say and do 
Let my life honor You 
Here I am living for Your Glory

I pray daily for God to be glorified through Zee's life,
        but what I really mean is I want Him to be glorified through his healing. 

And that's when it hit me. What if that isn't God's plan?

Does my prayer change?

I thought to myself "Lord I feel like Abraham!" and then I thought "don't be so dramatic it's not like He is asking you to lay this child on an altar".......

Except that He is. This child. My life. His life. The lives of my other kids. All on the altar all for His glory.  

So, I will continue to pray for his healing but I will also continue to pray for God to be glorified, even if it is hard and even if it hurts. 

Please pray for this sweet baby who I love so dearly....



Friday, April 24, 2015

Foster Care Exposed: The uprising of all the single ladies

You know how people have all the excuses for why they can't do foster care?

"I work full time!"
"I would get too attached."
"It takes a special person to do foster care"
"I just don't have enough time."
"There isn't enough room in my house."

Well let me tell you something folks....there has been an uprising of single mamas taking on foster care....and they blow all of those excuses straight out of the water.

This post is plain and simple. We need to give praise to God for calling these women to glorify Him in this way....and we need to give props to them for simply saying YES.

Chasity: Accountant
Lana: Teacher
Erin: Physical Therapist
Stephanie: Speech/Language Pathologist
Allison: Teacher
Erin: Teacher
Karen: Executive Assistant
Ruby: Teacher
Connie: Teacher
Lori: School Counselor
Jenny: Teacher
Millie: Photographer
Mandie: Graphic designer/photographer
Jenna: Special Ed Teacher
Mary: School Counselor
Me: Financial Assistant/SAHM #onlycuzihaveanexhusbandwhopaysme
Amy: Teacher
Marissa: Teacher
Selena: Accountant/Controller

soon to be added to this list:

Chalice: Nanny
Amy: Nurse

I listed their occupations, simply to show that they are just normal hard working people just like everyone else.

Please keep these ladies in your prayers. They are taking on the hard work of foster care daily....and it isn't easy....but it is good.

It is the gospel lived out.

It is literally changing lives.

And it is worth it.



Thursday, April 16, 2015

Foster Care Exposed: Where do I start!?!

"I have always wanted to do foster care, but I just don't even know how to get started"

I hear this one a lot, so this is my best attempt to answer some of the very basic questions about where to start if you want to become a foster parent!

{PRAY} Foster care is not for everyone. Seek God first. Pretty please don't do it because your friends did and the kid they got was super cute.
{ASK QUESTIONS} Chances are you know someone who is or has been involved in foster care. Find a time to talk to them and ask them your questions! Granted, you may have to call them on the phone or follow them around at church as they collect all their kids, but we are passionate about what we do and want to help others get involved!
Here are some examples:
Who can / can't be a foster parent?
Here is a link to the requirements to foster through DHR. I know there are additional requirements with the various private agencies, but I am not aware of an actual list of those requirements. 
I (we) work full time. Can we foster?
Yes! The State will pay for daycare for your child(ren), but only at certain daycares. Your social worker can help you or you can call the ones in your area and ask if they accept payment from "Child Care Central".
What about medical costs?
Covered either by the bio parents insurance (rare) or Medicaid. Costs you nothing out of pocket.

Can I specify the ages of kids I am willing to take?
Yes. Some private agencies will not allow you to take a child who is older than the oldest child in your home. DHR is more flexible. But with either you can specify. 

What if I take a child who becomes a danger to my other children?
I think this is a VERY normal concern for those of us with kids already in the home. We have all heard the horror stories. If you need to have a child moved out of your home, just tell your social worker. You are under no obligation to keep a child who is putting your family in danger.

What if I get licensed but then something comes up with my family?
Another common concern. Simply let your social worker know that you cannot take any placements for a while. If you are with DHR they may still call you if they get in a major bind, but always put your family first and stand your ground. They will respect that.

What about school aged kids?
If a child comes in to your home who is already enrolled in school, I believe you have the option to keep them at their current school or move them to the school you are zoned to. This would of course depend on many things like the length of time they will likely be with you, location etc.

How much do foster parents get paid?
The State will give you what is called a "board payment" (i.e. "room and board"). For the kids I have had in my home, it is typically about $400 ish a month per child. (no one ever talks about this out loud I guess for fear that we will get accused of being in it for the money.....LOL....I personally like straight answers and facts so there ya go)

Will the biological parents know where I live?
No. You will have someone transport the child(ren) to and from visits (if they have regular visits with family). 
Can you adopt a child from foster care?
The goal is always reunification with family. However, sometimes that is not possible. In those cases you can adopt from foster care (more detail coming on this in a separate post).
{GPS} Once you have decided that the Lord is leading your family to become a foster family, you will need to take the GPS classes. There is usually an introduction week where you will get a broad view of foster care and learn if it is for you. GPS stands for "Group Preparation and Selection". I have never really understood this name, but that is neither here nor there. Here are some basics:

  • Classes typically last 11 weeks (1 class introduction and then 10 classes one night a week for 3 hours totaling 30 hours training)
  • They are offered through Lifeline, Alabama Baptist and DHR (you will have to call your county to get info on upcoming classes)
  • They are often held at a church and usually offer childcare   
  • The material for GPS is the same, no matter where you take the classes
  • The main goal of the classes is to teach you how to see fostering from the eyes of a child coming in to foster care, NOT how to change diapers etc. You will learn a LOT. 
  • You will complete the classes as well as get your CPR certification and fingerprints for background checks
  • Once you complete GPS, your "certificate" never expires. So if go through GPS classes today, but don't want to actually start fostering for another year, that is perfectly fine.
  • You can take GPS through ANY AGENCY and then decide who you want to get licensed with. For example. I took my GPS classes through Alabama Baptist because they had a class at a church that was very close to my house. Then I got licensed with Shelby County DHR.
{FINAL STRETCH} The amount of time this phase takes depends on you and your licensing agency. You will fill out lots of paperwork and have your home study and this process will look different depending on your agency. This is an example of some of the paperwork I had to do to get licensed with DHR.

-CA/N Clearance (Child Abuse and Neglect)
-Child Desired Form
-Confidentiality and Code of Ethics
-Criminal History Check Application
-Discipline Policy
-Financial Statement
-HIPPA agreement
-Physical Examination Sheet
-Immediate Relatives Sheet
-Compliance with Minimum Standards
-CPR/First Aid Certification
-Rabies Certification (if you have animals)
-Home Visit
-Copy of Automobile Insurance
-Copy of Home owner’s insurance

{THE BEGINNING} Once you are finished with all of the training and paperwork, your journey really begins. Foster care is hard, but these kids are worth it. Each and every one is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and being able to serve them is truly a privilege. 

 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in My Name welcomes Me....." Mark 9:37

I hesitate to even hit publish on this post because I know there are so many more questions that could be answered and information that could be given. If you have a question, feel free to comment and I will do my best to answer it. If you have additional information from your experience, please do the same!



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Foster Care Exposed: Private Agency or DHR?

I am starting a little series on foster care.

I have blogged about it before, but not in much detail, and the more questions I get the more I realize the need for clear and concise answers about how the "system" works.

So let's start with this question:

"Should I get licensed through a private agency or through my county DHR?"

Let me tell you my experience. I went through the training classes (called "GPS") to become licensed as a foster parent through a private agency. These classes are focused (as they should be) on seeing foster care from the eyes of a child entering the system.

The material for GPS is the same whether you take the classes through your local DHR office or through a private agency. However, over the course of the 10 weeks of classes, we were told additional information based on the experience of the people leading the classes. Things like "we are here to protect you from DHR", "if you ever see DHR on your caller ID, don't answer it and call your social worker", bascially making DHR out to be the "bad guys".

They also put a lot of emphasis on the fact that if I put on my paperwork that I could only take 1 child under the age of 2 (for example) that they would NEVER call me for anything outside of that. So hypothetically if a child that was 2 1/2 came in to care, I would not get that call.

They also told us that we would receive a higher board payment (the $ you receive for each child for food, clothing, housing etc) with this private agency than we would through DHR.

What we weren't told are the practical differences between fostering through a private agency vs. directly through DHR. Things that I would have liked to have known. 

I ASSUMED, that when they said we would never get calls in the middle of the night, that meant that the private agency was fielding those calls for us. Not true. They don't take calls after 5pm or on weekends. That is just one example.

Now let me pause here and BE VERY CLEAR: We need the private agencies. They take a GREAT burden off the State simply by providing so many options for training, not to mention the many many kids who have found safe and loving Christian homes through the services they provide.

My purpose with this particular post is very simple:

1. People should know the differences in private vs. state when they decide to pursue foster care

2. I want more people to understand the great need for more families to choose to foster through the State. Why?

Right now in Shelby County we have 28 foster families.

I don't know how many families the private agencies have. But I do know, that of those 28 families, all but maybe 2 are FULL as of right now.

That means that when those middle of the night or weekend calls come, those kids have to be placed with families that are already at or over their max, and sometimes they have to spend the night at DHR. 

The next morning, the private agencies are contacted and if they accept the placement, the kids are moved to a private agency home. But, unlike DHR (who has to care for every child who comes in no matter what) the private agencies have the right to choose which placements they take based on anything from: size of sibling group/ any special needs involved/ how complicated the case is legally/ whether the placement will be long or short term/ what they deem to be best for their foster families etc.

Here are some of the facts:

Differences in Private vs. DHR for Foster FAMILIES:

Differences in Private vs. DHR for Foster KIDS:

So, if you are considering foster care or are currently in GPS classes, now you know the facts (at least the ones that I know). God will lead many of you to get your license through a private agency and that is awesome! But those of us who are in Shelby County are really praying that some of you will decide to get your license with the State : )

*side note: you can take classes with a private agency and get licensed by DHR and vice versa

I know that this post will likely tick some people off but please understand, I do not consider myself to be an expert in this arena so if I said something that isn't true, by all means let me know. But, when God lays something on my heart, I will advocate for it in any way I can.

And remember that underneath all the facts are the children who come in to foster care....and God has called us to care for them.



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