Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Mother's Worst Nightmare


Written by Kristina Snow




What an incredible honor to share the story of Kristina Snow, a biological parent. Kristina, thank you for your amazing courage and vulnerability!



When I was asked to do this blog from the perspective of a biological parent who had her children taken into foster care, I jumped at the chance. Here is my story.

In 2012 four of my children were taken from me and placed into foster care, separated into three different homes.

This is my side of the situation. There will be no fingers pointed because the fault of the situation rested in the hands of two parents who could not get along, we were domestic violence. This resulted in the arrest of both of us. As they placed us into custody many thoughts came to mind, I sat there and wondered, “Where is this going, what will happen?” “Will I see my children again?” But the most interesting thought was the thankfulness I actually felt because they were in safe hands. They would no longer see a life of argument, physical, mental, emotional, or property abuse. They would no longer see the life of drugs, alcohol, and anger. Thank God. Neither would I. Our lives were about to change.

I spent 3 months in jail in another county, I wrote letters and received pictures. My youngest was four months old. Just becoming aware, just starting to function outside of sleep and crying. My heart was now torn between the thankfulness and the remorse of not being able to be there. To hold him, to see every new stage of his life.

My oldest had turned 11 only two months before the incident. Turns out, she was talented enough to take a solo on the clarinet for the Christmas show. Several emotions were overwhelming me. Joy that she was able to do this and fear that I wasn’t there to watch. How would she react? What was she feeling? I felt anger toward myself for several reasons I believe are obvious. Love though, was deep, there was always love.

It would be a total of 5 months before I finally got the chance to see my children for the first time. As I rode the bus to see them, I wanted to cry. This is happening I thought. My babies. I’m going to see my children. The overwhelming nervousness and excitement was indescribable.

This is really where it began, my introduction and relationship between three foster families and two different foster care agencies.

My experience with The Forgotten Initiative still brings joy to my heart. The foster parents of my youngest have left an impression on who I am today, that will last a lifetime. She is a member of the church, she brought me into their lives, into my son’s life…she was there for me, is still here for me. She drives me places when I need a ride, invited me into her home, and into a life I was praying for. Not only did she take on my son, she took me on too. I can confide in her. To this day we are not only in contact, but I can say with assurance she is one of my closest friends. She still watches my child and they have a bond I never intend to break. My son has two mothers and I don’t think either of us intends for that to change.

However, my experience with another family and another agency is different. She would bring them to our visits and say things to my son, like, “you won’t be able to visit your mom if you don’t behave.” Creating an awkwardness I can only describe as unacceptable. While I was working so hard, so, so hard, on getting my children back, she also made the suggestion to my daughter to write the judge and tell them she didn’t want to leave their home. Manipulated — my daughter did as she was told. My thoughts on this are inappropriate to write and will be left to your imagination.

The third foster parent was also a part of The Forgotten Initiative. We did not become as close as the other foster family, however she also never made me feel like she was against me.

After a long haul of proving myself, and the effort and help of my youngest son’s foster family, I shall give thanks to them forever, I finally received custody of my children in May of 2014.

The Forgotten Initiative, has been good to me. Their help and effort they gave to recognize the need to help this biological parent in every way, including helping with clothes and furnishing our first home as a family again, it’s unforgettable.


In 2012 four of my children were taken from me and placed into foster care, separated into three different homes.
This is my side of the situation.  There will be no fingers pointed because the fault of the situation rested in the hands of two parents who could not get along, we were domestic violence.  This resulted in the arrest of both of us.  As they placed us into custody many thoughts came to mind, I sat there and wondered, “Where is this going, what will happen?”  “Will I see my children again?”  But the most interesting thought was the thankfulness I actually felt because they were in safe hands.  They would no longer see a life of argument, physical, mental, emotional, or property abuse.  They would no longer see the life of drugs, alcohol, and anger.  Thank God.  Neither would I.  Our lives were about to change.
I spent 3 months in jail in another county, I wrote letters and received pictures.  My youngest was four months old.  Just becoming aware, just starting to function outside of sleep and crying. My heart was now torn between the thankfulness and the remorse of not being able to be there. To hold him, to see every new stage of his life.
My oldest had turned 11 only two months before the incident.  Turns out, she was talented enough to take a solo on the clarinet for the Christmas show.  Several emotions were overwhelming me.  Joy that she was able to do this and fear that I wasn’t there to watch. How would she react?  What was she feeling?  I felt anger toward myself for several reasons I believe are obvious.  Love though, was deep, there was always love.
It would be a total of 5 months before I finally got the chance to see my children for the first time.  As I rode the bus to see them, I wanted to cry.  This is happening I thought.  My babies.  I’m going to see my children.  The overwhelming nervousness and excitement was indescribable.
This is really where it began, my introduction and relationship between three foster families and two different foster care agencies.
My experience with The Forgotten Initiative still brings joy to my heart.  The foster parents of my youngest have left an impression on who I am today, that will last a lifetime.  She is a member of the church, she brought me into their lives, into my son’s life…she was there for me, is still here for me.  She drives me places when I need a ride, invited me into her home, and into a life I was praying for.  Not only did she take on my son, she took me on too.  I can confide in her.  To this day we are not only in contact, but I can say with assurance she is one of my closest friends.  She still watches my child and they have a bond I never intend to break.  My son has two mothers and I don’t think either of us intends for that to change.
However, my experience with another family and another agency is different.  She would bring them to our visits and say things to my son, like, “you won’t be able to visit your mom if you don’t behave.”  Creating an awkwardness I can only describe as unacceptable.  While I was working so hard, so, so hard, on getting my children back, she also made the suggestion to my daughter to write the judge and tell them she didn’t want to leave their home.  Manipulated — my daughter did as she was told.  My thoughts on this are inappropriate to write and will be left to your imagination.
The third foster parent was also a part of The Forgotten Initiative. We did not become as close as the other foster family, however she also never made me feel like she was against me.
After a long haul of proving myself, and the effort and help of my youngest son’s foster family, I shall give thanks to them forever, I finally received custody of my children in May of 2014.
The Forgotten Initiative, has been good to me. Their help and effort they gave to recognize the need to help this biological parent in every way, including helping with clothes and furnishing our first home as a family again, it’s unforgettable.
My name is Kristina Snow, and I have a new life.  I thank you…from the bottom of my heart.
- See more at: http://www.theforgotteninitiative.org/blog/2015/03/advocate-wednesday-from-the-side-of-a-biological-mom/#sthash.CFn9wlj0.dpuf



Written by Kristina Snow (posted here with her permission-originally appearing on The Forgotten Initiative blog). Please visit The Forgotten Initiative for ways to help in your community.



 




{photo credit}

Monday, April 27, 2015

Dear Church, You Are Called to Foster Care

Written by Catie Lumpkin


 

{The following reflection is not an effort to make foster care ultimate, but to encourage us to give pause as a Covenant body to the reality that the ministry of foster care is inescapable. It is already knocking on our doors, waiting to be known and recognized.}

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Calling {noun} ~ a summons or an invitation; a command

I sat with a number of pastors and leaders from various churches as they listened to stories from the world of foster care.

One raised his hand and said, I understand this is important, but we're already doing great mission and mercy work in our church. We're not all called to be involved in foster care.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ ~

Foster care is not simply another ministry to add to your productivity list.

And, the extent of foster care ministry is not foster parenting.

Foster care is the tentacles of almost every mercy ministry within your church. The children in foster care represent the addicted, the imprisoned, the trafficked, the abused and neglected.

They reflect divorce, immigration, single parent homes, and the unemployed.

They carry the stories of parents who are homeless, churchless, widowed and broken.

They are little ones who are weighed with special needs, illiteracy, and teenage pregnancy.

They are not invisible or far away.

She is the child sitting by your own at the lunch table.

She is the strange kiddo who crawled up in your lap at a restaurant and put her hand between your legs.

He's the child who kicked your kid in the face at soccer practice.

And the one always in the Principal's office when you're up at the school.

It's the problem child at VBS, and the reason no one will sign up for that particular Sunday school class.

And it's the family who has taken up the call to love these kids, yet their marriage, relationships and connection to your Church body is sinking.

Dear Church, you are called to foster care. In fact, you cannot escape it.

Within our city, our country, and our world, we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are commanded to be "as the men of Issachar, who studied and understood their times and knew what Israel should do." ~ I Chronicles 12:32.

Our journey of foster care ministry has forced us to become versed in our country's realm of welfare, disability, illegal immigration, citizenship, child support, homelessness, sexual abuse, education and the nature of our legal system.

My friends, if the Church is not about believing the name of Jesus is powerful enough to set the oppressed free and loose the chains of injustice, then we have chosen the wrong kind of fast...or so Isaiah once said.

If we are not about feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the wanderer, and clothing the naked, then we are missing the spaces into which God the Father is inviting us to break forth like the dawn, to display the weight of His glory and righteousness, to be as His incarnation here on earth.

We do not do these things because it earns us a place at His table.

We embrace being slaves to righteousness because His great mercy and faithfulness has set us free to be emptied because of His love so that His name may be proclaimed among the nations.

If our churches are not for the broken, then for whom were they created?

For we are all broken and fractured, seeking the only One who can make us whole again.

Friend, Pastor, Leader, and Teacher...

You are called as a Church Body to be aware of the foster care world because only you can bring the One who makes all things possible to an impossible world.

And foster care is an impossible world.


 







Catie and her husband, Jamie, are foster parents in Birmingham, Alabama. Catie authors This High Calling blog and heads up The Forgotten Initiative for Shelby County. Please visit her blog for more information on their ministry and encourage her as she follows Him in advocating for precious children and families involved in the foster care system. You may also follow her on Facebook







 




{photo credit}

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

How Long O Lord?

 

I'm not okay.  I'm so weary and sad.

In some respect, sadness weighs heavy due to my hard heart and how simple it is to disconnect from the broken reality of Little Bitty's brothers after I haven't seen them for a while. If I'm truthful, my world revolves around a steady fixation of material possessions, ungratefulness, and discontent. The lustfulness of storing up earthly treasures. The ugly focus on ME, ME, ME.

It's easy to send up quiet prayers at random moments of our day when their names come off Little Bitty's lips, the sunshine spilling down on her spiraled hair, thick ebony eyelashes, and silver ballet slippers. Her brothers navigate life on the other side of town- where the everyday equates to bullets spiraling through the air that hangs heavy with robbery and bullying.

I have no understanding of the heaviness of their daily lives. There's no way for me to fully know. It grieves me that I nestle in my cozy home and often turn my head to try to forget.

Last night, my heart was full of tangled thorns like the stalks extending long, dry, and bitter from our blackberry patch. There was a meeting scheduled downtown at six o'clock and I was bitter, resentful. I wanted the coziness of my life.

"It grieves me that I nestle in my cozy home and often turn my head to try to forget."

I didn't want to deal with five o'clock traffic in a heavy rainstorm, twist through stark mazes of halls and cubicles, or deliberate in a sterile room at a conference table. I didn't want to talk about this case anymore. It seems to be endless.

Really, this is not what I wanted for my life. I've somehow surrendered that this is where He has cemented my feet; yet, I continue to cry out with the Psalmist, How long O LORD (Psalm 13). 


I parked my car in the near-empty lot, sprinted through the rain, passed through security, and boarded the elevator to the ninth floor, Child Protective Services.

As I signed the notepad at the desk, I scanned the room and was caught off guard to catch sight of the nine-year-old brother in the lobby, slumped in a black plastic chair against the sea of windows. The rain meandering down the glass like tears.

He spotted me, and his posture shifted, his face glowing bright sunshine into the dark room- eyes glimmering as we hugged and I plopped into the chair next to him. He told me the older brother was with a social worker. Their foster mom sat rigid in a row in front of us. She nodded as I touched her shoulder and said hi.

This was an adult meeting, a large portion involving discussions about the boys, and I immediately sensed my stomach swell with fear, worrying about their presence. We passed the time giggling and talking with our shoulders hunched over my phone. We flipped through videos and photos of his little bitty sister.

He said he's more like me, quiet; but, the older boy more like like Little Bitty, craving the spotlight. He sat back in the chair, pensive. His head tilted and he wondered out-loud what he would do for his birthday.

"When is it?" I asked.

"In a few weeks."

Our names were called and we passed through doors and hallways. The older brother emerged and we hugged.

The boys were sent to a room alone and instructed to stay put, as seven of us adults settled into the conference room with green Naugahyde chairs encircling the dark brown table. We shuffled notepads and pens, made introductions.

Diverse backgrounds, social statuses, and cultures, our paths only intersecting because of three siblings. 

The conference room door was propped open as the meeting began. I asked if I could close it.

No. Assurance was given that the boys were well out of earshot. No time wasted, no small talk. We jumped into a heated conversation about the case. 

Suddenly, one of the boys breezed into the room and was immediately instructed to leave and not come back. Again, the door to the room was left gaping wide. Surely our voices could be heard down the hall. There was no secret we were there to discuss them.

I had entered the room with an undercurrent of frustration, resentment, and fear brewing in my stomach, now it had risen into my throat.

Not to mention the fact that the discussion took an unexpected turn, which further wrenched my heart. I gazed to the doorway as the boy made another entrance to announce the other sibling said he was leaving and had disappeared.

An adult hurriedly pushed away from the table to search the huge, tangled mess of offices and hallways as the rest of us continued to discuss the tangled messy topics left laying on the table.

Five minutes went by and the boy was found roaming the massive building.

Alas, the meeting room door was finally closed, with the boys situated outside the glass windows so we could see them. Who knew what they heard.

I couldn't stop watching them- the wide smiling faces of two brothers tossing a Nerf football back and forth on a rainy day at Child Protective Services. Their entire life packed with unknowns, jagged pieces a tangled mess at their feet; yet the resilience and the playfulness caught my attention.

The conversation continued around me and I was lost staring out the glassed panel at the two of them. I had friends pray beforehand, specifically praying that I'd be kind and that He'd show favor- because there are things I know and have seen that quickly send me to a crazy place.
 

Tears filled my eyes as I realized prayers had been answered. In the midst of my anger, frustration. and personal agenda, the Father's kindness spread across my frozen heart, thawing. He cracked a window for me to gaze at something bigger, something dear to His heart.

We said our goodbyes and I drove home with cars swooshing by on wet asphalt and salty streams trickling down my face. The road ahead a blur in so many ways. 

Through the tears and ache, I mentally began a checklist for a celebration. 

Because there's a little boy about to turn ten-years-old, who very much deserves to be celebrated.