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Why we adopted through foster care

Ordinary people answering God’s call

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November 17, 2021

Many people ask why my husband and I decided to adopt through foster care. While the question is straightforward, the reasons are complex. I could appeal to logic by offering statistics: Did you know that over 400,000 children are currently in foster care, with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted? I could appeal to emotions and tell you how we watched numerous church friends lovingly adopt children from overseas. I could appeal to experience and recount mission trips where we ministered to children in group homes. Or I could share my personal story of living with two different families during my sophomore and senior years in high school, and how these families’ generosity taught me the importance of opening your home to those in need. 

I could also discuss worldview, and how my husband and I wanted to give our kids a Christian worldview that was bigger and more gospel-centered than what our cushy suburban life was offering them. While they were receiving a quality education and a neighborhood where they were free to run and play with their friends, they were also sheltered to the ways in which people struggle and, more importantly, the ways in which God intervenes and rescues them. 

In the end, we knew God was calling us to more than this white-picket-fence-life we were living. There is not one place in the Bible where God calls his people to live in a way that is always safe, predictable, and easy. In fact, it is just the opposite. God asks his people to live lives of sacrifice, courage, surrender, and often of risk. Jesus even stated, “Then he said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it’” (Luke 9:23-24, NIV). 

We wanted to teach our children that life is more than a picture-perfect, Norman Rockwell painting. Life is more than birthday parties, school sports, and Sunday school. Life itself is a mission field. Life is not neat and tidy; it is frustrating and messy, but we must be willing to dig deep with people. We wanted to teach our children how to authentically live out the gospel, and what better way to do that than through foster care and adoption? Just as God adopted us into his family (Eph. 1:5), we had the opportunity to adopt a child into our family — a child who might not otherwise ever know love, safety, security, or God’s Word.  

Answering God’s call, seeing God’s plan 

I could give you all these reasons why we chose to adopt through foster care. However, in the end, we chose this journey for one simple reason: because God called us. There were days before we were licensed to foster that I was excited and steadfast in our call. But the further along we journeyed in the process and the more classes we took, the more unsure I became. My mind raced with anxious thoughts: What if I am not prepared? How will this impact my kids? What will people think? I already have three kids; how will I manage four kids? 

Then, I read a quote by popular author and Bible teacher Priscilla Shirer that brought me peace and reminded me of God’s call. It read, “Don’t let anyone talk you out of what God is talking you into.” I knew at that moment that I could no longer worry about what other people thought. I was done indulging in my own insecurities. I would not entertain the lying whispers from the enemy anymore. God had called us to this mission, and we would obey.  

After becoming licensed foster parents, we welcomed a 9-week-old baby girl into our home. She was tiny and quiet, and we learned (and are still learning) a lot about trauma and attachment through her. We realized the importance of trauma-informed resources and training to help us love and care for children like her. Of course, we loved her instantly. And though the goal of foster care is always reunification with the biological family, there are times when that isn’t in the best interest of the child. So, we eventually adopted her when she was 19 months old. We thought our family was complete. We had answered God’s call and now had two boys and two girls. A picture-perfect, neat-and-tidy suburban family once again. God, however, was not done writing our story. 

A few months after our daughter’s adoption, we received a call that her baby brother had been born. Would we take him, too? Yes, we would. We fostered our son and adopted him when he was 17 months old. Unlike his sister, he was chunky and chatty — the life of the party. He was the child we never expected and yet the one God knew would make our family complete. Today, our children are ages 5, 7, 12, 14, and 16. Our family is loud, fun, overwhelming, chaotic, joyful, stressful. Every day our house is filled with laughter, fighting, playing, crying, praying, talking, yelling, sharing, and all the things that fill every other home. 

How might you answer the call? 

Over the years, we have heard it all: You’re amazing. You’re incredible. Your kids are so lucky to have you. I could never do what you did. The truth is these words are false. We aren’t heroes, we are human. We have failed more times than we’ve succeeded. We’ve yelled when we should have held. We’ve made mistakes, and we have regrets. We are just two ordinary people who answered God’s call.

I urge you to consider how God might be calling you to step in and help a foster child. When it comes to foster care, we are not all called to do the same thing, but we are all called to do something. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). Consider the following ways you might get involved in foster care:

The most incredible part of our story is that anyone can live it. Anyone can help in some way. As I mentioned before, there are 400,000 children who are currently in the foster care system, with over 100,000 waiting to be adopted. The prophet Isaiah once wrote, “Learn to do good; commit yourselves to seeking justice. Make right for the world’s most vulnerable — the oppressed, the orphaned, the widow” (Isa. 1:17, The Voice). Is there anyone more vulnerable than a child who has been separated from his parents? And is there anything more beautiful than the church stepping up to care for them and their families, in Jesus’ name? 

Elizabeth Oates

Elizabeth Oates is an author, blogger, and speaker whose family tree was plagued with generations of divorce, dysfunction, and brokenness. Today she advocates for healthy marriages and families and also encourages women to find their identity in Christ and purpose in the mundane. Elizabeth earned her B.A. from Baylor University … Read More