‘If it means hope for someone else, I’ll choose the whirlwind every single time.’: After growing up with foster siblings, woman shares joys of becoming foster mom

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Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of pregnancy loss which may be triggering for some.

Growing Up

“I have always been a tough little cookie. Growing up with three brothers, people often made comments about how tough I must be. It showed in my sassy comments, thick skin, and ability to wrestle any boy who dared. Our dad was the lead pastor of a large church in New York and he would often travel for speaking events so we didn’t get to be with him much. However, in the summer of 2002, that all changed. My dad had been on a mission trip in Nigeria, Africa, when he had a major head injury and almost died.

After a series of miracles, he made it to the Ivory Coast, then to France, and finally back to the United States. The following months and years would be spent in and out of the hospital as he battled an unknown infection that he picked up somewhere along the way as well as the aftermath of a major head injury. All of a sudden, my dad was home all the time, and the opportunity to have a real relationship was available.

That head injury forced him to step down from his position as a pastor and forced our family to move from the only home I knew all the way across the country to Colorado. It was in Colorado that my story with foster care began.

young boys and a girl laying on top of one another
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

Becoming a Foster Family

In Colorado, my dad slowly healed. Our family became closer, and I started to see the way God had his hand over every part of our lives. Then when I was 12, my parents announced that they felt God was calling our family to foster. Finally, a chance to get a sister! At the time, I didn’t understand the difference between foster care and adoption, and I had no idea what to expect.

When that first placement came, it was extremely hard. I didn’t always handle it well and I think the reason I don’t talk about it often now is how selfish I looked in it. However, I’m going to talk about it because I think it’s important and maybe it will help someone toeing the line of whether to jump in and foster.

Something to remember, no matter how mature, I was still a kid. Foster kids deserve grace. Bio families working to reunify deserve grace. But something not often talked about is that biological kids in a foster home deserve grace too. It’s something I’ve finally come to terms with. Does this mean you shouldn’t foster? NO. Does this mean if it gets hard you should stop fostering? NO.

mother and father with children and dog
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

What it means is I was a kid and I was not trauma-informed, and despite not having the insanely hard trauma my foster siblings did, I should not be expected to perfectly understand or handle situations well 100% of the time. It should be expected that bio kids will struggle. It’s not going to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. But you know what my parents did really well at? Persistence. Determination.

They knew God called us to it and when the Bible commands us to take care of the widows and orphans, it doesn’t say ‘only if your current children love the idea.’ It’s a command. My parents didn’t throw in the towel the first (or 100th) time I lost my mind on my siblings, and I’m so thankful because two days before Christmas during my sophomore year, our family adopted 4 of my foster siblings from two separate cases after years of trying to reunify, and now my siblings are some of my best friends.

children laying on stomach in grass holding a letter
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

Foster care taught me empathy as I watched my sister suffer and struggle when her mom missed a visit. It taught me to be more selfless as I gave up my selfish desires for my brother that needed so much. It taught me to work through problems when I was so frustrated that my siblings saw the world differently than me. I learned to show hospitality as I gave up my room, space, and parents. Fostering taught me the unconditional love of Jesus when I had to choose to forgive often despite the behaviors that come alongside trauma. It helped me to see the brokenness in the world and the need for a Savior, and it taught me how to speak my mind and heart in a loving and (usually) gentle way.

Prospective foster parents, yes, it will be hard and bumpy. Yes, there might be tears. However, your bio kids and foster kids will be better for seeing you lead them and show them commitment to love like Jesus no matter what. It is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.

Our Foster Inspiration

Fast forward to my first year of college, I remember bringing David home to meet my family. My parents had let us know they had reopened their foster license and a new kiddo would be coming. The cutest 4-year-old boy answered the door when we got to my house. This little boy was my brother, but I hadn’t ever met him before. He proceeded to give me a tour of the entire house I had grown up in. He showed me the girls’ room, which he wasn’t allowed in, and said, ‘Jill lives in there and some other girl, but I don’t know who she is.’ I tried to explain that it was me, but he just did not understand.

man and woman smiling for picture
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

That adorable four-year-old had been locked in a room for much of the first 4 years of his life and the months before our introduction had been a whirlwind of new things for him. Learning to talk, walk, family dynamics, self-regulation, attachment, etc. He didn’t understand how I fit into this family that he was just becoming a part of but he quickly warmed up to us and from that trip forward, he would often call to talk to ‘my Christy and my David.’

A few months later, David and I got married, and Benaiah was the cutest ring bearer ever. Though he was very disappointed when we told him the difference between the words ‘bear’ and ‘bearer.’ To this day, he believes he should have been allowed to wear a bear costume. A few months after that, he got adopted. I share this piece of my journey because Benaiah was another shifting point in my life. He was the spark that ignited David and my desire to become foster parents rather than just part of a foster family. I had never wanted any kids before that, and David had never even thought about fostering before, but when Benaiah came around, all of that changed. He wasn’t the only thing, but he was the shifting moment in our lives that brought us to where we are today.

man and woman at wedding
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

Starting Our Family

Some more trials and heartbreaks came along before we were licensed. David and I were both still in college and wanted to graduate before starting a family. However, God had other plans, and two months after we got married, the clear blue test read ‘pregnant.’ We were terrified. After settling into how we would figure this out, we called our parents and told them the crazy news. They were so excited about their first grandchild.

However, the next day, I woke up to lots of blood. We would later find out our baby had passed. It was the worst pain I had ever felt. After working through the grief, David and I decided we would stop preventing pregnancy and just trust God’s plan. A few months later, the test again read ‘pregnant,’ so I changed my degree to Associates and graduated that Spring. Micaiah was born 2 months after my graduation. David graduated with his bachelor’s degree the following year, and we moved to Colorado the same day because the following day he would start his first career at Young Life. Within the next few months, we became certified foster parents. Before the end of the year, we had added two more cute faces to our family.

man and woman laying in hospital bed with baby
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

Early Days of Foster Care

We were the foster family that identified as ‘foster to adopt.’ Technically speaking, this term meant that we were fostering with the goal of reunification, but that if reunification wasn’t possible we would adopt. However, at my weakest moments, it was hard to keep that goal in mind during our first placement. At the time, I knew I was supposed to take care of the kids, but it never crossed my mind to also support and take care of the biological family. It took months for me to get a clue, and by that time, it was too late. Sometimes I wish I could go back and start on the right foot.

I wish I had simply introduced myself to their mom like I wasn’t afraid of her.

I wish I had prayed for them (the parents) more often.

I wish I would have asked how I could help them.

I wish I would have gotten her email and sent her pictures of her babies regularly.

I wish I would have gone out of my way more for them.

Yes, a foster parent needs to take great care of the kiddos. Nevertheless, if I have learned anything in the last 3 ½ years, it’s that no matter how great I strive to be, or how great of a home I provide, I am NOT that child’s biological family, and I can never meet that need.

The goal of reunification shouldn’t just be a thought in the back of my head, it should be what we strive for. It used to frustrate me that I put in all this effort to help ‘heal’ the child (as if I could ever even do this) just to have them go back to the same environment. Then I realized nothing I do will heal them, but if I support the parents, then they have a much better chance of success. It’s not always possible, I know that well and I’ve seen that too. But when it is possible, we create a beautiful support system for a family in one of the hardest points of their life. If I was in that Mom’s position, this is what I would want. She deserves to have me advocating for her not just her child.

Our Foster Journey

The most common excuse I hear for not doing foster care is ‘I couldn’t give them back.’ People that are afraid of losing these precious babes as if they were ever even theirs to begin with. I don’t just mean that they have another mama or daddy. The truth is, not one of my babies belongs to me. Even the ones I birthed. These babies belong to God and when my perspective changes to a heavenly mindset instead of an earthly possession, I am able to hold them with open hands. It’s a lot easier to send a kiddo along on their journey knowing that the itinerary was created by an all-knowing and loving God. That He has a plan for their life far greater than I’ll ever even know.

Foster care has been a whirlwind. I recently realized I don’t know what it’s like to only have 2 kids. We skipped right over that stage of life.

I think I hadn’t really ever stopped to think until recently about how uncommon it is to just add a kid (or kids) to the family at the drop of a hat. One day, we had one kid and then we got a call and the next day we jumped to 3 kids. Two months after those kiddos arrived, God threw us another curveball when Aunt Flow didn’t make her call, and Ellie was born 10 months later jumping our count to 4. A month later, we would have our first successful reunification as our foster daughter returned home, and then the month after that, our foster son got to join her.

man kissing a pregnant woman's stomach
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

However, no rest for the weary because our sweet daughters were dropped off at our door 2 hours after he reunified, putting our count back to four. We were their third adoptive placement and the only successful one. They would legally have a forever spot in our family one year later. In that year, we bounced to 6 and then 8 and then 6 again. We thought we would be going back to 4 but another two sweet faces were dropped off the same day as some kiddos being reunified and those sweet faces have now been with us for 14 months as their case is figuring out permanency.

Some days we get a call about a placement and say yes, but we don’t know if the caseworker will end up needing us or if a kinship option will come available, so we just wait not knowing if tomorrow we will suddenly have another cute heartbroken face in our family.

woman and man kissing with children watching them
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

The Beauty of Foster Care

It’s a strange reality. I didn’t know Micaiah or Ellie before they were born either. I had no clue what they’d look like. But I knew they were coming and I could prepare which hasn’t been the case on this journey and I’m so glad about it. There’s no time for the anxiety to settle in. No time for me to get my panties in a wad and back out. I’m so glad because tomorrow everything could change, and it’s the type of whirlwind that I would want to take the leap on every single time.

The chance to love. The chance to get to know this whole new person that is both now my child and completely not my child. The chance to love their family. The chance to offer hope in possibly the worst season of their life. The chance to become a new version of myself. Every kid that has passed through our home has changed me, refined me. That first day is awkward and beautiful and horrifically terrible. The worst trauma of that sweet kiddo’s life. But it’s also our chance to be an unfamiliar face that offers steadfast, kind hope in the awful storm life has handed them.

I choose the whirlwind every single time if it means hope for someone else. We keep saying we want off this roller coaster and believe me we do! But somehow even when we aren’t on the placement list, the calls keep coming, and we know it’s God saying, ‘

not yet. I’m not done with you guys in this area yet.’ The one thing we are sure of in this foster care life, is we don’t know. We literally don’t know any tiny piece of the future, if you ask me about next week I probably won’t be able to give you an answer. Case deadlines, moves, future plans, I don’t have answers. But God does. So we’ll see how many more first days we have on this foster care journey while He lays out the deadlines and plans.

You know what’s funny? None of my childhood dreams are my current reality, and I’m not even a little sad about it.

family in halloween costumes
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

In exchange for those dreams, I married an amazing man at an age others thought was crazy and we’re raising 6 tiny humans and lots more that have moved on from our home and maybe more in the future. I exchanged those dreams for beautiful days filled with arts & crafts and learning at home. I get hugs and slobbery kisses and snuggles and tantrums. I got a messy house and bottomless pit bellies with no idea what to cook for dinner. We have way more grandmas and extended family members than anyone I know and most people we call family don’t have the same DNA as us. But I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s the dream I didn’t even know I wanted.

I know it’s good to dream, and I add new ones to the list all the time. But the truth is, I know the future holds much better God-sized dreams that I may not have even thought of yet. It’s a weird balance of wanting to soak it all in right now, while also being so excited to see what is going to happen next, and I can’t wait.”

adoptive mother and father with biological and adoptive children
Courtesy of Christy Sue Kearns

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Christy Sue Kearns of Colorado Springs, CO. You can follow her journey on  Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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