“I grew up in a dysfunctional home where I was exposed to drug and alcohol addiction and verbal abuse. My parents got a divorce when I was 7 because my father had been having several affairs as well as drinking heavily. Over the next 3 years I watched as my mom did everything in her power to give my sister and I the best life she could, even though she was devastated and falling apart. She then remarried when I was 10 years old to a man who had 4 children from a previous marriage. While things seemed to get better on the surface, there was a lot of underlying trauma which contributed to consistent issues that were never addressed. My stepfather was extremely manipulative, controlling, and legalistic in the ways he dealt with all of us, including my mom.
When I was 16, we moved away from all our extended family in Nevada to South Carolina. My mom had just had a baby with my stepfather, and they felt it would be better for the family to move to a more ‘family-friendly’ state. This, as it later turned out, was to isolate us from everything and everyone we knew as a means of control. My stepfather became increasingly legalistic and controlling as the years went on. He eventually was caught in an affair, and my mom divorced him. The hypocrisy, years of manipulation and control, and brokenness were overwhelming for all of us.
We did attend a local church during this time, where I met an incredible girl named Grace Anne in the youth group. We started dating at the age of 17 and dated through our college years. We were greatly impacted by the church we attended in college called Midtown Fellowship in downtown Columbia, SC. At the age of 19, I became a believer and devoted my life to Jesus Christ and whatever He would lead me to do. At the age of 23, I married my high school sweetheart, and we started our young married life with great hopes and plans.
Grace Anne and I have always had a calling and heart for children and youth. Throughout my college years I worked as a volunteer for several youth groups as well as working at a camp I grew up going to in California as a camp counselor. I have always felt like I had the unique ability to connect with teenagers, especially ones from broken homes and traumatic childhoods. I had experienced a difficult childhood, so I was able to relate to these kids and give them hope for a brighter future.
My wife has always worked with younger children, and she obtained her college degree in early childhood development. Throughout her high school years and into her adult years she worked as a teacher and assistant director at childhood development centers, after-school programs and summer camps. She now works as a special needs assistant teacher at an elementary school in our area.
Through these experiences, God put it on our hearts to become foster parents and get licensed to adopt. My wife approached me a few years ago with the desire to foster, but I was extremely hesitant at first. The main concern I had was the safety of our home and my family. I also felt unprepared to be a father to the fatherless when I had experienced so much trauma and pain in my childhood. I had not been taught how to be a good dad, I only had examples of what not to do. My absolute biggest fear was that I would inadvertently say something triggering and/or damaging to a child which would affect them for the rest of their life.
After our first conversation when I expressed my fears and concerns, we decided it was not for us. However, God continued to work on both of our hearts separately for the next couple of months. One day while I was mowing the lawn, I was given a phrase I could not stop thinking about – if you have the ability, you have the responsibility. I had no idea what this could be in relation to as I had all but forgotten about our original conversation about foster care. Later that week, as my wife and I were driving home from small group, she said her heart was heavy for children in foster care and asked if I had thought any more about it. Suddenly, it all made sense: this was what that phrase was meant for. If you have the ability to help someone, you have the responsibility to do so.
We then began the long and tedious process of becoming licensed foster parents. The paperwork pilled up. The background checks took forever. There were medicals to complete and home studies from various agencies. We had to install a whole new interconnecting smoke alarm system and place motion alert sensors on the doors and windows. We had classes to attend to obtain the necessary certificates and education. Finally, after just over 6 months, we became fully licensed. The need for new foster homes was so prevalent, we were receiving calls to take placements a week before we were officially licensed.
We took a few short term and overnight placements as we ‘eased’ into this new journey. Our first long term placements were 2 brothers who would completely enrich and change our lives. The older brother came to us first because he had been removed from his previous placement, where he was with his brother, due to an altercation with a biological child in the foster home. Our goal as soon as he came to live with us was to reunite him with his brother. We realized the importance of keeping siblings together to retain some sense of consistency when their lives had been turned upside down. Within a month, we were able to bring them back together, and parenting 2 preteen boys became our life.
The younger brother was hilarious, kind, great at drawing, considerate, and loved good music, superheroes, and video games. The older brother was energetic, athletic, smart, handsome, and loved superhero movies, Post Malone, and video games. I think something that had the greatest impact on them and solidified my ability to be a positive and consistent caregiver was being able to teach them new things and introduce a different way of life. We played video games; we had Nerf gun wars; I taught them to kayak and longboard as well as healthy ways to deal with anger. Something they both took to heart were words I would share with them in teachable moments and my explanations of what they meant. The three main words they valued, memorized, and used in new situations were respect, trust, and integrity. We created so many memories in the year they were with us. At the end of our time together, they were able to move in with their aunt and uncle, which gave them their best chance at life. They impacted our lives as much as we impacted theirs.
Our next long-term placement was a 14-year-old girl who helped us realize we were not quite ready to parent older teenagers. Because we were only in our late 20s, she did not view us as authority figures, which made giving any sort of instruction difficult. We witnessed and experienced the dangers of teens on social media, dealing with stealing and lying, her feelings of hopelessness and thoughts of suicide, and her complete defiance and disregard for guidance and direction. It was one of the harder seasons we had, but we loved her with all we had and assured her we would never give up on her. She was able to move in with a family member, and she told us she loved us as she left.
My wife and I have been trying to get pregnant for the last 2 years but have not been able to. This has come with its own disappointment and sadness because we are ready to be forever parents along with fostering. We have also never gotten a call to foster a baby. God knew our hearts needed the joy of loving and caring for a baby, so he gave us 2 toddler girls from completely different families and situations. I love being a girls’ dad, and could not think of any other normal than the daily honor of loving and giving my all to these 2 babies.
We hear it all the time from people. One of the toughest and most heart-wrenching parts of fostering would be the attachment. ‘I could not do what you do, I would get too attached.’ That is the point. Their need for love, protection and attachment is far greater than our need to be protected from it. It is hard every time we take a child into our home knowing we will love them with reckless abandon even though it will only be for a season. All these children know they have become forever family with us even if we are not their forever home. No matter where they are or how old they get, they will always have a place to stay, food to eat, and a support system to lean on in us.
One thing we have committed to doing as foster parents is developing good communication and relationships with the biological families of the children who come through our doors, which is not common in the foster care community. In some cases, this is not possible, but we know the ultimate focus of the Department of Social Services is the reunification of these children with their biological parents and/or families. They need support, encouragement, and sometimes direction in raising their children in a healthy and stable home. We have been able to cultivate great relationships with most of the families of the children we have cared for in our home so far.
Foster care is hard, messy, time consuming, exhausting, and challenging. But it is also joyful, fun, rewarding, emotional, life-giving, and incredible. It is not for everyone and we know that. People do not need to feel ashamed or make excuses for why they cannot do it. Instead they should find ways to support and encourage the ones who do. This is a lifestyle of constant change, stress, and heartache. It is chosen sacrifice. These little ones are worth it, they need our love, direction, support, encouragement, security, stability, and time. We have the ability; therefore, we have the responsibility. This is foster care.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Travis Hoyt. Follow him on Instagram. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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