Fostering Hope: The Challenges and Rewards of Foster Care and Adoption

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Fostering Hope: The Challenges and Rewards of Foster Care and Adoption 

 

Bri Stensrud: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. My name is Bri Stensrud, and today I’m joined with an all-star cast to talk about the rewards and challenges of foster care and adoption. So, I have with me Brittany Salmon, Jedd Medefind, Jamie Finn, and Lindy Johnson, and Danielle Smith. So, thanks for joining us. I’m going to kick it off with Brittany because Brittany just wrote an amazing book on transracial adoption and this was new to you. 

You’d never entered into that and so, there’s some unique challenges that were a surprise to you. Can you talk to us about what it looks like to enter into the transracial adoption space? What were some challenges you didn’t anticipate that we should?  

Brittany Salmon: One of the things that was just really surprising to me was, we had done all the classes. I read a lot of books. I’m a person that when something’s going on in my life or something new coming, I’m gonna research way too much. I’m gonna overread, over prepare. And so, I was like, okay, we’re adopting. I’ve read all this content, and then we brought our son home. And quickly as I was going out in public and just learning to be an adoptive family, our adoption was visible to everyone else.  

And so, that’s a unique aspect to transracial adoption is that when we are out in public, my son’s identity within our family is called into question. And so, it could be even just a few weeks ago, we were out downtown and then we just moved and we were exploring our new home. 

And a gentleman said, stopped our family and said, “Oh is your cousin… does your cousin?” And I said, “No,  

That’s my that’s our son, that’s our daughter’s brother.” And so, just recognizing that one of the unique hardships within transracial adoption is that my son’s or your child’s identity is called into question in public. And so, we had to be prepared for that.  

And then the second thing was we quickly learned that no matter how much we prepared and thought we were ready to be a multicultural family, we didn’t quite realize how monocultural we were. And so, one of the things that we have said, and I’ve encouraged other adoptive families, is you can’t become a transracial adoptive family, a multicultural family, and live a monocultural life. 

And so, we had to figure out, okay, where are we going to go to school? Where are our kids? Where we’re going to worship? What extracurriculars are we going to be involved in to where I cannot fix the break between my son and his first family and first culture, but what I can do is create bridges to that culture to where he can see racial mirrors and have experiences that are real and lived and not other, but a part of his story so that when the time is right, he can help build a healthy racial identity. 

And that’s not something that we have to be afraid of because we know that part of God’s good design is reflecting him in imago Dei. And so, each of us and our unique cultures and our embodied selves, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, we glorify God uniquely. So we’ve learned how to celebrate that in our family and truly become a multicultural family instead of just a monocultural one with different shades of skin in it. 

Bri Stensrud: So, let me just ask you a quick follow-up question. Your whole family, obviously you and your husband are both White. Yes. So, what has that been like bringing along the rest of your family? What are some of those kind of unique challenges?  

Brittany Salmon: I think you will get a lot of pushback, and I, from who, from friends, family, And some families can be supportive And some families cannot. 

It depends on your circumstances, but what we have learned in my approach and my personal conviction is, let’s bring people along in our learning process. I cannot expect my family to know everything about adoption and trauma and race. They’ve not done the research as well, and nor should they have until our family became a multicultural family. And so, what my approach has been, Hey, I’m reading this. What do you think about this? Hey, we’re making this decision, and it might be different from what our family did when you raised us. But here’s why. And I want you to know that’s not a reflection on you or it’s not a reflection on something you’ve done wrong, but we have to do things differently because we’re a multicultural family.  

And so, my heart has been to bring people along, and it’s been really cool to see our families jump on board, our friends jump on board, our churches jump on board when I say, Hey, this curriculum, my kid is not represented here in this Christian curriculum that’s at our church. 

Yeah. If we’re going to be a church that wants to encourage foster care and adoption, can we have a curriculum where all children, any child who walks through our doors, can see themselves in the story of the gospel?  

Bri Stensrud: Amazing. Amazing. Okay. One more question. Just real quick. In your book, you talk about shedding a savior complex, which I think all of us who are in the adoption space, think this is a really important point to talk about because so many of us enter into this space with really good intentions and we want to help children. We want to save children from their circumstances. But you say we need to shed this savior complex. Talk to us a little bit about that.  

Brittany Salmon: A savior complex can really pop up at any form of ministry, whether it’s missions or you’re serving your local church in a Sunday School, or maybe you are philanthropic and you want to serve your community or a local prison. A savior complex is really when we want to serve and we have good intentions, but what happens is we make the narrative about us.  

We’re the hero with all the expertise and the stable lives. And we’re going to come down here and help you. And in adoption, what that looks like is adoptive parents are heroes. The children could be victims painted as victims and first families can be villainized. 

And that could be really problematic. And so, what we do instead as believers, we know that we have one Savior is King Jesus, and we’re all equal at the foot of the cross. And so, we’re coming together, locking arms in our community saying, Hey, those labels of hero, victim, villain, they’re not they’re helpful. And so, we’re looking at the first family saying, Hey, I am praying goodness and mercy and redemption over your life. Just like I am mine. Just like I am for my kid. And so, we view adoption as this holistic approach where everyone is equal at the foot of the cross, rather than I want to do this really good thing. 

Does that make sense?  

Bri Stensrud: Makes perfect sense. Isn’t that great? Jedd, as people enter into this space, we know that there are 100,000 kids languishing in foster care and looking for forever families. But those who don’t find forever families, there’s about 20,000 kids who age out of foster care system every given year. 

And so, at the age of 18, when they age out, they lose all of their benefits. They don’t have that health care support net. And yet, they still need health care. And there’s a lot of really unique challenges that go along with kids aging out of foster care. Can you talk to some of the challenges that those kids are facing when they don’t find a forever home and how the church can actually come around those kids in a really tangible way? 

Jedd Medefind: Yeah, that is such a big, immense need, all these young lives. And when we can think back to the time when we were 18 or whatever it was, aging and adulthood and all the things that we just didn’t know and the ways in which we’d make mistakes. But there would be people that pick us up and guide us. And to age into adulthood without that, can be just utterly devastating. And the statistics show that by their mid-20s, youth that age out of foster care without a family, without a permanent family in the healthiest sense, at least from the young ladies, about 80% of them are on public assistance. Young men, 64% have been arrested or incarcerated.  

And so, you just see how this plays out over years and even decades. And yet, what we also see is that a single, caring relationship can make an immense difference. Those numbers change dramatically when there is one committed relationship walking with this young man, this young woman through that journey. 

And there’s a lot of wonderful programs around the country. People are interested in learning more. There’s Connections Homes in Georgia that’s now expanding into other parts of the country. Teen Leadership Foundation in Southern California, The Christian Alliance for Orphans has an aging out initiative actually that’s identifying some of the best models. 

And so, when folks want to learn, how do we replicate this? They can do this in local communities all over the country? But I would just bring it back to though, for each one of us, it’s a single relationship that can make all the difference. And just being a home that a young person could come home to for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, those sorts of things. 

And I think of one particular young man, a good friend of mine named Jesse who aged out of foster care and, has done many amazing things, started a nonprofit and he’s a father now and married all these things. And yet I remember him a number of years back in the mid-thirties running a nonprofit and yet saying to me, you never outgrow the need for a family. And that’s just simple truth. God made us all for that. And if for whatever reason, a young person who’s aging into adulthood doesn’t have that, they haven’t outgrown that need. And we as the body of Christ and individuals can be that family.  

Bri Stensrud: It’s just good to remember, like you were saying, is that there is a pipeline where these kids go if they don’t have that connection. 

And that’s negative engagement with law enforcement, that’s homelessness, that’s trafficking. There’s just a huge need for the church to show up and say, maybe I can adopt you, or maybe I can just mentor you, right?  

Jedd Medefind: And just be in a relationship, right? It doesn’t even necessarily need a formal term. It’s just walking with another human being in love. 

Bri Stensrud: I love that. And that just leads us into this next question, Jedd and Jamie, and that is, there is a hesitancy, if we’re really being honest, about entering into the foster care system. A lot of that is because some of the kids have a lot of hard things that they’re walking through, and you’d have to walk through those things with them. 

But one of the things that you continually hear is, I would just get too attached. I couldn’t do that, because if the child went back with their family, and if the main goal of foster care is family reunification, I would just get too attached. And yet, we know that’s exactly… what they need. So talk to us a little bit, both of us, about why we need to really lay that, “get too attached” down. 

Jedd Medefind: Yeah. You want to start Jamie or I? 

Jamie Finn: You hinted at it and saying that’s exactly what they need. And so, I think that we need to embrace the fact that there is a cost to this mission. And sometimes we want to say, okay, how do we go do a good thing and come out unscathed. And that is just not how true mission will ever be. 

It will always be jumping into the mess with someone and then that touching you affecting you probably in a really deep and pervasive way. And so, we have said goodbye. We’ve had 30 kids in our home, and we’ve adopted three of them, which means we’ve said goodbye 27 times. And there is a wound to that. 

There is a deep loss in that. And I think that there needs to be something that girds that cost of “I believe this is worth it because these kids are worth it. And because I believe that God is good for me in the midst of my own suffering and heartbreak.” We are called to rejoice in our sufferings, not just because, oh, you got to do something good, but because of what it produces in us. It produces perseverance, character, hope, which does not fail. 

And so, for us to be able to embrace the fact that yes, there is cost to this mission and that God is so good that even the cost becomes about our good.  

Jedd Medefind: Yeah, that’s well, -expressed, and I I think of just the reality that every one of us needs to be loved that way. We need to be loved in such a way that if we were absent, someone would weep, and every one of us can sense if we’re being loved that way or if we’re being, cared for or tended as a commodity. 

And that’s what many young people experience in the foster system. They’re a commodity. They come into a house, someone’s getting a check. Providing a certain level of care versus the type of heart that would grieve when they’re gone. And yes, it like you said, it can be a painful thing, but it is also a fuller life than the alternative of not tasting that. 

And I think of a little guy that lived with us for eight months and how when he left, all five of my other children grieved that, and Rachel and I grieved that, too. And yet it was… It was this sweet sense of, we have, in a very small, humble way, tasted what Paul talked about when he said, the fellowship of sharing in Christ’s sufferings, and for our little kids, our youngest daughter at the time was five, Phoebe, and I remember for months afterwards, when something would be hard, she’d have to do a chore she didn’t want to do or something, so she might burst into tears and say, “I want Louis!” She wanted him back, right? 

And there was a little suffering in that, and yet, she looks back on this now, at age 10, saying, that was one of the sweetest and most, most meaningful times of that early part of her childhood.  

Bri Stensrud: I had a friend who’s going through foster care herself, and she just said to me, “I don’t understand the “get too attached” because do we want these kids to bear these burdens alone?” 

So that means that we’re, as adults, not willing to shoulder the burden, to carry the burdens with these kids. And so, we’re having them do that on their own. And Lindy, you’re a clinical social worker, specialization in trauma and attachment. And foster care parents always just worry about the pain of attachment. 

And there is, as we’ve just heard, pain in the attachment of helping these kids. Talk to us a little bit about the importance of attachment and how trauma fits into that and why that’s so important.  

Lindy Johnson: Yeah, it’s a big question and something that a lot of us have walked through with kids in our homes. But the reality is, I just think through we were all created by God, right? 

And so, we have this same level of foundational needs. And a huge part of that is attachment. God is the designer of attachment and what that looks like. And honestly, I’m at a point where I’m realizing I don’t know that we have the right language to truly capture all that attachment is. I’m trying, we’re filling in the blanks. 

But I think our language falls short of the depth of it. Because we know that we were designed to be seen, to be known, to be heard and to feel precious and know that in our messiness. Someone can step into that with us, right? We’re not too much. We’re not too complicated, right? That’s some of what attachment looks like and feels. And so, when we know that is a basic need designed by God, and if it’s not there, there’s enough studies, enough research to know that there are long term, deep consequences when that’s not available and when it’s not a part of, especially a child’s life. We as adults, we all have attachment styles. 

We all have attachment histories because we were cared for by some other adults somewhere along the way. And so, what I love checking in on actually probably more excitedly for myself is when I get to work with adults and say, let’s start with you. What does your attachment look like? What did care in your home look like? What did complicated emotions look like, right?  

When we get into the depths of your own attachment, you are then more aware and better equipped to then care for a child who’s coming with some probably distorted attachment experiences, right? That have been chaotic, painful, broken, inconsistent or whatnot. 

And so, we know long term there are consequences if we don’t pay attention to that. It might look like trauma and attachment. They often come together. And so, I think when I’m thinking of or serving the foster community, the reality is this is a huge opportunity for however long this child is in your home to model, to represent, to instill pieces of the foundation through attachment, because we don’t know what that’ll look like if they leave our home or when they leave our home. 

We don’t know what it looked like before they entered our home. Maybe we’ve got some pieces to the story, but it’s a huge opportunity, too. Maybe fill in some gaps or rebuild some of that foundation that they can build upon later. And Jedd was saying, it takes one healthy, safe, caring person to truly make a difference. 

And it might be us, it might be a teacher, it might be a soccer coach. We don’t know who that one person will be. But if we instill some of those foundational pieces of attachment and care in our home for however long it lasts, there’s something to build upon later on.  

Bri Stensrud: So let me ask you this. You mentioned some of the challenges when children don’t receive attachment, when they don’t learn how to attach to, and you just highlight maybe what some of the consequences are for the church, not engaging in this way and kids not becoming attached. 

Lindy Johnson: Yeah, ultimately, it’s going to play out very obviously in relationships because attachment is a huge piece of relationship of how do I connect with people? How do I keep them close? How do I keep myself safe? How am I seen or experienced in the world of these relationships that I’m in? 

So you might see a pattern of disrupted relationships of not knowing who safe people are, but yet I keep engaging with these people and these relational dynamics. You might see a cutting out. I just cut people out. I don’t get too close. I preserve myself and that feels safer because I didn’t learn to trust or I didn’t learn that we can disagree and still love each other and so me of those real-life relational experiences, but also I’ve seen in the private practice space, I’ve seen it through things like anxiety, just like high anxiety over things that might not seem obvious to some of that. 

And yet, when I take that person to a place of let’s check in on what care looked like in your home or in your family or in your relationships today, there’s always a connection there, even if the anxiety maybe seemed over here or whatnot. So, it could look a lot of different ways, but ultimately you’re going to see a lot of evidences just through relational patterns being difficult or inconsistent or unsafe or whatnot. 

Bri Stensrud: And just one healthy relationship can change the entire trajectory.  

Lindy Johnson Absolutely. Yeah.  

Bri Stensrud: BrIttany, Jamie, you’ve both written books, really great books to help the church in this area, but you also talk very clearly and candidly about how love is not enough. I think that’s what draws us into this whole space is that we want to love children well, and yet both of you have said, that’s not enough.So, talk to us just a little bit about helping getting a new perspective on that.  

Jamie Finn: I think that a big part of the conversation is a lot of what has been said. Part of it is that savior mentality. We like to say things like these kids just need love, and while we understand how meaningful one connection is, we also understand how pervasive the effects of trauma and disrupted attachment are. And so, the idea that we just need to love on kids and that will heal them, brings together a savior mentality and a misunderstanding of the way that trauma actually doesn’t just change the way kids think or the way they feel. 

It changes their brain chemistry. It changes their nervous system. And so, I think that it’s a very short-term perspective of just bring a kid into your home, love on them and everything will be better. We are partnering with kids in a long-term healing process, and we get to be a part of showing them what relationship can be. 

We’ve cared for a lot of babies in our home, and I understanding trauma and attachment. We are creating the framework for how this child will see humans for the rest of their life. Those things are powerful, and the experiences that they walk through are really powerful as well. So, we have to dismantle that saviorism of I’m going to come in. I’m going to fix this. The answer is simple and it needs to become a little less results-based of, we are trying to fix this kid to, we are going to love them. We’re going to walk with them. We’re going to pray for redemption and restoration and healing. And we get to be a part of that, but then we’re entrusting them to God. 

We’re saying, “God, You created them, You love them more than I do. And so, I’m going to be faithful, but I’m going to trust You with this because it’s never as simple as. Come here and let me love you and things will get better.”  

Brittany Salmon: Yeah, on that same note, exactly what she said is I, one of the things that I’ve said is love is a catalyst. 

Love is the catalyst for counseling, getting counseling and reaching out and getting help when we need it. Love is the catalyst for when our kids are walking through hard things and maybe an identity crisis later. It’s the thing that helps us stay put and go, Hey, I love this child. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. 

But love isn’t going to fix my kid. Love is not enough. You need love and community and support and prayer and a number of different ways. So on one hand, yes, love makes a family. Love can sustain a family, but it takes a lot more than just love when you’re adopting or in fostering a child.  

Bri Stensrud: That’s good. It’s really good. So Danielle, you’re with us. You are, you’ve been a foster parent. You’re also in the adoption process yourself. You have one on the way. Congratulations. So talk to us a little bit. You’ve seen as a foster parent, the joys and also the challenges, the highs and lows of really bringing a child into your home and doing that before you’ve had your own biological children, which is sometimes a unique thing that people wait until and you haven’t done that. 

So, that’s a unique experience. I’d love for you to just touch on that a little bit, but also help encourage the churches. What is actually needed to support a foster family? I think sometimes we can over complicate exactly what a family needs to be supported when they’re going through the highs and lows, that roller coaster with a child that’s been through foster care. 

Can you talk very tangibly and specifically maybe about how your church has showed up and wrapped around you and maybe ways that other churches could follow through in that.  

Danielle Smith: Yeah, first addressing how did we even start fostering? Really, we got to see it in our community. Both my husband and I’s families were involved in adoption and foster care, and so, it seemed like an easy conversation for us to have. 

As we were pursuing marriage and talking about our family and our future, everything was on the table. And we didn’t know when we would… when we would approach having a family in different ways and caring for children in different ways. But the Lord made it clear to us as we started looking at what does it look like for us to approach adoption or foster care or having children, that foster care was number one. 

That was the first entrance we were going to have into what it looked like to parent and to love the little people that God creates. And so, we got to walk into that thankfully, and we’re so grateful for just other examples around us. So there’s a really strong impact, I think, for people who are in this space, the way that you’re living out your life in this space impacts the people around you. It’s the children in your church that see that you’re, you have kids that weren’t from your stomach. Things like that really do make long term impact. We were recipients of such hands and feet of Christ by the body of Christ. And there were several different ways, very practical ways that they served us. 

One was physically. They showed up and provided tins of macaroni and cheese and barbecue to our house. And I’ve never been so thankful for a tin of macaroni and cheese. But it, deep impact in my soul from having church members, some that didn’t even know me that well. There were several women from our church that made meals for us, showed up, and I didn’t know their first names. 

But they just stepped in and got involved and they knew how to provide food. The small things that often families would receive in our church, maybe when they do have a biological child, someone might set up a meal train. They treated us like that. That was such a gift to my husband and I, and was so impactful for us to see there are churches’ quick love for these children that they hardly knew. 

So, there’s physical, very tangible. Also, children who are coming from foster care might have very different physical needs. Ours had a very strong, they needed outlets. They needed to work out their bodies in order to feel safe. And so, we had a church member help provide a play set in our backyard. 

And it was the entire time that they were with us. So, it was constantly used. I think that was one of the things I thanked the Lord most for, was this little playset in our yard. So, there’s physical needs that you very much can supply as a church and that our church did for us. And then there’s spiritual needs being able to attend church and be able to take our kids to church and put them in a class where I knew they were safe. 

I knew that there were volunteers and there were teachers in those classes who understood that these girls might need something a little different. I had teachers and volunteers who would come to me and ask, Hey, this is how we handled this situation. Is there something that works better? What can we do to take care of them in a better way? 

How can we help them learn differently? In such sweet and gracious ways, not in, oh, you, this is a problem. You need to help us fix this. It was such gracious kindness. And even them trying to bring us solutions. Would this work? Would that be helpful if we did this? We had the community at our church that provided a space so we could leave them in a class, know they were safe. They were being loved, and we could go and be spiritually filled with our community and have some rest. And Wednesday nights became that for us as well. Our church had a foster and adoptive support group. So, we got to sit with other families. Childcare was provided. So again, it’s like childcare that we knew they were safe, and they were taken care of. We didn’t have to worry, were they going to be treated differently? Were they gonna struggle because they were expected to follow things exactly in line? There was so much grace just in our daily experience of the church. And then people just calling us and asking, Hey, can we pray for you? 

We had a deacon reach out. He called me one afternoon and I hadn’t met this man before. And he said, “Hey, I heard that we had a family, a church member that recently began fostering. I’ve been praying for you. Okay. How can I pray for you?” Simple little things make a huge impact for a family who is experiencing the highs and lows, and I think God prompts people in those spaces being diligent to listen to God’s prompt as He’s encouraging to love people in your church. This goes for not just this space. It goes for all things. But as a parent in this space, I many times was, I got to see Jesus loving me through the people around me being faithful to just listen to Him. 

Bri Stensrud: And that takes an investment from the church, right? Because when you talk about appropriate childcare that is charitable and compassionate, there’s some training that’s involved with that. That there is some showing up to learn how to do things differently. And so, there is an investment level from the church to say, we’re going to get close enough to learn what kind of special needs might be. 

Something that we’re going to face and then also invest in that might be staffing up with extra volunteers that might be actually assigning a small group to a family. If you can cook, clean, babysit, or drive, you can be a part of helping a child stay and find permanency or find reunification or find health and attachment in a family. 

So we’ve talked a lot about some of the challenges in the foster care space, in the adoption space. I want us all to just say something, just a word of encouragement, a word of hope. If someone is thinking about this, if a church is wondering what they can do about this, what would be something that you would love to say to someone face to face as a moment of encouragement? We’ll start and just go down the line.  

Danielle Smith: Do you want me to start? Yeah, I would just encourage if someone’s thinking about themselves pursuing fostering or adopting, to talk to other people who have done it, and obviously being prayerful about it too, because it’s a calling. Everyone is, there’s a call for everyone, every Christian, every Christ follower to care for those who are in need. 

And so, there’s a space for them to be involved in this. Does that mean that children are coming into your home? Does that mean that your support, you’re providing a meal? I think that’s a question you ask the Lord. What are you calling me to? And then for churches, I think make it a part of your conversation. 

Don’t leave this to a subset of your community, but make it a part of your whole community within your church, is a conversation of how are we caring for those in need? The families that are adopting and fostering and the children that are, have been adopted and been fostered.  

Lindy Johnson: Mine will be a little attachment-trauma oriented. 

Surprise. Yeah, what I alluded to earlier is, I love stepping into the spaces of the kind of we’re “pre” in it, right? We’re thinking about it. We’re not really in it yet. And what a moment that is, that I encourage- look at your own story. Start with yourself because you’re gonna be challenged. 

It’s gonna be hard. There’s gonna be new things. There’s gonna be beautiful things. There’s gonna be grievous things that you might be saying yes to if you are stepping into fostering and or adopting. And so, I love to encourage, I do this with my friends just for fun because I just care about it so much. 

But encouraging people to look at your own attachment. What did childhood look like for you? Maybe that means you get into therapy. Maybe that means you read a good book about adult attachment or childhood attachment or whatnot. If there’s any unresolved grief, unresolved trauma somewhere in your story, that will be triggered when there’s a child who has had a trauma experience in your home. 

And if you are thinking about it, and if you’re not yet in it, and even if you’re in it, this applies to anyone who’s already in it, but I just encourage the adults in the room who are praying about it, who are thinking about it, look inward, start looking at where you might need to experience some healing or resolve or reflection or support, because it’s only going to be amplified when there’s some level of trauma story going on in your home through a child’s history. 

And so, that’s where I, okay. It sounds hard. It is hard. And I get excited about it when people say yes to that also.  

Jamie Finn: I think I would like to speak to those who are considering entering foster care and adoption and those who are in it with just 2 Corinthians, what is seen as temporary and what is unseen is eternal. 

And I think that is what gives the confidence that we can sacrifice, that we can do hard things, that we can, I really have this cost of foster care and adoption and it be worth it because especially foster care is inherently temporary. And so, if we only see the temporary, if we only see, this kiddo comes, I give and they leave, it can feel like: What just happened? What did I give that we had a child leave after two and a half years and Mom cut off contact immediately?  

If it was only what I had done temporarily, it wouldn’t have felt worth it. But seeing that what is unseen is eternal, God’s purposes for that family, the way that my impact on them will go on, the fact that anything that’s done for Jesus lasts. 

The things that it did in my heart and my family’s lives, I have to believe that the eternal is what makes it worth it. And so, fixing your eyes on the eternal and the beauty of anything that’s done for Christ.  

Jedd Medefind: Amen. Amen. Yes, that’s great, Jamie. Totally agree. I think this has come through already clearly, but I think it’s just so critical to emphasize that this realm, adoption and foster care, waiting in close to struggling biological families, you’re coming at a place where light and darkness are just directly colliding. 

And it’s the world at its most broken. And it’s also a taste of God’s work in the most beautiful and redemptive sense, right? And so, we need to hold those two things at the same time. And when we speak about it, we don’t want to talk about it’s all going to be rainbows and unicorns, because that really is going to get people in a fix, on the other side, we don’t want to just say, “It’s so miserable, don’t do it,” because that’s not true either. It is wonderful in so many ways, and we want to hold both of those. And that hard part about it… When we know that, I believe it calls us to a spiritual seriousness about this and knowing that if we’re going to go into this, we cannot do this lightly. 

We need to root down deep in Christ and be drawing our life from Him in a way maybe we never had previously in life. It will drive us to that, but all the better that we start with that stance, right? So that’s the hard part. But on the good side, we can know that we’re in for something really sweet and beautiful. 

I’ve heard so many different adoptive and foster families say some form of this phrase, “Most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and best thing I’ve ever done.” Some form of those words, and that’s, and I would say that personally, too. And so, that would, be the first thing I’d say.  

The other is just, if you’re someone who is even pondering these things for the first time, I would just encourage you, if you feel something stirring in your heart, maybe, or maybe you have for months or the last several years, don’t let the moment pass without at least taking some step. 

Not everyone is called to foster or adopt. We don’t think that. Now, maybe you’re invited to that, and what a wonderful thing but it may, I, everyone can play a part in living this, what James described as the pure religion that includes caring for orphans and widows in their distress and that’s a wonderful thing. 

And if you’ve sensed that might be God’s invitation to you, then take a step. Maybe that’s just for the next month, every day, praying for kids in the system, and their parents, their struggling families. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s, there’s a family in your church that you’ve observed fostering, adopting, and just reach out to them and say, I’d like to support you in some way. 

There was a retired woman in our church when we brought home one of our kids through adoption. And she just said, “I want to do the shopping for you. That’s what I can do. So give me the grocery list.” This was before deliveries and stuff. So, she just would take the list and go and bring it every week. And what a gift. Her name’s Lorraine. She’s still family to us. This was more than decade ago. And so, take some small step, even if it’s little, and don’t miss out on something really great that God may have for you.  

Brittany Salmon: I want to speak to adoptive families who might already be in it and might be hearing people up here going, “I’m late to the game. I’m not thinking about race or I’m not thinking about trauma or I haven’t done that. I’ve missed the boat.” And what I want to say to you is that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. And as Christians, we have a gift of knowing that we’re not perfect. 

Praise God. None of us are. And I would say probably all of us have made many mistakes on our journeys along the way. And so, what I want to say to you is, welcome and go ahead. Now is the time to say, there’s never a bad moment to go, “You know what? I missed out on this, but I’m going to start today. You know what? I’ve note, I didn’t understand trauma fully. But I’m going to reach out and get help today. I didn’t think about racial representation and what that would be like for my kid. I’m going to start learning today.” And so, whatever it is, if there’s any of you out there who are feeling a sense of shame or failure, I want to speak the gospel truth over you. 

There’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and it’s never too late to start learning and to change and to repent and go forward.  

Bri Stensrud: That’s great. I think the thing I’d like to wrap up with is just a remembrance of, when we talk about all these things, when you enter into the adoption space, we call it the adoption triad. 

You have that child, you have your family, and you have their first family, and all are of an equal importance. All of them are going to be a part of the story. All of them are going to be influencing the way that you show up and the way that your child is behaving and the way that your family responds. 

But all three of those are vastly important to the story and really to the success of getting involved in this space. The last thing I would say, and I think everybody, I’m just going to speak it, I’m assuming you all agree with me, but the thing that I would love to encourage and give you hope and challenge you with is to get to attached. 

If you hear anything that we say today to this issue, to a child, to a first family is to get to attached because that’s what Jesus did for us. And therefore, we have the ability with Christ to get to attach to these kids. Thanks so much for being with us. We hope you enjoy the rest of the conference.