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Yesterday marked 3 months. 90 days. 2,160 hours. I’ve been a MOM. 
I’m sorry, whaaaat?!
So often my selfishness comes through. Why did I do this? I had such freedom before. Now I have a tiny (precious) human who needs me. All. The. Time. All I want is a full night’s sleep, to not be jolted out of my perfect place of happiness to go sooth a child. Why, oh why, did I bring this into my life?! I’m angry at a two-year-old who is adjusting to where she is! Yup, I see how insane that sounds. Selfish. That’s me. 
I can pretty quickly stop such ridiculous thoughts now. Don’t get me wrong, I for sure still have my moments…I am definitely not cut out for this. It was not natural for me in any way to step into parenthood at a moment’s notice or to flip my life upside down to care for a child that will one day leave me and my arms will be empty again. When she does go, I’ll recognize the emptiness unlike I did before I was called “Mama.” 
But I chose to step into this crazy foster care life because God so clearly tells us in His Word to care for the vulnerable, to forget about our comfort zones and jump into the mess. It’s in this crazy, hard, messy, chaotic life I now live that I have begun to experience Jesus in new ways.
He doesn’t tell us to jump in and say,“Best wishes! Hope that works out for ya.” No. He jumps right in with us. Scratch that. He’s already in, waiting to meet us here. He is ready to journey with us (and oftentimes carry us) through these deep murky waters.
Years ago when I told someone I was planning to foster, they told me how hard it would be. I replied with agreement and stated how that actually excited me rather than instilled fear in me. I’ll tell you what I told that person and what I still believe to be true. When we choose to do crazy, hard, emotional things that are 176% out of our hands, we HAVE to rely on Jesus. When we rely on Jesus, we grow. We grow nearer and nearer to Him. It’s a great gift none of us want—to go through hardship—oh, but the outcome is so, so sweet.
This journey has taught me life is definitely not in my control. I knew this to be true, but going from living a life full of making my own decisions, foster care was a rude awakening. But now that my life, and the sweet babe’s life I cherish with my whole heart, feel out of my control, I have been able to see the Lord’s good, good gifts in this journey. Man, those gifts amazing! 
And the first gift is…that little tiny human needing me…All. The. Time.
My desire is to live as transparently as possible. Foster care is hard. Single parenting is hard. Sanctification through parenting is HARD. Co-parenting with someone I would not normally cross paths with is hard. Challenging my inner thoughts and feelings when the broken system offends me is hard. Having a Christ-like attitude, love, and focus in the midst of this is hard.
But hard is NOT wrong. So, for the sake of the Kingdom, for the sake of living out the Gospel with everything I have in me, I continue through the hard. Sometimes very begrudgingly and through many tears, but even still I will proclaim the excitement I have to draw nearer to Jesus in the hard.
Jillian Kellenberger

Jillian has a passion for reaching out and loving those who are hurting. She began serving with TFI in college after learning more about the foster care community. Jillian is passionate about seeing the Church mobilized to serve and step into the lives of those affected by foster care. As a new foster mom, she is currently relying on donuts, coffee, and JESUS!

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“You are not going to do this perfectly. Give yourself grace.”
As foster or adoptive parents, we often feel at a loss of how to help our kids process the complexity of emotions surrounding their birthparents. In today’s special edition episode, you will hear a message that our host, Jami Kaeb, gave to a group of foster and adoptive parents this past Spring at CAFO 2019 Summit. Listen in as Jami focuses on 3 areas: helping your child process their feelings about their birth parents, caring for and pursuing a relationship with your child’s birth parent, and creating and maintaining healthy boundaries.
TAKEAWAYS FROM TODAY’S SHOW 1. Help your child process their feelings about their birth parents.
Each child’s story is unique, and how they process their feelings about their birth parents will look unique too. Some children know very little about their birth parents, and some are in regular contact. In any case, perhaps the most important way you can help your child process their feelings is by telling them and showing them over and over that no matter what they feel, it is okay. 
Don’t try to brush their feelings off, rationalize them away, or allow their sadness to threaten their love for you. They need you to ask, to show them empathy, and to continue to be there for them. 
2. Show love and when possible, pursue a relationship with your child’s birth parent.
Just as you seek to understand your child, get to know your child’s birth parent as well. Your child’s birth parent is not your enemy. They, too, have a story. When you build a relationship, you have an opportunity to share your source of peace and hope, Jesus. 
When a relationship is not possible, continue to speak kindly of your child’s birth parent. Pray for them. Open the door to conversation with your children about them. Don’t make them feel like they have to choose between you and their birth family. 
3. Create boundaries in your relationshipswith birth parents.
Healthy relationships are beautiful, but relationships can also get complicated and become messy, so we must set healthy boundaries for us and our children when it comes to birth parents. Your season of life, emotional margin, and particular situation will all impact the boundaries you create. Also, know that there are times where you may need to re-examine your boundaries, and it’s okay to make adjustments based upon what will be best for you and your children. 
Give yourself grace as you navigate this relationship. The good news is: there is no perfect way to do this. In fact, you are not going to do this perfectly. We must rely on the One who is always perfect, Jesus.
Want more tips on navigating birth parent relationships? Check out our free resource! 
MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU SPREAD THE WORD!

We hope this episode has helped you wherever you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal! If so, will you tell others?

Share this post or rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you listen) and leave us a brief review. 

Meet Our Guest

Adoption, foster care, and advocacy were not part of Jami’s dreams for her life, but God changed her heart when He made her aware, and she is passionate about helping others become aware too! She and her husband Clint are parents to their seven children (five through adoption).

Foster Parents, check with your agency to see if listening to this podcast will count toward your foster care training hours!

Special thanks to Resonate Recordings for their knock-it-out-of-the-park podcast production services! If you have a podcast or want to start one, reach out to our friends at Resonate!

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Navigating a relationship with your child’s birth parent can be difficult.

Many biological parents of the children in foster care that we all love grew up in and out of foster care and are caught in a hopeless cycle of substance abuse, addiction, and mental illness. They have few positive role models or safe people to call on in times of crisis and therefore, they are often unequipped to care for their children, even though they love them. Unfortunately, it’s in times of stress that they often default to what they have experienced in the past, and sadly, this can result in abuse or neglect of their children.

Navigating a relationship with your child’s birth parent or helping your children process their feelings about their birth parents is not easy, and we have a FREE resource to help you do exactly that.

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Maybe you’re thinking about foster care. You’ve started to research what you’re about to jump into, and you want to be as informed as you can. You’ve contacted an agency. Maybe you’ve even started your training classes.

But are there things you should know that no one has told you yet?

We asked our foster parent friends—those friends who are willing to share it all—the good, the hard, and everything in between.

And we want to share it with you.

So here it is…what they wished someone would have told them before they started this crazy, awesome journey of foster care.

You might find unexpected blessings from your foster care classes.

I wish I would have known that I would meet my best friends through foster care. We delayed going to foster care class because of fear. Yes, there is a lot of unknown and hard things, but there are also amazing people there. We have made the best of friends for life!

Sometimes, you have to wait, and how you wait is important.

I wish I would have known that, even though you always hear about how much foster parents are needed, it might take literally years before you get a placement. Use your wait well. Start praying for the child who will eventually come into your care. Pray for the family of the child who will be placed with you. Pray for your strength, that you would know your identity is complete in Christ regardless of whether a child comes into your home or not.

You might have to help your church become more aware.

I wish I would have known that my church was not prepared for foster families. Start advocating for your kids and other kids now. It’s not that they don’t care, but sometimes churches need help in understanding. Help your leaders develop a special needs ministry designed for kids from hard places that require special care. It can be a lonely feeling when foster care keeps you from church, so start helping your church now.

There is no “normal” case or agency experience. Yours will be unique, so don’t try to compare.

I wish I would have known there is little consistency among agencies, that things from agency to agency and even county to county can be so different. Not all judges, caseworkers, and foster families are built the same, so what happens in your case may be dramatically different than someone else’s.

You are now part of a team.

I wish I would have known that foster parents do not have the final say. The state has custody of this child and makes the ultimate decisions. Even if you want an evaluation or think something is best for the child, it may not be allowed. Approval for everything was a bit overwhelming at first and took a while to get used to. Work with your caseworker as much as possible so that you can be a team!

Being flexible is key.

I wish I would have known that predicted timelines are usually way off. We’ve had to get used to having no idea how long kids will stay regardless of what intake workers predict, because it depends on so many moving targets. If you are a planner or like control, loosen those reigns now.

Your child’s birth parents are not the enemy.

I wish I would have known not to fear the birth parents. I know now to find out as much about them as I do their children. I didn’t have a fair perception and thought the worst of them.

Be open for any outcome.

I wish I would have known that adoption is a very real possibility. I was naive to think that all parents will take the steps necessary to regain custody of their children. Foster care focuses on reunification, but I did not think about the “what if” when they can’t go home.

And most importantly, love your children with everything you’ve got regardless of how long they are with you.

I wish I would have known I could love big and let go. The Lord will give you strength for the moment. Don’t let the fear of foster care keep you from serving. You can do it!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

Are you a foster parent already? What would you add to this list?

Shannon Spaid

Shannon is a wife and busy mother of four with a passion for serving and helping others. After experiencing the foster care system as a foster mom, her eyes were opened to the needs of the foster care community. She is excited to serve with the TFI National team in an administrative support role, as well as continue to support her local foster care community in the volunteer TFI Advocate role with her husband, Aaron.

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Many of our kids have experienced years and years of trauma, so our first job is to get them back to a place of regulation.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Understanding how to best love, teach, and correct our children is something we are continually learning. Add to that, learning to parent kids who have experienced trauma, and things that may have worked for our biological children now seem to have the opposite effect on our kids. In today’s episode, Kristin Berry brings us practical insight and encouragement to help us parent our kids in a way that keep us connected.
3 TAKEAWAYS FROM TODAY’S SHOW 1. First, Help Your Child Regulate His Emotions

Many things can trigger the brains of our children with trauma backgrounds and cause them—without thinking—to run to survival mode (fight, flight, or freeze.) Our #1 job as parents is to help our children regulate their emotions to a place of calm so that learning and healing can begin. Parenting this way can look like spoiling or enabling if you’re looking at it through the traditional parenting lens, but as a trauma-informed parent, you are building trust, intentionally. This is your first priority.

2. Take Away the Power of Negative Behaviors

Let’s say your child stole a candy bar and you found out. Don’t give them the opportunity to lie. Instead of asking, “Did you steal the candy bar?”, say something like, “I know you took the candy bar; now we are going to make it right.” This helps alleviate the crazy cycle that often happens when you catch a child in a lie, and they refuse to admit the truth. Deborah Gray says it this way, “What you are doing isn’t working. The negative isn’t working.” This doesn’t negate consequences, but instead, it takes away the power of the lie and puts the focus back on connection and provides a road to healing.

3. Pursue Connection with Your Child

As we consider our relationship with our children, we can learn from our Father, God’s relationship with us. How often do we push Him away, rebel, question His authority, or fight Him? And yet, He pursues us. He loves us. He waits for us, for as long as it takes. He is the ultimate Pursuer. And He loves our children even more than we do. Let’s learn from Him, lean on His strength and consistently pursue the children He has given to us.

RESOURCES FROM TODAY’S SHOW

Confessions of an Adoptive Parent
The Honestly Adoption Podcast
Born Broken: An Adoptive Journey by Kristen Berry
Promoting Healthy Attachments: Hands-on Techniques to Use with Your Clients by Deborah Gray
Winning The Heart Of Your Child by Mike Berry
Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU

The TFI Story
Who Loves Series
Find a TFI Advocate Near You
Become a TFI Advocate

ENJOY THIS EPISODE?

Hopefully, this episode has helped you right where you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal. If you enjoyed it, will you tell others?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! Your ratings and reviews help us get this podcast in front of new listeners. Your feedback also lets us know how we can better serve you. Thank you so much!

Meet Our Guest

Kristin Berry and her husband Mike are authors of the popular blog, Confessions of an Adoptive Parent and hosts of the podcast Honestly Adoption. They have been married for 19 years and parents for 16. All 8 of their children joined their family through adoption. They have fostered for 9 years and have had 23 children come through their doors, and are now enjoying their newest adventure called grand-parenting. Confessions of an Adoptive Parent reaches over 100,000 readers monthly in 25 different countries around the globe. Kristen and Mike are also the creators of the support and resource site, Oasis Community.

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UPDATE FROM JAMI

I like feeling in control — I like feeling competent. And yet God has placed me in many situations in my life where I feel out of control and incompetent.

I hate anxiety. I hate the physical toil it can take on me and yet this is something God has given me to wear at times.

Today I was reminded by the Lord to ’not grow weary in doing good.’ I was reminded to rest in the one who is in control, who is fully capable and competent and the one who is PEACE.

Whatever you are facing today, know that you are not alone. You are loved, not only by us but by our very capable God.

Do not grow weary in doing good. Continue helping those around you support the foster care community through Awareness, Encouragement, and Advocacy. Together, we get to serve so that people everywhere will support the foster care community and experience Jesus together!

Speaking of doing this together, this month I want to highlight another member of our National Team, MITCH NELSON.

When we first interviewed Mitch and then hired him on, I knew he was special but it was to my to my sheer delight when I learned (rather quickly) of his love of black licorice and ability to break out into song at any moment. That was when I knew we were going to get along really well.

And get along we do!

We share a very similar sense of humor and Mitch makes us all laugh until our stomach’s hurt many times.

But he is much more than a funny guy, his ability to strategize, his creativity and desire to learn, grow and continually improve has elevated our level of professionalism in a big way.

Mitch was instrumental in helping us think bigger as we were working on our vision and he continues to challenge us to keep our ‘why’ in front of us as we make decisions.

Mitch, is an incredible member of our team and now I’ve asked him to share some encouragement with you!

UPDATE FROM MITCH Favorite Part about the TFI Family

My favorite part about being a part of the TFI Family and working here at TFI National is what a strong and healthy culture we have. One aspect of this that isn’t a core value or anywhere on the website is that we strive to do excellent work. Paul writes in Colossians 3:23, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” That’s such a great representation of who we are at TFI—no matter big or small, we do it for God. This doesn’t produce perfect work, but it does produce excellent work done for God.

Giving Tips

As you read in the email I sent out last month, on my giving is changing at TFI. So, I wanted to give you a couple of quick tips to help make this change even better than it already is. First, if you are posting about giving to a specific or even a general need on Facebook, you no longer have to have people send you a message So that you can give them instructions. Now, if you include your landing page link in the post on Facebook, they will easily be able to give with significantly fewer steps. Second, remember that Stripe takes out 2% as a processing fee on all donations given online. So, if you’re raising a specific amount of money for a particular need, say $20, then consider asking them to give $25 so that the fees are covered and the specific need is funded.

UPDATE FROM JILLIAN TFI Advocate Podcast

As promised, new episodes of the Advocate Podcast will return this month! Be on the lookout for an email every other week with a new episode, starting July 8th.

The Forgotten Podcast

Speaking of podcasts, have you been listening to The Forgotten Podcast recently? There have been some pretty amazing guests and content!

Also, The Forgotten Podcast is a great resource for not only you leading a foster care ministry but for you to share with agency workers, foster parents, church leaders and more! Some agencies will even let foster parents count podcast episodes as continuing training hours for their foster parent license.

Download The Forgotten Podcast Certificate

New T-Shirts Online

Did you love your t-shirt and want to buy one for someone else? The new logo tee is now available online! Plus, you as an Advocate can still use your discount code for 40% off: TFI40

Order through this link!

Stock Photos

When searching for stock photos to use on the website or Facebook–do not go searching on Google. Those photos are actually owned by someone else. If you’re searching for photos, we recommend these free stock photo sites:

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"You don’t have to bury your hope, because Hope itself is already buried and walked out of the grave.”
The one certainty of foster care is there is no certainty. When plans change quickly, people get hurt, or you feel your heart breaking, it is easy and natural to fear. In today’s episode, Singer, Songwriter, Ellie Holcomb encourages us through words (and song too!) to hold on to Hope. 
TAKEAWAYS FROM TODAY’S SHOW Fear is a thief.
Foster care brings with it many unknowns, and because of this, it is easy to be afraid, but fear usually is a thief and keeps us from experiencing the peace and joy of Christ. Don’t let fear rob you of the time God has given you. For those who belong to Christ, we can rest assured that even if our greatest fears are realized, we serve a faithful God. And, even when we don’t feel like He is there, He is, and He will never leave us or forsake us. In fact, Christ meets us in our most hopeless places, and He promises to fight for us. Exodus 14:14
Hope gives life.
In times of joy and sorrow, and in the mundane, look to Jesus. Keep walking forward in faith, especially when it hurts and when you don’t understand. He can give you joy in your mourning. One day (if not here on earth, then in heaven) we will experience healing, restoration, and rest. One day, He will make all things new.
“You don’t have to bury your hope, because Hope itself is already buried and walked out of the grave.” Ellie Holcomb
Take Courage From God’s Word.
“Cast your cares on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” Ps. 55:22
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Isaiah 46:4
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:6-7
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
“He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; He gently leads those that have young.” Isaiah 40:11
RESOURCES FROM TODAY’S SHOW

Connect with Ellie: WebsiteInstagram | YouTube

MORE RESOURCES FOR YOU

The TFI Story
Who Loves Series
Find a TFI Advocate Near You
Become a TFI Advocate

SPREAD THE WORD!

We hope this episode has helped you wherever you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal! If so, will you tell others?

Share this post or rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts (or wherever you listen) and leave us a brief review. 

Meet Our Guest

Singer-Songwriter Ellie Holcomb, a Nashville native, began her musical career by touring the country with her husband in Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors. After 8 years, and with the birth of their daughter, Emmylou, Ellie opted to step out of the role of heavy touring. From that space came her debut solo album, As Sure As The Sun, which charted at #1 on the iTunes Christian chart and helped deem Holcomb the “Best New Artist” at the 2014 Dove Awards. 

Since the release of As Sure As The Sun Holcomb has been walking an unexpected path, one of suffering and loss but also peace and joy. She has come to the edge of the rushing river of confusion and experienced a God who made a way where there seemed to be no way.

And it is from that place—of finding God in the dark and unexpected—that Holcomb wrote and recorded Red Sea Road (Full Heart Music), released January 2017.

Foster Parents, check with your agency to see if listening to this podcast will count toward your foster care training hours!

Special thanks to Resonate Recordings for their knock-it-out-of-the-park podcast production services! If you have a podcast or want to start one, reach out to our friends at Resonate!

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Gift cards are used as a way to show encouragement to agency workers and foster parents. Often foster care caseworkers are transporting children during meal times and paying for meals out of their own pocket. In the midst of countless appointments and children’s activities our heart is for foster parents to know they have someone cheering them on. Join us in brightening the day of a child in foster care and those who faithfully care for them! How it Works:
  1. Choose a local fast food restaurant.
  2. Purchase as many $10-15 fast food gift cards as you’d like.
  3. Place cards in an envelope labeled TFI Gift Card.
  4. Drop off at our drop-off location!
Drop-off Locations:
  1. Northwoods Community Church – 940 W Fremont St, Galesburg
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It doesn’t matter what age or stage you’re currently in, having friends to walk beside you is a good thing. A sweet thing.

I’m finding that true even, and especially, in this foster care journey.

I say journey because although my husband and I are licensed, we don’t currently have a placement. In fact, it’s been months since we received that piece of paper that gave the stamp of approval, and yet, there have been no placements. And most days, I kind of forget that our lives could be flipped upside down in a moment’s notice. I’m not waiting for a call, paralyzed to make plans. I can’t be. Life continues to move along.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times when it’s forced to the forefront of my mind.

Mother’s Day

I can appreciate the sentiment behind the intentionality of having a day to celebrate moms. But, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Mother’s Day for me.

I received a note from a friend with these words among others…

Whether this Mother’s Day finds you content or sad or somewhere in between, I want you to know that my life is better because you are a part of it.

This line stuck with me, because honestly, I didn’t know whether the day found me content or sad or somewhere in between. I couldn’t sort out or pinpoint the emotion. She wasn’t assuming I’d be content, and she wasn’t assuming I’d be sad. I appreciated this, because it communicated that my identity was not tied to my role in life. She saw my value and worth in Christ.

I treasure her friendship, because she willingly and intentionally points me to the ultimate Treasure.

She reminds me of who I am in Christ no matter what circumstance I’m in. That’s not to say the circumstance doesn’t matter. She saw me on Mother’s Day. But, her focus was on helping me see Christ in my circumstances.

I want you to have a friend like that. And to be a friend like that.

Our greatest need is Jesus.

And our greatest need in friendship is to have people who will point us to Him—people that will go extreme lengths to help us see Him, to get a glimpse of Him, and to know Him more.

This reminds me of the men who helped the paralytic in Mark 2:1-5:

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

The paralytic needed to see Jesus. The four men made it happen. They saw his circumstances and stepped in to get him to Jesus.

It wasn’t easy. When they arrived at the home that Jesus was at, it was packed full. They could have turned away and said it’s too tough. They could have given up at the first setback.

But they didn’t; they stayed and came up with another plan.

I’m thankful for friends like that—friends who see my need for Jesus maybe even more than I do, friends who will press on even if it’s hard, and friends who are motivated by Jesus.

I’m praying that for you now, that you would find people who would point you towards Christ in a way that communicates they see you and they know your greatest need—not in a way that minimizes your reality, but in a way that says I will walk with you in the good and hard days, because I know we both desperately need Jesus.

I hope you are that friend for someone else too.

What ways can you encourage a friend today?

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