We were honored to sit down with one of our foster families, The Beery Family, to ask them some questions about fostering with Encourage. Amanda and Elijah share their heart for fostering.
What drew you to fostering?
We weren't particularly interested in fostering, but as we pursued adoption, foster care found us. So I would say it was something we never planned to do, but was the best decision we ever made.
Why did you choose Encourage Foster Care?
We knew we wanted to pursue adoption and in the process we both were feeling internally maybe fostering was something we wanted to do but we hadn’t really discussed it. Fostering was something that we said we would never do when we got married. Finally, I (Amanda) threw the conversation out there and he (Elijah) said actually, I was thinking that too!
Literally the same day I went to get the mail and there was Encourage info in our mailbox. We never signed up, it just showed up! We decided to take it one step at a time as the doors opened.
It has been great to work with a private agency. Encourage acts as a liaison between the county and the family. They have been a support system and become like family and have been there when we adopted our children and when we said goodbye. We can just call them like we would call anyone to walk through the good and hard times. They have been a great support system.
What's one really positive thing that has stood out to you through foster care?
The kids who we have welcomed in our homes, even the ones who have left, have become family. Many people have told us the kids are so lucky to have us. The biggest surprise is how we are actually the lucky ones to have our eyes open to them and what they have gone through. It's been a gift because of how they have changed us. You go in thinking that you are going to impact their life, but they have actually impacted ours.
What are the most fulfilling aspects of being a foster parent?
I (Elijah) came from the foster system, so I know what it's like and what kids expect. So, when kids come into our home, we can get on their level and let them know they are noticed.
What is the process of Encourage and all the steps you took?
We made a decision to reach out from getting the flyer. So, we signed up for classes and took them. They now have power weekends for training. Then, we started the home study process and filled out a lot of paperwork.
First, the Director from Encourage came to meet us with the woman who would be our case worker. The first thing they did was ask if they could pray with us. And that sealed the deal because I knew this wasn’t a business transaction. We felt like actual people who were seen and what we do mattered and that can often get lost in the process. After the home study, we went through background checks, and we became licensed and waited for the call.
Anything else you would like to share about your experience with Encourage?
It has been a blessing and I (Amanda) think we live in a world where we tend to live for our self and our own goals. But while it hasn’t always been easy for us or our kids, that is something we cannot teach – the things that they have learned and have opened our own kids' lives to a world outside of themselves. I feel like that is very important because what we have been given and blessed with and like Elijah said, we feel like we should return that. And the biggest surprise is we came in wanting to serve children and love them and give them a safe place to live, but the workers and families we have met along the way have been very impactful and we learned so much from them.
I was having a really hard day yesterday and I was looking out my kitchen window and my phone dinged, and it was from one of the kid's mothers. So just when you think “was this worth it?” I get a message from them just thanking me for who we are and the parents we are to her daughter and who we are to her. And that was the biggest surprise to me. That it's not just about the kids, but it's also about the families you come in contact with.
If you have a heart to foster or simply want to learn more about Encourage, go to encouragefostercare.org.