Shalini Renfro, who, with her husband, Gabe, discusses her consideration of becoming a foster parent.
It’s not the right time for us to be foster or adoptive parents.
My husband and I got married only a year and a half ago. Getting married in my 30’s, I’m still enjoying the long-awaited “honeymoon” phase of marriage. Lazy weekends where the alarm clock doesn’t exist. Relaxed dinners on the couch at home while watching good TV. Happy hours at our favorite local spots. Traveling just for fun. Plus, being in my 30’s, we don’t want to miss our elusive window for biological children. And I can’t stop working right now to become a full-time parent.
We’re not in the right place to be foster or adoptive parents.
We live in an apartment. Without a yard. In LA – one of the most expensive cities in the country.
Frankly, I’m not sure I’m the right person to be a foster or adoptive parent.
I haven’t raised any children. All of my mom-friends seem to handle parenting with grace, but the thought of raising kids sometimes stresses me out. I’m not sure I can always be the patient, kind, selfless, and loving person that a child needs — much less a child that may seem to require so much more, having already experienced significant trauma in his or her short life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved the concept of adoption.
When I first heard about adoption as a young girl, I had two questions for my parents: 1) Were my younger brother and I adopted? (We weren’t), and 2) Can we adopt another sibling? (My parents initially thought I was asking to sponsor a child, so they agreed, much to my delight. I was sorely disappointed to later discover that the World Vision child would not be living with us. )
Being involved with pro-life ministry for the past twelve years, I’ve seen the beautiful redemptive story of adoption played out time and again, as brave birth mothers who did not feel equipped to raise their babies, selflessly placed them in the homes of families who could provide what they felt they could not.
When my husband and I were first dating, we talked about our hopes for family, and I was so encouraged by his open heart towards adoption. When we married, we decided that adoption would be part of our family plan, whether or not we also had biological children. Adoption has never been the “backup plan” or plan B for us — it’s always been plan A. Not that we would necessarily adopt before having biological children, but that we would plan, Lord willing, to adopt regardless.
Late last year, we sensed it was time for us to begin investigating adoption and the foster care system more. In February, I was thrilled to see the notice for a six-week class at PCC on “orphan care,” led by Regan Williams.
One thing that the class challenged was our fear of the lack of permanence of foster care. How can you love a child with all your heart, knowing the child will never be yours? “You love them like your own.” How can you watch a child go to a home that you believe is not in his or her best interest? “You pray for them and thank God that you were able to be a part of their lives for this season.”
We went into the class thinking we would learn a thing or two about the foster care system and adoption, and we did, but we were also challenged to move beyond loving adoption as a concept, to loving specific children through foster care or adoption. But does that mean we should start the foster care training now? And that’s when we worked through our remaining doubts. It’s not the right time. We’re not in the right place. Maybe I’m not the right person.
But if not now, when?
There’s really no perfect time to have children. At least, as I’m learning, no time will feel perfect. As with so many things in life, when you have the time, you don’t have the money. And when you have the money, you don’t have the time. There are children right now who need homes, and their lives won’t be put on pause until it’s the right time for us.
We do still hope and plan for biological children. But will we be able to have children, and if so, which should we do first? God knows. Literally. It’s not something we have to figure out for ourselves, and that’s such a relief. All that’s required of us is to faithfully till the soil of the opportunities that he provides and see what he chooses to grow in his timing.
As Regan has encouraged us, starting the foster care trainings is not a commitment to foster or adopt right away. Perhaps we could start as a relief family — such as watching children for other foster parents if they have to leave town.
If not here, where?
Sure, my husband and I have a small apartment with no yard, but I’ve also heard horror stories of greedy foster families in our city piling kids into their homes so they could somehow squeeze a meager profit from the checks the government gives to reimburse for expenses. There are approximately 35,000 children in the foster system in LA alone. If not our home, where else might these children end up? Our city has a tremendous need for safe and loving homes, and that is something that we — and our church community — can offer.
If not us, who?
As part of our investigation process, we’ve been talking with (OK, more like grilling) family and friends who have fostered or adopted. These veterans have experienced varying degrees of health, developmental, and/or behavioral issues with their foster or adoptive children. But I’m reminded that there are never any guarantees in life. Physical, mental, and emotional health of biological children is never guaranteed either.
I can’t be the patient, kind, selfless, and loving person that any child needs. Not out of my own strength. And being a foster or adoptive parent will likely require more of me than I have to give, and will test my reliance on God more than anything ever has. His grace will be sufficient for me — and for the children.
Next week, we plan to start interviewing agencies so we can begin the training and certification process, and in the meantime, we continue to interview foster care veterans. In one of our conversations, I confess: “I’m worried I won’t be enough.” “You won’t be,” comes the quick reply. And, somehow, that’s exactly what I needed to hear.
If you are interested in helping foster children in Los Angeles County, go to our website, invisibles.la, which has various ways you can get involved.