Having Our Hearts Enlarged for Older Kids and Teens in Foster Care

The Williams Family Foster and Adoption

Eight years ago my husband and I were driving away from an orphanage in Congo, with our newly adopted eight-month-old daughter.  Behind us was a line of older children standing shoulder to shoulder on the orphanage porch, crying.  At one point in the day, one of those precious children commented, “The babies are always leaving us behind.”  Watching them through the window made my tears turn into sobs the entire one-hour drive across the bumpy roads of Kinshasha. 

Anyone who has fostered or adopted knows that at some point the question of “parameters” is discussed.  Boy?  Girl?  Age range?  Special needs?  That step has always been one of the hardest for my husband and me.  

Time and time again, I’ve seen families step up to foster or adopt babies and toddlers.  Time and time again, I’ve seen the faces staring at me across the screen.  

~10-year-old boy in foster care since age 5.  

~Siblings ages 8 and 12. 

~15-year-old girl desiring to be part of a forever family. 

~6-year-old in a wheelchair. 

From restrictive to radical and changed

After our Congo experience, I found myself addicted to waiting children’s lists, staring at the faces of older children waiting to be adopted.  Books and social workers had told us that disrupting birth order was frowned upon and often not the best thing for a family.   But for us, we had a question to ask ourselves. 

We knew we had a desire and ability to open our home to more children, but what were our parameters going to be now that we knew what we knew? We knew God was placing a call in our lives that meant we couldn’t simply go on living comfortably. We needed to live radically, obediently, and willing to step out in faith even when we didn’t fully understand or know what may lie ahead!

Our family has since fostered numerous older children and has adopted three older children (all now adults) who broke our birth order–being older than our biological children. 

Has it been easy?  No.  In fact, there are times when I’ve asked myself, “What on earth have we done?”  

However, our oldest children have strengthened us, changed us, and shown us more about life than we could have known had we not said, “yes” to them… and we would say YES all over again. Even our three biological children, sandwiched between children through adoption, have all told us they are so happy we changed our parameters that were once very restrictive. 

Here in Colorado, many fostering counties and agencies are no longer recruiting families that are only open to children birth to age five.  This isn’t because there aren’t children of those ages to be fostered.  It’s because there is an abundance of families signed up within those ranges and hardly any families open to older ages, special needs, or sibling groups. 

While I know not all families are called to look like ours, I do challenge you to consider how much your life could be changed by an older child or teenager who will likely age out and end up starting the cycle all over again.  My heart grieves when I hear of children aging out of foster care, without a place to call home–a family to go to during holidays or when life gets tough. Kids belong in families. Teens belong in families. Adults belong in families.

Learn more HERE about fostering or adopting. Meet kids waiting for families.

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