When Pete and Ellie decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child, but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious 15-year-old girl, they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hope of becoming a family.
This film is not recommended for young children or children who have been a part of the foster care system. If an older foster/adoptive youth would like to see “Instant Parents”, I suggest watching it with them and following the film with a discussion about your personal attachment to the child. It may be triggering to their situation as well as verbalizing fears that they may have about self-worth and abandonment.
I’m thankful that “Instant Parents” is receiving attention and I hope that it does draw in people to consider becoming foster parents or providing more support to foster families in their community. The intention of the film was to be a blessing to the foster/adoption community as well as to hopefully recruit more families for kids!
Foster parents Todd and Heather Lessem, along with their sons, Asher and Jadon, are currently fostering a 15-month old girl, “Peanut”. In a recent phone interview with Project 1.27, Todd and Heather shared their experiences so far.
What made you first consider serving as foster and adoptive parents?
Heather- I had adoption in the back of my mind after our second son was born. Todd was a little hesitant about the idea. One Sunday at church, our Pastor had invited a representative from DHS to share the need for foster parents in our county. That was the first time we’d considered foster care as our path. Coupling my passion for orphans with the need in our county started our journey.
Todd- I looked back at our premarital counseling and realized we’d both answered the question, “Would you ever consider adoption,” with a yes! Right about the time our pastor brought in the local DHS, two of our family friends started towards foster care. We didn’t realize it then, but God was using those friends to get us started.
Our news is consistently flooded with stories about people who have been subjected to sexual abuse. Working with kids from hard places, we know that sexual abuse is not new, but more and more people are willing to come forward to share their experience.
Statistics say that 1 in 10 children (1 in 3 girls; 1 in 6 boys) experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. 90% of children who are sexually abused know the perpetrator from school, church, friends, or their own family.
One of the most significant factors that make a child vulnerable to abuse is not having an involved caregiver. Perpetrators watch children and their families to see if they can gain access and privacy with the child without gaining attention. As you can imagine, children who are experiencing neglect or have a caregiver who struggles with substance abuse often fly under the radar.
Not just students are in need of more information! When we provide care for children from hard places and support foster and adoptive families it is essential that we have an understanding of what children experience and what the family might truly need. Sometimes we help others in the way that WE think is best and it isn’t actually beneficial for the child or family. The best plan of action is to always ask the family what we can do to be a blessing to them.
There are many trainings offered in Colorado and all around the country that teach us about trauma, how to relate to teenagers, build attachment, and effectively support developmental and mental health disorders. If there is a topic that you think would help you better understand the family you serve, please explore the following resources for trainings, blogs, and books that will equip you in loving foster and adoptive families well.
BLOGS AND PODCASTS
By contacting a local Child Placement Agency or county Human Services Department, you may learn about additional learning resources outside of Colorado.
In the busyness of summer, it’s easier to turn inward to survive than to think about how to foster love with those around you. Summer tends to be a time where you’re thinking about your vacations and your favorite summer activities. What if we found ways to take an hour or two a week throughout the summer to foster love for our foster and adoptive families?
Any time you’re serving others, it is crucial to find out what they actually need. So many times we decide ways we want to bless someone without considering if it’s really helpful to them. Maybe there is a desperate need for a date night to talk outside the earshot of little ears, but you bring a delicious meal to their home. No doubt they will appreciate it, but ultimately their need still exists.
We hope that you have the kind of relationship with your family where you can ask them their greatest need and they will honestly share their answer with you! Don’t let them get by with, “We’re ok… I don’t think we need anything right now”. Foster and adoptive parents are infamous for pushing through challenges, so they may need some prompting. “If you don’t “need” anything, what’s something that would be really helpful for you?” You could list out a menu of things you could do for them and allow them to pick.
May is National Foster Care Month. Around the country, the faith community is working with child welfare to recruit more foster families and increase funding for services as the number of children entering the system is increasing at an overwhelming rate. Having 5,734 Colorado children in foster care on a given day in 2017 is a problem, especially with only 2,200 licensed foster homes.. To confront this, we welcome friends, families, churches, and support team members to join Project 1.27 as we foster love during the month of May and beyond
You’re close to being certified as a foster parent and ready to get a room ready for the kids who will come into your home. It can feel overwhelming to design a space for a kid you haven’t met yet. Does he like blue? Will she think purple is too much? There are a few basics to prepare ahead, but the rest is optional.
Here’s a short list of where to start when preparing a room for foster care:
A bed should come as no surprise. You will need one bed per child. Twin beds are a safe option as they work for the widest age range. Many agencies and counties will certify you for babies without a crib. So if you don’t have the space for a crib and a bed, you can keep a pack and play on hand in the event a baby is placed in your home.
If you want to invest in a crib, consider one that converts into a toddler bed.
Adopt a middle-schooler. For some, that’s a scary thought. But for empty nesters Mike and Ramona Evans, it’s the reason they just completed Project 1.27’s parent training. Why?
Mike and Ramona put it this way-
We think the middle school years are the most impressionable, challenging years children go through. Their competence, their self-image, especially with girls, is forming. Middle-schoolers are being challenged by social media, by friends, by everyone. We lived it with our own five kids; saw them face challenges we thought they were prepared for and some we didn’t see coming. Middle-schoolers need that extra layer of support, a guide to help them navigate adolescence. They need caring parents in their lives and our prayers to help them get through.
If you’re a parent you know just how hard it is to manage daily schedules, meals and more. Most parents have access to a supportive community of people who are willing and able to take their kids for a night or even the occasional weekend. This support gives parents a break and a chance to reset.
However, there’s a major issue in the world of foster care that’s rarely discussed. Foster parents need respite care. Foster parents deal with all the standard struggles of parents but with the added layer of trauma. Additionally, to provide overnight care, family members and friends who are willing to babysit also need to be background checked and CPR/First-Aid certified. Requirements may vary based on county and agency. So why is this so important?
Here are 3 ways respite care helps foster parents:
Scott, how did you first learn about Project 1.27 and what motivated you to get involved?
In 2015, my good friend and business partner, Leif Houkom, Project 1.27 Board Chair, invited me to lunch with Shelly Radic, the Executive Director. As a father of five, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for children. I recognize my children had the advantage of growing up with two parents in a comfortable environment where they were supported and nurtured. Learning about the number of children who don’t have that environment, and their need for a supportive, loving family really moved me. The other key for me was learning about the societal cost of kids who end up aging out of foster care and how Project 1.27 families are reducing those costs.
Since coming on the Project 1.27 Board, how have you been involved in caring for kids in foster care?
I became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) in late 2015 and that opened my eyes to the incredible need of kids in CO foster care. I’m currently a CASA for a 14-year-old boy in Arapahoe County.
What’s surprised you most as you’ve learned more about kids in foster care?
How desperately they need love. How the smallest gestures of love can make such a profound impact on a child’s sense of security. Too many of these kids have no one who truly cares about them. I began serving as a Court Appointed Advocate (CASA) for a teenage boy who is in foster care. A few weeks after we met, I asked him what else I could do to support him. His response, “Could you just call me after school and see how my day went?” Now, we have almost nightly calls. I realize how much these calls mean to him.
You’ve become a voice for kids in foster care by involving family and friends. What are some ways you’ve done that?
I use my voice to educate friends and family about how big the issue is and how incredibly difficult it is for kids in foster care in our country. Most people don’t have any sense of how big the issue is; it’s almost like they put on blinders.
One of the best tools is to invite people to events, like Top Golf and the Fall Comedy Night so they are exposed to Project 1.27 foster and adoptive families and hear their stories. This is really a wonderful way to open their eyes to the needs of foster children and the impact of Project 1.27 and its families.
How does participating in an event like Top Golf make a difference in the life of a kid in foster care?
It raises awareness and inspires others to contribute to the cause. Most people, including myself before joining the Project 1.27 board, think our government has a handle on this issue. They don’t realize how enormous the challenge is. P1.27 is one example of a non-governmental success story that makes an impact. It takes so many resources to make an impact. The more resources, the more impact we can make.
Why do you think it’s important for Christians to find ways to care for kids in foster care?
We’re all put on this earth to accomplish different things, but my perspective is that our Lord expects us to take care of each other. There are few people more vulnerable and needing care than children who don’t have parents or caregivers. I think as Christians, we all have a responsibility to find a way to care for foster children.
What advice would you give to Christians who want to get more involved?
Jump in! There are so many ways to care. Financial support, caregiving as foster and adoptive parents, becoming a CASA or a Mentor. Pray for foster children. Everyone can help.
How can we pray for you?
Pray that Project 1.27 staff and board continue to have an enthusiastic determination to help foster children and the families that serve them.