The mandate of the Scriptures in James is clear, to care for the widow and the orphan.
If this is the case, then why are we so slow to do so?
Why are we living in a time where there are more than 400,000 children in foster care on any given day?
Why are we unmoved by the reality that mothers are systematically trapped in their poverty while their children are sleeping in CPS offices?
Let’s call it what it is and own it: We are scared.
Scared of what it will cost. Scared that we will get “too attached.” Scared that we are unequipped. Scared of what people will think of us if we willingly sign up to do something so messy and broken and enmeshed in much of the deep-rooted systematic racism and oppression in our country. Scared of how it would demand change of us.
Here is the truth: The children represented in that staggering statistic above are not slipping through the cracks of a broken system (although it is unbelievably broken and in need of deep-rooted and immediate reform); I believe they are slipping through the hands of the church. Christians, mandated by a gospel that says, “I see you, and I am coming after you,” to move toward them, are instead pulling away.
This is our family’s story.
If I had a dollar for every time I watched someone try to do the math or fit all the pieces together when they see or hear about our family, I would be rich. 26. Married for just over three years. Five kids. So many questions. People have so many questions.
It’s a lot to wrap your mind around. Trust me. I get it. There are many days we can hardly believe this is our life. This is our family, and these are “our” kids.
Before getting married, my husband, Dillon, and I knew we would likely have an unconventional family. However, we never could have imagined that our family would look like this or have come together in this manner. Honestly, that is undoubtedly a gift of grace because if we knew then what we know now, we would have run fast the other direction.
The destitute reality of what we were signing up for would have been paralyzing, and the joy that lay before us would have been so unfathomable we would have called it too good to be true. It was best we didn’t know.
“We knew that, especially as Millennials, we were bent toward the pursuit of comfort and convenience at all costs — even at the expense of the most vulnerable among us.”
What we did know is that we knew too much to do nothing. We knew that, especially as Millennials, we were bent toward the pursuit of comfort and convenience at all costs — even at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. We knew we could not rightly raise our hands in worship of a God who steps toward us and into our pain and then use those same hands to push away anything hard or uncomfortable. So we signed up. Attended the classes, endured the home study and got licensed for foster care.
Days after our biological son’s first birthday and before our 25th birthdays, our doorbell rang, and there before us stood two beautiful children. The moments that followed are burned into my memory.
Truthfully, those are some of the most painful and life-altering minutes of my life, but those images seared into my mind are the very thing that keeps me going on the impossibly hard days that are inevitable in this work. The dark, heavy, grief-filled bedtime tuck-ins; those moments. The court hearings; those moments. The detailed depictions of traumatic events at the most unassuming times; those moments.
Foster care is a special kind of monster. One that will suck the life right out of you and then kick you while you’re down just for the heck of it. A journey intimately laced in tragedy and redemption, devastation and hope, despair and healing. The juxtaposition is everywhere.
Those two beautiful children were reunified with their family a few months later, and again, we felt the deep contrast of this work all over. Grief and joy. So much grief, the kind that makes your bones feel weak; and joy, a family reunited. And then us, caught in the middle of the two.
“This story has no fairytale ending for anyone involved.”
This story has no fairytale ending for anyone involved. All that was broken was not magically made right in their going home. The contrast holds true. Brokenness and a steadfast hope in the “almost but not yet.” One day this will all be made right; it just may not be this side of heaven. So long as foster care exists, it will not be right this side of heaven.
So we said yes again, this time, to three beautiful children while another was growing in my belly. Five kids.
Much of what our “yes” to these children has boiled down to is not glamorous. It’s being willing to take the tough blows, so they don’t have to alone — getting “too attached” while being fully aware of the fact that (hopefully) they will be able to leave someday because it is that kind of security that rounds off some of the jagged edges their trauma leaves.
We would give every penny in our bank account, every sense of security, and if it came down to it, our lives to protect our biological children from the trauma and brokenness these children have experienced. It only feels right and natural to do the same thing for them. At least that part makes sense, despite all the other parts of this journey that often don’t. A sacred responsibility and privilege.
We get a lot of congratulations and pats on the back for fostering. I understand the sentiment, and we appreciate the encouragement. We need it. However, the congratulations often leave us with a more keen awareness of the need for education and advocacy than warm fuzzy feelings.
“We have come to the conclusion that most people do care. They just don’t know what to do.”
Do they not know the brokenness and loss that has robbed “our” children? Do they not know the profound tragedy and privilege it is to be a part of this story? Do they not care? With time and a heavy dose of humility, we have come to the conclusion that most people do care. They just don’t know what to do.
The reality of it all is so uncomfortable, mind-boggling and hard to fathom that they settle for mere congratulations and thanks because it is just easier. I get it. I really do. We are not all called to this kind of work, but we can all do something.
But for now, this is our something. Raising five beautiful babies while we are growing up ourselves. Winging it. Saying our next best yes and choosing to not let fear have the final word.
This is our story.
Alexa Larberg is a Houston native who lives in Dallas with her husband, Dillon, and five kids. She earned both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Baylor University’s Diana Garland School of Social Work.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Learn more about the gift of foster and adoption care.