He was an eloquent voice that knew my inner thoughts and led me down a path toward Kingdom work with steady persuasion. As both a student and then as a leader, CIY has spanned more than a decade of my life, and those intense encounters helped make His voice even clearer. I soon began to perceive that the path toward Kingdom work for which I was being called isn’t travelled by many.
In my 20s, I began to build my career in nonprofit work. In that field, I have worked as a caseworker and parent aide, where I provided support to biological parents who had been separated from their children. Having worked both in schools and as a youth pastor, I’ve seen the other side of the same coin – the outcomes and heartbreak when children live in unstable homes. Once married and beginning to plan next steps for my own family, I realized the way I wanted to become a parent wasn’t conventional. I wanted to foster. Not babies, but older kids. Not necessarily to adopt, but just to love them as long as they needed. Not because of infertility. Not after having biological children. The Lord gave me a strong and compelling conviction and said to me “These children are to be your first choice.”
Not a backup plan.
Not an after-thought.
Not a “maybe one day.”
My. First. Choice.
I always have to throw in a caveat here: There is no “wrong way” to be a foster parent. If infertility has led you there or if you’ve decided to pursue fostering after having biological children, those are still incredibly valid paths that lead toward fostering. But for me, I was asked to pursue them as my first choice.
After being licensed foster parents for just two years, my husband and I have been through the ringer. Sincerely, some of our worst fears have been realized. We had a child placed in our home with significant mental health issues too great for us to handle. We have faced sibling separation. In unimaginable ways, we have seen the powerful effect that neglect has on a child’s developing brain. I have begged for healing only to see trauma appear unmoved. I have asked God to part the sea, move the mountains, only to feel alone and abandoned. I have questioned my calling, lost hope for the future for these children, and battled depression and doubt. In those times, I have wrestled with this tension: “Thy Kingdom Come” has not yet been fully realized nor will it be until Jesus returns. Yet it is our continual mission.
My husband and I are 12 years into marriage and six months into the adoption process for an 8-year-old girl. She was listed as “hard to place” by the state of Missouri because she is over 4 years old and mixed race. Yet she is so precious, overflowing with kindness, and reflects daily that she is made in the image of God. Eight years into her story, I believe she is getting ready to fully see the goodness of the Lord in her life for the first time.
The invitation I offer is ongoing as I ask others to step into this world. There are many doors to choose from:
• Provide respite.
• Become a CASA volunteer.
• Be a support system and advocate for biological parents who are in drug treatment or need to break their own cycle of generational abuse or poverty.
• Start a prayer group for foster families.
• Do meal trains for them, both when they receive a placement as well as when that placement leaves their home.
More than anything, view these children as your first choice. What does that look like for you? I believe when you answer that question, you will feel “Thy Kingdom Come” in a new and powerful way.
As we view you as our Father in Heaven, would you challenge us to be family to those with none. Give us a new perspective as we learn to be loving neighbors to biological parents who are working toward becoming a safe home for their children. Speak to our hearts as we ask you how to make foster children our first choice. We ask that you turn our spirits toward restoration as we ask you for the strength and courage to walk this journey. Amen.
Cassie Binkley lives in Springfield, Missouri with her family. She studies nonprofit and civic leadership at Drury University and holds a bachelors in religious studies from Missouri State University.