As of 2021, there are approximately 15,000 children in the foster care system in the state of Georgia. That is 15,000 children in this state alone removed from their biological parents, and many are sent to homes outside of their community due to a lack of available foster homes. The statistics surrounding foster care almost make it sound like a losing battle; churches have thankfully begun addressing the needs in their communities to help foster families and the families they serve.
Mrs. Allyson Manning, Secondary English Department Chair and English teacher, shares a little about God’s calling on her family to serve in the area of foster care and how God ultimately took their family on the journey to adoption.
God Is In The Details
We were actually visiting churches while we were in the approval process when we found Vintage 242, not realizing their primary ministry was supporting families in foster care! Our church has been a huge source of support for us in our experience. Randel Hambrick, our pastor's wife, was actually just appointed to the Georgia Advisory Board for DFACS by Governor Brian Kemp. God knew exactly where we needed to be as we began navigating this journey!!
When our now 20-year-old son, Wesley, was in his senior year here at Cornerstone, we finalized becoming a foster family in 2018; in January 2019, we met Antonio and Bella for the first time. Antonio was 21 months old, and Bella was a week shy of 4 months. Since Wesley was actually in my AP Literature class at the time, he found out before my husband, Brandon, that we had received a call for a placement.
Car Seats and Sleepless Nights
Immediately, I called one of my best friends because I didn't have anything for two young children, including car seats! The car seats were at my house when I got home that day. Our church community stepped up in huge ways as well, and by the next day, I had clothes, a high chair, a baby swing, a bassinet, and countless other necessities.
There were many sleepless nights, court dates, visits, and difficult times, but at the same time, we were getting to know Antonio and Bella and their personalities without knowing what the future had in store. Many people would ask if we were afraid to "get too attached" and for our hearts to be broken. Thanks to other families we have encountered, we have learned that it's not "our" hearts that need to be considered the most if we are called into this. As adults, we can understand and heal; the young children who need a safe home either temporarily or forever deserve to have their hearts protected as much as possible.
His Timing, Not Ours
When we first decided to become a foster family, we were asked if we were given a placement if we would be willing to adopt. In our minds, the picture of this looked like perhaps an 8 or 10-year-old because of Wesley's age at the time. God definitely has His own sense of timing and a sense of humor as well. We had prayed for a sibling for Wesley until he was almost ten, but God had given us peace that having another child was not a possibility. Little did we know that this first placement would become a permanent part of our family.
Break Our Hearts For What Breaks Yours
I am limited to a certain amount of words in this post, but the last two and a half years have brought wonder, chaos, excitement, sadness, laughter, and tears, but most importantly, they have drawn us closer to our God who has guided and directed each step we have taken. In November of 2020, I lost my mother unexpectedly. While this is not the same as children losing contact with biological parents, the tragedy for both biological parents and the children is not lost on me. I won't share the details of their personal story and what brought them into foster care because that is their story to tell once they are older and can begin to understand. Still, it doesn't take long being in the fostering community to have your eyes opened and your heart broken when you discover all that is involved in the process and the causes and outcomes.
In March of 2020, after having Antonio and Bella for a little over a year, their biological mother asked us if she signed her rights away would we adopt. There was no hesitation. We had already formed a family with them, and we realized that if things had gone differently, there would have been two huge parts of our hearts missing. Due to Covid and court delays, the adoption was eventually scheduled for May 27 of this year. It happened over Zoom and only took fifteen minutes, and we officially became a family of five!
It is impossible to share our story of foster care to adoption without making others aware of the great need in the foster care system. It has become part of who we are as a family, and we would like to continue serving in some way. We are humbled and thankful that God divinely created Antonio and Bella knowing that they would be a forever part of the Manning family.
Not everyone may feel called to be a foster parent, but everyone can find a way to help.
Listed below are some suggested ways that we can pray for and support the foster care system.
- Not every family is equipped to bring children into their home. Since we promised Wesley that we would only foster two children while he was still living at home, we have closed our home for now. But there are so many ways for us as believers to address the needs of the foster care system and community. Click here for a website that has a list of ways for people to serve the fostering community without bringing children into the home.
-Caseworkers are some of the most overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated employees I believe I have ever encountered. They are often given a negative reputation, but most of them are doing this job because they feel like they have a calling to serve the children in their community. Would you please pray for them and anyone else who is involved in the system?
- Many biological parents who have their children removed were once either in the system themselves, or they should have been removed as children. It is not always possible to forge a relationship with the biological parents, but we have supported Antonio and Bella's biological parents and prayed for them to make the changes they need to make. Please pray for them as well.