Our Foster Care Roller Coaster

October 30, 2015
By Cara Van Loh

Van Loh Family
I remember May 29, 2014 very clearly. It was the first week of summer, and we were rushing out of the house to a sports camp when I missed a call from our FaithBridge Foster Care consultant.  I listened to her message and heard her say, “I want to talk to you about a referral – I think it could be a perfect fit for y’all.”

When I returned her call, I learned that a newborn baby girl was in need of a foster home – she was still in the hospital but was due to be released that afternoon. Were we interested in opening our home to her?

I said the first thing that came to mind: YES. 

The next few hours were a whirlwind of installing an infant car seat, locating the swing, buying formula, washing bottles, etc. The kids and I met her for the first time in our agency’s office. She was wearing a pink gown and had a head full of black hair and beautiful blue eyes. 

Our caseworker told me not to get too attached; this baby’s future wasn’t clear – her parents were working their case plan, and DFCS was looking for a possible relative to care for her. I was prepared. I had built the emotional walls around my heart sturdy enough to care for a baby and then give that baby away. This is what we signed up for. 

Days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months.

When she was about six months old, we knew we wanted her to come with us on our annual Thanksgiving trip to see family in Texas. In order to take her out of state with us, we had to have permission from her birth parents, whom I hadn’t met. I was ready. I wanted to meet the people who created this perfect baby I had been loving on. The baby had been visiting with her family weekly, but because of the distance from my home, a transporter picked her up and brought her back. We set up the meeting for me to accompany the baby to her next visit. 

I wasn’t sure how to feel approaching that meeting. I knew I didn’t like these people – after all, they had their children taken from them.  They had to be horrible, vile people. Right?

What I learned that day and from many visits throughout the coming months was that people, in general, are broken. We come in all shapes and sizes, our bank accounts vary, and our priorities are skewed. But we are all broken. 

I also learned that parents are almost solely responsible for teaching their children how to raise a family. For instance, if you are raised by a physically abusive parent, you are more likely to physically abuse your own children. It’s what you were taught, and in many cases, it’s all you know. So instead of hating these people who I hardly knew, I started to care about them. I wanted them to heal from their past mistakes. I desperately wanted them to experience forgiveness.

I wish I could say that foster care is easy, but it is not. There is nothing easy about raising a child,Van Loh who is not biologically yours, for an undetermined amount of time. There is nothing easy about the visits with caseworkers, nurses, therapists, doctors, etc. Praying for a child to successfully attach to you is not easy. I do, in fact, remember the first time this baby cried when I left her in a nursery; it was months later than it “should” have been, according to the baby books, but it happened. She reached for me and cried when I walked away from the doorway. I couldn’t stop the tears – I was overjoyed that she was attached to me enough to be upset when I left her!

As we approached her first birthday, we learned that adoption was on the horizon, and since she had been with us since birth, were we interested? For my husband, our three children, and me there was nothing to discuss. She had always been “ours,” and we were ready to make it official.

Those next few months were like being on a roller coaster that never stopped. We had good days where paperwork was processed on time and bad days where we thought everything would unravel. God is the one who carried me through those long months. The one thing I was confident in was that God was in charge of this baby’s life. He had her purpose set out long before we entered the picture. 

On October 21, 2015, we met with the judge to adopt our daughter. To say it was surreal would be an understatement. The pride that filled my heart was exactly what I felt when each of my older three children were born and placed in my arms. When the judge signed the documents, I almost felt him handing her to us, entrusting the rest of her life on earth to us.

This story isn’t over, it’s just beginning. Foster care didn’t just change the life of our daughter, it changed the lives of everyone in our family for the better.

Cara VanLoh

The Mt. Bethel Called to Care Foster Ministry recruits, trains, and supports families in their endeavor to serve Cobb County foster children.  Due to circumstances beyond their control, these children are in much need of your love and compassion. If you want to put your Compassion into Action and help transform the lives of Cobb County foster children, become a foster family or a volunteer in the Called to Care Foster Ministry. There are many ways in which you can serve our foster children and support our foster families. 

The Mt. Bethel Called to Care Foster Ministry will conduct Foster Care Orientation sessions on Wednesday November 18, at 6:30pm, in Room B118 and on the Mt. Bethel North Campus on Sunday, November 22, at 3pm. These Orientation sessions will provide all of the information necessary for you to decide how you can best support this important ministry. Please call Wayne Stolz at 678.360.8169 or Stephanie Watts at 770.853.8275 for further information and to register for one of these Orientation session.