From Across the Net – “Seeing Foster Parents as Local Missionaries”

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Foster care is a lot different than just straight adoption. But I can relate to a chunk of this piece. The training/on-going training, the background checks, and the rules that we’ll have to follow–for six months–once we have a placement.

Like missionaries, significant preparation is needed to enter the field of foster care. Just to start, those who take on this role, must go through hours of training, complete a home study evaluation where their homes, families, finances, and lifestyle are evaluated, complete criminal, abuse and FBI clearances, and regularly submit to on-going training and re-evaluation. Once approved as a foster care placement, they are subject to many rules and regulations, social work visits, and parenting guidelines.

You can read more here

Adoption Update: God Has Called Us To This, He Will See Us Through

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I had one of those difficult conversations last night with a foster mother. She talked about a recent placement her and her husband had received. As she unpacked a story that included:

  • Level of care being misrepresented
  • Messed up family drama on a scale you know exists but try to not think about

I was reminded that these children need an advocate–and not just the children she was talking about, all children in the foster care system–. Someone to fight for them, to push back against doctors / teachers / life; Someone to provide a place of stability after living in what I’d call a war torn home. There comes a point, when you are listening to such a story, where feelings of empathy and ultimately justice kick in. You can’t help but feel for these children; children who have done nothing to deserve the adult situations they have been plopped into. Makes me thankful for those who have been called to foster and who provide a sense of normalcy and stability while birth parents have a chance to figure things out / get their lives together.

As the foster mom talked, I could feel a small thread of fear trying to grip me. An inner voice saying, “This is the type of horror story you’ve heard about. This could happen to you and Tabitha! You could be placed with a child that has been misrepresented to you AND has all sorts of problems.” As I pushed back on that fear, the foster mom kept saying, “God has called us to this, and He will see us through it.” Amen.

I love how God used this conversation to strengthen my resolve. Reminding me that children are out there, hurting, needing a place of stability. I stand firm, in God-given peace, that He has called us to adoption.

This is not to say that I am not still wondering about timing. I am not good at waiting. God first spoke to Tabitha and I in January of last year (2019). Calling us to move past our 10+ year grief of infertility; calling us to adopt.

  • I still remember the peace I felt going to the first informational meeting with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
  • How quickly we were plugged into a PRIDE Training Class.
  • The crazy stories we heard while in training.
  • The 30 minute drives to Marshall, where I had Tabitha all to myself to talk / unpack / dream / decompress.
  • How happy we were when training ended at the beginning of May.
  • How after completing the Home Study / various hoops, our family was certified to adopt at the beginning of August.

Adoption is a process. The Hall Family is still in that process. At the beginning of December, we met with our Adoption Development Worker. She said that she had not found any children that were a good fit for our home. So we wait knowing that our God is big, His timing is good, and that He loves us.

Adoption Update – I feel so frustrated

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Leaving church Sunday, someone walked up to Tab and I and asked how the adoption process is going. I replied, “I feel so frustrated.”

Photo by Park Troopers on Unsplash

A few weeks ago, we were sent an email from our adoption caseworker. The email contained a picture and a brief description of a little boy who is/was up for adoption. We were told that our home study had been submitted and to email our caseworker back if we were not interested. We didn’t email back. 🙂

Weeks went by, the deadline for caseworkers submitting interest in this little boy came and went. I followed up with our caseworker to see if she had heard anything, nope. Silence.

Another week went by, we received an email from our caseworker saying that we had not made the initial selection process. I felt gutted. So many questions filled my mind:

  • Were we not picked because of hold old Tab and I are?
  • Were we not picked because of the age different between Wyatt and this little boy?
  • Why?!?

I knew I couldn’t dwell in the land of why too long… so instead I kind of shut down.

It’s been about a week since we found out that we weren’t selected. This morning, I feel like I am waking up from a haze. With my mental fog clearing, I can tell that I’ve been distant with those I love, mourning someone I will never know.

There is something about a picture and a description that opens your mind to possibilities and dreams. Excitement about what could be is good; checking out when things don’t go as planned, not so good. I am learning through this adoption process. Learning about:

Trusting God when things don’t make sense / have gone off the rails

Strengthening my own personal mental armor / being stretched

Yes, I am still frustrated about the adoption process. But I realize that the word “process” is key. The process, the journey if you will, is helping prepare Tabitha, Wyatt, and I for the day we change from a family of three to a family of four. While my pessimism towards the process tells me that that day could be awhile off, I have to admit that I have no clue / it’s all out of my hands. Next week could bring a new email, a new child to dream about and consider.

Daily, I have to give this process to God. Let go. Let Him do His thing.

Until next time,

Bryan

 

 

Adoption Update – Level One A

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I was telling Tabitha last night that if adoption were a video game, we have finally reached the first level. The tutorial and character creation process were the initial first steps:

  • PRIDE Training (40 hours of state-mandated classes)
  • FBI Database Fingerprinting
  • Fire Inspection
  • Health Inspection
  • Home Study

With our home study approved, we are now certified by the State of Texas to adopt. We can now put in interest requests through the Texas Adoption Resource Exchange (TARE); we can also now go to meet up events (where you can interact with kids available for adoption) as well as have our caseworker alert us to children available for adoption who are not listed online.

The adoption process is weird. A mixture of buying a home and speed dating. Level One A, of the adoption game, looks like:

  • Looking through pictures of children in an online database
  • Going to a meet up event
  • Our caseworker notifying us of a potential match

After initial inquiries are made, which includes our caseworker “selling” another caseworker on our family via telephone conference (home buying), we then enter the speed dating phase. Level One B includes:

  • Our family driving to whichever region the potential child is located in and then going on a day outing with the child.
  • The following weekend, a follow up over night visit (probably in a hotel room, especially if the child lives out of town) with the child.
  • The following weekend after that, a day trip/overnight visit again?
  • Eventually these visits shift from being on neutral ground to the child coming to our house.

The biggest hurdle of Level One A is going to be finding a match. We have to agree on the match; our caseworker has to agree on the match. Already, we are learning that:

  • It’s good to have a caseworker who says no and is looking out for our family (versus just trying to place a child and move on).
  • That descriptions of children, on TARE, do not include all the details. Sometimes even surprising our caseworker…
  • That there are not a lot of younger kids (ages 7 and younger) up for adoption online.

Bottom Line: We know that God has a child in mind for us. We just have to wait, trust, and talk, as a family, through the adoption process.

I’ll keep y’all updated. Maybe not so much in this Level One A stage… but more IF we make it to Level One B. Prayers are appreciated.

Bryan

Adoption Update – Congratulations!

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We received an email from our caseworker late yesterday (8/7/19). An email that began with:

Congratulations! Your home study has been approved.

Moving forward, I’m not sure where this leads us. But we have an tentatively scheduled appointment with our caseworker for the end of August. I’ll keep y’all updated.

Bryan

A Letter To My Church Family

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Dear Church Family,

Back in February, during the Life Action Conference, God spoke to Tabitha and I. He told us that it was time to move on from the grieving process of not being able to have more children. After 9 years of trying to conceive, we felt Him calling us to adoption. So we stepped out of the boat, out of our comfort zone, just like Peter in Matthew 14.

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

In obedience to God’s call, we have completed:

  • 40 hours of state-mandated PRIDE Training (for foster and adoption families)
  • Numerous forms and have submitted an ant mound of paperwork
  • A home study interview that delved into our backgrounds, relationships, and family structure

Through all of the above, we have continued forward, waiting for the day that we will bring a child into our home. But like Peter, we do have days where we question; days where we freak out a little.

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

I was telling Dr. Kelley (our pastor), who recently resigned, that even on our worst days, I still have God-given peace. A deep knowledge that God is in control, no matter how unknown (timing, age of child, etc.) the adoption process is moving forward.

I want to take a moment to encourage my church family. We are voting on an interim pastor this upcoming Sunday. I want to encourage you to:

  • Think about where we are as a church. We are not the same church that we were seven years ago when Dr. Kelley was hired.
  • Think about where we are going as a church. What does it mean to live out the Gospel in Longview, Texas.

I want to encourage you, church family, not to retreat to what is comfortable. Please do not grasp at what has worked before because someone is available OR because popular people say we should vote a certain way.

If God has been teaching Tabitha and I anything, He has been teaching us to let go of the boat and grab onto Him. I pray that our church would be able to do that, even if that means taking a deep breath, a moment, and searching for a different interim pastor.

Change is hard… but He is good.

Your brother in Christ,

Bryan

Adoption Update – Hurry Up And Wait

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We started our PRIDE Classes in April. With severe weather pushing the 40 hours of training right up against our vacation to California in early May. Our home study was turned into the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services as of yesterday. By all accounts, listening to others who have gone through this adoption process, we are moving through the required steps quickly.

Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash

Hurry up and wait seems to be the mantra. We’ll go for weeks without hearing anything and then get a phone call that forces us to drop everything and complete a task. God has been good to us during this period of waiting, preparing our family for who is to come.

Wyatt was recently singing in a church service with our children’s program at church. As Tabitha and I watched him sing, I thought to myself, we could soon be watching someone else too.

The lack of an outward indicator that someone is coming, say a stomach growing due to the baby inside, is odd. So are all of the details we do not know.

BUT, we are getting closer to that day when our family grows from three to four. So many changes ahead… and we have to temper our excitement like a kid before Christmas.

Anxiety – The Faulty Spider-Sense

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Ever since our interview/home study, this past Saturday, my chest has hurt. My anxiety is telling me something is wrong.

Work has been a little crazy lately. Two of my co-workers are taking over as owners of my firm at the end of the week. My boss of 11 plus years is:

  • Stepping down
  • Becoming an employee
  • AND still managing/not changing his boss role at the same time

Reality equals that I’ve suddenly added two additional bosses in addition to my current boss; reality equals now having to juggle completing tasks for all three bosses while not making my current boss mad that I’m working for the two newer bosses. Confused? I am. I think I can safely say that the learning curve is going to be high for everyone… and has already been difficult for me.

This should say: DO MORE NOW, BRYAN!

My pastor announced his resignation on Father’s Day. He has been with our church just short of seven years. I am in the Camp of Hurt right now. Stunned by his announcement and questioning why he is leaving. We were told that nothing is wrong, that his leaving is due to him feeling God tell him that it is time. I’m trying to focus on how it is good that he is being obedient to God’s calling him away. BUT I can’t help but think of:

  • The upcoming interim period, while we search for a new pastor
  • The debt my church is now in due to the children’s building we built
  • How the person who led us into that debt, who asked us to step out in faith, is leaving

I’m hurt but also recognize that loyalty is a big deal for me. I also recognize that hurt from past church leaders lingers on. I have gotta let go and see the bigger God picture.

Our home life feels like it is about to change with adoption. The interview/home study made this feel more real.

My work life has become more unstable than normal with having to suddenly deal with three chiefs versus one.

And church stuff has just been icing on the cake.

My anxiety is telling me that something is wrong, like a faulty Spider-Sense. Things might not be wrong but they are definitely changing. And who likes change?

This past week, as I was listening to a sermon, God reminded me that He calls us where we are WITH what we have. It is in change that our faith is stretched. I don’t want to be stretched, but I do at the same time. I want to grow in my faith. You?

Bryan

P.S. Thankful that God is my constant.

Adoption Update – Home Study Completed

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During our PRIDE Training, Tabitha and I were told that the interview/home study was going to be:

  • Thorough (expect 4 hours, at least)
  • Invasive (questions could/would be asked about things like frequency of marital relations, etc.)
  • Deep (we were warned that every one of our drawers could be opened/inspected)

Once we found out that our home study was going to be scheduled for this past Saturday, Tabitha and I kicked into cleaning overdrive… even though the house already looked great.

Saturday morning arrived blanketed with heat and humidity. Our Independent Home Screening Assessor pulled into the driveway 30 minutes early. Tabitha and I were nervous. We had no idea what to expect nor what questions were about to be asked of us.

Our interview ended up covering basics such as:

  • Upbringing
  • Discipline
  • Family
  • And what types of things Tab and I can and cannot handle when it comes to an adoptive child (the gamut ran from learning disabilities to types of abuse)

An hour later, we were finished with the interview. Our Home Screening Assessor took a few pictures, told us that we were great, and that she would text us when she turned in her report to our caseworker with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. And with that, we were done.

Not all monsters are cute.

I cannot stress enough how God showed up in this moment. I was sick to my stomach. And yet what I am learning, through this adoption process, is obedience. When God calls us to something, we have to be obedient and step out in faith. It is through that process of obedience that we see God work. Seeing Him fight our monsters, our giants, and stretch us in our faith.

I am excited to see what happens next. Our Home Study is due to CPS July 10. We should hear more soon! Will keep ya’ll posted.

Bryan

Whichever Shoe Fits

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Back in February, Tabitha and I were sitting in the auditorium at church listening to a guest speaker. I was having trouble paying attention, my mind wandering, until the speaker started talking about the Stages of Hurt:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

God spoke to Tabitha and I in that moment. We both realized that we had been cycling through those stages for years. Years. Not always in that exact stage order but something quite like it. You see, we have been trying to have another child for about 9 years now. Seeing what ultimately are the Stages of Grief, written down on the conference handout we were attending, did something. I could finally see the bigger picture. I could see how a friend’s baby announcement would suddenly shoot me into anger or even bargaining over not being able to have more children; I could see why, at times, I’ve been depressed.

In that moment of epiphany, Tab and I both felt that God was calling us to step out of those stages. We felt Him calling us to more.

So we talked and met with wise counsel at church. My church’s youth pastor and his wife sat down with us over dinner. They listened to our story and shared their own (I can’t put into words how much this meant to us). We learned that we weren’t alone in our experience. After meeting with them, we decided to contact the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. We attended an informational meeting (which was awesome). Soon after, we signed up to take adoption certification classes (PRIDE) which lasted a few weeks. We have since finished up:

  • Turning in financial information
  • FBI Database fingerprinting
  • Having a fire inspection of our home

We have a:

  • Health Inspection for the house
  • And an Home Study/Interview left before we are certified to adopt. We are almost there!

If you think about my family, as we move forward in this process, we are asking for:

  • Prayer (if you are not the praying sort, positive thoughts then)
  • Discernment
  • Wisdom
  • That God would lead our adoption caseworker to the child He wants

Excited to finally share this news with ya’ll. More to come.