One of the goals of our blog is to tell stories of faith. Today, meet Meredith Stutts. Meredith grew up at MBBC and serves in the Student Ministry and as a Deacon. Meredith is also a foster parent. We invited her to share a little about her journey.
When did you first consider becoming a foster parent?
It is hard for me to pinpoint when I considered becoming a foster parent. I would say that it has always been a desire on my heart, but definitely grew in college with an internship and grew more while working on my Master's degree in Social Work. I have been on the social work side of foster care and have worked with foster families in almost every job that I have had. For years I made excuses about it not being the right time or questioned my abilities to be a single foster parent, and then about three years ago I really felt and saw God close all the doors to the excuses that I had. I went through the training with Alabama Baptist Children's Home (ABCH). I was fortunate enough to intern with them in graduate school and saw how they support their foster parents and serve along with the Department of Human Resources (DHR) worker to fully support the children in their care.
What have you learned through your experience?
One thing that I am continuing learning is patience - patience with myself, with the system, with the kids, and with the birth families. With any parent, the gravity of caring for a child that God has entrusted to you with is huge, so I have to remind myself to show myself grace, because let's be real, some days I am not the love of Christ (mornings are hard). Prior to fostering I thought I was fairly flexible, but I am learning that there is so much more room for growth. When I started this journey I truly felt called to foster, to be a safe and loving home for a child while their families were learning and growing to provide the best home for them. God has a funny way of letting us know that His plan is different than ours. With opening my heart to adoption I am currently praying about what that means moving forward with fostering.
How can we come alongside foster parents, both in our church and in our community, to encourage them and serve them?
Thank you for all of the love and support that you have shown me and my kids. It is amazing seeing the love of Christ with the way that the church has loved us. Praying for and being present for foster families is huge. Often, it can be isolating as foster parents don't want to burden others with what is going on with their foster kids and their situation. It can be an emotional roller-coaster for all involved, and we don't want those we love to be colleterial damage, but don't be afraid to be there. Have kids over for playdates and check in on the foster parents. We want to protect our kids, but don't be afraid to let your kids get close to foster kids. Prayer and words of encouragement have been huge for me. ABCH and other local foster parent organizations are always in need. It might sound odd but, just as we support a family bringing home a new baby, we should also give that kind of support to foster parents. Most children come into care with the clothes on their backs or a garbage bag filled with their worldly possessions. Simple things that help a lot are bags/backpacks filled with clothing, toiletries, and other essentials to help get them through the first few days. Don't forget about the older kids! Babies are cute and don't talk back yet, but older kids are often over looked in care, so be intentional with that group.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our church?
Don't be afraid to ask questions if you have them. There are so many moving parts to the foster care system and DHR, and honestly different counties within the state operate differently so it can be a frustrating process for those of us who have no control but are providing daily care for the kids (fostering through ABCH allows me to have kids outside of Jefferson County). So many people impact the lives of kids every day, so pray for them: pray for the DHR workers, attorneys, judges, and transportation workers. A way that people don't often think about being involved in foster care is by paying attention to local elections; who are you putting on the bench in family court and do they advocate for kids? Be aware that no matter how long a child has been in care, even if they are in a loving foster home or adoptive home, the hurt is still there. So be patient, because so many of our kids are processing things way beyond their years. Pray for the kids in care and their biological families, because often there is generational involvement in the foster care system. Pray for growth and healing.
Note: To learn more about volunteering with the Alabama Baptist Children's Home, visit this link.