Scripture tells us that "religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27 NIV). One of the opportunities the church has to love the most vulnerable is by supporting foster families. Meredith Stutts and Sarah Beth Spence are both foster parents and members of our church. You may have met the precious children they have had the opportunity to love on in recent years. Over the next months, you'll have the opportunity to hear from both of them. Today we invited Sarah Beth Spence to share her story.
When did you first considering becoming a foster parent?
Sarah Beth: I was working in the NICU taking care of a baby girl and I fell in love. I was single and only 24, but I set out on a mission to adopt her, taking all the classes necessary to become a licensed foster parent to foster then ultimately adopt her. I did get to bring her home and after 15 months, she was reunified with her family. The heartbreak was tremendous as I cried myself to sleep every night for weeks. Since I was licensed for one child under the age of two in my tiny one-bedroom apartment, I received calls about respites and placements regularly. Reluctantly (and with a sad heart that it wasn’t “my baby girl”) I would say yes if I could. I’ve continued to say yes, with less reluctance and bitterness. It has led to the biggest blessings in my life. I am not special, or any different than anyone else. I simply acted on my conviction.
What have you learned through your experiences as a foster parent?
Sarah Beth: My foster care journey has taught me many things. The first lesson I had to learn was that God loves these children more than I do. He has a plan for their lives just as He does for mine. A very common thing I hear is “I’d be so sad if they had to leave.” The belief that we have our biological children or family forever is an illusion. But that reality doesn’t keep us from loving them. Fear of loss and grief cannot keep us from opening our hearts and our homes to those that need it most. God’s children are so worthy of our love!
How can we come alongside foster parents, both in our church and in our community, to encourage them and serve them?
Sarah Beth: Meals, dishes, and laundry are my Achilles' heel. As any household, it’s never ending and piles up quickly. Transportation and childcare are always a challenge. It’s hard to say “yes” without a daycare or school to send them to immediately. My childcare and my village are my friends, so for us to do anything together, the kids must come too. A tremendous blessing would be occasional childcare. There is no special training or licensing needed to keep state foster children since legislation was passed in 2016.* It has been a huge relief for foster families, opening doors for more people to come alongside foster families and be the village.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our church?
Sarah Beth: Meet Olivia Laine Spence “Livie”, adopted February 19, 2021 - forever my daughter. If I would have stopped fostering after my initial plan didn’t go as I thought it should, I would have missed out on quite the gift! God’s plan is perfect. Also, I just want our church family to know how much I truly appreciate your support. From prayers to monetary support, from clothes to meals, I cannot say thank you enough. You have been a blessing.
*A note: There is no training required for babysitting foster children in the DHR system. If you'd like to help a family whose foster children are in the Alabama Baptist Children's Home system, there is a simple training process; visit this link to learn more and sign up. Training dates for this spring are March 8, April 12, May 10, and June 14, all from 6-7:30 p.m. at their office in Birmingham.