Foster parenting can be challenging even with a spouse, but that doesn’t mean a single person can’t or shouldn’t follow a call from God to foster. This panel discussion includes four single foster moms who have figured out how to make fostering work in their lives. If you have been waiting for a spouse to foster, their stories might give you the encouragement you need to take that step of faith to foster as a single parent!
I have learned that when God promises to be a father to the fatherless, He means it.
How did you decide to become a foster parent?
Faith: I felt called to foster care/adoption many years ago, but I assumed it was something you did when you were married. That was until I mentioned that calling to my pastor, and he asked, “What are you doing about that now?” That question changed everything. Over the next couple years, I changed almost everything in my life to be able to be a foster parent.
Heather: I always knew if I wasn’t married by 35, I would foster/adopt. I did a Bible study where the question “what is the Holy Spirit calling to do but you aren’t being obedient” was asked. I absently wrote “foster and adopt” and felt so convicted that this was my assignment but so scared of what to do next. Thankfully, a friend reminded me I didn’t have to start immediately, and I slowly took steps of faith. A little before I turned 35, I learned about my agency and got involved supporting a foster family through my church organization. Eventually I was certified to foster.
Colleen: Fostering has always been on my heart because my grandparents raised me. I can remember thinking what would have happened if they had not? I might have been separated from my siblings, I probably would have bounced from house to house. So when I finally had the change to foster, I did.
Marissa: I went through a series of events where I saw a child loved so deeply by so many people, yet knew that there were kids in the world who never experienced even a portion of that love. So, I decided to step into foster care.
How did you determine what age group or how many you can take?
Each of the moms had to take into consideration some very practical aspects of their lives: what their personality worked best with (babies for Marissa vs teens/teen moms for Colleen) as well as how many beds they had in their home and the size of their vehicle. Additionally, one consideration Faith mentioned was to consider an age range that would fit in with the ages of her friends’ children. “It’s easy to feel guilty about setting an age range,” Faith says. “But you need to be practical.”
How do you make childcare work?
A lot of factors affect childcare for kids in foster care. Colleen, who typically cares for teens, has a really great support system of family and friends. Marissa, who cares for babies, has had more challenges regarding state-provided and approved daycares. The key is getting the agencies and the daycares to work together as well as to keep the situation for the family in mind in doing what is best.
Faith’s daycare experience was really good—close to her home and very good to her and her son. Heather, on the other hand, has experienced frustrations due to the slow payment for childcare expenses from the state, so she’s had to work with the care provider, use a before and after school care program and rely on her parents for childcare.
Is your employer supportive?
Faith resigned from a job that had become her “life” in order to be a foster parent—she even moved to a different state so that she could take a job with a Christian non-profit organization that has been very flexible with her needs as a foster parent. Similarly, Colleen works from home and can make her own schedule, so she feels very blessed to be able to do that.
Marissa was a public school teacher, which was less flexible regarding time off. She has since changed to be a math coach, so that has freed up her schedule somewhat. She also limits when she can take a new placement—early summer or near a longer break so that she can stay home for a few days. Heather also works for a Christian non-profit that is very flexible, including giving her the opportunity to work from home if needed.
What was the response from your friends and family?
For a few of the ladies, the response from friends and family was cautious at first. “My friends thought it was a little crazy, but then they concurred that it fit me. Becoming a foster parent didn’t cause them to lose friends, but they agree that people quit asking when you’ve had to say no several times to activities that don’t fit in your schedule as easily when you are fostering. On the other hand, “I’ve definitely gained friends through fostering,” says Heather. “It’s helpful because they have a similar lens.”
What are the hardest things about single parent fostering?
One consistent answer is the difficulty of not having another adult who you can process with. “I researched a lot and knew a lot of information,” says Faith. “But I didn’t realize how hard it would be to know things about your kid that you can’t share with anyone. I end up carrying a lot of weight by myself.” Marissa agrees, adding, “There’s no one to weigh the pros and cons with for the decisions you might have to make. Even with good support and people who will listen, you bear the parenting weight alone.”
Heather shares that she learned what “hard” really meant in the first month of her first placement—“I was an introvert with a four-year-old who needed constant attention.” You quickly learn to adjust to whatever comes your way—but it’s all worth it.
Because Colleen fosters teens, she often felt that since they were close to aging out, they didn’t want to be there with her, or follow rules. It was constant back and forth, and often an emotional roller coaster.
What about self-care?
Adjusting your expectations and being willing to ask for and accept help are ways to make sure you as a single foster parent can have time to be refreshed. Strategies such as planning activities after bedtime and giving yourself permission to not have to be with your child all the time will help. “Even when people are willing to help, sometimes it’s hard because I’m not with her all day, then I’ll leave at night. It’s easy to have feelings of guilt,” says Marissa.
Having great friends and mentors who will take care of your child on a regular basis for a good chunk of time is invaluable. Heather is blessed to have a church that has people dedicated to respite care—it’s helpful for her to know there is time scheduled that she will have to herself. Colleen adds, “I’m not good at self-care anyway, so it’s good that I have friends who recognize my need for self-care.” It can hurt your pride a little to ask for help, but it’s very necessary. Having a network of other single foster moms helps with reciprocity.
What have you learned?
Seeing God show up and learning to trust Him more are consistent answers. “I’m learning to wait and watch and expect God to do amazing things,” says Heather. Faith adds, “It’s really cool to trust God’s promises. When He promises to be a father to the fatherless, He means it.” Marissa shares that she’s able to teach others about foster care because of her decision to say yes. “God has provided everything we have needed,” Colleen says. “We’ve all been able to learn together.”
What do you wish you would have known?
Being humble about the decision to foster—to not be so excited that you forget that God’s going to teach you as well. They have all learned so much from the children that have been in their home. It’s also helpful to realize that some things are common to parents no matter if they are single or married, have children with trauma backgrounds or not. Some struggles are just learning how to be a parent—everyone goes through them.
Many reasons—the greatest being because the children are worth it. There is also power in being able to see the redemption in their family. Colleen says, “Why not? God calls us to love orphans and widows, so it’s not about me.” Heather sums it up: “If someone asks me, What breaks your heart, this is it. My heart breaks for these kids.”
Meet Our Guests | Single Foster Parent Panel
Faith Morgan – Faith is a “dyslexic writer, asthmatic singer, world traveler with a rotten sense of direction,” and single adoptive mom learning how to parent by God’s grace. Faith lives in Atlanta.
Heather Webster – Heather works at a homeless shelter and currently cares for sibling boys. She lives in Atlanta.
Colleen Smith – Colleen was born and raised in Wichita, Kansas, the product of a dysfunctional family. Although she endured instability, abuse, and abandonment as a child, Colleen managed to rise above and become a vessel and source of strength for people around her.
Marissa Benjamin – Marissa is a single foster parent who adopted her third placement. She lives in Alabama.
Meet Our Host | Jami Kaeb
Jami Kaeb is a dreamer and a coffee lover! She is married to Clint and the mother of seven—five through adoption. It was through a difficult season of waiting that Clint and Jami’s eyes were opened to the foster care community. They became foster parents to three siblings whom they eventually adopted, and in April of 2011, Jami founded The Forgotten Initiative. You can read more about her fostering, adoption and mother-to-many journey on Jami’s personal blog, Life with a Personal God.
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Check Out These Resources
Colleen’s Website | Facebook | Instagram
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Another Place at the Table – Kathy Harrison
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The Who Loves series
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