Eric VanValin, contemplating the best way forward through written words & moving pictures.

Becoming a Foster Parent: Part 1 - Faith

Becoming a Foster Parent: Part 1 - Faith

This is part 1 of a 3-part blog series examining why I became a foster parent.

“I find it my duty to help children navigate the difficult modulations of life.” - Mr. Rogers

As with most decisions in life, the choices we make are never the result of an individual factor. When asked, “Why did you decide to become foster parents?” Any one response would be woefully insufficient. It was thousands of occurrences, most out of our control -- call it a “fortunate series of events'“ that have resulted in us nearing our two year mark as foster parents.  

Our attention was first drawn towards foster care through stories of others that interrupted our status quo. It then took some initial steps to seek out more information and open the door to the needs of children in our surrounding community. Once opened, we were struck with what I would describe as a “calling”, a seemingly divine spotlight was focused in such a way that provides a purifying clarity as to what your next step should be.

I recently read this description of calling by Monica A. Coleman from her book, Making A Way Out Of No Way: A Womanist Theology:

“God’s constant calling is to address, among other things, the evil of the world. God calls us, knowing who we are and what our situations are, and God tailors God’s calling to us for our life situations. God calls us in every moment, so we always have the opportunity to do something new, to create again, to get rid of the bad, to be reborn.”

Early in the process there were people at the right place at the right time to guide us towards becoming foster parents. An initial spark came from our friend, Jess, a nurse at a local children’s hospital, who shared the story of a 3 year old boy she was treating who didn’t have a home to go to once he got better. Another friend, Justin, who has dedicated his life to supporting children in Watts, California shared a story of three brothers who lost their only guardian in an instant and suddenly didn’t have anyone to care for them.

These interactions introduced the question, what happens to children when there is no support system in times of crisis?

We knew there was a foster care system, but had no real information about how it worked. My ignorance was helped by google searches, phone calls, and interest meetings that shed light on a U.S. system of 450,000 children who are currently in foster care. The majority of these cases are working towards reunification with birth parents. During this process, the child/children are under the legal guardianship of the court and placed with Resource Parents (aka foster parents) until the court approves reunification. However, there are many cases when reunification isn’t possible, and then there is a need for the children to be placed in a permanent home. 

When we were starting our research, Dana and I had been married 12 years. We had a busy life in Los Angeles working in two demanding industries (events and entertainment) but we also had a healthy marriage, a stable home environment, no biological children, and love to give.

We felt we had a lot going for us, but we also began to learn the factors that would deter someone from becoming a foster parent, especially in Los Angeles -- where living space, time, and money are always in short supply.

Thankfully we had what I can only describe as a “Holy Energy” that helped us look past the deterrents. We believed this was going to be our journey and we had an internal peace about entering into the complexity of the system. For me, this is “faith”… trusting that we are connected to a universal advocate who is constantly guiding our way to enact goodness in world.

When you have this sort of wind at your backs, the fears, unknowns, six months of training, background checks, home inspections, financial considerations, and the overall “we have no idea what we’re doing” all seem trivial when compared to the good work you’ve been prompted to take part in.

Now two years in, we’ve had the privilege of caring for multiple children who have stolen are hearts. While it requires both great love and great pain (often at the same time), we continue to lean on faith to live day to day as we seek to be protectors and a safe haven for children in the midst of difficult seasons.

2018 - Some thoughts on what's been happening at the border.

2018 - Some thoughts on what's been happening at the border.