Many folks, at one time or another, may feel curious and possibly even called to foster care. With more than 15,000 children in foster care in NC, the need is dire. But only a handful of potential families move from curiosity to action. Why? Why do they do it? When they feel the stirring of their hearts, why do families say yes?
Heart of a Foster Parent – The Talleys
Laura and Michael Talley are one of those “yes” couples. Laura worked for Crossnore as a Cottage Parent and then as a Case Manager until the birth of their first child in 2009. Michael grew up and worked at a nearby camp where hospitality was always a huge value. Even newly married, the couple was a Visiting Resource to a teen girl living at Crossnore. From the very beginning, they had a heart for helping, hospitality, children in foster care, and the mission and work of Crossnore.
In 2018, their three daughters were ages eight, six, and four. They began pursuing becoming foster parents. In the early Spring, they made that first call seeking information. By July they were licensed. In October of 2018, Abel (now 7) and Alisa (now 5) were placed in their home. The Tallys officially adopted them in June of 2021.
In faith, they left their licensure open and in November of 2021, took on the placement of a one- and two-year-old. They now have seven children (3 bio, 2 adopted, 2 foster) ranging from ages one to 12. “Now we drive a big old Sprinter van, and it is awesome!” says Laura.
What it boils down to.
Obviously this is making a very long and heart-wrenching story very short. But the HEART of the matter is this – Michael and Laura were prepared in advance for the work of loving and providing hospitality and stability for children in need. In the hard times – and there have been many – the Lord has continued to provide affirmation of their calling. For Michael, among other things, it came in the perfect song at the perfect time. For Laura, God pointed her to Psalm 127 in her moment of, “What have we done?”
After reading that scripture, Laura says, “I felt complete peace about moving forward. God was in control and knew exactly who needed to be in our home.” Michael agrees. “As difficult as the journey is, we discovered that service leads to freedom. Giving is gain. God gives us His presence and strength. Foster Care has revealed these powerful lessons more than anything else in our lives.” And both Michael and Laura agree that the healing and transformation that has happened over the years has not just occurred in their children’s hearts, but in their own as well.
The “lucky” is mutual.
“So many people say things like, ‘These kids are so lucky to have you.’ But in reality, we have grown so much since the day Abel and Alisa first walked in our door. They have taught us what it means to love well, even when tired and weary. It’s so worth the hard work. And since our most recent foster placement, we’ve learned a lot about letting the Lord completely guide our steps. We often feel out of control. But we realize that feeling that way is part of what He is actually teaching us,” says Laura.
Heart of a Foster Parent – The Cantlers
And there are many families that can’t say yes to full-time care, but choose to say yes to respite (short-term) care. Katrina and Fred Cantler have a heart for giving full-time foster parents and a break and offering extra support to foster families. “My motivation,” says Katrina “is to provide support for foster parents in the hopes that more people will foster when they know there are respite providers in their community who can help them.”
Their HEART in saying yes? “Every child deserves some type of normalcy in their life and growth development. Every child deserves to feel loved,” says Fred. Katrina, a teacher for 30 years, agrees. “There were so many times when I had a student who I felt would have benefitted if they had had a stable adult in their lives.” Respite care provides Fred and Katrina a chance to be just that for children in foster care.
Because it’s fun!
Katrina also says that providing respite care is just plain fun. She loves that they get to be very intentional in how they spend their short time with their respite placements. She says every child has taught them something – how to play a new game, how to appreciate new music, how to do a trick in the swimming pool, how to use acrylic paints. “I’ve been on more bike rides, hikes, picnics, played more cards and board games, danced to more music, and baked more chocolate chip cookies than ever before.”
Fred and Katrina have especially fond memories of teaching a young teen boy to make lasagna. (And now he requests that they have the ingredients on hand every time he stays with them!). They’ve also gotten to take a young lady to Biltmore for the first time. She then came back and painted a true masterpiece of a statue she had seen there! There was also the time they took a 5-year-old to the pool. As they were walking in, he looked up at Katrina and said, “Hey Mom Lady, I guess this is a good time to tell you… I just sink to the bottom.” They still laugh about it.
“I honestly could tell you something special about every child that has come into our home,” says Katrina.
The heart of the yes.
So the heart of the yes is beautiful and complicated. It may be an answer to a calling you feel you can’t keep ignoring or the desire to stand in the gap for a child who lacks safety and stability. It could be the gift of hospitality and knowing God has given you a home for such a reason and time as this. It could be a spirit of adventure, knowing that each child who comes into your own will not only bring their own hard things, but will also bring a sense of wonder, excitement, and joy. It might be the realization that as much as you give to a child in need, they will return to you tenfold.
When we step out of our comfort zones, whether it’s to become a full-time foster parent or a respite provider, going through the hard stuff is so worth the love, joy, hope, growth, and healing that take place on all sides. These children need us. They need our hearts to say yes.