Across Houston, God is at work as families and churches become involved in foster care ministry. Two families, the Scoggins and the Hays, graciously agreed to share their personal experiences with foster care.
Meet the Families
Shawn and Sherronda Scoggins have fostered a total of six children, eventually adopting three of them, from a Christian foster care adoption organization called Azleway. They also became the legal guardian of two children in order to keep them from going into the foster care system. Currently, they sponsor a Christmas Celebration for Azleway.
Ben and Kelli Hays applied to become a foster family around October of 2016 and within days of submitting their application, they became foster parents to a young boy and girl. While the girl was only with them for two weeks, they are still fostering the boy.
And The Church Families
The Scoggins are members of First Southwest Baptist Church and the Hays are members of The Church in the Center, where Ben is the pastor. While not having a formal foster care ministry, First Southwest Baptist Church has helped Shawn and Sherronda with the Christmas Celebration by painting faces, prepping food, serving, collecting gifts, and prayer.
The Church in the Center has also been very supportive of Ben and Kelli. When they became foster parents to two children at once, the church provided meals and visits. One family has been certified to do respite care, which means they can take care of the Hays' foster son while they are on a mission trip later this month. Another family has also been certified to do short-term babysitting.
Both families were drawn into foster care ministry through a series of personal events. Growing up, Kelli Hays' immediate and extended family fostered dozens of children. Two years ago, she and Ben began praying about their role in foster care and adoption. Their oldest son, 10 years old at the time, even told them he thought they should adopt. After hearing two adoptive families speak at their church last year, the Hays were convinced they should begin the process of becoming certified to foster, with the hopes of eventually adopting. They began fostering through an agency called Arrow Family Ministries.
The Scoggins began to consider adoption after the passing of their first daughter, when Sherronda's friend made them aware of an organization called Spalding Foster-to-Adopt. In addition, Shawn, a teacher, noticed that on many of his class rosters, students were listed as having a legal guardian (not a parent) or homeless. Finally, after taking a class for foster parents, the Scoggins were struck by the number of kids in the foster system, the number waiting for adoption, the attitude of many foster parents who viewed fostering as simply a means to make an income, and the high turnover rate of case workers. They began fostering in January of 2007.
What to Expect
Fostering brings both challenges and joy. Children in the foster care system may have behavioral issues and act out. Some have been exposed to drugs or violence. They may feel that no one wants them and wonder why their own family left them. They may have issues of attachment and detachment due to being moved from one foster home to another. Because of this, foster children may experience emotional distress, feelings of abandonment or rejection, and confusion. Of course, family dynamics also change when foster children come into a home.
There is also joy that comes from bringing a foster child into your home. The children have truly become a part of both the Scoggins and the Hays families. The Hays' other children love their foster brother and dote on him. It is a blessing to see how their church and extended family welcome and care for their foster children. The Scoggins have seen all three of their adopted children be saved by the gospel, and they all continue to grow in their relationship with Christ.
For other families considering foster care ministry, the Hays and the Scoggins encourage prayer first, asking the Lord how He would have them be involved. In addition, be aware of the effort involved: home inspections, child proofing, change in family dynamics, making space in both your home and schedule, counseling, and other support services. Talk with other families who have fostered and get information about local agencies. Remember that there may not ever be a “convenient" time to foster, but they encourage other foster families to be faithful to what God has called them to and to remain rooted in the gospel.
More Ways to Help
While not everyone may be equipped or able to foster a child full-time, there are other ways to be involved. One of the most helpful things one can do is become certified to do respite care or short-term babysitting. Providing meals, toiletries, school supplies, or running errands is also helpful for foster care families, as receiving a new foster child is much like having a baby. Of course, prayer for these families is necessary.
The Hays and the Scoggins are just two of many families who get involved with foster care ministry. They have stepped out in faith, obeying God's word by caring for the orphan and those in need. Their stories bring to light the experience of foster care ministry and are encouraging to those considering foster care themselves.
To learn how you and your church can help solve the foster care crisis contact Ashley Smalls, Faith-Based Specialist, Region 6A with Texas Depatment of Family & Protective Services at Ashley.Smalls@dfps.state.tx.us
This article was first run in September 2017.