By Amanda Schardt, Guest Blog Writer
In honor of November being adoption awareness month, I asked one of my friends to share her testimony about how God called her and her husband, Chris, to foster. Amanda’s story is just one of many, and if you have your own, it could look totally different – it’s important to remember that not one of these cases are the same. There is so much complexity for each case, real and tender emotions, and interpersonal relationships at play. What I love about stories is that they encompass something that each of us can learn from another. From knowing Amanda personally, I know that her story is one of courage, boldness, and love. Amanda and Chris took a step of faith to use their home, time, resources, and relationships to eternally bless a little girl who desperately needed that at the time, and my hope is that by hearing her story you will be convicted to dig deep and ask God what He is calling you to do to make an eternal impact.
Anglicans For Life believes there is no more uniquely Christian calling than that of adoption. Other faiths or moral teachings may share some aspects of the ethical life described in the Scriptures; they may agree that a moral person should be generous to the poor, enact impartial justice, not oppress the weak. But to care for the orphan and fatherless, specifically through adoption, is irrevocably entwined with our understanding of what it means to be a Christian.
In October of 2019, husband and I met a 10-month little girl (M) at my sister’s home. She was full of love and smiles! M’s mother was unable to care for her at the time, and her father was not in the picture. Her grandmother was caring for her, but she felt like she was unable to care for her in the ways that she needed. Because of these reasons, a family needed to be found for M so that they could fill in the gap of her family either for a short amount of time or forever. After the age of 1, our state wants children in potential adoptive homes if they aren’t with a family member. On the car ride home, I felt an overwhelming nudge to do something. I remember turning to my husband and telling him that I felt like we were the ones that were supposed to help her. We had talked about fostering or potentially adopting before, and he had always said that he wasn’t sure if he could he could provide the love that was needed to raise a child that was someone else’s, so I wasn’t sure what he was going to say. But he responded with, “If you feel like we need to do this, I think we could.” So, I was thinking to myself, ok… we’re going to try and do this then…
When we got home, I called my sister and I told her that we wanted to help in anyway that we could, whatever that was, we were up for it. It took a lot of prayer, phone calls, and going through the beginning of the fostering process to get her in our home. Three weeks or so later, she moved in. It was exciting and very scary at the same time. We have nieces and nephews but never had we been parents before. My husband and I had an awe-inspiring amount of help from our support systems to help us prepare for this new role.
The first few months were crazy. M had a medical condition that required doctor’s visits and therapies, and because we lived in a county over from the one that had custody of her, a few services had to be transferred across counties. In a traditional foster care process, there is an application process and screening and then you are placed with a child(ren). Our case was a little different whereas, there was a process started to move her in before all of our requirements were completed. It was considered an emergency placement in kinship foster care since we met through family members and friends.
When M’s mother found out that she was no longer in her mother’s care, she decided that it was time that she try her hardest to get better so she could get her baby back. We didn’t know her, and we barely knew M’s grandmother, and M’s mom had felt the same about us. From then on, a slew of hard situations arose and emotions were running high on both ends. The months of December to March were hard. Miscommunication between us and M’s family caused a mess and there was a time when my husband and I thought about throwing in the towel, even though we completely loved M at this time. I saw my husband turn into a loving father, and it was one of the most special times in our lives. COVID restrictions were put in place, and although visits were being awarded to M’s mother at the time, the county was not allowing any visits to happen. The goal of foster care is reunification, and we just prayed that whatever was best for M was going to happen. Other goals of foster care can include safety, permanency, and well-being of the child, and they are dependent on a case-case basis.
When you become a foster parent, there can be so many misunderstandings from the people around you, especially when you don’t have children. I had people telling me that they hoped that M got to stay with us, and yada yada… but, that was never our end goal. When you agree to foster a child, adopting can never be your end goal. Your goal is to be there for that child AND their family, if that is possible. After being able to communicate with M’s mother more and more, trust was developed and we were able to have phone visits during the COVID “lock down” period. Any type of visitation was not necessarily required by the state, but we knew that we had to make that happen. M’s mom was trying her best and restrictions were going to halt the process of making sure the two had that mother-daughter bond. If M was going to be able to go back to her mother, we wanted to make sure that it was under the best situation possible. We did phone visits and even had a social distance visit on Mother’s Day until the county lifted the COVID restrictions. M’s mother and I developed a friendship that through all the muck we had to waddle through, could only have been placed there by God. Before I sat down to write this, I looked back in my prayer journal to a point when I was trying to work somethings out. I found an entry that reads, “Definitely in some sort of a trial right now. We have M, and she’s the easy part, but the rest of this isn’t. I believe that God is using us to protect her at the moment. Whatever the outcome, I believe that our lives will be positively impacted through this experience. I’m just wondering why all of this needs to be this difficult.” At the same time, I was praying to be slow to anger, more patient and calm, and to focus on my short-term and long-term goals with M, my family, and my life.
No one would believe all that had to fall into place to make our experience happen like it did. It was a true miracle on all facets. After a series of court proceedings and goals being met by M’s mother, she was able to return home in about a year’s time. So much growth happened during that year, not just with us, but with M and M’s mother. We saw M take her first steps on the same day that I recorded that journal entry. We loved hard, but didn’t lose anything. We gained an extra family. It has been about 1.5 years since M returned home, and we still see her at least once a month. M and us both get equally excited when we get to spend time together, and she has been such a blessing in our lives. Fostering is hard work, but it can be beyond valuable in so many aspects. I’m thankful for the step of obedience I took – I’ve gained a greater understanding of Christ and His love for me through the whole journey. He is gracious and He is good.
Amanda is currently pursuing a second degree in nursing at Waynesburg University. She has been married for over 10 years to her husband, Chris, who she met in college 14 years ago; he works as a scientist at a pharmaceutical company. They share a love for God, family time, and music. When Amanda isn’t busy with school, she enjoys all things art; painting and molding clay being at the top of the list! Her main passion and goal in life and a reason that she wants to be a nurse is that she aspires to show people love and care for those who may need it the most. Striving to live life with the fruits of the spirit is a desire at the forefront of her life with loving God and being a humble servant.