by Shelly Coulter Daigle
Four years ago this Epiphany (January 6), my husband, Adam, and I became parents. What many families have nine months to prepare for; we had a little over 24 hours. You see, we became parents when an adorable 4 month old little boy was placed in my arms on the 3rd floor of the downtown Child Welfare Office. We were newly licensed foster parents receiving our first placement of a foster child. When we look back on the photos of that day, it is unclear who was more worried, my husband or the baby.
Throughout these 4 years, it has become significant to me that we became parents on Epiphany. It is the day that the church folk retell the story of the Magi bringing gifts to the Christ Child, a baby who was born and had no place to call home. These Magi were strangers who saw the star signifying the birth of Jesus and who wanted to celebrate the birth of a baby, a baby who probably was not all that celebrated in his own family. And yet, these Magi, these strangers, traveled from distant lands so that they could offer what they had to this baby.
The image of strangers bearing gifts for the Christ child was a strong one for me in those early days of parenthood. It is apparent that I could not have begun my parenting journey without the support of strangers. The Circle of Care Foster Care Ministry came bearing gifts that Epiphany to ease our transition into parenthood so that we could ease the transition of a scared little boy who was leaving his home. They provided many of the items necessary for caring for a baby. We didn’t even have a crib, a place to lay this baby down to sleep. We didn’t have the right sized diapers nor did we have any clothes. We had very little but room in our home and room in our hearts.
I was touched by the idea that people from United Methodist churches and local businesses helped to provide the items that we needed to take in a child who needed a safe place to land, whether that was for a season or forever. I thought about the hours spent by the United Methodist women who quilted the blanket wrapping this new baby that I rocked to sleep each night. I washed and folded the clothing donated by other foster families, knowing that these items had been washed and folded many times before in love.
We could not have done the work of foster parenting without the support of Circle of Care Foster Care Ministry. Nowadays, Circle of Care Foster Care Ministry does more than support foster families working within the Child Welfare system. Circle of Care Foster Care Ministry now seeks to recruit and train foster families. Foster Care is the temporary care for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. The children could be removed from 1 day to several years. The statistical average varies from 2-3 years. There is such a need for foster families who are willing and able to take care of children for as long as they need while the birth family addresses the reasons a child came into foster care. As of December 1st, there are 10,897 children in foster care with 4034 licensed foster homes to meet that need. In Tulsa County, there are 1,383 children in care with 530 licensed foster homes to meet that need. The need is great and the work is hard but the blessings abound.
Four years in, we are still receiving support and care from Circle of Care Foster Care Ministry. Since that day, we have taken in a total of 4 children, adopting 1. Our life has been enriched by the relationships we have built with fellow foster parents, caseworkers and child advocates. But the most life-giving part of our journey has been the relationships we have built with the families of the children we have cared for. Our definition of family has expanded beyond bloodlines or adoption decrees to include these families.
If you have any questions about becoming a foster parent or how you might support the work of Circle of Care, please feel free to contact me. Our next Foster Care Informational Meeting will be January 12, 2016 at 7:00 pm at St. Paul United Methodist Church (1442 S Quaker Ave).
Blessings and Peace to you and yours during this Epiphany season.
Rev. Shelly Coulter Daigle is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church who began serving as a Family Specialist with Circle of Care in 2015. Shelly spent 11 years serving local churches where she heard the stories and saw the impact of Circle of Care. Shelly is passionate about advocating for the most vulnerable and marginalized in our society, especially foster children and their families. Shelly will be our featured #myviewofthe918 contributor beginning January 17.