On June 18th, 2018 we got a phone call. I was in the middle of helping at a local church’s vacation bible school program and the familiar 777 number popped on on my phone. 777 is the first three digits of a number of county departments, including CPS, or child protective services. It was a number we knew because we had been licensed foster parents since September of 2017, and had field a 4 placements prior to this phone call, all for relatively short periods of time.
“Are you willing to take a baby, a newborn, specifically?” The social worker asked me. They tell you in your training that spouses should be on the same page with how you will answer these sorts of questions. Workers, and more importantly, the kids need quick answers. They need to know so they can continue with the important work of assessments and record-taking. “Yes,” I answered. About 4 hours later we had a 5 pound, 18 day old baby.
Two years and 195 days later, on December 30th, Montgomery County finalized our adoption of our precious daughter, a blessing to us every single day. Within that time frame there were countless visits, 7+ court days, monthly social worker check-ins, 2 re-licensing processes, 30 hours of continuing education, unfathomable numbers of prayers, and so many feelings. Love was the strongest emotion, but also empathy for her biological parents, worry about “the right end result,” pity for the systemic poverty and realities over generations that led to this particular baby being in this circumstance, not to mention frustration, confusion, heart-ache involved.
There is important work in the big issues of the world. When we read about the hundreds of kids in foster care in Maryland, the problem seems so large, with so many underlying causes, that it is hard to know where to begin. But when it comes down to it, each reality boils down to one family, one child, that needs love and support.
Foster care isn’t everyone’s call. Our family is in the process of discerning what comes next for our ministry call- more fostering? Or something related? Something else entirely? Most issues, however grand and expansive, from food insecurity, to animal welfare, to environmental sustainability, to addiction, to poverty, have both macrocosm levels and microcosm levels. We are not all called to the macro. What we saw in fostering was both - the big systems and the kid. Truthfully, the big systems easily overwhelms us and takes away our feeling of agency to shine the light of the Gospel.
In the movie Frozen 2, which I have seen innumerable times, there is a point where one sister is left alone, thinking her older sister has died, her best friend has dissolved into snowflakes and her boyfriend is miles away, and she is left with the knowledge that the thing that must be done is the thing that she fears the most. Anna sings:
"Take a step, step again
It is all that I can to do
The next right thing
I won't look too far ahead
It's too much for me to take
But break it down to this next breath, this next step
This next choice is one that I can make
So I'll walk through this night
Stumbling blindly toward the light
And do the next right thing”
We are called to the small steps that bring the gospel light ever closer. That may be adding some items to your grocery list each week to fill our food pantry. That may be taking care of a child while their family figures some needs out or until the courts realize that you are that child’s family. That may be serving as a tutor to children who are needing additional support during the pandemic. That may be helping St. John’s figure out the next steps in our quest to be more sustainable. Just do the next right thing in your discipleship.
As our newly legal daughter transitioned to a big girl bed, our neighbor and friend called us up. “We got a call for a baby girl” they said. “We are picking her up from the hospital. Do you happen to have a crib?” One child in her forever family, a new child in the midst of turmoil. The love is real however, and one child at a time, one can at a time, one lesson at a time, one new sapling at a time, we do the next right thing to bring the Gospel into our community.