I think I might have the greatest women and men reading my blog – I love they way you guys come out of the woodwork on important issues. Thank you for sharing your stories yesterday regarding foster care and asking questions. Chris is going to follow up with some of the questions and I might have him write a post with more information. I just love your hearts!

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It is already the end of September! October means fall. I am not ready for fall. I will wear my flip flops and shorts…with a hoodie…and pretend summer is just around the corner. Tonight I’m headed to my friends’ store grand opening. It is going to be a great night celebrating dreams coming true.

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These are the current children at my local Tulsa shelter. Most are there because of a shortage in foster families available to welcome them into their homes.  This list just has 43 children on it. The list changes daily. Sometimes younger kids. Sometimes babies. Often sets of siblings.

Sometimes we think of foster care as an overwhelming issue. One so great that it doesn’t matter if we get involved or not. Could just a single family make a difference?

Yes.

The list has 43 names – that is not an overwhelming number.

Last week, I watched Chris and his team gather pastors from the 10 of the largest churches in Tulsa – putting denominational differences aside – for one cause. They came together to see that no child is waiting on a home but rather that in our city there would be a surplus of available foster families waiting if and unfortunately when children need a safe home.

43 on a list. 10 pastors representing over 150,000 members.

There is no reason our city should not have a surplus of waiting foster families. The same is true of every city.

A significant number of those waiting to be placed in a foster home are teenagers and sibling sets. Often teenagers cannot be placed in homes that have younger children. Chris let out a rally cry for empty nesters…for those that have empty homes, but so much more to pour out and offer. Those who have gone through the trials and joys of parenting and are uniquely equipped to offer a home, love, guidance and mentorship to teenagers.

I didn’t take any pictures. I did take it all in…the beauty of so many leaders in my city linking arms and saying, ‘not in our city.’

I have a feeling last week was a turning point for my city. For children in my town. For families. For empty-nesters. For churches.

And it is so exciting!

(letter from an Oklahoma foster child)

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  • Emily | Gather & Dine - So powerful Ashley. I will remember this. I don’t feel like I’m in the season of life when I can take on foster care right now, but the burden for those kids is there. I’ve thought before how I’d like to foster parent when we’re past this stage of small children or once the kids are grown. My fear was that I would no longer be a “fun” parent. This letter shows how silly that thinking is and puts things into perspective for me. Thank you.

  • AndreaB - Amazing! That letter brings me to tears – oh to be able to provide those most basic wants and needs to every child. Love, the most free and easy gift to give.

  • Audrey - My husband and I began fostering two years ago. There’s many times when I think “I can’t do this” and the comment I get the most from others is “I could never do that”. God has provided time after time and I’ve learned to just take it one step at a time. There’s so many unknowns in foster care, so for me who likes to plan, it really pushes me outside my comfort zone, but it is worth it, the kids are worth it.
    Just when I think “I can’t”, God shows me He has other plans. When the call comes in at 11:00 pm and your kids are starting school and your husband is leaving on a business trip and every logical thought tells you now is not the time to take in a child, your heart says “yes” and it all works out. Fostering is not everyone’s calling, but don’t let fear stop you from considering the possibility. We all need to be loved.

  • Dawn - Will be praying for this movement to catch on like wildfire! We had a similar event of local churches gathering to “foster hope”. It was encouraging to see lots of people set up. Our local DSS actually had to stop taking adoption applications because they were so full!

  • Tiffany - Hi Ashley, Just wanted to say that I have tried to foster but in Pennsylvania the child needs their own room and I only have extra space in my daughters room. But I will keep trying, thanks for the motivation and inspiration!

  • Erica Baker - Incredible. Our churches here in DC are rallying together in a similar way for a campaign called DC127. Glad to see other cities are feeling the fire too. Once my husband and I have the space (darn DC apartment prices) we are looking forward to joining!

  • Cherith D. - As a foster momma, thank you for using your platform to encourage people to step out of their comfort zones. The journey isn’t easy, but oh, so beautiful!

  • Tina - Hi Ashley! Such a moving letter. At this time our family wouldn’t be able to foster a child (5 young kids and no extra room, which is required by the state), but still would like to be able to make sure that every child in our city has a place to call home. Other than prayer, do you recommend some other ways that families can help indirectly?

  • Emily - Oh my goodness — that letter just broke my heart. We are in the process of moving out of our shoebox apartment and into a home that will have a sliver of guest space, after the dust has settled and my own children have transitioned through the move, I’m going to research being a foster parent. I have always had a special place for children in upheaval and your cause just keeps my desire to help going strong.

    In the meantime, I’d love to help in other ways. Perhaps you could do a compilation post with resources and/or ideas for people who aren’t in a position to foster or be a CASA, but who would still like to ease the burden on these children.

    Thank you for sharing, and Chris deserves extra thanks for organizing and giving a strong voice to those who are so often brushed aside.

  • Tracie - Oh that list made me cry! My dream is to be a foster parent. When I moved across the state I got 2 ferret’s. In WA you can’t have ferrets and have a license. I have one left and my daughter graduates in over a year. My empty nester self will jump on the wagon for sure. This breaks my heart

  • Elizabeth - That letter…heart wrenching.

  • Devon - Thank you for being a voice for kids in foster care!

  • Holly - For anyone even thinking about fostering, you should consider starting the process as soon as possible. It takes awhile to get licensed. (6 months for me in MO) There is lots of paperwork and hoops to jump through, but it’s so worth it! I’d encourage you to jump in and do it. There’s never a perfect time.

  • Brady W. - okay, okay, OKAY!! I get it, God! I GET IT!!

    My husband has been talking about doing foster care for several months now. I’ve been resisting. Him and God have been persisting. EVERY time I start doubting it or thinking we shouldn’t do it, God does SOMETHING to let me know to keep going. And I finally GET IT. So thanks for following God’s prompting to post this because it’s helping me follow his prompt to foster.

  • Michelle - This brought me to tears… Thank you for sharing this and just for you.

  • Lauren - Oh wow, as I sit here nursing my own baby, that list from the foster child brings me to tears and breaks my heart.

  • Lisa - I foster…currently have 2 and waiting for a 3rd. To those who say they could never do this, I say, how could you not? Just try it.

  • Sarah - Ashley! I have loved watching the 111 project take flight. I’ll be honest with you, I keep feeling like this is an area God is pushing me towards but I am a single 28yr old. Honestly, I don’t know how I would do it. I travel every so often for work and my parents are in Dallas. Do you have any encouragement for advice for the young singles that feel led to take action?

  • Diana - That list is heartbreaking! We’ve been waiting to adopt for 18 months now but hard to figure out if foster is where we are supposed to be. I don’t think so right now (which is why we haven’t pursued it). Hope more cities can adopt this practice (and it sounds like others are from the comments!)

  • Andrea - Thanks so much, Ashley! We’re working towards adoption from China right now, and in the future would love to foster. Its difficult where we live with the requirements for home size and finding time to go to all the classes with my husband. Someday we will do it, though! Have you heard of http://www.safe-families.org – I have some friends who do it, more like temporary foster care for moms & dads who just need some time to figure stuff out and don’t have anyone to turn to.

  • risa west - We’ve talked about being foster parents when we’re empty nesters. We’ve also talked about taking on the older teens and being a home they can come home to after they age out, hopefully do some college, get jobs and kids of their own, for holidays and just throughout life. We have a long way to go as we’re expecting our caboose but I’m hoping to be a part of CASA once the little ones are old enough.

  • Kameha - Yes! Please give those of us who are unable to foster at the moment another way to help!

  • Julie - My husband and I got our foster license about 1 year ago. After 6 months of not getting a call (due primarily to the fact we were in a foster-to-adopt program – so more specialized)we learned about a program called Safe Families. I know that Safe Families does not exist in every state; however I would encourage those who are interested in foster care but may not have enough room or may not qualify for foster care for another reason to look into it. It is basically foster care/orphan prevention. We work more on a short-term basis and take kiddos in whose situations are heading towards foster care but aren’t quite to that point. So we had two boys last month stay with us. Their sweet momma needed psychological treatment and they were homeless. They had no other support systems. They did not cross the line to foster care, but they were heading there. So we took the kids while momma was able to have a needed hospital stay and then find a place for her and her kids to stay. Safe Families works with the parents to provide resources. It is a Christian ministry and churches try to provide support as well.
    I love foster care for what it can provide for the child (I hate that it has to exist though)
    But I love Safe Families for what it can provide for the whole family, when it is appropriate!
    Sorry this was so long just wanted to encourage others who may think foster care just won’t work for them.

  • Holly - Sarah – I’m a 31-year old single foster mom. It’s just important to have a support system around you. You will meet other foster parents in your training classes, and they can become a resource for you. Also, you can search out foster parent groups in your area. I’m involved in a FB group that shares resources (clothes, beds, toys, Halloween costumes, etc.), but also is a place to talk about issues, and ask questions. You can do it!

  • Jenn - oh my heart. i read that letter and just want to hug me a kid. thank you for sharing this. i hope to one day be able to foster or help out some way with foster care.

  • Emily H - Thank you, Ashley, for continuing to share the need for foster families! I am 23 years old and the oldest of 5 children. My parents started fostering three years ago, and without hesitation, everyone in our family would say that fostering is the best thing that has ever happened to us. Yes, it is often heart-wrenching and patience-trying, but the reward and privilege of caring for these children in the most intimate way, far overshadows the challenges. I have since moved out from my parents home, and I wanted to share with another commenter (Sarah) who was wondering how she could be involved as a single woman. Many cities have group foster homes, where they need volunteers. Another need is for respite care, for the foster families to be able to have a short break (state laws may vary on this, but in my state, non-licensed individuals can ‘babysit’ for short periods of time), this can be a HUGE encouragement and much needed support for the foster families. I too can’t wait to be in a position to foster, but for now, these are two ways as a single woman, I can still be involved.

  • Nicole L - I love reading about foster care because it is a continual motivation to me. I am in the process of convincing my husband that we can do it and the more I read about it the more I want to be a part of it! That list is heartbreaking. It’s such a simple list and surely we can all provide those things to a child who needs them!

  • Analene - What an awesome approach to a very real problem. Those children are the Church’s responsibility anyway, not the governments. Thank you for what you guys are doing!

    There was a town near where I grew up, and driving through there were big billboards paid for by one local church saying they would adopt every baby in their town who’s mother decided not to abort – and they did. What an incredible and tangible to minister to those who need Jesus’ very real hands in their life!

    Praising Him because of you~

  • Kristin S - “my own comb”

  • Kim B. - oh my gosh. the power of that letter and your list.

  • Chris Campbell - Emily thanks for commenting! We need to hear more from foster families to combat all the negativity surrounding it! In some states single individuals can foster, one of our good friends is a single foster mom and has fostered dozens of teenage girls and currently has 5 in her home here in Oklahoma!

  • Chris Campbell - Sarah thanks for sharing and thanks for being a foster parent!

  • Chris Campbell - Julie thanks for sharing about Safe families. They have just come to Oklahoma and it is definitely a new program we want to get going here in Tulsa. I know of several families in other states that have been a part of this and it is a great option for churches to consider and I think it is so much more of a positive experience when biological families are asking for help!

  • Chris Campbell - Kameha, thanks so much for your comment. Here would be a few ideas on how to be a resource to foster families. I think taking care of our existing foster families is one of the best things that we can do! – http://www.111tulsa.org/resources/ check out specifically the Foster Family Support Ideas.

    Beyond being a foster parent or supporting a foster parent here is some great ways to be involved. I would echo others comments with strong consideration for volunteering at the following
    1. Local shelters or group homes (find out where kids that go into custody in your area go, in most states it is a shelter or group home). At our local shelter there is a volunteer process and kids need tutoring, activities, and resources even though it is funded by the state.
    2. CASA – this is a great place to volunteer if you have the time. Through CASA you are a court appointed advocate for children to insure that things are being done in their best interest.
    3. Support a Case Worker – in most cases there is a case worker employed by the state or a private agency that is responsible to see that a child is first in a safe place then secondly is being advocated for. This is one of the hardest jobs on the planet so anything we can do as a community to see that these case workers are successful is so important. Sometimes it is a huge blessing just for these individuals to know that you care but I am sure they would love lunch, coffee, a card or even access to your church to be able to advocate for needs that some of their families or children might have.

  • Chris Campbell - Love Safe Families Andrea and we are excited about their expansion into our state!

  • Chris Campbell - Diana thanks for your willingness to adopt. We still have lots of needs for adoptive families in the US. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to encourage you in this process.

  • Chris Campbell - Hey Sarah! I would be glad to get you plugged in. I know you have so much to offer and just because you are single and travel there is still so much that can be done. I could really see you helping at the Laura Dester shelter or with 111! Feel free to email if I can help chris at 111Tulsa.org

  • Chris Campbell - Thank you Lisa! You are the ones we are cheering for! Do you have a good support network in your community?

  • Chris Campbell - Holly thanks for encouraging everyone with this. We often say filling out your paperwork and going through training is like the necessity to get a passport if you want to go overseas. You might as well get the passport so you can go when you are ready. In the same way, in theory most training should help you know if you are ready and able to foster and ultimately should help you be ready when you are ready!

  • Chris Campbell - Thank you Cherith for your work as a foster mom!

  • Chris Campbell - Hey Tina check out some of the other comments, don’t want to be redundant but also here is a link to a resource page with a lot of great ideas!

    http://www.111tulsa.org/resources/

  • Chris Campbell - Audrey thank you for your ministry as a foster parent! Amen & Amen!

  • Deb Mills - Hi Ashley. My daughter regularly reads your blog, and sent this one to me. I’m writing a piece on foster care in our community and would love to reference your blog. Would you allow me to use the image of the letter from that child? If yes, please email me the image. So burdened by this. Debbie

  • Laura - Thank you so much for this post, Ashleyann.

  • Chris Campbell - Deb, emailing you now with the pic. Yes please use it!

  • Christina - What stuck out to me is that 29 of them are boys, most of which are teenagers. Young men that so much need a daddy or a least a male role model to help stop the cycle from continuing. May God raise up godly men to love and care for these boys as their own!

  • Jessica @My Ardent Life - This is an amazing effort. Kudos to Chris. We know several foster families here in GA and we have been interested in foster/ adopt for many years. We have a special needs 5yo, 4yo, and one on the way and we just aren’t sure we would be good for it yet. But then I read this list of things a child wants… And I think, I can do that. I somerimes yell but I always apologize. I’m impatient but I encourage learning. I’m not very organized, or wealthy, or ambitious but I am loving and I am trying to be better at all the other things. And God is welcome and worshipped in our home. So maybe we’re more ready than we think. In prayer for a change in OK. God is doing big things.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my heart. I have a dear friend that just opened their home and there is already so much beauty flowing out.

  • Nina - Oh, I cry now. Thank you for sharing this. And I needed the tears o come out.
    I am an English interpreter, and Friday morning I went to interpret at a meeting with the social services in a small town here in Southern Sweden, held for 10 newly arrived single (no parents or other relatives)children, all boys.
    These chidren under 18 are very much hated here in Sweden, with racism growing at a frightening speed. Somehow it seems to provoke the worst feelings in people, the fact that young people, predominantly boys, come here alone, and there are all sorts of rumours about how they are not under age at all etc.
    This morning they were asked to introduce themselves, just saying their name, country of origin and age.
    It seems like a pretty quick and ordinary thing to do, but it turned into a special moment. These boys have suffered so much, and struggled so hard to get to my country, and they are so young and vulnerable. Yet here they are, and start giggling when two of them have exactly the same name and last name. One boy says his age in years, months and down to the day, because his birthday is in six days. After that, a few more add that they too have only a short time to their birthday. And they say it so innocently and sweet, and I think of my own children and how these boys will not have any kin nearby on their birthdays.
    Thank God the women in the staff are really warm and professional, and the whole meeting feels respectful and good. But reading your note still opened up for the cooped up tears in my heart. My heart that would like to be big enough to house all lonely children in the world.
    Thank you for your wonderful blog.
    Love,
    Nina in Sweden

  • Allison - what a beautiful person you are for advocating for these precious children
    I won’t be able to un-remember that letter

  • Ilse - My boyfriend and I have always wanted to be foster parents. Currently our home is quite dusty because we still have a lot of projects going on. But we are getting married this march after living together for three years and we feel like it’s time after that. We do not have a TV tough, so I hope the kid(s) can handle that!

  • 5 Friday Faves – On Foster Care, Losing Control, Best Bakeries, Pornography, and Efficiency | Blog – Deb Mills - […] Oklahoma, started just such an initiative. I read a bit of the story in his wife’s blog  A Turning Point then I wrote about foster care. We can care for these children together.Photo Credit: […]

  • jessica - Chris and Ashley, love y’all’s heart for these precious children! There is a neat organization that has been started for kids who have aged out of foster care to help them transition into adulthood–a really beautiful gift to give these kids who still so desperately need advice, encouragement and just to know someone is pulling for them. It is called The Camellia Network and might be a good fit for some of your readers who are not in a situation where they can take a foster child in at the moment. Blessings on your efforts!

  • Barbara - So love seeing this. We have been foster parents for a little over three years. We are in the process of trying to adopt two of our placements (that was never part of our plan, but wouldn’t change it for the world). We didn’t think we could ever do it. However, if God is giving you a call for this ministry and a heart for it everything falls in place…He provides….. our church is a great support system. Other foster parents understand what you are going through and can give you support and encouragement as well. We have people that bring us food when we have a new placement for a few days. There are so many ways to help if you aren’t in the place of being able to be a foster parent. Raise awareness. Pray. Pray. Pray. Love love love this post.

Your house always seems so calm.

People say this. To me. People that know me and come to my house. People that I don’t think are under the influence of anything, but I kind of wonder. And I scratch my head questioning if we could possibly be standing in the same room.

My house feels calm when kids go to bed and the beagle is asleep. Otherwise, something or someone is constantly zooming past my head. There are days I feel like I need to buy a hard hat and spray paint it a pretty shade of green. At any given moment, something is being spilled, someone is inside, someone is outside and someone else is looking for someone missing (hiding).  My friend’s boys stayed the night at our house this weekend. When she came to pick them up, one of my boys was outside with matches and foil. Science. Or something like that he said. Don’t worry…he is trained in how to use matches. Nonetheless, my point is my house is not calm.

Since we had a few extra kids for a night, we pulled the trailer mattresses inside for extra beds. The kids brought them down to the living room to return to the trailer. Mattresses on the floor in the living room don’t get left alone. I was trying to work on SnapShops. I told them I was going to take the mattresses outside and they strongly objected. I gave in…and then got my camera. If you can’t beat them, join them.

Also, the bandaid phase is still going strong.

9.15jump-019.15jump-02She is learning to make all kinds of new sounds. Some of those she has to close her nose to make (a whole different post on cleft speech issues for that)…anyway, she laughs so hard at some noises. It tickles her to try to make them.9.15jump-049.15jump-059.15jump-06I put my camera back up and returned to my computer to work. There is a reason most people that work from home have home offices.9.15jump-08My house is so very not calm.

I’m okay with it. I am sure letting my kids jump on mattresses and create Ninja Warrior training courses does not help any. I relish calm, quiet and order. It makes me giddy just thinking about sitting in my kitchen, alone, and all projects completed. One day I probably will sit alone in my kitchen with projects completed. And – I’ll probably enjoy it. Then, I’ll find my phone and go call a kid and we’ll laugh about all the years of ninja warrior training and mattress diving.

I heard once (can’t remember from who!) that one day we’ll tell stories about this time of our lives…what kind of stories do we want to tell?

I want to tell stories of life busting the seams of our house. Stories of paint brush obstacle courses and projects that took too long because so much life was happening.

Disclaimer: The paint roller was being rolled OFF the mattress. Rolled off when jumping took place…don’t want to stress anyone out about that 🙂

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The winner of the Totally Rad giveaway is Amy (ajgr…). Amy, you should have an email from me!

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  • Lori - Your children are beautiful! Looks like a fun place for your kids to grow up in and thrive!

  • Jenny - I love how they get so creative and just have fun. And that your oldest can tune it all out. Funny! 🙂

  • Mary - We had a sleepover at Nana’s this weekend, which also involved dragging the mattress to the floor. Mattress tumbling much have universal appeal!! As a Nana, I realize these seasons of childhood pass much too quickly. I am taking/making time to enjoy with the grandgirls!

  • Paige E - OMGosh, LOVE!

  • carol - When your kids are grown and gone, you want the chaos back. Sometimes the quiet is overrated. Need grandkids to spend the night soon!!!

  • brandy u - This is awesome. no disclaimers needed for this long time reader, though I understand why you have to give them.

  • Amy - Thank you!!! Still about can’t believe it! 🙂

  • Diana - I love this! I so miss these crazy days from my own childhood!

  • Lorraine R. - Life is too short and kids grow too fast to fight for a calm house!! What a great gift you are giving your children, to explore, be wild, be brave, and silly!! Such a great momma you are <3

  • kimberly oyler - how about i come play with those cuties while you finish that project? 😉 annnnnd have you thought about using that trailer of yours as an office? 🙂

  • Lynne Malan - Read an article on adoption once where it said that if a child, especially an adopted child, asks for a plaster, it is a sign of them asking for nurturing… and we should never not give them one…the same for when they ask to give you one, they are ‘nurturing’ you.

    that just changed my whole giving of plasters… my two went through that stage too and it is amazing! my daughter went from saying the plaster makes it better to mommy makes it better to i make it better and now she doesn’t need plasters any more.

    also, i believe in wild and free! Raised my kids with that intention and LOVE it! my house is the one where my kids and their friends are allowed to slide off the steps on mattresses, scream and run and hide everywhere,,even our room…

    wild and free!! and noisy!!! very noisy!! but calm? what’s that? hehe xx

  • Helen - Maybe “calm” isn’t so much a lack of activity as it a lack of stress… Maybe “calm” is a feeling and tone or the climate of the home, not the amount of movement… Maybe “calm” is the about the joy in the voices not the volume of them… Maybe… 🙂

  • Beth J - i continue to be inspired by you, your photos, your writing and mostly your “mothering!” thanks for sharing glimpses of your wonderful life with us! blessings to you and your family!

  • Stephanie T - When I was growing up my mother had a framed needlepoint hanging in our home that read “Cleaning and scrubbing can wait till tomorrow, for babies grow up we’ve learned to our sorrow. So quiet down cob webs, dust go to sleep, I’m rocking my babies and babies don’t keep”.

  • Helen - Stephanie T, That’s a verse from a longer poem called “Song for a Fifth Child” by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton. Being a fifth child, I always loved it.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I so relate! My house is so nutty. When people call, I can usually barely hear them. It used to stress me out. Now, I just smile.