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Room For One More At The Dinner Table

For four years, my husband, Tyler and I have been licensed foster parents. We embarked on the adventure in 2019, just before the pandemic hit, and during that time, we’ve had a dozen kids come and go on the ranch.

And in 2021, we adopted a son out of foster care, adding to our rowdy bunch of cowkids. It’s been a wild ride with plenty of ups and downs.

Even though the system can be challenging at times, and the stories are often quite heartbreaking, I can tell you this with great certainty — the kids are worth it.

Let me say it again — our nation’s vulnerable children, are absolutely worth fighting for.

Today, in the United States, there are nearly 400,000 children in foster care, and 125,000 of those kids are eligible for adoption and are awaiting forever homes.

Each year, more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care system, and without the support of a loving, caring adult for ongoing mentorship as they enter adulthood, these children are at increased risk of poor educational outcomes, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration, and substance abuse.

The reason I feel called to write about this topic in my column this week is because we got another call today for a sibling group. Did we have room for three?

It broke my heart to say “no,” but in this season of life we are in, we are absolutely maxed out at four. The kids are ages 9, 7, 6, and 5, and although we continue to renew our license after adopting our fourth child, we are content with adjusting to life as a family of six and navigating through these years together.

Maybe one day, we’ll have room for one more at the dinner table, and we sure pray we are ready to answer the call when God asks us to step up for one more. But for right now, this ranch mom who struggles to say “no” to anybody, had to say “no” to three kids in need of a safe place to stay.

It’s absolutely crushing to me not to be that family, but that’s why I feel it’s important to continue to use my platform to encourage others to step into this hard space.

In every community across rural America, there are children who need a family to say “yes” when that call comes in. We need families who are willing to do the hard thing and open up their homes to our youth.

Truly, I could go on and on about how foster care has impacted our family. It’s made our children more empathetic. It’s made us more aware to the traumas and challenges facing our neighbors. We are called to love one another, and I can’t think of a better way to do just that than by loving on a kid who just needs a safe, secure, loving home to stay for a little while, or maybe even forever.

And agriculture is the perfect setting for it. On our farms and ranches, we have wide open spaces, fresh air, beautiful scenery, and animals. It’s the ideal place for peace, healing, and comfort to take place. I’ve seen it first-hand again and again as these children have come to stay with us.

We’ve seen kids giggle as they pick grass to feed through the fence to curious calves. They have been wowed by tractors, and they love a ride on the ranger with the whole family. But probably the best part has been sharing a meal together, gathered around the dinner table.

There are many challenges facing this nation today. Far too many to count. And while I often get frustrated at our politicians for banging the pulpit to point the blame and never provide real solutions, to me, the answer is quite simple.

I believe many of our nation’s challenges can be solved by turning to our faith, loving our neighbors, and focusing on our families. A family that works together, plays together, dreams together, and prays together, stays together. And that’s the example we can set for those in our community who need it most.

Be the change you want to see. If it is to be, it is up to you and me. God bless you all!

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