We had many opportunities in April to present the vision of Joy Meadows to leaders, agencies, and potential donors. I am grateful for that. Leadership of the Department of Children and Families were so encouraging and supportive of getting Joy Meadows started. It was exciting to be able to verbalize this dream foster care community to the powerful and influential people in Kansas. In the midst of that, our life as foster parents continued. We had weekly therapies, sibling visits, trips to agency offices, case worker visits, calls to guardian ad litem, court reports, emails to teachers, doctor's appointments, and the list goes on and on. And just when you get a little wrapped up in yourself and pat yourself on the back for the good work you are doing....you get smacked in the face with the reality of the "one night" kids and realize there is so much work to be done. How little we are giving! How wrapped up we are in our comfort!
My mother's heart was so sad last night. We had one free night from our crazy schedule of 9 people in the house, so we agreed to take a "one night." That is a foster child who doesn't have a permanent home to go to so they bounce from home to home for one night or sleep in an agency office. They arrive at bed time and are picked up early in the morning. A lot of these teens are from hard places, and yes, a little rough sometimes...but they are CHILDREN. I can't even fathom how this child who arrived at our doorstep with nothing but a backpack and bag full of meds doesn't expect anyone to say goodnight, doesn't expect anyone to wash her clothes, give her dinner, and certainly not a hug. It breaks my heart. Every child needs a family. They need someone to notice if they brushed their teeth. They need more than a random bed at night. So for one night we offer a bed, a smile, a shower, and this morning we say good-bye and send this child on to the next 24 hour stranger - praying she is safe and somehow finds a home. We need Joy Meadows now! Praying for our miracle and for all of these sweet kids who are treasures to God, and need to be treated that way in our care of them.
-- Sarah Oberndorfer
Tonight my family had the opportunity to meet with Governor Colyer, the First Lady, and DCF Secretary Gina-Meier Hummel. They hosted a few foster families from across the State at the Governor's mansion. Their kindness and genuine concern was evident. They listened to complaints, suggestions, and also shared information. As a foster parent, it is encouraging to see the solidarity of those in our government, agencies, and foster parents continue to strengthen around our goal of creating a path forward for these almost 7,300 children in foster care. Tonight I watched my biological children and my teenage foster children observe our leaders sit with humility, respect, and empathy as they listened to the wide array of people and stories before them. What a great thing for these kids to get to witness! This evening also reminded me that there are many problems with a "system" that is put in place to care for broken and hurting families and children. But no matter how much we manipulate and re-work that "system" that will never be the solution to healing. We each need to help carry the burden of the "system" in our State. A department, agency, policy, or statute cannot solve every problem. These are our children. We each have a role to play. We need our government to strive for excellence in this system of child welfare, but we also need to be willing to creatively work out the solution for excellence by giving whatever we can of ourselves.
Thank you for your continued support of Joy Meadows. We are daily affirmed that this model of foster care families in community is a solution to meet the needs of these children in foster care. We are prayerfully and diligently moving forward to raise the funding for the purchase of the land and first Joy Meadows home.
We've had the opportunity to spread the word about Joy Meadows lately! Thanks to reporter Zac Summers with Fox 4 KC news for reporting on the current needs in the Kansas foster care system and our plan for how Joy Meadows can help. We are getting the word out that we found the land, home, and a community center to purchase and now we are fundraising so we can move forward to buy it!
We also had the opportunity to speak on daytime radio at 98.1 KMBZ to discuss foster care and the huge need for our model at Joy Meadows.
A new t-shirt campaign fundraiser has just launched for Joy Meadows. This new t-shirt design is made to bring awareness to the 7,200 children in foster care in the State of Kansas. These children deserve the very best we can give them. Many of them do not have a foster home to go to. We believe that a child's time in foster care does not need to be just about survival - but is should be a time of healing, hope and joy as they prepare for the next step in their journey, whether that is reunification with their parents or adoption. Every child deserves a home. To the 7,200 -- we see you, and Joy Meadows is preparing a home for you.
Buy a t-shirt, bring awareness, and help us build homes. Shirts are available for order through March 28t, 2018.
We have been searching for a perfect location for Joy Meadows and we finally found a place for Joy Meadows to call home. We found a tract of land within the Basehor community that has over 50 acres, a large house, a multi-purpose building and office on site. This means that we could be up and running with one large foster home right away while we start building the others! The multi-purpose building could immediately be put to use to provide activities for foster children and host community activities. Now all we need to do is raise the funds to move forward with the purchase!
In the coming days we will provide new ways to give your financial support to our community: (1) become a monthly donor; (2) become a business/corporate sponsor; (3) a new t-shirt campaign will launch mid-March; and (4) schedule a date to have a Joy Meadows rep to speak to your organization for fundraising. We can't wait to give you more info about this great opportunity for Joy Meadows!
Recent news has highlighted the 7,200 children in foster care in Kansas, and the limited 2,700 foster homes to care for them. We have "homeless foster children" in our state. At a basic level, a primary purpose of Joy Meadows is to provide more beds for children in foster care. However, at Joy Meadows we don't want children to just survive foster care -- we want to give them a way to hope and healing as they move forward on their journey to reunification with their parents, or adoption. We believe joy can be found in this journey, and we must provide our very best for these children.
This week is Thanksgiving, and we all have much to be thankful for! It's the usual stuff like a home, food, jobs, a car, family, and the list goes on. But I don't want my "thankfulness" to arise only when I look at my life in comparison to those stuck in the brokenness of this world all around me. I've become thankful for any brokenness or suffering in my life as well because it makes my dependence on God so much more necessary. It makes my friend Jesus a constant companion to help me tread through situations that seem impossible or deplorable and find purpose and joy. I came across this wonderful article on the Christian Alliance for Foster Orphans. It talks about how we must serve these children out of our poverty rather than our abundance. What a wonderful picture! We think we are going to provide them with an abundance of material things, and what God does is use the poverty of our souls when we realize there is nothing we can do on our own to love, to give, to heal, to keep going, and meet their needs. He takes our gift of "not enough" in our hearts and He fills us up with HIM. And that is when we can truly love these kids and truly make a difference. So this Thanksgiving let's look at the poverty in our souls, thank God for it, and also thank Him for the abundance that He has to offer us.
Here is an excerpt of the article by Jason Johnson, but I hope you will read the whole thing:
When speaking of the widow’s small offering in comparison to that of the rich, Jesus says, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had….” (v.3-4)
If the fostering and adoption journey has taught me one thing it’s this – we love these kids out of our poverty, not out of our abundance. Going into it we know we have a certain amount of resources that might make their lives more comfortable, and perhaps even more enjoyable. But we quickly learn that’s not ultimately what this is all about.
Somehow, their stories, and the gravity of becoming a part of them, expose a deficiency not in our stuff, but in our souls. We realize we are not so much bringing these kids out of their “poverty” and into our “abundance,” but perhaps in many ways they are rescuing us out of our “abundance” by exposing us to our own “poverty.” That, then, becomes the place from which we love them – a deficient, broken, impoverished place within us that I’m convinced Jesus looks at and says, “Yes. That’s it right there. That’s the ‘more’ I’m looking for.”
I was struck this week by the need for "community." As a parent of four biological children and four foster children, just surviving can be exhausting. Just like any family, there is never enough milk in the fridge, clean clothes in the drawers, money on the lunch account, time to get places, or adults to drive. But this past week in my little circle of foster parents, I was reminded of the heaviness that children in foster care carry, along with the foster parents who shoulder the burdens alongside them in addition to the normal craziness. In one week we saw one child face a move and yet another transition and new school, as biological parents also faced a termination trial. We saw another child move from a temporary home to another home, hoping to be closer to siblings and connection. We saw other children who went home to biological parents for a year, return back into foster care with more needs and instability than ever -- and a foster parent waiting and willing to take all that back into their home out of the desire to be the one constant for these children, regardless of the immense cost to the foster family. We saw other children have to face the histories of abuse and meet the challenges that brings as they grow up and try to find "normal." It gets to be too heavy for any one child, or even one family, to bear.
But here is the JOY -- we also saw people gather as a community and support those great needs this last week. Sweet teachers stepped in to help a child with transitioning to a new school. Another foster family stepped in to take a child into their home when they had to move in order to alleviate the burden of a maxed-out foster home. Families who do not foster decided to take meals to the foster home taking extra kids who came back into custody. A family who had been thinking about fostering opened their home so siblings could stay close together. People brought clothing to share with kids who needed it. Moms committed to pray for children in foster care, even though they aren't their own, as they were facing some tough situations from their past. And that is where the joy comes from. That is what community can accomplish. "Community" is defined as "the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common."
Community is essential to foster care. It requires people to gather around a child in need and share the attitude that we will care. We will help carry the burden. We will be inconvenienced. We will be sad and a little overwhelmed at the brokenness of the world. But we can all do something. At Joy Meadows, we want to bring joy in the journey to healing and home. That journey looks different for each child and each foster family. But the needs are the same. The community of caring is essential. We can do this!
Joy Meadows, Inc. has been in existence for just a few weeks now. It's surreal to see the pictures, the name, the website, the t-shirts....all are really here and represent a physical presence of this dream that's been in our hearts and minds for years! The amazing responses we have received from people in support of the mission of Joy Meadows has been moving as well. Thank you for caring about our kids -- kids who you don't know, but you are wrapping your arms around in awareness, prayer, and support by believing in the vision of Joy Meadows. The first t-shirt campaign is almost done! You have until Friday, October 20th to order the first ever Joy Meadows t-shirts! Don't miss out!
The idea of Joy Meadows didn't come about because we need one more good cause we can all get behind. It didn't come about because it would be a fun adventure. It didn't come about because we have extra time or resources. It came about because there is a world that most of us don't experience on a day to day basis and if we don't give it light, this world of foster care and these sweet children who are in it will never be given the value and support they deserve and need. There are over 7,000 children in foster care in the State of Kansas. While the number of children coming into state custody is increasing, the number of foster homes closing due to burnout is also increasing. The "system" cannot solve this problem on its own. It takes all of us to come along side these children, foster families, case workers, therapists, foster agencies, and state offices to demonstrate to these children that they have value and we stand with them. We must do better. There is a better way. However, it requires all of us to open our eyes and see the reality of this foster care world and realize that every single person can play some part in the solution! We cannot avert our eyes any longer because it is too hard emotionally to enter this world voluntarily and see the pain and trauma that these children have to endure involuntarily. We are all part of giving healing and joy to these children. What will you do? Will you donate? Will you volunteer? Will you pray? Will you become a foster parent? Will you support a foster family?
Here is a Facebook post from this summer that outlines the experience of a foster parent and the frustration of not having enough beds to offer children, or resources, or time. It's a glimpse into the reality about foster care in Kansas.