"Let’s fight to go above and beyond in showing love."
Jamie Finn started fostering because she wanted to “rescue kids who had terrible parents.” She was immediately humbled with her first placement when she realized that she wasn’t all that different than the biological parents of the child she was caring for—it was only the grace of God that separated her decisions from their decisions. God began to change her heart and her mission regarding foster care and biological parents. Listen in to learn how she works to support, love and go above and beyond for her kids’ biological parents!
Changing perspective about biological parents
Jamie says getting to know the stories of the kids’ parents had a huge impact on changing her perspective about them. It’s easy to look at someone’s choices and judge them on those choices—but when you see the full story, your perspective changes. Learning about her first placement’s mother’s story, which included abuse, parental suicide and chronic illness, prompted Jamie to understand how immensely privileged her life had been.
“I’ve had a blessed life—anything I was, was due to the grace of God,” she says. “It’s only His grace that makes us who we are.” When she compared this mom’s past and present with her own past and present, it was much easier to be compassionate. God has completely changed her perspective and ultimately her heart for the parents of the kids she fosters.
Meeting birth parents for the first time
In New Jersey where Jamie and her family live, the system is set up in such a way that it’s easy to create and maintain distance between the foster parents and the biological parents. Jamie has to take steps to open herself up and pursue the relationship with biological parents, but seeing them as humans who love their children and remembering that God loves them and sent Jesus to die for their sins helps her get past the nervousness. “Those things are real no matter what I feel about them,” she says.
Establishing the connection
Jamie starts building relationship immediately by creating a context for communication with a back and forth journal. In this notebook, she’ll share basic details about the child’s sleeping and eating habits, what they like and don’t like. She asks if there are certain ways the parent would like her child’s hair done or other types of practical parenting activities. This tears down walls because the information provides immediate conversation topics. Jamie almost always has this type of written communication prior to meeting a birth parent face-to-face.
In addition to practical details, Jamie also includes messages to the birth parents such as “I’m for you,” “I know this is your child,” “What are things you’d like me to do to support you” and “I’m praying for you.” This process of proactively asking for feedback and input helps establish a relationship even before they’ve met. It helps to tear down walls because the birth parent knows that Jamie is not trying to adopt her child and that her goal is to help the birth parent succeed.
Setting the culture of communication from day 1 helps Jamie and the biological parents talk about difficulties openly and lets her share the fact that she’s not only doing practical activities to help keep the parents connected, but that she’s also praying for them.
What about resistant parents? And resistant workers?
Some parents are not as communicative as others, but Jamie continues to do what she can to provide information and support in as many ways as possible. “I want to be able to say, both the child and to God, that I did everything I could to show love and go above and beyond what was required.”
Jamie has found that sometimes she just needs to push a little harder or ask one more question—or ask a more specific question—to be able to help a family. Sometimes she feels the best interest of the child falls through the cracks for a variety of reasons—it could be caseworker capacity or limited manpower. But as a foster parent who is working to support the child and the child’s parents, she feels there are times she can step in and fill the gap.
Going above and beyond
One way Jamie goes above and beyond involves looking for ways a parent is missing out on experiences with their child and filling those gaps. For example, she’ll send children to parent visits in their Halloween costume or their Christmas clothes. Applying the Golden Rule helps her decide on other things—“how would I want someone to treat me if I were in their shoes? What would I want to know, see or experience regarding my kids?”
To Jamie, it’s all about showing love and compassion. “If I’m only doing what I ‘have’ to do—the bare minimum—I’m probably not showing love. Let’s fight to not do the bare minimum…let’s fight to go above and beyond.”
Her reasoning for this goes back to the kids. “If we’re supporting the parents, the kids will benefit as well.” Supporting the birth parents through a positive relationship also helps the maintain the relationship after the kids have returned home. Laying the foundation early will help the birth parent be willing to continue. And Jamie wants the relationship to continue—she provides her phone number because she wants them to feel like they have access to ask questions and stay in touch. She feels it’s the right thing to do. “Doing the right thing is right and smart. And it’s good for the kids and for us.”
Ultimately, Jamie believes that building a relationship with birth parents can open the door for them to learn about Jesus, and that’s a win because they desperately need hope that only He can give. “Our kids’ parents need freedom from addiction and the other negative influences in their lives. They need Jesus. Being able to share that is the greatest thing I can do.”
How does a positive relationship with birth parents help the kids?
Children benefit from foster parents telling information to birth parents—it provides a continuity of care and enables visits to be sweet, happy and successful. Jamie sees her role as helping the birth parent be successful, so doing anything that can bridge the trauma of transitions is positive. She works hard to be pro-parent and pro-reunification—even understanding that what she says might influence a caseworker, lawyer or judge and change the fate of a family getting back together.
Instead of being tempted to create a case against a birth parent, positive interactions can change the trajectory of that family’s future. “God created families to be together and sin has broken it. God is about healing and redeeming, so that’s what we should be about, too. When we’re doing our job, we can help families be brought back together.”
Jamie’s primary advice to foster parents who are struggling to care for birth parents is to be convinced by God’s word that he has a plan and that he loves these families. “Do the work in your heart first regarding God’s divine plan. Your decisions and actions will flow from there.”
RESOURCES FROM TODAY’S SHOW
Foster the Family Blog – Jamie shares her real struggles and feelings as she works to apply God’s Word to the trials and difficulties of foster care.
Real Mom Podcast – Moms being real and talking about their parenting journey.
Foster the Family – Providing practical items (new clothes, a meal, hygiene supplies) for the first 24 hours a child is in care to local foster and adoptive families in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area as well as community for foster parents to share, support and be in each other’s lives. FTF also provides context for people to know how they can serve the foster care community.
Hopefully, this episode has helped you right where you are on your foster care journey. That’s the goal. If you enjoyed it, will you tell others?
The best way to do that is to rate the podcast on Apple Podcasts and leave us a brief review! Your ratings and reviews help us get this podcast in front of new listeners. Your feedback also lets us know how we can better serve you. Thank you so much!
Meet Our Guest
Jamie is the biological, adoptive, and foster mother of 4-6 children. She is the author of “Foster the Family Blog,” which is read by 100,000 people each month and has been featured in over 20 online and print publications, as well as the host of the Real Mom Podcast. Jamie serves as the director of Foster the Family, a nonprofit which seeks to encourage and support foster and adoptive families, mobilize the church and community for foster care and adoption, and advocate for vulnerable children in the New Jersey and Philadelphia region.
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