It was in middle school where Grace Denker first heard about foster care. Her best friend’s family became foster parents to three children. She watched how they loved on them and did life as a family even though the children were not their own. Grace would help care for the children and in high school, she saw the family become one with the finalization of adoption. After graduating high school and throughout college, she found herself naturally gravitating to foster kids and families. She served children in the kid’s ministry at church, she loved foster kids at school and at work. It felt like God was consistently putting foster care in her life. She wondered if she was supposed to be a foster parent.
Last year, the burden to foster care became obvious. So, she prayed and asked God how could she be a foster care parent? She was so young, single and didn’t have the means to take care of children let alone for herself yet. She then had an idea. Could it be God was leading her to start a ministry for foster families at church? She met with a few people at church to consider what this could look like and after a month, not hearing anything back and with nothing happening, she prayed again.
“I prayed to God,” Grace shared. “I asked Him ‘would you just give something, Lord?’ And then it became abundantly clear a few days later. At a friend’s house I was talking to her about it all. She said it seems like God had answered my question. I didn’t know what she meant. It was obvious to her that I needed to become a foster parent and then asked me ‘what is stopping you?’”
Out of obedience to the Lord, Grace went online and filled out an interest form with a local foster agency.
“I promised if someone got back to me that would be my ‘yes’ and that God would do the rest,” Grace confessed.
Twelve hours after submitting the interest form, someone contacted Grace from the foster agency. Shortly after, a Zoom interview with lots of questions and then registration for classes. She completed the classes, moved out of an apartment and into a house, and became licensed this past April. Three months later, she received a call from the foster agency.
“You know I told God ‘yes’ and was confident that He would do the rest of it,” Grace said with humility. “And He did. It was 340 days from submitting an interest form to the first placement from the call on July 3rd.” Since then, Grace has learned a new definition of exhaustion and surrender.
A young brother and sister were placed with Grace. Two children who carry trauma and trauma that has added to Grace’s trauma from her own childhood. Grace has learned to recognize their triggers but then also her own. She finds herself dancing around the triggers, so no one gets too upset and hurt AND that sweet spot out of a place of love. She has also had a front seat to God’s sovereignty and truth since becoming a foster parent.
“I think that it quickly became apparent to me that I was not fully keeping my hands opened to God and surrendering to Him,” Grace confessed. “Every single day was filled with lies from Satan like that I was failing, that I am not good at it, and the utter pain we were all feeling at every moment. I kept thinking that I am not leaning into God as I should be. To be a good mother to these kids. I think the handing over to Him is still not fully there. It’s hard to keep your hands open. I think it’s getting easier to recognize when I am struggling. I can say that this sucks and that God is writing their stories.”
The last few months, God has provided. Grace has learned more about who she is in Christ, about life, about herself, and has gained a larger perspective and belief.
“My prayer life has completely changed,” Grace began to explain. “Practically recognizing my prayers and asking for help are breaking down the walls in me. My friends did not ask to be the people helping with foster children. They have graciously opened their arms and have showed me what it’s like leaning on people who love Jesus and not the world. I’m going to prayer and looking to scripture for answers to the questions like how do I disciple and disciple with trauma and mental health, and then just what it looks like to be a daughter or son of God. Praying for ways to show the kids who their identity is even if I can’t directly say to them per parent request.”
Through prayer and community, Grace has been given support and tangible tools to disciple. One specific way is at the kid’s bedtimes. By being diligent and consistent with prayer and scripture at bedtime, the kids now don’t want to go to bed without it.
“In the beginning when doing our bedtime routine,” Grace revealed, “I would pray over the day and thank Jesus for everything. Two months into it, one of the kids started going ‘you have to thank God for this and this too’...he was very specific and if I forgot something, he would stop me and add to it. It reminded me how beautiful every day is, thanking God for every single moment, everything and even if it sounds stupid. One time he thanked God for his tennis shoes because they made him fast at PE. I am recognizing, through the eyes of an 8-year-old, that those small things are important and exactly what Jesus wants me to talk to him about. It’s also helped me with scripture memorization. We do posters and tape them to the wall. It helps them with reading. The three of us repeat it during dinner, lunch, and other times throughout the day because it’s right there.”
“We also sing worship music every chance we are together. They don’t know they are worshipping but now ask for it especially their favorite song by Joseph O'Brien called “Take your time.” I find it funny that the whole song is about our entire lives waiting on God’s timing. The kids don’t realize its worship music and when they ask about the songs, I get to share Gospel truth with them. It’s been amazing.”
Grace’s City Group has come alongside her and the kids. They all got background checked so they can help care for the kids and in a few months, the kids now call them aunts and uncles and cousins.
“The kids get excited to see them at City Group and at church,” Grace said with a huge smile. “We didn’t get to go this past week, but the kids requested to video with each person to say that they missed them. It is so beautiful to have other people who love Jesus and who are around them and loving them. We don’t talk to them about Jesus, but we just read about Him in the Jesus Storybook Bible. They experience the love of Jesus from our friends and especially the men in my City Group. To have men love on them and to see healthy men who love Jesus has helped them.”
Grace also appreciates so much what Citylight Kids at West (CLK) has done for her and the kids. The team has researched and found solutions for the kid’s needs and have accommodated their needs each Sunday.
“We go to CLK at the 9 am almost every week,” Grace replied when asked. “It took a trial of error to keep the kids entertained and focused and now almost four months of coming to church and doing the same thing, they sit in the whole group and participate. That is because of the patience, work, and a lot of prayer from the CLK team and so many others. When the kids hear me give them an answer regarding Jesus, they think it’s the coolest thing. It’s been super encouraging to my faith as well.”
Today, Grace takes one day at a time. Each day can be exhausting and from so many, ever so changing factors, also daunting. She has come to realize that our foster care system is broken and the negative impact it can have on her and the kids and other families. She also has been given a unique perspective into single parenting. She knew going into foster care as a single person would provide some challenges but of course, she didn’t understand what those would be nor the amount of them. Through being a foster care parent, she sees the need and opportunity for the Church to step in and be the hands and feet of Jesus. She also sees parents, all parents, with a new set of eyes and understanding and has a deeper respect and love for parents everywhere.
“People see foster or adoptive parents as these special and magical people, almost as if they are saints,” Grace exclaimed with a soft voice. “However, God sent Jesus to be these kids perfect saint and He is calling foster parents to be image bearers to them in a short window of time. We are trying to figure this out and navigate life with factors unknown. I think all parents are saints.”
Looking ahead, well, Grace tries not to. It feels terrifying. Currently, her kids are barely in her home because of school and visits with their parents and everything else. The fact of not knowing how long the kids will be with Grace is a heavy burden. Sometimes it feels like a yo-yo. One day she’s told that the kids will be with her forever, the next day the agency is talking about reuniting them with their birth family.
“I wake up terrified to what God is going to do but grateful at the same time,” Grace unveiled with frankness. “I get to do what I can do in this moment for these kids. I am called to love them right now...even if it hurts a lot. I continue doing this until God calls me to stop. The hurt is part of the story. He is building up those gifts and faith in you in those times of hardship or in the mundane. Letting God work in that, so that ultimately His glory will shine through in the everyday moments, even if you think nothing is happening at all, is what it’s all about.”
Looking back and considering all of this, Grace wouldn’t change anything. She encourages others who are considering adoption and fostering to do it. That it’s worth it. Grace concludes by saying,
“Even though every single day is so difficult, every night when they go to bed, I sit and recognize that God is using me in their lives and I get to see God and know God more because I said ‘yes’ a year ago. Saying ‘yes’ can be the most beautiful thing when it comes to foster and adoption care. Even if it’s the hardest ‘yes’ in your whole life.”
If you have any questions about foster care, you can email Grace at Grace.email@example.com