Fostering Our Future
by: FOR Orlando
Fostering Our Future aims to mobilize, organize, and equip local churches and families to care for vulnerable foster children as a compassion ministry of the local church. They are a community-based, church-led partnership designed to solve the Central Florida foster care problem. They do this by training and supporting local churches to meet the need for foster families and volunteer support in their community. Read the story below to learn more about Fostering Our Future.
Family Advocate, Fostering Our Future
We’ve been fostering for about four years now. Fostering was an opportunity to stand in the gap for a child. And it’s in the Bible, you know? The orphans and the widows. I was a pastor’s daughter, and my whole life I was kind of focused on James 1:27. Growing up we were always working with the widows, but as I got older, I felt like God was calling me to advocate for children.
There are so many children that have next to nothing right here in our area, right here in Orlando. There are over 22,000 children in foster care in the state of Florida. At this point, there just aren’t enough homes for children in this area.
I just remember having a conversation with my husband, saying, “I really feel like God is calling us to step in. And we can do this. We’ve had five kids; we know we can do this. We have the room. We’ll make it work.”
I was connected with Fostering Our Future as a foster parent, then served with them for a period of time. The opportunity came to help care for some of the other families in the community, and it was during COVID so there were a lot of people locked down. So I was bringing toilet paper, paper towels, and food items to families. There were children still being unified in the system, but they didn’t have the resources because we were all shut down.
I joined the Fostering Our Future staff in November 2021 as a Family Advocate. I’ve had the opportunity and privilege to walk alongside many other foster families and be a part of training them as they stand in the gap for the children in their homes.
At Fostering Our Future, we equip, we train, and we support foster families and bio families. The goal is not adoption, you know? The goal of fostering is reunification with the bio family, but there are some children that do move into adoption.
We have fostered a total of 9 children, the longest being the last two that we had.
She came to us on June 28, 2021, at 4 lbs 10 oz. She had been in the NICU for 5 weeks, a substance-exposed baby. Beautiful little baby. We actually already had a child in our home, but they were struggling to find a home for her when she was discharged. Normally we take older children, but in this case, they said they might have to take her to a hotel room if they didn’t find a place. I called my husband and he said, “Take her home.”
We’ve had her for 15 months and it’s been a roller coaster of a case, as many foster cases are. Although we have fostered several children over the years, adoption wasn’t our intent. We were told a year ago that this case may go to adoption, and they asked if we would be willing to adopt her. We said yes. But in this case, we had the assistance of Truleia Fuller, an attorney that also works with Fostering Our Future. This case could have gone on for another year if not for her. She did a wonder in changing the course of this case.
There are things in your life you envision. This is not one of them, that I’d be 25 years into marriage and adopting a baby. We already have five boys. We didn’t expect to adopt at all. We didn’t foster to get to this point. But we said, “Life is already busy. I guess what’s one more?”
We always pray that God would go before us and give us wisdom, discernment, and clarity. That he would make his will known. Not ours. And here we are. God just was in this. He is good and his way is always best.
I’m not saying you need to foster to adopt. We foster to stand in the gap. The opportunity to stand in the gap and point these children to Christ, it’s basically living out the gospel. And there’s an opportunity for that with the bio family as well.
It’s a generational thing. I had one case where grandma had been in foster care, the mother had been in foster care, and then the kids. How do we stop that? We want to help break that.
One of the foster children we had in our home, the bio mother got baptized and First Orlando last November. We have another little boy who was in our home by a First Orlando family and that child is going to grow up in the church, and we’ve gotten the opportunity to get to know and care for his bio mother as well.
There are so many opportunities to volunteer. Not everyone is called to foster, but there is a role for everyone. Whether it’s making a meal, delivering groceries. We have someone who just bakes cakes! We have people who tutor, people who say, “I’ll bring a pack of diapers!” or, “I have some clothes my kids have grown out of!” There’s something for everyone.
To send a note of encouragement to the Stephenson family, email ForOrlando@FirstOrlando.com.Back to Stories