My white-haired neighbor is beginning a new chapter in her life. A time when most people her age are traveling or enjoying hobbies after retiring, Kara has just found her second calling.
I see her push a stroller up the street every day, and every day her bringing the stroller back down the hill on our cul-de-sac. The baby in the stroller is not one of her five grandkids. Kara has hazel eyes, light skin, and an oval face. Baby J has huge brown eyes, deep dimples, and soft full cheeks. The differences are for a simple reason. Baby J is not related to Kara. He is a gorgeous African-American baby whom Kara and her husband welcomed into their home as their foster baby.
Kara and Jason never planned on becoming foster parents at their age. But they prayed about it and found themselves saying, “Yes!” On January 17, 2015, Baby J came to live with them. A healthy baby boy, 8 pounds and 5 days in the world, he came from a “holding home” to his new family and his new home.
The “joys” of having a newborn, included feeding every 2-3 hours around the clock and staying up to “play” at night. It had been a while since Kara had faced challenges like these. I told Kara I honestly don’t remember how I got through that period with my own children. I can’t imagine going through it again, even at my ripe old age of 38. Kara responded that at her age, she doesn’t need as much sleep and she doesn’t have other older children to attend to during the day. She said that one day she would be old and could sit in a rocker all day and sleep as much as she wants - but she’s not there yet! I laughed.
Kara grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania, where the children of friends and extended family often stayed in her home. Although her parents never officially fostered children, her parents always looked after other kids. Kara’s pastor is also a foster parent. So when she retired last year, she felt like she should do something to help foster children and their families. Kara and her husband, Jason, found out that there's a great need for foster care respite, so they decided to go through the foster parent training in order to be eligible to watch foster children when foster parents need a break. Foster children cannot be left with babysitters or caretakers who have never been officially screened and trained to provide foster care.
For about four months, Kara and Jason provided foster care respite. Different foster children came through their home for short-term periods from a few days to up to a week. Kara loved and prayed for each of the foster children in her care, ranging in age from 6 months to 10 years old. Many of them have come back for repeat stays.
Kara got a call one day in January asking if she would be willing to take a newborn as a long-term placement, or at least until the birth mother would be able to take care of him again. The state required the birth mom to complete programs that can take up to a year before she could regain custody of him.
The birth mother’s older child was placed in the care of another foster family in Kara’s church, but that family could not take an infant as well. The hope was that the older child and his baby brother could form a bond if they were placed in families who knew each other and lived in close proximity.
Today, Baby J is thriving in Kara’s care. He’s smiling, cooing, and laughing -- and thankfully he's sleeping through the night now. Baby J’s birth mother also seems to be doing well, and Kara doesn’t know exactly when Baby J will go back to his birth mother. Kara’s heart breaks a little when she talks about it. She doesn’t know what the future holds for this precious child she’s fed and changed and held in her arms every day since he came to her from the hospital.
If indeed he returns to his birth mother, Baby J will not remember Kara. Kara will never forget him. And even though the little one may not know her face, Kara has left a mark on his life forever. She has prayed for Baby J every day of his life so far and will continue to do so. The fact that Baby J was placed with Kara’s loving care reminds me that God has not abandoned him. God sees him, knows him, and loves him. God has great plans for Baby J, and Kara has been an essential part of that plan.
Kara has also been changed forever by fostering Baby J. She told me that she feels called to take another baby after Baby J leaves, and is also championing the cause of foster care at her church and surrounding area churches to spur on more Christian families to consider foster care.