Fostering Is a Family Affair
November 2018 · Foster Care / Adoption, Ministry News
Lydia Lund prayed for eight years that her husband, Tyler, would share in her desire for them to become foster parents. Thanks to a career in social work, she knew firsthand the effect a good foster parent can have on the life of a child. Although not completely opposed to the idea, Tyler just wasn’t sure if it was a good option for them.
He and Lydia had recently started their own family and already had two little girls, ages five and two. Then one day, following a conversation with friends who are foster parents, something clicked with Tyler. Three weeks later the Salina couple were in a foster parent training course.
“I knew that once he decided, we would go all in,” said Lydia.
Tyler said it was their description of how fostering had enriched their friends’ family and taught empathy and understanding to their children
“My heart started to melt,” he said. “Maybe it’s selfish, but I wanted my kids to join us in ministering to these kids. What better way is there to reach out to others and share love than as a family?”
They started slowly four years ago, providing respite care and taking in emergency placements.
“It was neat to see our daughters get involved and discover what roles they could play,” said Tyler. “Two of our first placements were little boys, ages ten and eight. It was bedtime, but the 10-year-old wanted a cookie and became agitated because we said no, that he needed to go to bed. Suddenly, he bolted for the door – as I tried to remember my training about how to handle a situation like this. He was outside, about to jump off the porch and run, when my 5-year-old daughter said, ‘Remember what Daniel Tiger says. When you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.’ She helped him breathe and count to four, and then he quietly walked back inside the house and sat down. To see her handle herself so well, to not be scared, was pretty amazing.”
Now, the Lunds have three girls, along with an 18-year-old foster daughter and her own 2-year-old girl. They also foster a toddler boy. The older foster daughter came to their home about two years ago, eight months pregnant, and unable to speak English. From Guatemala, she spoke Spanish and an Indian dialect. Fortunately, Lydia speaks fluent Spanish.
“We supported her in giving birth to her child and helped make her as comfortable as possible,” said Lydia. “Because she’s 18, she could age out, but she still has one year of high school left. So, she’ll remain in foster care until she’s finished. She’s doing great in school, and now speaks English very well. Supporting teen moms has subsequently become something we really care about.”
“It’s been an interesting dynamic, having a teenager for our oldest foster child,” added Tyler. “On any given day, there’s potential conflict. After all, we’ve had to learn to communicate in two languages – Spanish and teenager. Plus, there are the cultural differences. It’s required lots of work, but it’s also added so much richness to our family. It’s been rewarding to help her as she learns to become a mom. That’s why family and fostering are connected for us.”
Their emphasis on family is what makes Tyler and Lydia such effective foster parents. For them, fostering is an “all in” endeavor that enlists all the Lunds, including the children in their care. It also includes the birth families of the children they foster.
“Part of our job is to work with parents for reintegration,” said Tyler. “When we realized that we can help more than one generation by helping two people reconnect, that’s when the importance of helping teen moms hit. There’s always going to be a parent involved, so sometimes we’re even working with three generations. That’s three generations in which we can help model hope and reconciliation by helping multiple people heal through just one child.”
Healing, though, nearly always includes pain. Tyler learned that the hard way with one little boy in their care. The Lunds picked him up at the hospital when he was just two days old. Because they also had an infant girl of their own, Tyler shouldered most of the responsibility of caring for him, so Lydia could focus on their daughter. Soon, Tyler realized he’d fallen hopelessly in love. After spending a year with them, the boy became available for adoption, and the Lunds began making plans. A week later, the birth father was released from jail and sought custody of his son. The Lunds felt fearful and frustrated. Yet, they believed the boy’s father deserved a chance.
“He came for all his meetings and supervised visits, and did everything he was supposed to do,” said Tyler. “We also invited him to our home, so he could share meals with his son and put him to bed at night. In the process, we got to know him very well and became friends. So, when the day came, we lost a child we loved, but by returning him to his father. What could have been a day of pain and loss was much better
“I keep thinking of a photo we took on the day he went back to his father. The photographer took the picture with his son and he in the foreground and us way in the background. Their image is in focus, but ours is blurred. If we’d looked at the story as focused on us, we would have experienced great loss, but the focus was rightfully on that child and his father. So, in that moment, we were able to experience joy that they were back together.
Yes, it can be hard to give up a child you’ve cared for and grown to love, but if you go into it in the right mode, it can transform the pain into something good.”