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Life in Community: Foster Care Friends

This story was written by Dale Kendrick, friend of foster parents, Bill and Melissa Harvey. We are excited to share with you this powerful story of God's work in the lives of two families.

 

My first memories of foster care involve Mr. Drummond taking in Arnold and his big brother Willis, where we learned that it takes Different Strokes to move the world. To this day, I’m still not exactly sure what Willis was in fact, talking about.

Foster care became a little more real to me in high school. I had a good friend whose family took in foster babies. They got to name each of their foster babies, and they did so alphabetically. The two I got to know best were Nicholas and Opal. It was through them that I learned that babies could be born addicted to drugs. 

A couple of years ago, Courtney (my wife) and I were in a Friday night small group that was hosted by a family who also serves as foster parents. It was neat hearing about the babies that had come into their house, and how they’d stayed in contact with the kids after they left their house. It was also humbling to hear how friends had dropped off diapers, or food, or blankets, as each child came into their home.

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The Kendrick family at the Mercedes Marathon

 

Then we met Bill and Melissa Harvey.

Have you ever just met someone that you felt like you’d known your entire life?

On a seemingly random Thursday morning in the fall of 2014, Courtney was serving another seemingly random volunteer shift at our homeschool co-op. After that shift, she texted to tell me that she’d just volunteered with a mom whose family was fairly new to The Church at Brook Hills, in Birmingham. While the kids were in their co-op classes, they’d had lots of time to talk. Courtney said, “We’re trying to find a time and place for our families to get together.”

The first opportunity to do that turned out to be Lego night . . . at the library. It wasn’t my first, or second choice. But Lego night went well, and our families had a great time together. From there, we had several more play dates and dinners together. While the kids played, we started telling stories . . . each couple sharing how they’d met, how each of us had become Christ-followers, how God led us to Brook Hills, and ways we were connected there. We left each time recognizing that God was definitely up to something. It was more than the fact that our kids all played well together and conversations had been easy . . . these were some special people.

A few conversations later, Melissa told Courtney that the small group they were in was about to multiply, and they invited us to join them when the new group started. So, we did. 

A Family’s Call to Foster

After a few more volunteer shifts at co-op, and a few trips to Sonic for milkshakes, we found out that the Harveys were gearing up to spend the next 10 weeks or so attending foster parenting classes. “Awe, well, good for them,” is an educated guess at my reaction to that news. Every Sunday night, the Harveys would leave their three boys with grandparents in Alabaster to attend foster parenting classes in Gardendale. My reaction changed quickly from, “Well good for them,” to, “Wow, they're serious about this; that’s awesome.” 

As the time came for house visits and interviews, our small group prayed . . . considered ways to get emergency escape ladders in place for the home inspection . . . and began counting down the days to their last class before officially becoming foster parents.

I remember Bill and Melissa telling us in mid-June of 2015, “We’re official. Any time now, we could get a call about a child coming to our house. Could be weeks, could be months, could be anytime.”

It was, in fact, about three days later.

Tray was born on a Wednesday and was at the Harveys house on Friday. We delivered dinner that night and spent an hour or so just watching Tray. In their living room that night, it didn't matter how he'd ended up there. It just mattered that he was there.

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Tray, now almost two years old!

 

WRAP-ping around families

Our church offers a support team to foster families, known as “WRAP.”  WRAP stands for: Wrestling in Prayer, Relief Care, Acts of Service, and Promises of God. Because they were such recent graduates of their foster care training, the Harveys not yet been assigned a "WRAP" team. At small group a week or two later, Melissa shared what a "WRAP" team was and what it did for foster families. I remember, "helping us," and "praying for us," as two things she mentioned. I remember thinking, "Well, we're kind of doing that already, so, sign us up."

As Tray grew from days to weeks to months old, the Harveys kept us up-to-date as much as they were allowed to about their situation and timeline. "Tray's going to be with us for a few months . . . he's going to be with us for Christmas . . . we're planning his first birthday party . . . ."  We saw Tray move from being a temporary guest in their home to having permanent place in their hearts and family. Though he was considered by the state to be a child in foster care, we all saw him as their fourth son . . . as Will, John Miller, and Ward's youngest brother.

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The Kendrick and Harvey families at Party at the Parks 2017

 

For us, I'm not sure I can differentiate between "WRAP" Ministry and just being their friend, except for one activity. When Tray was a few weeks old, I got a call asking me to stop by and pick up a blanket that some ladies at the church had made for him. To be completely honest, my first thought was, "Well, they're (the Harveys) gonna be there Wednesday or Sunday; I'll tell them to pick it up." Thankfully, Anita Bucher, the coordinator of our WRAP teams, patiently said, "Well, we think that it'd be even better if you and Courtney, as part of their WRAP team, deliver it to them." Why yes, of course it would, and so we did. 

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This graphic shows how a WRAP ministry can look for your church and how members can wrap around foster families in many ways to offer support!

The WRAP reality

I think when we signed up to be "WRAP"pers, I had this over-glorified idea that we were going to be like the Harvey's super heroes. I thought we would be busy every day, helping navigate from one new crisis to another. But now, 23 months into Tray’s life with them, it's in the overwhelmingly routine that we see God working.

It's in sitting in quiet amazement over just how different Tray's life is now from what it might have been, had the Harveys not signed up for foster care training. It's in contemplating just how different the Harvey family is since Tray came into their lives. But selfishly, it's seeing the ways that Tray, and the Harveys, have changed our kids and our family, that are the most overwhelming. Conversations about poverty, about what Tray's life might have been like with his biological family, about "parental rights," about adoption, about all the colors of skin that God has created in His image.

I'd like to think we'd have had those conversations as a family anyway . . . but . . . we had them because God called the Harveys to be Tray's foster parents. And because He called us to be their friends.

 

 

We are excited to announce that as of April 6, 2017, Tray has been welcomed into the Harvey’s family forever! See the photo below of their beautiful family!

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