By Morgan Jackson, Features Editor
Foster care and adoption are extremely important to so many children and families around the Shawnee area, and all around the world.
For a few Oklahoma Baptist University faculty and staff members, foster care and adoption have completely changed lives.
Kami Fullingim is an HR administrator on campus and recently adopted three children that she and her family had been fostering.
“It definitely has its ups and downs, emotionally and physically,” Fullingim said. “It’s fun and rewarding, advocating for these kids is probably the biggest part of it, advocating for them and their needs.”
The journey towards fostering and adopting had been a long one for their family.
“My husband and I both had been introduced to fostering, and we wanted to years ago,” Fullingim said. “Because we have four biological children of our own, we wanted to wait until they were older. We kept putting it off, and then finally obeyed the Lord and His calling in telling us that foster care was what we needed to be doing. We finally started the process. It was definitely something that we thought that God was calling us to do.”
Foster care can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding for the families that invest themselves into the lives of children in need.
“The most rewarding [thing] is just knowing that they have a stable home forever, and that they are loved, cared for and safe,” Fullingim said. “I don’t have to have their return love, although they seem to like it where they’re at… They seem to be happy and thriving where they’re at. We were their fifth home when they came to us, and they had only been in the foster system for a year. Within six months their behavior and everything they had been dealing with they were doing better than they had in their previous homes.”
Fullingim and her husband have four older biological children who welcomed their new siblings into the family.
“Being a part of our family with our four biological children at home gives them someone to look up to…It’s really neat to see my big kids, whenever it came time to say: ‘These kids are available for adoption, do we want to adopt them?’ And to see my big kids say ‘absolutely, they’re already our siblings’”.
Dr. Krista Hands is an associate professor of mathematics at OBU also has plenty of experience with the foster care system, as well as with adoption. Currently, she and her family are fostering two children.
“We have three adopted kids that we adopted internationally from Ethiopia, and we have one biological daughter as well.”
Dr. Hands found out unexpectedly that she was expecting a child about two years ago.
“I ended up miscarrying,” Hands said. “As hard as that was and as crazy as it was to find out that I was expecting, obviously miscarrying was even harder. One of the things that came out of it, through that process was that it caused my husband and I to analyze: ‘are we done? Is four what we are going to stop with, or do we want more? And if we do want more, what’s that going to look like?’”
Hands stresses that the Lord’s plan is vitally important to consider as a family is beginning to consider foster care and adoption.
“I really felt like the Lord was telling me that we were supposed to add two more children, very specifically, two to our family, and that it would be through foster care,” Hands said. “We started the paperwork process about a year and a half ago with the intent to adopt.”
Hands had been contacted by an acquaintance who asked if Hands and her family would provide respite care for two little girls. The Hands family said yes.
“We ended up, through lots of prayer, because it was not what we were planning or intending to, to jump into foster care,” Hands said. “We had a conversion to our paperwork to become a foster care home instead of just an adoptive placement home. We ended up getting two children, who were four years old and nine years old at the time.”
Dr. Hands wants those who are or are not considering fostering to think deeply about their reasonings.
“You just have to be very careful to be aware that you may think you know where God is calling you to , and He may be calling you to where He thinks you can handle it right now, and you might find yourself in a different position later on,” she said.
According to Patti Jensen, an employee at the Department of Human Services of Pottawatomie County, there are currently 237 children in the foster care system in this county. Jensen and her family also have fostered children in their home.
“When a child comes into custody of the state of Oklahoma, there are a couple of options,” Jensen said. “We always try to look for a family member because that is less traumatic for the child. That’s called a kinship placement, someone that knew the child before they went into custody. The next plan is to use a traditional home. In Pottawatomie County, DHS has 22 [traditional] homes. If a child comes into custody and we cannot find a placement for them, we have 22 possibilities in Pottawatomie County.”
There is currently a great need for foster parents, especially for larger sibling groups, older children, and children with special needs.
For more information regarding foster care and adoption in the state of Oklahoma, please visit http://www.okfosters.org. For information regarding foster care in Pottawatomie County, contact Cailyn Colwell at firstname.lastname@example.org