“My story with foster care and adoption began thirty years ago on a random January day as I held my daughter in a rocking chair. I began thinking about the kids who didn’t have anyone rocking them, and I heard the Lord say to me, ‘It’s time for you to do more than just say you’re pro-life.’
It didn’t make sense with three kids of my own, but I began to seek out what taking action would look like. We fostered newborns for Bethany Christian Services for eleven years and had another child in the middle of that. Later, we moved to the state and fostered for The Division of Children and Family Services for eight years. We were blessed to adopt two children.
Later, I became co-chairman of the Pulaski County Adoption Coalition. But when the federal funding for coalitions shut down, we were presented with two choices: keep going on our own or cease operations. Around that time, I heard a pastor say that if Christians were doing what we should be doing, there would be zero kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. My husband suggested I rename the coalition to reflect that. Twelve years ago, Project Zero was born.
Seeing the hopelessness of waiting kids really motivated me to start Project Zero. One time, I picked up a twelve-year-old boy from school to get his picture made for our Heart Gallery, where we showcased photos of waiting kids. Afterward, when I dropped him back off at school, he turned to me and said words I’ve never forgotten: ‘How long is it going to be before I get adopted?’
No child should ever have to ask that question. I asked the Lord who his family was going to be, and four years later, I heard the answer. No one. The boy asked to have his picture taken out of the Heart Gallery because he didn’t believe anyone would want to adopt a sixteen-year-old.
He aged out of the system, and we don’t know where he is now. That should never happen to a child.
When we first began Project Zero, things were tough. DCFS didn’t allow us to try new things to help the kids. They weren’t working with us to get to zero. But when a new administration began seven years ago, that changed. They joined us in our mission, and the DCFS and DHS directors would often come to our events and conferences. Their involvement made a huge impact on the number of waiting kids.
One of the issues with the foster care and adoption system is the length of time it takes for a family to become open for adoption. Another issue is educating the public on why the DCFS makes the decisions that it does. We need people to understand why kids come into care, how the court process works, and the horrific statistics about homelessness, addiction, and incarceration for kids who age out of the system.
There are issues with the system, but if the public was better educated, there would be more understanding for DCFS workers. As Christians, we often criticize the government for doing a job that we’re supposed to be doing. It’s difficult to hear so much criticism from people who could be part of the solution.
Thankfully, we’re making strides toward simplifying the process for families who want to open their homes. We need to take some of the burden off of DCFS and hand it to non-profit organizations who can train the families more quickly and come alongside them during that process.
On the public education side of things, there’s so much information out there that’s overwhelming and confusing. We need to focus on the kids and give people an opportunity to open their homes. As Christians, we are called to care for the widows and the orphans. The question isn’t whether we should do anything. The question is what we should do.
The main thing I want people to remember is that waiting kids deserve a home. They don’t deserve to wonder if they matter or if anyone will ever choose them. These kids need the opportunity to heal from trauma and grow. They will change the world if given the opportunity.”
Arkansan, adoptive parent, founder of Project Zero