In the summer of 2014, amidst long days at the pool and board games together on lazy evenings at home, Jonathon and Cathy began to consider growing their family through adoption. Already the parents of two school aged children, Meredith and Grayson, the Charleston based family heard of an organization called Lifeline Children’s Services. They were attracted to its faith based mission and felt it was the right agency to move forward with. International adoption initially appealed to them because it would be a “closed” adoption, with a child permanently in their home and no further relationship with biological family. Jonathon and Cathy didn’t know it at the time, but their relationship with Lifeline would end up taking them in a completely different direction.
It began when Seacoast Church, where the family attends, announced a partnership with Lifeline to engage, recruit, and support foster families. Jonathon and Cathy hadn’t considered foster care, but because of their involvement with Lifeline, attended an interest meeting at Seacoast. It was there they heard about respite care.
Respite foster parents come alongside other foster parents and temporarily care for their kids in care,” Cathy explains, “It gives them a break, allows them to attend to a family need or go on vacation. And while we were still considering an adoption, we felt becoming respite parents would be a way to do something while we waited.
They also liked that they would be able to positively affect children in their community without having to travel or spend a lot of money. So their journey into foster care began— as respite foster parents. They cared for three different respite placements, and during that time Cathy gave birth to their third biological child, Eleanor. Becoming respite foster parents helped them enter foster care in a way that felt comfortable to them and less overwhelming.
Respite is a great way to meet a HUGE need in the fostering community without being that full time parent,” Jonathon and Cathy agree, “We didn’t have to become full-time foster parents on day one.
However, after a period of time doing respite care they felt ready to do more and began to take long-term placements. Their first placement was a little girl who stayed 5 months. They love the effect fostering has on Meredith, Grayson and Eleanor, and the fact that fostering is a family affair, with everyone pitching in to help. From their church small group to neighbors to extended family, Jonathon and Cathy say their support system makes it all possible. And they’ve learned a lot since entering foster parenting.
“We didn’t start this foster care journey informed and perfect parents!” Cathy admits. “We didn’t understand the need for connections back to heritage and relationships and biological family whenever safe, appropriate and available. So the fact that we now get to live a family life transformed with a lot more openness and connection to biological families and cultures and relationships is pretty amazing. It’s a testament to the fantastic training and coaching we’ve received from the Lifeline team.”
Most days, foster parenting is just parenting, according to Jonathon and Cathy. It’s important to the couple to let others know there’s nothing exceptional about them. And in the same way, there isn’t a huge divide between kids in care and the needs of other kids. They’re just kids.
With the summer months now in full swing, you’ll find their family riding bikes, playing games, and swimming at the neighborhood pool. They just have a few more kids. Life’s “chaotic, on the move, loud and fast paced”, but Jonathon and Cathy are quick to point out they wouldn’t have it any other way.
At Fostering Great Ideas, we believe that anyone who can provide a loving and stable home would make a great foster parent. We need diverse foster parents across our nation, just as there are diverse children and youth entering care through no fault of their own. The greatest needs are often for families that will welcome sibling groups and older children or teenagers.
Stepping into foster care can be daunting. But that’s why we are here! We want to help you figure out what your role might be – whether that is fostering, adopting, volunteering, donating, or advocating. Everyone can do something! Contact us email@example.com. We can’t wait to talk to you!