Two words guide every step that Melissa takes: faith and family.
I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Melissa, and she is one of the most kind and honorable people I’ve ever known. She would disagree simply because she is humble and shares the same insecurities and fears as other foster parents. However, every step she takes is solid and assured in her walk of faith and her unwavering dedication to helping children and families.
Melissa’s motivation to foster stems from her strong desire to serve others. “It’s based on my love for missions,” she explains. She attended her first mission trip with her church youth group, and she has taken a number of trips to Mexico and Guatemala throughout her adult life.
“My faith is very important to me,” Melissa emphasizes. “I’ve been in church my whole life and ministering to others since I was old enough to read and understand a lesson. From teaching Sunday school to directing the kindergarten group kids ministry is a big part of my ministry. But I also serve as the church treasurer and sing on our praise team.”
“More than 10 years ago, I was made aware of a need in my community for volunteers to represent foster children in court, to be their voice, and make sure that a third party to the government was providing a perspective to the family court judge on each child’s case, and what would be in the child’s best interest,” she remembers, explaining her start as a Guardian Ad Litem. “Because there were few volunteers, I had one-on-one training with my county’s director. It was a great experience. I loved getting to know my kids and their families.”
You can become a Guardian Ad Litem or a Court Appointed Special Advocate too!
Melissa presented each parent she met with the same challenge: It would be up to them whether they would do the things required of them. “If they committed to it and would fight for the kids, they could get them back; if not, they wouldn’t. It was completely up to them,” she explains. During her work as a guardian, Melissa learned that there was an incredible need for more foster homes in her county. She often traveled several counties away to visit children because there weren’t enough foster homes in her county to keep the kids local.
“At that time, I was doing mission trips to an orphanage in Mexico every year, sometimes twice a year. More and more, I felt the Lord showing me that I needed to do more in my local community to minster to these kids who were separated from their families. One day I saw an announcement about a local church hosting an informational meeting, and I knew that was my opportunity. I attended the meeting, took home an application, and so began my journey to becoming a foster parent.”
In March 2018, Melissa became licensed through Miracle Hill Ministries. Less than two years later, she was invited to become a Care2Foster Ambassador, helping to spread the word about the need for more foster homes and offer support other foster families. “Being an Ambassador gives me the opportunity to share with others in a wider audience than I would have on my own. It’s also given me the opportunity to provide insight to how Care2Foster and Fostering Great Ideas can better assist and equip foster parents,” she states.
Are you an active foster parent with a desire to use your time, talent, and voice to impact foster care? Inquire with Care2Foster staff about becoming an Ambassador by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like nearly all foster parents, Melissa had concerns during the initial phase of the licensing process. “My biggest hesitation to becoming a foster parent was being single. I didn’t know how I’d manage on my own, with a demanding full-time job, and balancing that with a child or children who would have lots of appointments, not to mention childcare.” However, Melissa knew she needed to work through that concern because her vision was clear.
“There were kids who needed homes now, and I had room for them. My family has been very supportive of me fostering, and before I signed the application they agreed wholeheartedly to be my village. The whole family pitches in when I need help, and they have treated every child who has come to my home just like they have forever been a part of my family.” She hangs out with her extended family every weekend, including thrift-store shopping with her sister and mother, and enjoying the lake in the summertime. Some Saturdays, she’ll be found working college football concession stands for her church.
Melissa is an executive in finance for a large state institution, and she has found support at the office, as well. This support is necessary since she has cared for 19 different kids in her home. Melissa is currently caring for two- and three-year-old siblings, so flexibility at work is a must, particularly during this pandemic.
She has no regrets about becoming a foster parent. “Fostering is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Melissa said. “It’s rewarding seeing families reunited, even if it isn’t with Mom and Dad. I’ve seen the look in a grandmother’s eye and heard the gratefulness in her voice when she knows her babies are being taken care of and loved.” And she loves sharing new experiences with children, such as taking a child on his first-ever trip to see the mountains or the ocean, or helping him catch his first fish. “Seeing a child’s face on Christmas morning when there are actually presents for them under the tree. It more than makes up for the hard days. There will be hard days of transition. Days where emotions are on edge and the child that hugged you that morning screams at you later that afternoon.” Melissa knows that foster care is full of surprises, both good and bad.
“Because I served as a Guardian Ad Litem for so long, most of the process is no surprise to me, but I have been left speechless at times,” she admits. “Like the day I agreed to accept placement of a newborn. The DSS worker brought the baby straight from the hospital to my home. I was filling out paperwork, and the baby began to cry. I was looking at him and trying to console him, and the caseworker reminded me that I could get him out of his car seat. I laughed, and gulped. I never had my own kids, and it blew my mind that they would just bring me a newborn and expect me to know what to do. I figured it out the same way all new moms do, but it was a shock to my system.”
Melissa warns that all foster parents will encounter situations we aren’t sure how to handle. “You will need a village, maybe two,” she advises. “You need a village of non-foster parents to keep alive your social life or your sense of who you are outside of your children. So find your people. Join the foster parent association. Join online foster parent support groups. Connect with local ministries that support foster children and parents. That’s my best advice: find your villages.”
Search SHAREfostering + “your state” on Facebook to find a SHAREfostering Foster Parent community near you.
Melissa knows that kids will miss their families, even if they were abused or neglected. “Some things we just can’t change,” she admits. “But we can hold them, or sit with them, or even just let them cry and yell and release their emotions. We are here to support them and to teach them that things can be different. I’m here to provide a structure, an environment where kids can heal and thrive.”
Melissa’s favorite saying is Faith Over Fear. “There will always be fear; don’t let that stop you. Step out in faith and trust that God will lead you each step of the way.”
Author’s note: I met Melissa through a weekly, virtual foster parent support group led by Care2Foster, an incredible silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are a foster parent looking to connect with others, reach out to SHAREFostering for information about support groups and local meet ups.