You Have to Start Somewhere
Updated: May 20, 2019
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27
Our journey started over 5 years ago when we started the process of becoming licensed foster parents. Prior to that, Matt had no idea what foster care was, until he saw the need up close and personal through friends. Very subtly at first, then not so subtly, God called us to foster care, to open our home to these precious children in need. The statistics are sobering. In the Charleston tri-county area alone, there are 596 children in foster care and only 331 available homes. In the US, there are over 400,000 children in foster care. “Children and youth enter foster care because they have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. All of these children have experienced loss and some form of trauma.” The median time children spend in foster care is over 1 year, and over half get re-unified with their families, while 25% get adopted. The rest typically age out of the foster care system when they reach 18 years old. “Each year, approximately 20,000 youth will age out of the foster care system when they turn 18 or 21, or when they finish high school (depending upon the state in which they live.) These children are at increased risk of poor educational outcomes, experiencing homelessness, and being unemployed.”
These statistics were a wake-up call for us, but there was still a fear of fostering, a fear of the unknown. Eventually, God’s call on our lives, our marriage, and our family became clear – say Yes to His calling, to the unknown, to the hard stuff. And our journey has been hard, but it has also been filled with so many blessings and joyful moments, moments that far outweigh the negative. It has challenged us, stretched us, and grown us, often beyond our capacity. But in these moments, we have learned more about ourselves and our family than at any other time and we have grown stronger and closer because of it.
Our foster care journey has led us here. Just over a year ago, God gave us a vision, a calling to start a camp for foster children. In college, Heather worked at a similar camp in Northeast Georgia that has been operating for 18+ years, and Heather saw firsthand the value that respite care provides. We also know that it is very much needed in the Charleston area. Finding consistent respite is difficult. Our goal is to provide consistent respite care for foster children and their foster families, to provide families a chance to rest while their children get away for a weekend (or week during the summer) to engage in fun, outdoor activities with other children like them - children in foster care. It is our hope, that by providing consistent respite care, families will be more rested and able to maintain difficult placements, that more families will take the step to foster knowing there are more support options available, and that we can help alleviate the large gap in the number of children in care compared to available homes while also reducing the number of broken placements for these children. Lastly, we see Three Rivers Respite as a place where children can escape the realities of foster care for a short while and a place that will help them heal and grow.
We know this journey will not be easy and there is much work ahead. We are in the process of selling our home and purchasing land to start the camp. Then we will need to build the facilities before welcoming our first campers. We envision Three Rivers Respite as a tangible way for the community to give back to these children through volunteering, mentoring, and financial giving.
We need your help. Please pray for us on this journey as we step further into the unknown, and as we start operations for Three Rivers Respite. Please also pray for children in foster care, that they would find loving families to care for them in these challenging times, that they would have stability and safety where they are, and that they would find healing on their journey. Lastly, please consider giving financially to Three Rivers Respite.
We will be sharing more of our journey in this blog. If you have any questions, we would love to hear from you. Please reach out using the contact us section of our website. We will also be setting up facebook and Instagram accounts where you will be able to follow our journey.
Thank you and God Bless!
Matt and Heather