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The Power of Intentional Community

This month we are highlighting adoptive and foster family support and our blog story comes directly from the Jelle family, courtesy of our Adoptive and Foster Family Support Regional Alliance leaders, Charlotte Fritz and Cathy Hamilton. The Jelle’s story speaks of the difference having an intentional community made for their family when they committed to the challenging journey of adopting their son Carl*. Joanne Jelle shares their story below:

“It was partially in response to the words of James 1:27 that we brought eleven year old Carl, our adopted son, into our family. Little did we know then, that he had been neglected and abused by his biological mother and her boyfriend. We did however know that at age eight, he was removed from their custody by Child Protective Services and, over the next year and a half, would live in at least five different temporary foster homes in Butte County, before being moved to Sacramento.

Adopting a child is much like taking your family to a foreign mission field. The journey with a child can often become territory that is fraught with emotional, physical, spiritual, and even legal danger. It is not a mission to be taken alone.

When Carl became part of our family, he also became part of our extended church family. When we applied to become his foster parents, the first step in our adoption story, we had brothers and sisters in Christ that stepped up to the plate with us. Four people from our congregation went through the foster agency’s licensing requirements, so that they could provide “babysitting” for us. This was crucial to our success as a family since it’s difficult to leave a foster child with anyone who is not licensed by the foster agency. Through a connection with the church, we then found a Christian child psychologist who specialized in addressing bonding issues, which are so often a part of the foster and adoptive relationship. Another Christian mom with adopted children of her own became my mentor, my confessor, my prayer partner, my encourager. Other people from our congregation prayed for us and with us regularly. Every person who has been a part of our journey has been important and necessary as we helped Carl transition.

Carl’s presence in our lives has brought us to a far deeper understanding of what it truly means to love one another beyond the boundaries of flesh and blood. Through this journey we have been given a glimpse of how God loves us with renewing forgiveness, beyond our personal shortcomings and despite our sometimes short list of accomplishments.

When our family decided to adopt Carl, we were not alone. We had a Christian community that stepped forward with us. It made all the difference. Ultimately, it made an eternal difference.”

Not everyone is called to parent children from hard places. Those that do choose to foster or adopt these children though, desperately need support that our overburdened foster care system cannot address. Due to the unique parenting challenges these foster/adoptive families face, many parents feel isolated and misunderstood by the greater parent community, leaving them with fewer places to turn during tough times. Without a community, many of these good hearted people eventually become exhausted and disheartened, which can sometimes lead to the child being returned to the system and once again found in search of permanent family. The community around the Jelle family shows us what a significant difference we make when we come alongside parents who have a heart for children in need of a family!

*seen in family picture above, second from the left


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