Our State, Our Vote, and Our Voice

Apathy is defined as having a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.  This is a word I have used in the past 4-7 years to describe my personal response to politics.  It is also a word that stares back at me as I think about the most recent cuts that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services must face during this next fiscal year.  Cuts that will affect the foster families I serve and fellow adoptive families across Oklahoma.  Cuts that will also reduce meals for senior citizens, child care help for low-income individuals and in-home support for developmentally disabled children and adults.

As I read about the most recent cuts, I thought – I’m guilty.  I’m guilty of not caring enough to truly get involved.

Are you guilty too?

The truth is, I’ve worn the apathetic term like a badge of honor over the past several years, claiming all politicians were corrupt and acting like I was above the fray by not engaging.  In reality, my silence and lack of interest put us in this place today.  Did my lack of engagement push it over the edge?  No.  In fact, I’ve only lived in Oklahoma for 2 years and I voted this past November for the first time since 2008.  True confession, prior to the vote I didn’t do any research on candidates or issues.  I literally went in blind and chose accordingly.  I didn’t vote straight party either, instead I mixed it up for good effort.  This past spring I helped pen a letter to legislators on the behalf of Oklahoma Care and other foster care agencies expressing honest concern that the budget cuts could affect foster and adoptive families if DHS was forced to make additional cuts.  I’m certain I probably patted myself on the back for my efforts.

Here is the problem though, I do not think I am much different from the average Oklahoman or American.  We are jaded, apathetic and disengaged.  When something goes astray we scream and shout for a minute, then we go back to our daily lives and let the politicians and lobbyists go back to business as usual.  We do not hold politicians accountable with our vote and engagement.  Guess what? I’m certain politicians know this too.  They know we will sleep before the next vote and move on with the busyness of life.  They know we will believe the lie, “my vote doesn’t make much of a difference” and not take the time to show up to the polls.  They know we will climb on our social media soap box, post and vent, then climb back off it and never back it up with a phone call, a petition, or even a visit to their office.  Apathy breeds apathy and it is all around us folks.

It is time to wake up fellow Oklahoman’s.

To everyone in the apathetic club with yours truly, I think it is time to get into the game and get involved.  It is time to stop wondering if our vote even matters and move forward with making it matter.  It is time to make Oklahoma a great state through our involvement, concern, and action.

Do I think the government should be the stop-gap for all of society’s needs?  No.  I do think it can and should do more for the most vulnerable including children, senior adults and the truly disabled.  Politics aside, this is our issue Oklahoma.  These cuts, this budget, and this broken political system came on our watch.  We can blame oil prices, crooked politicians, lobbyists or an assortment of other issues, but first, let’s each look in the mirror, own up to our apathy, and commit to be different.

It is our state, our vote, and our voice that needs to be heard.

Politicians have spoken.

Oklahoman’s it is our time to speak.

  1. Educate yourselves.
  2. Contact your representative.
  3. Get engaged.
  4. Educate others.
  5. Volunteer and donate to non-profits.
  6. Vote. 



End & Beginning

Our adoption was finalized on June 3, 2015.  Our foster care season may be ending, but the rest of the journey is just beginning.  Thanks for following us over the past 2+ years.

The Howard Family (Keith, Staci, Koby, Kylie, Tatum, Bailey, Savannah, and Emberlyn)


Photo Credit:  inMi Photography (www.inmistudios.com)

Hoop Dreams & A Boy

True confession,  I’m 35 and I’m a little bit on the chubby side.  Okay, who am I kidding?  I’m fat.

My hoop dream days have long passed me by.  On a good day I can still get a little rhythm in my shot and maybe do a thing or two with the dribble, but those good days are rare.  In fact, they are very rare!

Long ago I let go of the impressive intramural games and men’s league games I played in during my early twenties.  I am but a shadow, albeit an overly large shadow, of that guy.  The funny thing about those games was usually this, I always played better when my girlfriend (now wife) was in the stands.  It was a pride thing.  I wanted her to know the guy who just dropped the most points was leaving with her.  It was a little pride, selfishness, love and arrogance all rolled up into a basketball.  In that moment, I wanted her to feel pride, so I played for that pride.

That was then, but fast forward to now….

To give you some background, out of all of our children, our son has struggled the most with his foster care and adoption journey.  It is hard for him to embrace the idea of new parents and not going home, as it is for most children in his situation.  So everyday we fight for his heart and we love without ever knowing if the affection will be returned.

Recently he invited a friend to spend the night.  At one point I found them outside playing basketball, so I joined in.  We played H-O-R-S-E.  I won.  We played P-I-G. I won. (They are only 11 years old, but don’t rain on my story!) Then we played 2 on 1.  The two kids verse the fat guy.  About half way through the game, it hit me.  I wasn’t playing for fun (although I was having a blast).  I wasn’t playing to win (although I wanted to win).  I wasn’t even playing “because that is what good dads do”!  I was playing for his heart and his pride.  With every move, every dribble, and every made basket it was like I was the 20-year-old kid, back in college, playing for the girl in the standsExcept this time I was playing for the heart of a boy on the pavement next to me. 

His friend kept saying, “Man! Your dad is so good!”

Inside I kept saying, “Yes, I am..let me love you, let me prove how much I want to be your dad.” 

Swish….I’m good enough.

Behind the back, between the legs…That was for you.

Off the glass…Game time.  Do you see me?  Do you see how much I want you to enjoy being my son?

It was a surreal moment and easily the single most important time I’ve ever picked up a basketball in my life.

Adoption is coming. 

Game Time.


Her Story Too

I could see it in her eyes.  The disappointment.  She didn’t say a word, but I knew what she was feeling and thinking.

Adoption is coming soon. In the midst of all the preparations, our soon to be adopted children were asked by their case manager what they wanted on their adoption day cake.  Our biological daughter, who has been on this journey the entire time, desperately wanted to be asked as well.

She wanted to have a voice in the celebration and the cake decoration decision.  She wanted to be a part of the story, a part of the day.

She is 9 and as much as she gets it, she still struggles at times.

Later that evening, I pulled her to the side and I asked her how she was feeling.  She simply stated, “I want to be able to share the story too.”  It makes sense.  We often hear people talk about how the foster children are having their story rewritten with adoption.  While that may be true, we cannot forget that biological children are also having their stories rewritten. 

She was four or five when she began encouraging her mother and me to become foster parents.  To be a “mom and dad for kids who needed it.”  My career had led to her being around the foster care world her entire life.  To her, taking in kids was the natural thing to do.  At her young age and in her innocence she didn’t fully comprehend all the things she might or might not be giving up.  She just knew we had to do it.  Over the past 3 years we have seen her share her home, her stuff, her parents, her friends, her grandparents, her holidays, her extra-curricular activities, and almost every faucet of her life with four other little people who needed it.  She has never blinked.  She has been a champ through it all.

So much so, that I think we, at times, have forgotten how much her life is different.  This has become our normal. But, in our desire to heal the wounds of those we have brought into our home, we can never forget the sacrifice she made to take this journey. 

I think that is why she wanted to be included in the cake decision.  Because, this isn’t just about the children gaining a family, it is also about a 9 year old giving her family.

She is brave.  She is kind. She is pure.  She is love.  And, she reminded me tonight that this is her story too.

It was a reminder I needed more than she’ll ever know.


10 Things Foster & Adoptive Parents Have (Probably)Heard

1.) Why would you do that?

2.) Which ones are “your” children?

3.) What are you going to do with that hair?

4.) Are they all yours?

5.) Oh, that is so great! Could you not have your own children?

6.) You are so brave to do this.

7.) Really, they are all yours?!?!

8.) You are such a good person, a saint!

9.) I could never do that. I would get too attached.

10.) What about your biological kids? Shouldn’t you be worried about them first?

I put this list together for a speaking event last year, where I spoke to a group of foster parents. I thought I’d take a moment to write the statements down and share with others.

At the conference, we all agreed we had heard these things said before and then we laughed. As foster parents, we have to learn to laugh. We have to understand that the rest of the world may never get us and what we do. The statements are rarely ill-intentioned, just often misinformed.

What we have to remember as foster and adoptive parents is this; It is through our journey and the pages of our lives that the rest of the world discovers the beauty and messiness of foster care and adoption. We are the book through which the world is learning and educating themselves.

So, when we get one more question, one more stare, or one more misinformed statement directed at us, just smile (or laugh) and then remember the potential impact our story and journey could have on future generations as the world learns more about foster care and adoption through us, and in that, others might just decide they can do it too!!


Loss + Gain = Adoption

A reality is sinking in for our family.  The reality that adoption via foster care only becomes possible through the tragedy of loss.

Loss of family, loss of parent(s), loss of familiarity, and the loss of what is known.

Yes, adoption is beautiful. Stories are redeemed. Lives are restored. New chapters are written.

But first, loss occurs. There is a decision or a moment when the original plan is fractured or broken. The heartache of that is often times messy, especially in foster care.

Many well meaning friends and family say things like (and, that is okay);

“Those kids are so lucky (blessed) to have your family..”
“I bet those kids are really thankful they have y’all.”
“What you are doing for those children is amazing..”

In theory, yes, they are in a better home.  Safe, secure, and cared for.

But, that does not make the loss any less painful or tragic.  The emotions are still raw and real.

I received a text message this week.  It said, “at 4:00 PM I’m signing the papers to extinguish (relinquish) my rights.”  I called the number back, shared my heartache for the choice that had to be made, and promised I would do my best to protect, love and care for his children.  Then I prayed for him and with him.  I asked God to walk with him through his heartache.  I also asked God to walk with our children through their loss, and ultimately redeem all that has been broken.

He cried and my heart sank.

Yes, we are thankful (blessed) to have the future opportunity to adopt four beautiful children, but in the end, our gain, was only made possible by their loss.

The redemptive story in our home begins with a loss.  As parents we must understand that, we must own that, and we must prepare to walk through that.


Foster Care – Step 1 – Count the Cost

 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ – Luke 14:28-30

In the years leading up to our decision to jump head first into foster parenting we really thought we had “counted the cost”, and yet, two years into this journey we have learned so much about the real cost of fostering.  We’d like to share with others what we have discovered.  This is for those thinking about fostering, those in the middle of fostering, and those who may just be sitting on the sideline watching others.

The Cost of Inconvenience – Your life will largely be flipped upside down by the journey to foster.  Do you like your nice, safe, well-scheduled life?  Then maybe you shouldn’t foster.  Sounds crazy right?  Foster care advocates telling you not to foster.  But seriously, this journey will inconvenience you, your family, your kids, your schedule and everything you hold dear as “normal”, so if you are not willing to change, bend, and be flexible then we are almost certain that being God’s hands and feet for the least of these may not be your cup of tea.  The goal of foster care is not to make your life convenient.  In fact, you are asked to sacrifice your convenience on the behalf of a child whose whole life has been inconvenienced by abuse, neglect, and trauma.

The Cost of Giving Without Reciprocation – Do you need to be affirmed?  Do you need a child to tell you how awesome you are?  Do you need them to want you and love you?  Well, that might not be the case with a child you foster.  You see, you are not their hero, you are not their first choice, or even their new mom or dad.  Sure you are the one taking care of them and providing for them, but they may never be able to adequately respond to everything you “have done for them”.  If you think you will need that affirmation and this journey is about you, then we are afraid it will end horribly, not just for you, but more importantly for the child or teenager you are serving.  As for giving.  Have you ever given so much it hurt, only to have to get back up and give again? Yes? No? Just so you know, foster care is a lot of giving, hurting, and getting back up, because there is a child who needs you.

The Cost of Your Family – Do you think all of your family will agree with your choice?  Nope.  Some family members will not be on board.  They may be completely unsure as to why you would want to bring “that kind of child into your home.”  They may think you are taking time away from your “own kids”.  And, you know what?  They are right.  The foster journey will cost your biological kids time and resources.  Hopefully it will also stretch them at an early age and teach them what following Christ really looks like.  Yep, it is more than Sunday School, worship songs, and cute dinner prayers.  Our first week in, we almost believed the lie.  We were laying in bed, staring at the ceiling and we asked each other, “have we ruined our children’s lives?”  We had two kids and we added 4 more kids through foster care.  We had outnumbered them!!  They went from the majority to the minority overnight.  The enemy wanted us to believe we had ruined their lives.  And yet, in that moment, we also knew Jesus was saying, “Nope, I never asked you to protect your kids.  Keep going.”  Others have not always agreed with us, but that is okay, because Jesus did. Boom!!

The Cost of Your Sanity – Bureaucracy. That one word alone will send chills down your spine.  Have you ever parented a child with 100 other people telling you how to do it?  They create a new form, rule, regulation on a regular basis.  We have three case worker visits every month, one CASA visit, family visits every week, and therapy appointments throughout the month.  Our schedule is dictated to us at times. Did we mention trying to schedule medical and dental appointments with Medicaid? Short summary, a joke.  Then there are 6 children in our home.  They do a pretty good job of chipping away at our sanity too.  Just because you are a “good parent” doesn’t mean you will be a good foster parent. Count the cost of all the interference that you will walk through in this process.  We’ve seen several families give up, because they didn’t want to deal with “the system”.  Children and families lose out when you don’t go into foster care understanding that your sanity may disappear.  The good news, we’ve proven we can still parent pretty dang good even without our sanity!!

The Cost of Your Life – Foster Care cannot just be something you do, it has to be who you are.  A parent who has chosen to love, care and give all of yourself on the behalf of a child who needs you.  You don’t want this to inconvenience your life, your schedule, or your kid’s lives?  Well, then do the future foster child a favor and don’t even get in the foster parenting boat.  They need individuals who will be willing to give their lives.  Wait, it seems like we’ve heard a story about a God who did the same for us, right??? Oh yeah, Jesus.

This post is filled with truth, sarcasm, and some more truth.  What we hope people understand is this, foster care will cost you a lot!  Does that make it not worth it?  Never.  We would sign up again, 1,000,000 times.

We do want individuals to understand there is a need to count the cost.  We are not just “trying out kids to see if it works.”  These are real little people, who suffer real consequences when we decide we cannot do it anymore and disrupt the placement.  We recently read that research states “every move causes 6 months of regression in a foster child.”  Wow.  These kids are not being given the chance to count the cost, but they are certainly paying the costs. 

So, this is our wisdom to you, you, and you.  Count the cost friends.  These kids are too important for you not to.