Friday, May 23, 2014

Foster Care Interview

I (Matt) am a substitute teacher.  Part of what is fun about being a substitute teacher is getting to meet a lot of people.  A few months ago I was subbing at a local middle school and met an amazing lady, Tiffany McKnatt-Smart.  She was so good with the students.  As I got to know more about her, I learned that she is a foster mom.  She shared stories with me about her experiences and I was just amazed at all that she does to help kids.  I saw a love in her for kids that reminded me of Jesus' words in Matthew 19 where the disciples are shooing the children away and Jesus stops them and says, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." 

The month of May is "Foster Care Awareness" month and I thought it would be great to do an interview with someone who is fostering children.  Right away I thought of Tiffany.  I hope you enjoy it.

1. What is your name?  
Tiffany McKnatt-Smart




2. How many children have you fostered?
I have fostered a total of 7 children in 3 years.
A 14 yr old girl still with me who is now turning 17
A 14 yr old girl still with me who is now 17 and whom I have adopted
A 17 yr old girl who aged out at 18 but still comes to me for guidance (she was with me for 6 mos)
A 16 yr old girl who was with me just for respite (babysitting), but she messed up in her other home and last I heard she is in a girls school
A 1 yr old boy (respite) while a home could be found, he is in the process of adoption by the family and we keep in contact
A 14 yr old girl who just came to me

3. What lead you to start fostering?
I have two reasons why I decided to foster:
1. I was a kid who was on the streets at 16 and could have ended up with a horrible life, but people came along and helped me make good choices, so I am paying it forward.
2. I work at a middle school and see many of our kids fail at school and life because of "misery at home" and wanted to do something to change that.

4. What is the most rewarding thing about being a foster parent?
All the little moments that you see these kids blossom. When you see a hurt child change into a confident child with just a few scars left from their past, makes it ALL worth it.

5. What is the most challenging thing about being a foster parent?
For me the most challenging thing about being a foster parent is realizing that I can't erase years of neglect and hurt and make this child all better. I am such a control freak and this is one area I can't control and I have to give it to God, do my best, and then let it go. The next biggest challenge is the flaws of our foster system.  We have laws that are not "kid friendly" but instead "Government make money friendly."  The whole foster care industry is so flawed (ie. parents have years to work on getting their kid back with little effort, so the kid just sits in foster care waiting to see whether or not they will be adopted or if their parents will get it together and get them back) and needs reform, but that is not a reason for us to not do our part and help these kids as much as we can.

6. What is one thing that others could do to help you as a foster parent?
If someone wanted to help a foster parent there are many ways: We don't get a break unless we send the kid to respite and for my girls they feel like I am "giving up" on them so I don't use it. I could use a support person to come to the house and let me have some "me" time. I am trying to get a program off the ground where each foster family would have 2 families be the support family. What that would look like is the support family would do a background check and then they would be willing to volunteer 2 hrs a week to help the foster family with things like transportation to appts., tutoring, respite, projects at the house etc... It would give families a chance to see foster care without jumping all the way in and maybe some would decide to do this and others could just continue to be a support.

7. What would you tell someone who is thinking about becoming a foster parent?
DO IT!! We currently have 600,000 kids in the USA looking for a home If not you then who?  I would also tell them make sure they go through an agency that is known for supporting their foster families, make sure they have their own life together before they get into this because it can be mentally draining, and most of all get linked up with a good church for support.

8. Do you have a favorite resource about foster care that you would like to share?  
God, my church, and facebook sites that are for foster parents to share ideas

9. Do you have any other comments?
I am available to help anyone that wants to walk this journey. It is so worth it.

Dodgeball For Kids

On April 26, five teams and over 70 people showed up to play in a dodgeball tournament.   We were able to raise over $1,100! All the money will go to help children in need around the world.

Thanks to everyone who played, what a great group of people

Here are what some people had to say about the tournament.

"When are you doing this again?"
"Can I play next time you do this?"
"How often are you going to do this?"
"That was a blast!"
"I cannot believe how much fun that was."
"That was awesome!"

I would like to thank Boht Trophy for the donation of the trophies, Renew Elkhart for your sponsorship, The Elkhart Youth and Community Center for allowing us to hold our event there, everyone who put teams together and recruited others to play, and Paul Baldwin for your help with organizing the event.


If you would be interested in helping support Village to Village by hosting your own dodgeball tournament, contact Matt Borst at matt@villagetovillageintl.com.  This is a very simple and fun way to raise some money for a great cause. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thoughts From CAFO 2014

As many of you know some of our board had the opportunity to attend the Christian Alliance For Orphans Summit last week; here are some thoughts from our board members.

From Matt Borst:
CAFO 2014 was a great time of meeting new people who are like minded in trying to help children all over the world.  We had the privilege of taking our whole family.  Our kids were able to meet other kids who are part of a multicultural family and it was so much fun to see them interact and enjoy each other so much.

Some of the kids our kids got to meet and hang out with.

One thing that I remember was a quote that was shared by poet, Shawn Welcome.  "What if you woke up with today, only the things you thanked God for yesterday?"  Wow, that is a great perspective on life.  Be sure to check out some of Shawn's work here http://shawnwelcome.bandzoogle.com/

Secondly, I was challenged by a young man named Austin Gutwein, who started an organization called Hoops of Hope.  He shared 3 things that were very encouraging to me;
1. Do what you love, and let others do what they love
2. Think like a child
3. Do not give up
Here is his website to find out more about what Austin is doing http://www.austingutwein.com/

Lastly, I was so encouraged by meeting new friends, and catching up with old friends.  It was a great time of encouragement and great information.

From Terry Waggoner:
I had the privilege of sitting in a workshop taught by Krista McCoy about raising children in a transracial family.  I was challenged with thoughts like "Don't say that you are color blind, say that you love all colors" and "We need to live in the reality that we are all unique and celebrate that we are all beautifully and wonderfully made."

Secondly. the theme of "Everyone can do something to help vulnerable children; if we all do a little, a lot will be accomplished." was very hope filled.

Lastly, the words of Dr. Purvis are always amazing.  She stressed the importance of infants needing love and how vital proper nutrition is at such a young age for proper brain development.  You can learn more from Dr. Purvis at http://empoweredtoconnect.org/

From Stacey Borst
One powerful workshop I attended was called "Life in Limbo."   It was a simulation of life in the foster care system.  I was chosen to act out the role of a foster parent. Although it was only role play, it left a powerful impression as my senses were opened to the confusion and chaos that many children experience in foster care.  And to the blindness that I felt opening my home to a child with open wounds and an unknown history or future. 
Added to that was the lasting impression of a 19 yr old that encouraged us with three thoughts:

Do what you love and let others do what they love.
Think like a child.
Never give up.

Simple words that were communicated with grace and have stuck in my heart. 

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