The Harris Family: A Heart for Foster Care

February 7, 2017 lifeline Blog

harris family

Lifeline’s heart for fostering is to provide a safe, loving home for vulnerable children while also seeking to provide birth families with the tools and relationships to reunite with their children. We want you to hear directly from one of our foster families, who approach their ministry with the same heart. The Harris family has been a foster family for almost four years. Matt and Melanie have two biological children, ages 13 and 17 and consider their role in foster care to be a foster family. Hear Melanie share her heart as a champion for families. (Melanie’s words are indented.)

Who: The Numbers are Faces and Souls

The numbers and statistics paint a picture, but it’s an incomplete picture. The Harris family knows the numbers of children in care represents precious souls and beautiful faces of children who need a safe place to live and thrive and need to know the hope of Christ. The Harris family lives in Jefferson County, Alabama, where the need far outweighs the options for care. Unfortunately, the statistics for Jefferson County are repeated throughout the United States:

“Right here in our own community (Jefferson County, Alabama) there are approximately 1000 kids in foster care and only approximately 300 foster homes. The numbers show the need. There is a desperate need for more foster families.”

Melanie and Matt Harris, as well as their biological children, responded to the need:

“God placed foster care on my heart several years ago, and when God opened up Matt’s heart to the possibility of foster care and we began to pray together about what our next steps, if any, should be. Within a week of our “What next God?” prayer, so many things pointed us with such clarity to foster care. We stepped out on complete faith that this is the direction in which God so clearly guided our steps. We often rest in the fact (because foster care gets TOUGH!) that we know without a shadow of doubt that this is where we are supposed to be right now. This has always been a family ministry. Our kids have always been all in, and it shows. Kiddos that come into our home are a part of our family for that time and we are all committed to making sure that they feel that way . . . Our biological kids often get “offended” when people say, “Oh, you are foster parents;” our children are very clear that “we are a foster FAMILY!”

Why: Families Matter

Foster care encompasses children in care and their birth families. Foster care was designed to be a temporary solution so that families can be reunited in a stronger and stable environment. When foster families have an opportunity to have a healthy and appropriate relationship with birth families, it can help bring healing to both children and their birth families:

“The goal of foster care is always reunification with the birth family. We have had opportunities to be with birth families and develop relationships with them at VERY difficult times in their lives. These moments have shaped me so much in the way that I view birth families, by extending grace and mercy and to feel compassion for them just as Christ feels for us. We pray for the families of our kids often, even after the kiddos aren’t in our home. Lifeline is also committed to birth families with ministry opportunities to them as well. They have a program (Families Count) to equip birth parents to be successful parents and as always, to point them to Him. “

How: Foster Families Invest

Foster parents may not always know the profound impact they had on each life who enters their homes, but they press forward each day to show these children love and stability every day. No matter how long each child remains in care, their foster family has left an impact. And, without hesitation, they leave a mark on their foster family:

“Over the years, we have had seven little ones in our home—some for a weekend and some for almost four years. Each one of these kiddos has had such an impact on our hearts that will shape our lives forever.

When we started this ministry, we didn’t fully know what to expect. Our lives have been changed forever for the better. We have been places we didn’t think we would be; we have met people we didn’t think we would know; and God has stretched us and grown us in numerous ways. Our daughter is a senior this year, and, as a result of us being part of foster care, she has found that her passion is caring for kids in/from hard places. Our son cares for kiddos that may be his siblings for a week or a lifetime all the same. Our church family has seen “our” kids grow from tiny babies to Jesus loving kids. I hope that the smiles that they share plants a seed for someone else to consider foster care and to realize that they are just kids in a situation that they didn’t choose for themselves. The kids are worth the love and effort and commitment that they need. “

How: Lifeline Cares

Lifeline is honored to journey with families in foster care through training and support.

“Lifeline has been part of our journey the entire way. We chose Lifeline because we knew the heart of Lifeline; they truly want to be His hands and feet in a practical way by equipping foster parents to live out the gospel. We knew this would be the constant encouragement that we would need for the reminder that this is our ministry field. To have someone always point back to the gospel is so important. To know that you have people frequently praying for you and the kids in your home is so powerful. We did our initial training with Lifeline and we are so thankful we did. Our “team” of Lifeliners is very important to us. They rejoice at the small things with us and are heartbroken alongside us as well. We fill equipped to do hard work, and it does get hard but is so worth it.

We are happy to see how Lifeline’s role in foster care will impact the culture of the foster care community. They are dedicated to sharing God’s love and grace in all of their training and weaving that into foster care. The need for continued faith based training is critical at helping foster parents not burn out. There are many things that we don’t understand but having the resources to know how to handle those unexpected things in a way that shines His light in dark areas is a must. We feel passionately that Lifeline has the potential to be one of the changes that the foster care community desperately needs by continuing gospel-based education and training.”

Lifeline’s heart for families includes those who are in crisis and have been separated from one another. With reunification as the goal, we seek families who will stand in the gap and temporarily provide a safe, stable home for children who, through no fault of their own, have been disrupted from their daily lives and separated from their families. Fighting for the vulnerable means fighting for families. If you’d like to more information about engaging in our foster care ministry in various ways, click here or call us at 205-967-0811.

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