Chris is not someone you would expect to become a foster parent. He is single, 42, and dealing with many of his own life challenges. Then, at a church service several years ago, he heard someone share a testimony about the needs of foster children and those who age out of the foster care system. His heart was moved at the thought of teenagers with no home, no one to list as “next of kin.”
Chris’ parents had fostered several children when he was younger so Chris knew how challenging the life of a foster parent could be. But despite the challenges, he wanted to get involved himself. He began volunteering with a program that provides mentors to youth who are in foster care or are close to aging out of care.
Several months ago, he received a phone call from Child Protective Services (CPS) about a 16- year-old young man named Alex who was a “child without placement” (CWOP). These children (primarily teens) often live in hotel rooms or foster care offices while a foster care placement is sought. Alex also happens to be deaf, and Chris knows sign language, so CPS was hoping that Chris would become a mentor to Alex.
When Chris met Alex, there wasn’t an immediate connection. Chris used sign language to talk to Alex about being a mentor, and asked Alex if he would be open to that. Alex signed “yeah” and went right back to playing his video game. However, Chris was persistent, letting the relationship progress at a pace that was comfortable for Alex, and it wasn’t long before Alex began to trust Chris.
While Alex was staying at a hotel, he displayed some outbursts of anger and aggression. Chris offered some context: “Alex had no interpreter for those two months. He was often frustrated when he could not communicate his needs.” After some time, though, CPS decided that the best option for Alex might be a home for the deaf in New Mexico. When Chris began to talk to Alex about this possibility, he realized that Alex didn’t even understand what foster care was or what was happening because there were so few sign language interpreters available within CPS. Alex thought that he was in some kind of juvenile jail for his own bad behaviors, not because of his parents’ neglect.
Alex’s caseworker later approached Chris about becoming a foster parent for Alex. Chris prayed about the decision and talked with several friends, eventually deciding to begin the process of training and certification. Chris explained, “I’ve been a bachelor for 42 years, and I’ve never been a parent. I knew this would change my life, and I like my life the way it is, but I think this is what God wanted me to do.”
Chris was adamant that the decision be left to Alex. So, CPS met with Alex to explain his options, and he decided that he wanted to live with Chris. Alex moved in with Chris as a “fictive kinship placement” (the placement of a child with family member or friend who cares for a child), while Chris was in the process of completing training to become his foster father.
In the few months that Alex has lived with Chris, his outbursts are already less frequent and his communication skills are improving. Chris has also gained a new perspective on God and has grown spiritually. They now attend a church with a thriving deaf ministry so Alex can experience community with other deaf people and find deaf peers as well as other deaf adults he can look up to.
There are still difficult days though. When CPS came to their house for a meeting, Alex stormed out of the meeting, punching a hole in the door on his way to his room. Chris and the CPS worker sat in silence around the table and then the CPS worker mentioned the option of a home for the deaf in New Mexico, saying “this is the point when most foster parents give up.” Chris replied, “I’m not backing out. How else will Alex learn to trust that I am here for him and that God will not give up on him?”
By Greg Bland