Sunday, March 31, 2013


We kept it real simple today.


Naps for everyone.

Easter Egg Hunt.

That's all.

It was perfect.

Easter is such a treasured day for me.

The Cross and the Empty Tomb hold the promise of hope and redemption.

It is the reminder of new life, full of fresh perspective and purpose.

As we have become parents of three boys from varying backgrounds of trauma, loss, and pain, this Easter holds an even deeper grip on my heart.

Easter is the promise that our past no longer must define us because HE took it all on the Cross.  By HIS wounds, we are healed.

I earnestly pray that one day, all of my boys will take their stories, their doubts and their wounds and lay them at the foot of the Cross and the ONE who is the ultimate Comforter and Healer.

For now, we pray over them daily, that our boys would become men who would use their stories for good.  That they would become men of integrity and honor and stand up for those that have no voice. We pray that they would never doubt that they are loved, by us and by the One who created them.  We pray that they would come to understand just what today is all about - hope, forgiveness, and profound joy.

And today, with two under two, we had some easter egg fun.

Toddlers + Hats = absurd amounts of cuteness.

J-man collecting eggs with his best friend.

Don't you wish I could show you that cute face of his???? Me too. 

Tyson's job was to sit on the blanket and look cute. 

Eyelashes.  Jeesh. 

Neck rolls are totally smoochable.  (Well, on babies, that is.)

Tyson found some eggs too! 

Happy Easter from our family to yours!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Foster Care Q&A: Decisions, Expenses, and the Biological Family

This is the second installment of the Foster Care Q&A Series.  If you missed the first post, Foster Care: The Basics, please take a moment and read it first.

Disclaimer: Each state has their own Foster Care rules and regulations.  I will try and answer questions as basic and broad as possible, but will be speaking from our experience as foster parents in Alabama.  I encourage you to research your state Department of Human Resources or independent Foster Care Agencies to learn more. 

1.  Can you decide what ages and gender of the children you will foster? 
     Yes.  As a foster parent, you have the right to set parameters on your age range, gender preference, physical and emotional disabilities.  When a social worker calls you with a potential placement, they will be giving you as much information as they know. There is a quick turnaround time between removal of the child from their home and placement into a foster home.  It's important to take note that they often do not have a full medical history of the child.  As a foster parent, you must be flexible and willing to accept that children may come into your home with more medical or emotional issues than first determined by the social worker.

2. Do foster parents get reimbursed for expenses related to the child? 
     Foster Parents receive a monthly subsidy for each child in their home.  This is to cover their "room and board."  In addition, foster children are on Medicaid and any additional medical expenses are paid by the state department of social services.  In Alabama, and most likely other states, foster children under the age of five are eligible for WIC (Women, Infants, Children Food/Nutrition Program).  This program provides a monthly supplement of formula for infants or basic food necessities for toddlers.  This is a great help to foster parents with food costs.

3.  How much interaction will the child have with their biological family while in foster care? 
     The court system will decide how much interaction the biological family will have with one another. The purpose of foster care is first and foremost always reunification.  The court system will give the family as many chances as possible that are safe for the child and will provide an opportunity for the biological family and child to maintain their bond.  It could be a weekly supervised visit at the Department of Human Resources, an unsupervised visit at on a Saturday afternoon, or overnight visits to the birth family, to name a few examples.

4.  Does the foster parent have much face to face interaction with the biological family? 
     It often depends on the specific case of the child.  There will be times where the biological family is deemed too dangerous and a threat to the safety of the child and therefore, interaction is not encouraged.  In other cases, if the foster parent feels comfortable and reunification is the end goal for the child, interaction may be a good idea.  For example, the parents of the child may accompany the foster parent to the child's doctor appointments or come to the child's soccer games.

Foster Care Q&A: Part 3 Coming Soon! 

If you are a foster parent in another state and want to add or clarify anything, please email me at leslieharris77 (at) gmail (dot) com.  Would love to have your input. 

Looking for some other blogs of Foster Parents around the country? Head over here for a huge list of foster care blogs. 

Have more questions after reading this?  Leave them in the comments below or send me an email! 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mushy Brain

 I'm a firm believer in getting a solid eight hours of sleep.

Brian heartily agrees that is best for me and our marriage.

Tyson does not hold the same belief system.

He prefers sleeping in increments of one to two hours at a time and has successfully mastered it for the past three weeks.

I. am. tired.

My brain is mushy and I am only able to write complete sentences today because he actually slept for seven hours straight last night.  Or I was so exhausted that I didn't hear him.

Either way, Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, and Amen.

I've got some thoughts swirling in my head, but until I get a wee bit more sleep in this body, it's best I not put anything down in writing.

It's better for everyone if I just stick to pictures today.

There is a small window of time in Montgomery, some call it Spring, where the humidity is low and the temperatures are mild.  Usually it lasts about six days.  Then it's 105 degrees and 250% humidity for the next six months.

It's been downright Springy around here, so we have been outside as much as possible.

Is he not the most smoochable????  Looking at this ridiculously adorable face makes me almost forget he keeps me up most of the night.   Almost.  When he is a teenager I will find a way to get him back.

J-man watching the big boys work on a project.  LOVE this picture. 

Bandit sharing the secrets of why he digs holes all over our backyard.
Tyson appears concerned at the news.
Sweet pigeon-toed and bow-legged J-man. Kind of thankful for it at this stage because the boy is super quick.  And I am not.  This gives me a slight advantage when he's running in the opposite direction. 

Family Time at the zoo.  J-man is in his favorite place- on Daddy's shoulders.
Monkeys in cages?  I'm not impressed.  They were on side of every road in Congo.    
This is what you call entertainment?

Our zoo has a playground! Our yearly membership is worth the price in swings.

 Swinging is fun! 

And in the spirit of full disclosure, my friends...
What I look like 5% of the time these days.
Showered, makeup applied and wearing clothes that don't embarrass my family.
And the other  95%.
 Black yoga pants (duh),
7 yr old t-shirt,  and not so much showered.
Keepin' it real, peeps.
 It ain't pretty, but man, it's comfortable. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

A Picture of Hope

The last post I wrote was filled with the stark reality of injustice and suffering in our world.  One picture said it all.

Today I want to start off with this picture.

Our adoption facilitator took this photo of Mama Isabelle a few days ago.  This is our Tyson's amazing DRC foster mama, holding her newest babies that will one day be united with their forever families in the United States.

She is a picture of hope.

The foster children placed in her care have suffered loss and trauma.  Everything they've known has been taken from them and is about to be turned upside down again upon meeting their new adoptive family.

Mama Isabelle is a tender rock and refuge for these children in transition.  She knows that the little ones placed in her care are not to remain for long.  It may be five months, eight months, or a year, but it will be temporary.  Despite that truth, she digs in and loves those children with a selfless heart and unconditional love.  And those children are given a gift of a lifetime through that care and attention.

One woman.  Providing hope a few children at a time.


It's where we've got to focus.

Because when we lose hope, then we stop moving.

When we lose hope, we stop growing.

When we lose hope, we do nothing.

We can't lose hope.

We need to be a part of doing SOMEthing.

We can no longer ignore the harsh reality that exists for children in other parts of the world.  Once you have seen it, you are no longer able to deny it.

We've all seen it. Now let's do something.

I want to offer you some opportunities to get connected with great organizations working in the DRC.  These aren't organizations aimed at removing children from the country, (because adoption is just one solution, not the only solution) but rather non-profits who are dedicated to reconnecting families, helping small businesses grow, and protecting the least of these in the country.

They are providing hope to one person at a time.

Take a look at these links and learn how you can play a role.

Hope International and Kiva:   With as little as a $25 donation, you can be a part of providing a microfinance loan to help someone in the world out of poverty.  These are two great organizations providing financial services to people living in poverty around the world.  

Tumaini:  An organization helping care for orphans in Eastern Congo. Tumaini means "hope" in Swahili. Amazing organization- please check it out!

World Vision:  World Vision works in over 100 countries, including the DRC.  You can choose a child to support monthly, which will enable them to remain with their family, get an education, and proper nutrition.  You are given regular updates on the child, their education, and their family.

So many of you asked about what you could do, which I love! These are just a few options, friends, of playing a role. For those hoping to help with the orphanage in the picture, our agency facilitator is working on learning more about specific needs and assuring that items donated will go directly to the children.  More info to come!

If you have other non-profit agencies that are working in the DRC and you'd like to share, please link them in the comments below!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Pictures That Have Undone Me

We were sitting on the floor, playing with the boys yesterday.  J-man was in full speed 16 month-old mode, running circles around us while Tyson sat on his blanket, happily chewing on whatever toy was closest to him.

Brian looked at me and asked, "I wonder what Tyson would be doing right now if he was still in the DRC."

It was just a rhetorical question, really meant for us to think on, rather than answer.  So rather than try to guess, we both just looked over in gratefulness at our little one, home with us now for seven weeks.

A few hours later, the pictures came.

One of our adoption facilitators is in the DRC right now.  She is visiting orphanages and foster homes that they are either working with or hope to start working with in the near future.

She and a few other adoptive moms that are in country right now. They are spending their time  delivering packages to children who have already been referred to families, giving a goat and a bag of rice to each foster home, and dropping off food and small toys to orphanages that are in desperate need.

They posted pictures of their visits to the orphanages yesterday.

Friends, no one will ever be able to convince me that the best place for a child is in an orphanage.


I'm not going to tell you that international adoption is the only answer.  Because it isn't.

But THIS is not okay.

This photo was taken yesterday.  These little ones are eating a piece of bread and tea.  Their meal for the day.  What you cannot see in the picture are the older children who are standing in the back and not eating because there was not enough food.  The orphanage directors give the little ones food first because they need it more to survive.

Our friends gave some money to the director for the older children and they were able to eat yesterday. But tomorrow there is no guarantee.

In another picture, (that I cannot show you because of privacy reasons), eight month old twins lie on a sheet on the ground, just recently brought to another orphanage.  About the size of newborns, their legs are spindly and all bone.  The orphanage is doing all they can to nurse them to health, though they have limited resources to do it.  The twins have been assigned their own "mama" who shoos away the flies and watches them at all times.  They are taken to the hospital to eat to make sure they are getting enough formula, but not too much that their tummies can't handle it.  Even with this care, there is no guarantee that they will make it.

Some of the children in these photos are currently adoptable.  Because there is no known family, they COULD be in a forever family.  They are waiting.  Spending their days like this.

There are children in the orphanages that are not adoptable yet or maybe not ever.  It is even more important that another option be opened up to them.  It may be that the biological family could care for them with a little outside help every month to feed and clothe them.  Or perhaps group homes formed that would place a smaller number of children under the care of a "Mama" and "Papa," providing more one on one care.

Our friends didn't make it to the orphanage yesterday where Tyson started out.  They hope to visit it later in the week.  We don't know much of our son's history. There are bits and pieces that we will share with him and him alone one day.  But we do know he was referred to us because there was no family found to care for him.

Tears rolled down my face as I showed the pictures to Brian yesterday evening.  This could have been our Tyson's story.  He could very easily have been one of those toddlers sitting on the floor.

He isn't.

But this IS reality for many children in the DRC right now.

And when I look in our Tyson's face, with his beautiful skin, perfectly curled eyelashes and gummy, drooling smile, I am reminded of the millions of other children in the DRC considered orphans.  I cannot help but see the children living in orphanages; sleeping 3 and 4 to a bed that often has no mattress, eating once a day, and confined to a small spaces with few toys or basic necessities.

These aren't children from the pages of National Geographic magazine or commercial.

They are living, breathing children of God who are in NEED.

Optimally, the answer will always be reunification with birth family.  In the DRC, poverty is so severe, that often families cannot take care of extended members.

That doesn't mean it cannot happen though.

For those without known biological family, adoption can be an option.  The process can be costly, emotionally draining, and long.  But without hesitation, I will tell you it is worth the wait and the cost.

I write about adoption and orphan care often and I know I sound like a broken record.  But I can't make apologies.

We have been given much.  Our lives are filled with multiples cars, homes that are warm and clean, beds that are comfortable, and pantries that are stocked.

I believe there is much to be done with those gifts.

So whether that means you open your home to welcome in children through adoption or give to non-profits that you trust who are doing the legwork in various countries to solve the orphan crisis, I ask you to consider doing something.

I've been to the DRC.  I have seen it.  I can assure you. . .  It. Is. Reality.

And just because it isn't OUR everyday reality, doesn't mean it isn't real.

Until there are no more three year-olds holding a piece of bread and cup of tea, lined up sitting on a concrete floor, I will keep asking you to DO SOMETHING.