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My Journey in Orphan Care: Becoming a CASA

May 3, 2016

CASA

 

“Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.” – James 1:27

About six months ago I was talking with my friend Susan on her back patio as our kids played and caused various mischief. While we were solving world problems, philosophical and theological issues ranging from potty training to navigating career and parenting, something she said stuck with me… something to the affect of: “You know how you have friends who have a thing? They sell essential oils and tell everyone about them, they are dedicated to working out/exercise or are passionate about adoption or advocating for ending human trafficking? All of their Facebook posts are about this, all of their time and energy is spent on this….you know, they have a thing that everyone knows about. Do you ever think about your thing?”

This conversation continued to resonate in my mind days after we had hung out. I had considered this many times over. I have always felt myself to be a jack-of-all-trades-and-interests person rather than a passionate master of one…there are so many issues that I would say I have a passionate conviction about. I always have a hard time understanding the passion behind one THING. If I had to choose just one thing, that would have to be my faith as a Christ-follower. My life is completely changed and transformed because of my faith. That must be the thing. And it is.

Over the years that thing, my faith, has continued to grow and develop and God has placed a real conviction on my heart for an active participation in caring for the marginalized in my community, specifically orphans in foster care.

The statistics around young adults who age out of foster care are staggering. In 2014, more than 18,000 young adults in the United States aged out of foster care. Here is my source for the following stats:

  • More than one in five will become homeless after age 18 1
  • Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19 year olds) 2
  • 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system 3
  • At the age of 24, only half are employed 4
  • Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25 year olds 5
  • One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system 6

 

I think we can do better for kids in our community.

I think I can do better.

My faith in Christ reminds me that these children are wholly loved, valued and redeemed by their Creator. He is El Roi, the God who sees … in the destruction, loss, abuse and neglect of a childhood stolen from them. And God loves their parents. Redemption and grace are real. And hard. A little less Sunday School and a little more rehab, forgiveness and change.

RC and I have not felt personally compelled to foster and we are not actively pursuing adoption, so I started doing some more research about how I could be involved with caring for orphans in my own community. That is where CASA comes in. Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children.

In Colorado, a CASA is a volunteer advocate that is court-appointed and works with a child who is in the foster care system, spending time with them weekly (the commitment is once a week when possible, in person) getting to know them and acting as a positive adult role model in their life. For younger kids this looks like going to the zoo, playing at the park or going to the library…for older adolescents this might look like going to a concert, watching their basketball game, helping check in at school to make sure they are on track to graduate and fostering life skills they will need to live independently at age 18. With most CASA cases, you can include your own family in activities – I love that aspect. I first learned about CASA about one year ago when one of the executives at the hospital where I worked invited me as her guest as the annual fundraising and awareness luncheon that CASA hosts in Denver. I am not much of a crier, but start talking about youth who are in such complex and difficult situations, separated from their parents, physically abused and/or neglected and I am a hot mess. I could not hold back the tears at this luncheon and did everything I could to keep it together and not wind up in the ugly cry. Y’all know what I am talking about…A CASA volunteer stood up to explain what it looks like to volunteer…he was a VP of a local company, father to 4 kids of his own and he found time to be a CASA. Isn’t time the best excuse? We are all so.so.busy.

I did what any person would do after being moved by a cause…I came home and told my husband that he should volunteer to be a CASA. I mean, they need more male volunteers and role models and he would be a great one.

I think I knew in my heart that this was the thing that God was leading me to give my time and energy to. But I am just so.so.busy.

Flash forward 3-4 months. My girlfriend, Carmen, was cutting my hair and we were also talking about very important topics like hair product for my pitifully dry thick hair, why my youngest son was little-boy-weird and liked peeing in our backyard and also Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution. At the tail end of our conversation I told Carmen that I thought I was suppose to volunteer with CASA and to follow-up with me in a few months to see if I followed through with at least finding out what I needed to do logistically to become a volunteer. I honestly think I pushed off my next haircut because I had not taken any action.

I had a lot of fear. I am not a person prone to fear or worry – I have many other things I wrestle with but those are usually not big ones for me. But I felt it considering what it might look like to work with a child who had been abused and/or neglected. How would I handle coming to knowledge of the reality of these situations? As I processed this fear, I realized, how could I not advocate for these children who lived in the reality of loss…abuse…neglect. My fear was their reality.

Then that conversation with Susan…the thing, I knew what God was asking me to be my thing, my small service in the community to support orphan care.

So here I am, wrapping up my 2 week, 30-hour training and will be sworn in at the courthouse next week. I cried my entire 25 min. drive home after the first training. The kids I will work with are so brave and have experienced so much….I wanted to make time to sit down and sort through these thoughts before training wraps up. I want to remember the small act of obedience, by God’s grace, the loving support from my friends & family to show up. Sometimes all it takes is just showing up.

I love what Brené Brown and The Compassion Collective contributors share … there’s no such thing as other people’s children. What a timely reminder as we head in to a weekend that celebrates mothers.

Busyness (real or perceived) robs us all, especially in my generation. We all have life going on, we all have 24-hours in the day to steward. We all have gifts, talents and resources to share. May we do it well and be brave and kind encouragers to also cheer our friends and family on.

What is the thing that God has you to give in the context of your community? What step has to be taken to move forward in that?

By His grace, be brave.

Here are a few other pages of resources about foster care and aging out – if you have any favorite orphan care resources that have been educational for you, please share them in the comments, I am knee-deep in learning!

Facts about aging out by ChildrensRights.org

A NPR profile story of a young adult aging out of foster care

 

 

 

Beasts of No Nation (film) and Hope of Relief in God’s Mercy

November 12, 2015

beasts of no nationLast night I watched a film that has been haunting me since RC hit play.

Beasts of No Nation, at Netflix original film, is the story of an unnamed war-torn West African country and the realities of life for people living through such crisis. The wrecked lives of refugee children-turned-child-soldiers is really the primary focus of most of the film. I like a quality film with a powerful story, but I was not prepared for how the current truth of this particular story line would interrupt me.

For months RC and I have talked and prayed about the refugee crisis around the world. RC has connected with a local ministry in Denver to be a cultural mentor for refugee families and we helped mobilize efforts to collect needed supplies for the group. But after watching the grave realities of the lives that are stolen and scarred from war in so many ways {violence, children made orphaned, children made soldiers, mothers devastated to be separated from their children, men’s mostly futile efforts to save their villages and families, hunger, emotional and physical trauma, deep poverty, etc, etc} made any of these small efforts seem, well, very small.

The older I get the more my eyes and heart are opened to the insurmountable and devastatingly difficult issues that brave men, women and children face — whether in war-torn land or in the suburbs of Western America. Personally, I have a younger brother who struggles to navigate life with severe mental illness that is {by his choice} un-treated and has a domino effect to swiftly make much of his life laden with on-and-off homelessness, poverty, etc. My brother had a particularly tough week this last week. It is heartbreaking. You can give small band-aids and meet a fleeting and temporary need, only to have another arise that is equally as complex. There are no easy solutions. It is difficult to recognize the hurt in this world and feel duly helpless, heart-broken and bewildered at the lack of understanding why I have a nice home, supportive/loving family and no material needs and there are childless/parentless/hurting/poor/hungry/poor health around the globe. I have a hard time just swallowing an “I’m blessed” as a response to these disparities. Even in God providing our family with so many resources, even in great generosity, it feels like such a small impact to be made by any giving we can do on our own. Not that should stop giving in all the ways that each of us can. It can simply feel hopeless when you think about it for any moment too long. I know and I trust that God sees each and everyone of His hurting children – that He is El Roi, the God who sees me/us…His Father hearts breaks with each of ours in the middle of wherever life finds us…weeping or rejoicing.

Oh that we may each be given the wisdom and creativity to be faithful to the part that God has us to play in loving his people well…and may our own busyness and lives not prevent us from still begging God to show us how we can love the people He has given us to serve and love well…

Hope of Relief in God’s Rich Mercy

I found myself in the book of Lamentations today; maybe feeling a similar heavy heart and mourning for our world that the people of Jerusalem felt as Babylon had destroyed their city and their lives.

“This I recall to my mind,

Therefore I have hope.

The LORD’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,

For His compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

the LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

Therefore I have hope in Him.” -Lamentations 3:21-25

Wisdom from a 2-year-old: It is just a house.

April 3, 2015

“Ms. Kim. Ms. Kim, I have something to tell you.”

“What’s up B?”

“It’s just a house.”

“What??” I was not sure what B was talking about. “What do you mean buddy?”

“It’s just a house. It’s just a house.”

We have spent the last 6 weeks searching for the elusivly-perfect house to spend (at least) the next 16 years rasing our children in. Something with a little more space, a guest room again and in a slightly different part of town than we are in now with our preferred schools. Simple, right?

I have lost count of how many homes our small tribe has looked out with our wonderful realtor, but I know we have made 3 offers, with the 4th going in later today. The housing market in Denver is fast and furious, spurred on by little housing inventory and a desirable place to live and apparently plenty of people who can make full cash offers that keep beating us out of the running. It has started to feel quickly discouraging. And a complete mental/emotional and time drain.

Do those sound like 1st world problems or what?! In this process I feel God pricking my heart with conviction of the resources we have and that despite our best efforts to steward well, the values of God are often faced with a violent fight of an easily distracted heart. The bigger, more elaborate, sparkly house often out shines to the one that sufficiently meets real needs. Having updates, extra bedrooms, space, etc are all nice, but at they necessary. As I weigh my desire for various things in a home, I keep coming back to the very most important thing, the people in it. I wouldn’t even need to buy a house if it were not for the people I share it with. What a gift and treasure it is to be able to have a family…

What could one really expect out of a dwelling place, a house or building of any sort? There is certainly creativity, beauty, art and design found within structures of any kind. Any house I have ever seen (or could ever afford) is what architects call a decorated shed… buildings with purely utilitarian designs with fronts intended to give them more grandeur and design. That in contrast to a building that is a duck… or a building that is uniquely designed to fulfill a purpose and can often be very straight-forward or even plain in appearance, but it’s architecture serves a purpose. This analogy has been playing through my mind today as I ponder that a house is just a house. Is my life being transformed by my faith in Jesus, or am I more interested in exterior adornment and lovely looking things than doing the hard work and making decisions that seek to make much of Christ instead of much of myself?

And on this Good Friday all I can think is that, isn’t that what it is all about — people, that God so loves His creation. Those who reside in mud huts in Africa, villages in India, the metropolis of New York and London and in all the Earth. On the other side of eternity what house we all live in matters not. Our Heavenly Father anguished over the death of his Son thousands of years ago in order that we might know Him. What a beautiful, undeserved and radical love. A kind of love that hunts us down  and never lets us go in spite of our own focus on ourselves and often-mocking view.

God has a funny way of making his often inaudible voice loud and clear. This morning as we pulled out of the car pool lane from dropping LP off at school, God used our friend’s 2-year-old son to speak to me.

It is just a house.

“This God – his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” –2 Samuel 22:31-32

Linden Paige is Six!

September 3, 2014

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This post is you know, a few months tardy….

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Miss LP turned 6 years old on June 20. In true Linden fashion, she was a little nostalgic towards being 5 years old and told us that she knew she was about to be too big for some of her favorite clothes and some toys and activities. The annual “I’m not ready to be the next age” ritual started when she was about to turn 3 years old, and on the eve of her birthday she fell asleep crying in the hallway that she did not want to be free. Bless.

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Linden kicked off her birthday day with a special breakfast out with Nana to her choice of Starbucks, for some kids hot chocolate and mini-vanilla bean scones.

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We then picked up her choice of pool-side lunch and headed to the Southridge outdoor pool and inside kids water park. She and her brothers enjoyed 3 hours of fun in the sun, including a small puking from chocking-on-pool-water-mishap by Shep that cleared out the pool for some cleaning. This public puking incident tops only that of LP in Target when she was 18 months old that resulted in buying new clothes on the spot. I always say that nothing has caused me to be a quick thinker on my feet and improvise in the moment than motherhood, can I get a witness?!

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While the brothers napped, LP and I got busy setting up for her tie-dye party with her little girlfriends from school. They all tie-dyed their own t-shirts and then got their hair done with some tie-dyed headbands I made for them. In case you have never spent much time with 8, six-year-old girls, they are a hoot. And they also are at an age where they can do fun things like tie-dye t-shirts with limited supervision, we had a blast!

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After making their shirts the girls ate. And ate. And danced. And ate.

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At 6-years-old, here are a few of Linden’s favorite things:

  • Building and making things…any material will do, Legos, cardboard, old bags
  • Barbies
  • Singing, playing the guitar and making up her own songs
  • Mints and gum
  • Riding her scooter
  • Math
  • Playing with friends
  • Crafting
  • Alone, down-time after a lot of social interaction
  • Swimming
  • Her diary
  • Rainbow Loom

Some of my favorite Linden-isms:

  • Mom, I really need to come up with a new topic for my room (i.e. theme, decor)
  • Sin Soopers is the best grocery store (King Soopers)
  • I love bal-a-lay (ballet)
  • The use of many superlatives to get her point across, i.e. lots, fabulous, awesome, sooooo, million-billion
  • I need to spoke this in your ear (tell you a secret)

 

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Love our girl and the young lady she is growing up to be. Her heart and awareness for others shows maturity beyond being 6-years-old, and her natural bent to think outside of the box and do her own thing are some of our very favorite things about her! It is a gift to watch her develop in to her own person and figure out her place in the world little by little, and I cannot wait to see how the Lord will lead her and use her gift of influence to share His love with others. Happy Birthday Linden Paige!

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#getyourgreyon … Fort Worth 2014 Road trip

July 21, 2014

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We just got back from a week-long family road trip to Fort Worth to see my family, visit friends and celebrate my step-sister, Lauren’s marriage to William.

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We had never traveled 13 hours in a car with our trio before and even though they are good travelers, I was unsure about how a trip this long would be for everyone. We were so proud of everyone, there was {mostly} peace in the car {thank you DVD player, iPod, Thomas trains and annoying Elmo piano book} and we found fun and adventure along the road… first stop was Pampa, Texas… Just past Amarillo, population 17,000, Pampa has a very clean and fun little water park that, as Linden put it, “this is almost better than the Bahamas!” And several times LP could be found in a lounge chair telling us “this is the life!” And at $20 for admission for our entire family, we couldn’t agree more.

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The random metal music note display behind our hotel in Pampa.

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Frog Fountain

After our adventures in Pampa we headed on to Fort Worth and made our first stop at TCU and spent several hours {in the ridiclous heat} walking around campus and outfitting everyone with some updated Horned Frog gear. I thought the TCU campus was beautiful when I was a student almost 10 years ago, but now it is really an amazing campus with expanded campus housing, updated athletic facilities and new academic halls. I don’t know how you could visit this campus and not be impressed, I would choose it all over again. I felt such a strong sense of gratitude and thankfulness for my 4 years there, the ways that I got to see God move in the lives of others and how I experience His transformation in my own life during those years.

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Best thing I got at TCU was this awesome guy! Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get married right out of college and some day bring my {3!} children back to campus with us to visit…

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Joining the new{er} Superfrog statue on the bench outside of the new student center.

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Another highlight of the trip was getting to see Anthony, Allison and Eleanor again! Seeing them two months back-to-back was an extra special blessing and little encouragment from the Lord. Here are some of the sweet looking and tasting cookie goodness that Allison had waiting for us when we arrived to hang out before heading off to the rehersal dinner. They were a-m-a-z-i-n-g…

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Playing kitchen at Eleanor’s house. Anthony & Allison were awesome and baby-sat Hudson for us the night of the rehersal dinner where he got to enjoy some pizza and playtime with Miss E!

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Checking out the view of downtown Fort Worth from the window walk-way at the Worthington Hotel before the rehersal dinner got underway.

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Bass Hall at night. One of the biggest things {aside from people}  that I {dare I even say *we*} miss about Fort Worth are the arts in the city. From the Modern Art Museum, Kimball, Bass Hall, Fort Worth is home to some great cultural gems that we have yet to experience again at the same level quality in any of the other cities we have lived in. Denver may have mountains, but the arts here just are not as rich.

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The morning of the wedding, William’s sweet aunts hosted a brunch for close friends and family at Joe T. Garcia’s, always a favorite.

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Swimming with Paw-Paw

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Brother and sister love on the wedding day. Linden Paige and Shepherd were bell ringers during the ceremony…about 12 littles walked in carrying decorative bells with ribbons and lace hanging from them as a pre-processional to Lauren walking down the asile, it was precious!

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With my Grandpa and his sweet wife, Martha

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Shepherd with Paw-Paw at the wedding reception.

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William and Lauren Grey

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At the lovely reception

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Lauren’s planning was impeccable. I loved the community wedding party table in the middle of the room.

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Sweet girl, sweet treats.

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Lauren had milk and cookies at the reception for the littest guests. Hudson was serious about his.

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All they say about Texas is true.

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Linden Paige and Shepherd in the Stockyards

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A real cowboy.

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Linden was so excited to get on the longhorn. A sweet and adventerous spirit is in this girl!

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Daily cattle drive.

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Croquet with Grandma Shell

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The next morning we woke up early, loaded the team and headed West for home. We made it back to Denver in right at 13 hours. Shepherd was the first one to ask “are we there yet?” when we were in Castle Rock, about 20 min. from our house. Not shabby, not shabby at all.

Thankful for another fun summer adventure and being able to celebrate William and Lauren’s special day with them! Full hearts, glad to be home with far less humidity, heat and mosquitos…until later ya’ll.

Summer Adventures with a few of our favorites!

July 1, 2014

 

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Life-long friends are true treasures and we were so happy to have the K’s with us to visit Colorado a few weeks ago!

 

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Anthony and Allison’s little girl, Eleanor, is just about 6 weeks younger than Hudson and we were so excited to finally get to meet her! LP enjoyed getting to have a little sister friend while they were here and both boys adopted her in to the family right away. We may or may not have an arranged marriage in the works for E and H…

 

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Before heading up to Vail for a long weekend, we stopped Denver’s new infamous Voodoo Doughnut’s to see what deliciousness comes in the pink box… it did not disappoint!

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It was not easy to choose from all of the delectable selections on display. Some choices were made to avoid saying the names of certain doughnuts, ha!

 

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Like a kid in a candy…er…doghnut shop

 

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apparently sometimes the doughnut that Allison chose can be made even bigger than this…I think she ate off of this all 4 days.

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A sweet little bubble gum doughnut for this girl

 

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Hudson went with one of the most popular Voodoo doughnut selections… Captain Oh, My Captain… it was bigger than his face, but he ate it all.

 

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Shep’s Marshall Mather’s (M & M) selection

 

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After fully gorging on doughnuts, we headed on up to Vail for a nice hike. Miss E was the perfect  traveler all weekend and took her first Colorado hike like a native baby. The hand in the pocket…could she be any cuter?!

 

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Team E & Team K ready for the steep trail.

 

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I love to ski the mountains in the winter, but I love the summer views even more. Booth Creek Trail did not disappoint in the scenery department.

 

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Hiking mamas.

 

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About 1 mile in, I had my doubts about LP & Shep being able to hike the full 6 miles round trip all on foot along the steep path, but they did great. E and H even hiked some on their own.

 

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Hum… almost a group selfie… Shep behind Ryan’s head and LP cut off below H…we tried…

 

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We  stayed at the Vail Racquet Club and the grounds were so lovely! There was a fast-moving stream that ran behind the property, lush vegetation and a nice pool and tennis courts. I think if we had stayed one more day up there we probably would have done a few activities on the resort.

 

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The K’s behind Vail Racquet Club

 

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L, H, S and E pancakes one morning. RC didn’t make any A and K pancakes though…

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We headed further West from Vail one day to Glenwood Springs, our family’s annual CO-Vacay spot and enjoyed an entire day at the natural Hot Springs pool. The weather was a little chilly that day, so being in the nice warm hot springs felt really good. The kids did fantastic again and had so much fun. And so did the adults.

 

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Anthony enjoying his mountain beach experience.

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Our crew on at the resort playground

 

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Vail

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Our pre-trip planning did not turn up this cupcake shop, but we were able to find Mountain Cupcakes in Vail Village.

 

 

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RC and I tried our first macaroons. They were delish!

 

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Our cookie monster

 

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Shep really liked his lime macaroon and held it close

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And  when the time came to send the K’s off to the airport to go home to Texas, a few tears were shed…such a wonderful and relaxing time with dear friends and a great way to start the Summer!

 Full hearts, so grateful…

The first ride

June 29, 2014

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