When we think of doing something as difficult and as life-changing as foster care or adoption, often our immediate reaction is to dissociate — to conceive that only a special type of person could do it, that the qualification is necessarily near perfection and having everything in order. Basically, it takes a saint.
But what does it really take, and what does it really mean?
Meet the Gauntt family. John Gauntt is a pastor at Calvary Chapel with the Eikon Ministry. His wife, Kate, is a stay-at-home mom. Together, with Kate’s mother, Dee Leaderstorf, they have six wonderful little children. Inspired by her mother — who acted as a foster parent while Kate was in college — Kate’s love for children and foster care bloomed. So when she and John got married and had their first little girl and a family of three children that Kate’s mother had fostered eventually re-entered the system, the Gauntts jumped at the opportunity. They welcomed these three children into their home and started the long and arduous process of adoption.
The lessons of adoption
Now, with every new marriage, and certainly a young baby, there are challenges: a period of transition, learning, and growing together. Imagine that multiplied several times over with older children who you’re getting to know. Children about whom no one else seems to care and who have seen more pain and hardship than many of us could ever imagine. Sound like a tall order? Of course! But thankfully, the Gauntts didn’t go it alone. Kate
expressed what a deep understanding of God and his word the whole process has provided — and the awesome reminder that, through Christ, we ourselves are adopted.
Throughout the entire journey of foster care and adoption, God has provided the Gauntts so many lessons. They are learning how to put other people before themselves, for one. Surprisingly, they are experiencing the tremendous capacity for love and joy children have. They have also witnessed the pure enjoyment of life, even after having walked in the valley of the shadow of death.
Consistency and love win out
It was especially hard at the beginning, Kate said. Children who are placed in the foster care system often have trouble with attachment and trust, naturally – as many times they are wrenched from their homes and everything familiar in their lives suddenly and unwillingly.
Kate and John were about as green as you could get – young couple, young marriage, young baby; they didn’t have years of experience or special training. They simply had a “yes” heart. They stayed united in faith, read tons of books and got advice from those who had been in their shoes. Over time, consistency and love won out, and now the kids – especially the eldest, Dedrick, are transformed. Each of them is blossoming in this environment of safety, security and affection.
Unwrapping special gifts
In each child in the Gauntt home, Kate sees a unique personality and special gifts:
Dedrick, the eldest at 7, acts like a leader and, with a strong sense of right and wrong, wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
Anthony is almost 6 and has an amazing spirit. He never gives up and keeps on trying no matter what.
Nyia, 5, is super intelligent and so skilled at arguing her case that Kate believes she will become a lawyer. Inspired no doubt by her mommy, Nyia wants to become a mommy herself someday.
Ean, 3, is the foster son of Kate’s mother but is totally accepting and loving toward his extended family.
Claire, although only 2, is the star of the family, somehow sensing when people are down and reaching out to cheer them up in her special little way.
Laura E., or L.E. as she is lovingly called, is a happy little baby of 7 months.
Smiling at the future
In looking at these little lives being shaped and molded in love, Kate is excited about the future. She can’t wait to see each of her children grow up and fulfill their God-given potential. She prays they all become great friends with an unbreakable bond, and looks forward to having a relationship with each of them individually as a mother and as a friend.
The whole experience has taught Kate a lot about her own relationship with her husband. It has brought them closer together. She admires John for stepping up to the call and becoming a dad in such a short time yet being so humble about it all.
So what does it really mean to be a foster or adoptive parent? Sacrifice, faith, love.
Kate’s advice: “Do it! It may be a challenge but you’re going to be so blessed!”
You will never regret loving a child, and the love these kids receive, even if it’s for a short time, can change them for a lifetime.
God doesn’t call the qualified…he calls us.
Keisha McDonnough is a research analyst and writer. A Jamaican native and South Florida resident, she is passionate about poetry and vow writing. Check out her website at everaftervows.com.