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Effective Compassion: In pursuit of hope - S4.E4


WORLD Radio - Effective Compassion: In pursuit of hope - S4.E4

What does it mean to foster from a Christian perspective?

Dewey and Amanda Stoffels at their front door. They have welcomed 25 foster kids into their home over 15 years. Photo by Bonnie Pritchett

BONNIE PRITCHETT, REPORTER: Dave Pflug had no intention of adopting children when he and his wife Ashley married in 2008. Ashley had.

DAVE PFLUG: It kind of sounds bad when I say it out loud. But you know, just the feeling I had, you know, our biological kids I felt like were my kids. And, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to love other people's kids as well as they deserve as well as they should.

Ten months after the wedding, they had their first daughter. The next daughter came in 2012.

DAVE PFLUG: And then we kind of thought we were done. I was kind of holding firm on not adopting, but there was a woman at our church…

The woman, Sherry, had taken in two girls, the daughters of a close friend. The girls were reunited with their mother, only to be removed again.

DAVE PFLUG: And Sherry sent out kind of an SOS to the entire church. And she said, it looks like these girls are going to have to be adopted, is there anybody who can help, who can take them.

Dave and Ashley read the message separately while at work. That evening, after their daughters were in bed, they discussed opening their home and hearts to two more daughters.

ASHLEY PFLUG: What I think is interesting about our story is that I think a lot of families think about it for a really long time. For us, we went to work one day as a family of four. And by the time the night fell, we were considering being a family of six, just in an instant, we said okay, you know, what does God have for us in this? And how do we walk in obedience to what we feel called to? And so it was really just like an instantaneous response to God's calling into foster care.

Foster care. The term is often defined by the temporary nature of the foster parent/child relationship. But what does foster really mean?


Webster's New World Dictionary, circa 1984, has three definitions for the verb form of foster, the third being most notable. It says, “to cling to in one’s mind; cherish, as in ‘foster hope.’”

How do Christian parents effectively foster hope in children whose traumatic past gives them little hope for the future?

Choosing to love children not their own—whose behavior often does not foster familial love—builds trust. That fosters better communication, self-discipline, good character, and, by God’s grace, hope in the one who will never leave them or forsake them.

From WORLD Radio and the creative team that brings you The World and Everything in It, this is Effective Compassion. I’m Bonnie Pritchett.

UNDERWRITING SPOT: Effective Compassion is made possible by listeners like you. Additional support comes from World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization working to deliver food and Bibles to starving, persecuted Christians in North Korea, one of the most dangerous nations for Christians. A gift of $20 sends a Bible and a week's worth of food to a North Korean brother or sister. More at worldhelp.net/podcast.

As Dave and Ashley Pflug continued to talk about the possibility of adoption, God began illuminating something they had not considered before.

ASHLEY PFLUG: I think one thing that pushed us over the edge into fostering is that fostering and adopting and underserved kids, they seemed so anonymous and far away…

Until they weren’t. Dave and Ashley Pflug didn’t personally know Sherry or the little girls she was trying to find a home for. But they knew enough. And that brought the girls, and their plight, out from under the shroud of anonymity.

DAVE PFLUG: After the kids were in bed, we started talking about it and kind of both felt like kind of a tug to say yes…

That night they contacted 1 Hope, a faith-based adoption and foster care agency in San Antonio where the Pflugs live. By the time the couple completed their licensing process, the girls were already settled in another home. That was 2020 and foster families were in short supply.

DAVE PFLUG: And so 1 Hope asked, “We know that you were going for these two kids, but are you willing to consider other kids?

They agreed but with parameters that would suit their family dynamics – they would take only girls ages five to 15.

ASHLEY PFLUG: We had our first kid in our home that night.

DAVE PFLUG: Just after midnight. It was kind of a, like you said, now it's real. It was definitely okay, this is a leap of faith. I don't know what we're getting into and, and yeah, it was, it's a little bit scary.

The Pflugs shared their story in January as two of their three foster daughters, 5 and 6 year old sisters, played amiably with a doll house almost as big as the youngest.

DAVE PFLUG: The first few days it takes some getting used to being in a new home a lot of times with rules that they're not used to. Such as bedtime. Well, let's start with this this current placement. They warned us when they dropped them off…

That was around 10 p.m. on a weeknight. The sisters were still playing well after midnight when the Pflugs and their caseworker finally completed the requisite paperwork.

DAVE PFLUG: Yeah, the CPS worker warned us that they had woken up for the day, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. They were nocturnal. And so we, we had work the next day, our kids had school the next day. But we still were trying to start getting them moving towards bed after midnight. But for four hours, we would hear you know, thump up about you know, as they ran around or ran down the stairs or, or whatever. And, so, bedtimes was a big one.

The Pflugs understand their role as foster parents involves more than ensuring the children learn healthy habits like regular sleep patterns. As the title implies, they must “foster.” But what does that mean?

ASHLEY PFLUG: To help thrive. And especially as believers, you know, fostering is a mission field. It is caring, you know, because God first loved us.

DAVE PFLUG: It's one of the things that that day where I finally felt called to it. Something that just really stood out to me was we're called to care for the orphans. And this is one way that we can do that.

That’s the command in James 1:27 that you’ve already heard mentioned several times this season. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction…”

Scott and Brandi Richerson had accepted that call and began foster care orientation classes when they realized the extent of the affliction.

SCOTT RICHERSON: And they introduced foster care and introduced trauma based kids and introduced this, really, the population of children in foster care, just in the state of Texas, every year, and over numbers..

BRANDI RICHERSON: are astounding. Yeah, the numbers were so high that we knew that we had to be part of the solution.

Twenty-two thousand. That’s how many Texas children lived in foster care at the end of August 2022. Nationwide, the number was 407 thousand.

The Richersons live in New Braunfels, Texas. Brandi’s an RN with a local cardiac clinic. Scott pastors a church plant. It’s his second career. He retired from the automotive industry after 32 years.

Brandi and Scott are 47 and 58, respectively. Theirs is a blended marriage – each brought three children to the relationship 13 years ago. Their youngest had just graduated high school when they felt called to open their home to foster kids and, if God willed, to adopt.

BRANDI RICHERSON: And, so, we really were empty nesting. We knew that we had more love to give. And so when we started out, we kept it open, just in our hearts, that if God would have kids for us to adopt, we would be open for that. But primarily we were just gonna foster…

They were certified in March 2019.

BRANDI RICHERSON: But within two days, we did get our first placement of two little kiddos. They were at that time, they were 5 months and 4 years old. And it had been a little little bit since we had, you know, bottles and car seats and things like that. Diapers. And so we dove right in and got back acclimated. But I found it really easy to just immediately love them…

In July another set of young brothers joined the Richerson household. Over the next two years both sets of brothers experienced failed reunification efforts with family members. All four ended up back at the Richersons last June—within one day of each other.

SCOTT RICHERSON: So for everyone. It was like, “Okay, we're all back together. Right. And so [BRANDI ] They walked in, they were high fiving and you know, everybody was really excited to be back together again.

Last Thanksgiving, the Richersons adopted brothers, Andrew, 12, and Xavier, 7. The brothers who first came to the Richersons we’ll call the oldest Joshua for privacy reasons. They’re 7 and 3 years old and still in the foster system.

Waiting. Repeated removals and placements only compound the trauma caused by the circumstances that required the removal in the first place—often neglect or abuse. That trauma finds expression in subtle or explosive behavior that can catch foster parents off guard.

Scott Richerson recalls the early weeks with their first placement in 2019.

SCOTT RICHERSON: There's also an awareness that happens that the children that you're caring for are not viewing the world with normality. One of the kids was very expressive in frustration and anger to, to a violent, extreme. You could imagine the temper tantrum times 100…

Then the boy dropped a verbal bombshell.

SCOTT RICHERSON: And there's a shock that comes with that, that you think to yourself, this child, who's you know, roughly 4 years old, what has he experienced and what has he seen that would model for him that when he's in that situation, that's how you respond…

Days earlier he used another word that didn’t sit well with Scott, but for very different reasons.

SCOTT: And by Sunday, I’d gone and come back. And as I walked in the house, there's this exclamation of “daddy” coming from the four-year-old. And he’s running to the front door to embrace me. And you might initially think, “Wow, that's really, really cool.” No, it's not. Because what it made me aware of is that one, there was an absence in his home of that. Number two, there is not an identification that that term is used for a special relationship. That term to him was used to any male in the house. And so, knowing that and having an awareness of that, right, then that word foster then gets bigger…

Before fostering, the Richersons would have described the role as “temporary parenting” while providing a safe, loving place for kids in transition. That’s changed.

SCOTT: It’s holistic. It's fostering health. It's fostering healing. It's fostering potential. It's fostering the ability to talk about your journey and your trauma that brings in a way that brings healing and wholeness. That it's fostering peace in a child's heart. It's fostering discipline and rules and guidelines and boundaries and have-toos, and structure…

BRANDI RICHERSON: Fostering the beginning of a spiritual journey. And so, you know, seeing our kids learn about Jesus for the first time…

Fostering a good character, healthy habits, and relationships in children is the God-ordained role of a child’s parents. But many children become wards of the state because their parents don’t teach them the way they should go.

On the contrary. Neglect, abuse, loss, the absence of a nurturing caregiver teach their own lessons: Trust no one. Attach to no one. Flee from or fight any perceived threat.

Fostering children from hard places requires more than helping them unlearn bad habits. Research indicates it necessitates rewiring a child’s brain that has learned to respond emotionally, instinctively, seemingly irrationally. A popular and effective treatment for those kids is called Trust-Based Relational Intervention.

KARYN PURVIS: T BRI, Trust-Based Relational Intervention has at its core, building a trusting relationship…

That’s the late Karyn Purvis. She led TBRI research at Texas Christian University.

PURVIS: When you think about development, the baby cries and you say, “Yes, I will comfort you. Until this child learns they have a voice, they learn trust, which is the lesson of the first year of life: “I can trust.” There are so many children from hard places and for those children, their capacity to trust has been fiercely damaged. The brain chemistry of a child who cries and no one comes is dramatically altered. The child with a history of trauma or loss or abuse has no hope of healing without a nurturing relationship…

With that nurturing care, the child’s brain can rewire. And, in time, the child learns to appropriately regulate their emotions and actions. They learn to trust and bond with caregivers.

KARYN PURVIS: So the message of hope for our families is that we can help bring our children to dramatic levels of healing, we simply have to be devoted to it, and be willing to invest in what it's going to take.

Hope was a long time coming for Amanda and Nick Boyd who had never heard of TBRI when they began fostering in 2010.

AMANDA BOYD: I was a behavior teacher. My husband was an assistant principal. It's what he did was deal with behaviors all the time. And so we're sitting in the foster care classes, and they're talking about, you know, these kiddos, and they didn't go into a whole lot of detail about how hard it was going to be. But we're like, oh, man, we got this, you know, no problem…

And then their first placement of three siblings arrived—two boys ages 5 and 9 and their 11-year-old sister.

AMANDA BOYD: And the 11 year old was very, very challenging and turned our world upside down. We were not prepared, emotionally, we were not prepared spiritually, we just were not prepared for what was fixing to happen to our home, and to ourselves, honestly, as well…

Two years into that placement, Amanda Boyd was in a dark place.

AMANDA BOYD: And there were times when I didn't have loving feelings toward this kiddo at all. In fact, there were times I hated her. I could not look at her in the face because I hated her so much. I hated what she had done to me. I hated what she had done to my family unit. But at the end of the day, isn’t that what Christ does for us? Doesn't he love us with unconditional love, when he was on the cross? Right? The people that were there, they hated him. But, yet, when he talked to his father, he said, “God, please forgive them because they don't know what they do.” That's the kind of unconditional love that Christ shows for us.

Unconditional love stretched thin can’t always sustain foster parents’ commitments. Amanda Boyd felt abandoned in the trenches. And no one was coming to help.

Foster parents—like the parents of biological children—need time off. They need a date night. But foster kids can’t be left with just anyone. Babysitters must be licensed by the state of Texas. Want to get away longer than a weekend? That requires a respite care provider who has an additional level of certification.

According to the Texas foster agencies and ministries I interviewed, as many as 30 to 50 percent of foster parents close their homes after the first year. Some parents leave the system after adopting their foster kids. Others cite lack of support as one of the main reasons for quitting.

AMANDA BOYD: But it doesn't have to be that hard. Because what foster families need is hope. They need support, and they need someone coming along beside them that says, I'm here with you. I'm in this with you. I'm in the ditches with you. And we're going to, we're going to make it through this. Just lean on me. And I'm going to show you the way out.

Boyd drew from her experiences to establish a new foster and adoption agency she named Sanctuary. Only three years old, the agency keeps its clientele small and within a 30-mile radius of the office to provide more intimate and immediate, hands-on care for their families.

Boyd’s husband, Nick, became a real estate agent to support the new start-up. He now has a more flexible schedule—allowing him to be home with their growing family.


After hollering upstairs, Nick returns to his dinner prep at the kitchen island.

NICK BOYD: We're going off the reservation today because I wanted several things. So we're having pork chops, eggs, french fries and some homemade peasant bread.

One biological son and 7 adopted kids round out the Boyds’ rambunctious and congenial brood. They range in age from 12 to 25.

As two of the teenage boys rough-house, their 12-year-old brother does math homework, and two others play with the cats. Nick and Amanda recall their foster and adoption care journey.

Amanda always knew she wanted to adopt and asked any guy she dated if he, too, would be willing.

AMANDA BOYD: And so I asked him, and he said, “Yes.”

NICK BOYD: What I failed to do was quantify how many children she wanted to adopt. That was my bad, but to anybody else listening, make sure you quantify with the woman that you love.

REPORTER: As two more kids walk into the room…[LAUGHTER AND CHAT]

PETER BOYD: I’m just an add on.


Hannah Boyd, their 23-year-old adopted daughter. The once reviled 11-year-old foster daughter.

HANNAH BOYD: I just remember being very, very angry. And I had been through a few foster homes beforehand. So for me, I came here thinking, I'm just gonna be placed here for a little while, and then I'm gonna, leave and they're not gonna keep me. So I was just very, very angry. And I felt like I wanted somebody else to feel how I felt. So I kind of, took it out on others like a child…

Hannah and her fiancé Peter Metuza join her parents around the kitchen island. Most of their kids are within earshot of the conversation. The family doesn’t shy away from telling the hard stories. Nick recalls, with his usual tension-cutting humor, when he first realized that fostering was going to be harder than he imagined.

He points with mock indignation at his daughter.

NICK BOYD: Hannah. Truly, right. She started acting like a lunatic. Even as a behavior specialist, because I was a behavior coach before I was an assistant principal, my whole workday is around behavior modification for kids. And it's just different on kids with trauma and foster care kids especially when they're in your home. There's no amount of training. Like part of his training, but you got to get to the relationship piece for the training to be effective. And that took a long time for me to get to the relationship part. I was just trying to do the training stuff first…

After two years of turmoil, the Boyd’s discovered Trust-Based Relational Intervention and learned they had been taking the wrong tack.

AMANDA BOYD: We were using consequences on a regular basis. We had her seven o'clock bedtime. And it just it wasn't working. And it nothing we tried, consequence wise, was effective. I mean, she would just look at you. And she would be like… [HANNAH INTERJECTS]

HANNAH BOYD: For me, I didn't care. I was like, my last foster home, sent me to bed at five o'clock. So you're already doing better. So, I just didn't care.

Hannah didn’t need Time Out. She needed Time In.

AMANDA BOYD: Because part of the issue was she didn't know how to interact in a family type setting. She didn't know how to interact with other people. So she was comfortable in her room alone. And so then we started making her go with us places and to do things with us to be able to start to work through some of that and figure out how to interact with people.

Hannah remembered when her parent’s new tactics made an impression.

HANNAH BOYD: I was mad, and very angry. And I was very, very stubborn. She said, “ Don't come inside until you do this.” And I said, “Okay, fine. I won't come inside then.” And I went outside, and I was gonna go sleep in the doghouse outside. And she brought me hot cocoa in the doghouse. And so I was like, Why is she being nice to me? And so it really like shifted my focus. And I was like, wow, they still love me, even though I'm doing all of this. And so that was the moment that I just decided I want to go to therapy and I want to be better. I don't want to be angry anymore, because it's very tiring.

Her behavior change took time and taught lessons in the process.

NICK BOYD: But she definitely helped us learn how to take care of the ones that followed. For sure.

And there were more. Some adopted. Others returned to family or other adopting parents.

BOYD: We got Terra and Brody…

With children coming and going from their homes, foster parents must love the children in their care, but hold loosely any claim to them… like a 3-year-old boy who stole the Boyds’ hearts.

HANNAH BOYD: And we bonded with him really, really well. And so, him going back home for us, they lived in Dallas, so it was very hard for us to see a future of us getting to regularly see him.

NICK: I mean it was a cry bus the whole way home from Fort Worth just because I really bonded with him.

The little boy’s family eventually relocated near the Boyds and the two families regularly see each other. But that’s not always the case.

AMANDA: And then we have one and we call him our missing piece because we don't get to see him. We had him for about a year and a half. And he went to go live with his aunt. And unfortunately, his aunt wanted him to forget about his foster care experience. We miss him like crazy…

The unknown fuels some of the grief: Is the child safe? Healthy? Is he thriving? Will she remember what they taught her about the love of God?

Dewey and Amanda Stoffels have those questions 25 times over. Each face in the hallway photo gallery tells a story.

AMANDA STOFFELS: And then we had a pregnant teen that came in and her younger brother…

That’s Amanda Stoffels. Over the last 15 years, 25 kids—and counting!—have called their North Texas house “home.” Like other couples, it was the woman who initially felt called to foster or adopt.

AMANDA STOFFELS: We both wanted kids. But I brought it up about fostering and he's like, not “No” but “Heck, no!” But then there was a series of events that brought us to the fact of okay, maybe, maybe we are called to fostering…

Dewey had a co-worker who was fostering at the same time Amanda—a certified special education teacher - had foster kids in her class.

AMANDA STOFFELS: We had these foster kids and I kept coming home telling Dewey, I could do better than that foster mom. I cannot believe I could totally do better than her. And to this day, those words haunt me. But to this day, I feel like that's what the teachers are all doing to me now. That's what I get for being young and naive and going to save the world…

The Stoffels got licensed in 2008. In May, with a 1 year old daughter and a second on the way, the Stoffels got their first placement.

DEWEY: We remember the first case - never forget her. They were a pair that came together as a pair…

They were a brother and sister. Within weeks the boy returned home. His sister stayed with the Stoffels.

AMANDA STOFFELS: When she was born she was told she wouldn't live past six months. She had her sixth birthday with us. She was wheelchair bound, nonverbal, fed with a G button. And she was medically fragile. And she had a do-not-resuscitate on her when she came to us…

By October Amanda was two weeks postpartum from a C-Section when their foster daughter’s health rapidly deteriorated.

AMANDA STOFFELS: So, she went to the hospital and she never came home after that…

DEWEY STOFFELS: So, that would be one that you don't forget.

The couple closed their home to fostering after that heartbreaking first experience. But the closure wasn’t permanent—just time enough to deal with their grief and devote time to their two infants.

When they opened their home again they had their third biological child and could foster three more at one time.

As with many homes with six children, life in the Stoffels home is… busy. One day, Amanda’s sister asked her how she did it all.

AMANDA STOFFELS: And I sat there for a second and I go, Well, I don't. And I said, I go. I just remember every morning, I have to say okay, God, there's too many things for me to do. So it's up to you like God, you make my day and whatever gets done, gets done, because it's your timing. And then I move on. It happens, it falls in place. And I'm sitting here with a semi decent clean house right now talking to you acting, like I don't have six kids. It is doable. And we survived.

The State of Texas requires parents incorporate their foster kids into the family’s regular routines. The Stoffels happily comply with fishing and hunting trips—even dressing the deer. And because their oldest biological child, Samantha, is a nationally competitive archer that means road trips.

AMANDA STOFFELS: One placement we said was super lucky. It was an 11 year old girl and her nine year old brother. And we drove from Texas, to Cincinnati, Ohio to go to the national archery tournament. I know! 14-hour road trip. And then we went and we tried to hit as many states as we could on the way back. And they're like coloring in all the states they got to go to…

The joy of introducing foster children to new experiences and adventures is tempered by the unavoidable disruptions that come with sharing a home with children whose traumatic lifes can roil a home. When training and outside interventions fail, the last resort is emergency discharge. That’s when foster parents ask their agency to remove a child from their care.

Early into their fostering the Stoffels made the heartbreaking request that two emotionally fraught teenage girls be removed from their home. An unusual placement circumstance had put their daughter in an unsafe environment. After that incident the Stoffels closed their home again.

DEWEY STOFFELS: We did take a break for four or five years. And when I say we take a break, I mean, realistically, we quit fostering for a long period of time. And I always felt like, maybe that was, that was my niche, or, you know, maybe that was what I was supposed to be doing. And I didn't, I just had that uneasy feeling like, that's what we should be doing…

That long-term hiatus never settled well with Amanda either. A family movie night brought it all to the surface.

AMANDA STOFFELS: Of all movies. I watched Despicable Me.


GRU: Ah, anyway. Can we proceed with the adoption? So, so excited. [WOMAN’S VOICE] Please tell Margo, Edith and Agnus to come to the lobby. [GIRLS SQUEALING] I bet the mom is beautiful. I bet the dad’s eyes sparkle. I bet their house is made of Gummy Bears…Oh, hi girls. [SUSPENSEFUL MUSIC] Girls, I want you to meet Mr. Gru. He’s going to adopt you.

AMANDA STOFFELS: I broke into tears. Dewey he's like, what's wrong with you? And I'm like, “They need a foster mom!” He's like, “Okay.” So, that's what started our “we need to be recertified again” [LAUGHING]…

At times, God graciously encourages parents with glimpses of his mercy toward their foster children.

LITTLE BOY SINGING: Jesus loves me this I know…

Like when a 3-year-old boy in the Stoffels care learned to sing despite his delayed speech development due to drug detoxification.

AMANDA STOFFELS: And I was like, this is why we do what we do…At 3 years old. He now knows what Jesus loves me as…

That was six years ago. The boy and his little sister were placed with their grandfather. Loving and letting go can be the hardest part of fostering.

AMANDA STOFFELS: We are here opening our home for God and what he needs to do for these kids. I can't do enough. I can't do, be there enough for them. I am just a random lady in this world. But God can, and God can do everything they need, and can be there for them for anything that they need. And so that's how I survive. That's how I let them go because God's got them. I never had them. God did.

Sometimes God lets parents watch as he takes their foster child’s tragic story and rewrites it for his glory.

Dave and Ashley Pflug had a front row seat to his sovereignty when their 5-year-old foster daughter descended into uncontrollable tantrums after learning she was being adopted by an aunt she didn’t know. Her behavior continued during the weeks-long transition spent at her aunt’s home.

About two weeks before the adoption became final the aunt called Ashley.

ASHLEY PFLUG: And she actually called me and said, “I have her all packed, and I am dropping her off at your house in San Antonio or I'm dropping her off at the police station, your choice.”

The Pflugs live 170 miles from the aunt’s home. Caseworkers intervened. So did someone else.

DAVE PFLUG: But there was her kindergarten teacher at this new school that she was going to since moving to her aunt's house, heard that, you know, the adoption wasn't going through. And she and her husband said, “Oh, we'll adopt her.”

ASHLEY PFLUG: And it's just a beautiful story of God's sovereignty over her entire pathway, because she couldn't have met them any other way…

Trusting God’s sovereignty helps Christian foster parents face the unknown. But their hearts still ache for the foster child living in the “now” and “What’s next?”

As Scott and Brandi Richerson tell me their foster and adoption stories, their 7-year-old foster son, Joshua, sits quietly within earshot. When Scott gets up from the table, the boy gets up to hug him—resting his head on his dad’s stomach, arms reaching up around his waist. Scott pulls him closer. A few words pass softly between them.

Three years ago, this was the little boy who welcomed Scott home with a shout of “Daddy!” and a hug. Now, having spent almost half his young life with the Richersons, that word means something.

So does the hug. Last Thanksgiving the Richersons adopted Andrew and Xavier. Joshua and his little brother are still foster kids. The distinction is painfully clear, even to a 7-year-old.

BRANDI RICHERSON: Their case is still in the process of being determined. So we're, we are just been loving them full on until we're given a different direction. They know if that's determined they need a forever home [SCOTT SPEAKS] We’re it! As one of them sees the other two getting adopted, there's the what happens to me? And so there's an explanation. We're gonna be here for as long as you need us. If that's a year or two until you can go back that way. Or if that's forever, then we're gonna be here for as long as you want, as long as you need.

Loving a child knowing you may have to let them go hurts. But Dewey Stoffels argues that’s every parent’s job.

DEWEY STOFFELS: And I think of love in a lot of ways. It's an action word, it's about what you do. And preparing kids to leave, is what we do as parents. Our job is to prepare them to go out into the world and be successful, productive members of society, who honor their Lord in heaven. And, to the extent that I can implant those values, or be a part of the lives of kids that come into our home, that's just given me the opportunity to prepare them for the same things that I'm preparing our biological kids for.

Nick and Amanda Boyd have done just that, admittedly by the grace of God. In February, their daughter Hannah moved into her own apartment. The steadfast—and stubborn—love of her parents has prepared her for life as a young adult. A quote from C.S. Lewis’s book The Four Loves drives home that point for Hannah. She tried reading it on her own but couldn’t finish.

HANNAH BOYD: [BARELY AUDIBLE] I can’t, Mom…[AMANDA] We’ll do it together. Are you ready?

HANNAH AND AMANDA BOYD: To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

Loving their foster children comes naturally for some parents. For others, it's a choice, at least at first: They admit they love imperfectly. Sometimes without apparent success. And always with the prayer that they’ll do better next time.

And there's a former 11-year-old foster daughter once worn weary by anger and grief urging them to persevere.

HANNAH BOYD: Sometimes it's a very hard choice, as she can tell you because you have to love them. And if you like it's better for them to come to you and you to love them and you be hurt than them just never be loved at all, you know?

Next week we’ll go to court … to meet some of the people involved in advocating for the rights of children, and their families.

BARBER: It’s so rewarding just to get to spend time with this kid and see how great they … and try to support them, and try to make them realize what potential they have. And try to boost them up, you know, when other factors might be bringing them down.

Effective Compassion is produced by the creative team at WORLD Radio. I’m Bonnie Pritchett. Leigh Jones is our producer. Paul Butler is our executive producer. Technical assistance from Rich Rozel and Creative Genius Productions.

UNDERWRITER SPOT: Effective Compassion is made possible by listeners like you. Additional support comes from World Help, a Christian humanitarian organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world. Help for today, hope for tomorrow. Right now, World Help has a window of opportunity to deliver food and Bibles to starving, persecuted Christians in North Korea, one of the most dangerous nations for Christians. A gift of $20 sends a Bible and a week's worth of food to a Christian living in this hostile country. More at worldhelp.net/podcast.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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