When Jason and Mandie Summers decided to become foster parents, their biggest hesitations came from the “cautions” of other people. They had three biological children and had been told, among other things, that fostering would have a negative effect on their biological children.
“I can say that could not be farther from the truth,” Mandie Summers said. “In fact, each of our three bio children – who are 11, 9 and 6 – have said they want to be foster parents when they grow up.
“Watching them love their foster siblings well has been one of the biggest blessings of fostering. When the little one is awake, crying in the night, they feel compassion instead of being annoyed and frustrated. When we have to alter family plans to accommodate a therapy session, they understand and offer to compromise. Our three bio kids are living out what the Bible calls us to do – love the orphans – and they are teaching my husband and I how to do that daily.”
The Summers fostering journey began several years ago.
“My husband Jason and I began to feel like our family wasn’t complete,” Mandie said. “We began looking into adoption, but didn’t have a peace about moving forward with that. We met a woman who had been a social worker with DFCS and she began telling us about the foster care system, and specifically the need in the Atlanta area. We had no idea. This was all new to us and we were so brokenhearted. We couldn’t shake the feeling and after a couple months of praying, we proceeded with the application process through FaithBridge.”
After becoming licensed, they were placed with a little boy. A few months later, his baby sister was also placed with them.
“They came into care in 2016 on Good Friday as part of a sibling group that were separated in order to be placed before the Easter holiday,” Mandie said. “We got the second to youngest, a boy. Another FaithBridge foster family got his younger sister, and the older kids were placed in DFCS homes.
“The initial reason for removal was neglect, but subsequent court hearings provided more reasons for DFCS intervention. After six months or so, a relative was going to take the two youngest children because they were his biological niece and nephew. The boy in our care was in the middle of several rounds of oral surgery and the relative did not think he could commit to taking him to hospital and dental visits; however he took the baby girl home with him. Two months later, she was brought back into care. At this time, DFCS felt it was important for her to be placed with her brother, and since we still had him in our care, we got a call asking us to take her as well.”
When Jason and Mandie got that sudden call from DFCS telling them there was a “baby sister in their office and would they come get her”, they said yes. Within three hours of that call, a volunteer from their Community of Care, WeFoster at First Baptist Woodstock, was at their door with a crib mattress, a car seat, some clothes, diapers and a meal.
“I will never forget the kindness of those who came together to lighten our load,” Mandie said. “Our Community of Care through WeFoster has been an indescribable support system for us.
“Besides meeting needs, they provide a ‘support group’ of sorts for both foster moms and dads. This is a safe space where we can laugh and cry together, and where we are known and loved. I highly recommend a similar group to anyone who is fostering. In addition, they also provide monthly ‘parents night out’ to allow my husband and myself a date night. As you can image, this is an incredible gift to anyone doing foster care. We are blessed beyond measure to be a part of WeFoster.”
Both of the children have been diagnosed with some developmental issues. The sister was borderline Failure to Thrive when she entered care, not even measuring on the growth chart. She failed every one of the Babies Can’t Wait assessments and missed several developmental milestones. Currently, though, thanks to receiving the help and treatment they both needed, they are making incredible progress and have almost caught up to all developmental milestones and are functioning at almost complete age appropriateness.
“We truly could not be more proud of them. They are fighters. They are intelligent. They are amazing. Their future is so bright,” Mandie said. “I don’t have words to describe how they have impacted our lives. I can say definitely that they have blessed, changed, and grown us, in more ways than we have changed theirs. My bio children have learned to open their hearts and lives to others. I’ve watched them give, and be selfless as they love on our foster kids.
“People think that you will be ‘in over your head’ because you will get a troubled child. I understand where this idea comes from. Society and media haven’t done a great job putting foster kids in a positive light. And certainly, there are things we needed to think through such as age and gender of the kids we were taking in. However, God equips those He calls, and FaithBridge does an excellent job of caring for their foster families. I do not believe they would have allowed us to be placed with a child we were not able to care for. FaithBridge cares for our family and our marriage and they want to set us up for long-term fostering, not a quick burnout.”
As they’ve walked this road and seen what God has done, and continues to do, both Jason and Mandie are thankful they obeyed God’s calling.
“If God has placed this tugging on your heart, He will give you all that you need,” she said. “Talk to those who have done it. Name your fears and take those to God’s word for truth. I always say, ‘go to an Encounter, gather information, and then pray’. You will know if God is leading you down the fostering journey…and if He is, you are in for more of a blessing than you can imagine. God writes better stories than we ever could ourselves. For my family, our story of fostering has shaped us in ways I didn’t know were possible, yet I’m so very thankful for.
“It’s hard to believe that Hard can be Good. We want to avoid the hard things. But, for us, our fostering journey has been one of the hardest things I have ever done. And yet I call it good…so very good.”