By CHRISTINA DENT
“The girls were five days old and three years old. It had been 16 years since we had a baby in our home!” remembers April Selman. “We had hours, not days or months, to prepare for their arrival, so we were running around frantically trying to get the basics like diapers, bottles, formula, and car seats. We even had our teenagers tasked with putting together a baby bed. When I looked out our front window and saw a friend from church open up her van full of baby items and girls’ clothes, a wave of relief washed over me. We were not in this alone. It was the first of many times this would happen over the past six years we’ve fostered.”
April and her husband Scott were college sweethearts. They married before graduation and soon had a full house with three daughters and a son. The years flew by, and as their children began to leave home, Scott and April began looking towards the next season. “We were really looking forward to our lives as empty nesters,” remembers Scott with a smile. They planned to enjoy the freedom, the slower pace, and the extra time to take some weekend trips together. But they were also seeking God for a new ministry focus as full-time parenting was winding down. They both love kids, and they considered doing mission trips to an orphanage, but “foster care just kept popping up everywhere we turned,” April explains. Scott continues, “Through mission trips, we felt like we could have a smaller impact on a lot of kids, whereas foster care would be a big impact but only for a few kids. When you’re fostering or adopting, you’re bringing the mission field into your home instead of going out to it.”
Ultimately foster care was where God led them, but they also thought it would fit nicely into their empty-nester plan. “Our plan was to bring kids into our home, invest in them for 12–18 months [the average length of stay for a child in foster care], love them up, and then send them back, take a breather, and do a little traveling,” chuckles Scott, as their current family portrait of a small army hangs just behind him.
They were licensed through Methodist Children’s Home, and six weeks later accepted two sisters as their first placement. Those sisters, who arrived with a couple hours’ notice six years ago, never left and are now cherished daughters whose own portraits occupy prime real estate on the Selman’s living room walls. “We got into fostering with no thoughts of adopting children,” says April. “But by the time the permanency plan changed to adoption with the girls, we knew that was where God was leading us. Love grew and grew, and I couldn’t love them any more if I had given birth to them.”
Soon after, they felt God calling them to adopt a son from Ukraine. Three months after he came home, a call came that they had never anticipated. A sibling group of five needed a temporary foster family, and the state was willing to make an exception to the policy of five total children in a home in order to keep these siblings together. The Selmans accepted the placement and began scrambling for everything that a household doubling in size would need. “I asked on Facebook if any of my friends had bunk beds we could borrow. A friend that lives out of state messaged me to tell me that he and his wife had ordered us a set and they would be delivered soon,” remembers April. “It left me speechless that someone that would never meet these kids cared enough to love us and the kids like that. To feel that loved and supported is humbling. God’s provision through His people is so special. The kids really do ask, ‘Why do people do these things for us?’ It is such a great opportunity to teach them about God’s love and how special they are in His eyes.”
But the support from the Body of Christ didn’t stop with the bunkbeds. It continued with a deep freezer full of casseroles, shopping trips for clothes, and a basket of age-appropriate games, crafts, books, and movies. “A dear woman in our church who doesn’t cook anymore decided to keep us stocked with fresh fruit,” remembers April. A local church wanting to bless a foster family came and did a morning of house cleaning and yard work. “We didn’t ask for any of that, people just reached out,” notes Scott appreciatively. April continues, “It made me cry. During such a hard time we felt God’s love and provision deeply.” That sibling group reunified with their parents several months later, but the ongoing need for foster families continued, and the Selmans accepted two brothers who they have fostered now for almost two years.
“We’ve seen how many kids are being hurt and need homes. Once you dip a toe into foster care and become a little bit aware, it draws you in. It opens your eyes, and once you’re exposed you can’t go back to not knowing. The needs are far greater than we realized,” says April. “The hardest part of fostering for me has been seeing what the trauma has done to the kids and learning the right ways to help them cope with their losses.” “Even when they come to you young, there’s loss,” agrees Scott.
People tend to think of foster care through the eyes of the foster family and the risks and pain they face. Scott and April’s passion is to flip that and get people thinking through the eyes of the children. April explains, “When you get a call that you’re getting a child, you feel a surge of adrenaline excitement. A new little one is coming and a new chapter is beginning. But then they get to your front door, and you look into their eyes, and you realize that their world has just imploded. They have been taken from their family and are confused and scared. They are coming into a home to live with complete strangers—who may look different, eat different foods, and have different values and expectations. One child, after being here for months, told us that he was terrified when he came because he was afraid that we would be mean to him. Another asked us, ‘How do you always have food here?’ Another child would go to any trash can he saw and dig for food. It took a long time for him to trust that we would provide meals and snacks for him.”
“If you listen to them, you get glimpses into their lives before they came to you. And it will break your heart. You have to be able to sit in their pain with them in order to help them come out of it. There are some days that we feel so inadequate and incapable. But then you see a smile or a twinkle in their eyes, and you know God is at work, healing His children. We’re just average people, and we fail on a daily basis when dealing with our kids. But we have a front-row seat to healing, and that’s the biggest blessing of foster care. We don’t have to have all the answers, just the willingness to walk beside a child and look for the answers together.”
Christina Dent and her husband are foster parents in Ridgeland and are blessed with 2 precious sons by birth and 2 precious foster sons.