Christina Stanfield heard the call. It had simmered since she was a teenager, but as she mulled the realistic possibility over months, the signs were too clear to ignore.
There were public run-ins with people associated with foster care. During an argument with her teenage daughter, a viewer who called into the radio station she was listening to gave a testimony of how foster care changed someone’s life, quieting Stanfield’s insecurities about her own parenting prowess.
“They weren’t just random, crazy things,” Christina said. “I knew it was God speaking.”
The Stanfield family talked over the possibility before making the decision, despite already having three children of their own: They would start a foster care ministry, a home for children displaced by parental issues.
As a result, their own ministry bled over to those around them, including their Home Group at The Village.
Today, the Stanfields have housed seven foster children in the past two years. In every situation drug use by parents has been a factor, and that often leads to neglect or emotional and physical abuse.
The first child brought in was a 3-year-old girl named Ariana.
“It was really, really easy at first,” Christina said. She began blogging her experiences, but soon enough, Ariana began showing behavioral problems, and her biological brother and sister were added to the Stanfield home.
Foster families can’t have just anyone babysit, so both parents were also being pulled away from their community because they couldn’t attend Home Group together. And their extended family was in Missouri and Arkansas, leaving them on their own in Texas.
When the weight of fostering became too heavy, the Stanfields’ Home Group stepped in to help.
“It turned into a really big challenge,” Christina said.
They needed help. The Stanfields had answered Christ’s call to start their family ministry, but there was no promise that it would be easy. It turned out to be anything but. The weight was too much.
It was then that their Home Group began to help shoulder the load.
“I was at Home Group lying out on the sofa just crying. They stepped up and started helping,” Christina said. “Having five kids and running them around was a lot. I was struggling, and they heard my cries and acted on it.”
Members of the group underwent training and background checks in order to be eligible to babysit and pick up the kids from school. In this last year, two families started watching the kids after school and having them over for dinner to alleviate some of the pressure of a full house.
Two families in the Home Group underwent enough training to house the Stanfields’ foster kids for up to 72 hours, and another received certification to host foster children for up to two weeks. Christina’s mother came to Texas and did the same. Another mother has taken on any additional mothering the Stanfields’ teenage daughter needs by going to all her activities.
With a large support net formed around them, the Stanfields were eventually able to step out from underneath the weight of their ministry to invest in the health of their own relationship.
“We went to San Francisco for five nights. That was the longest we’ve been gone, which was a huge blessing,” Christina said.
The ministry started as a simple way for the Stanfields to work toward Christ’s kingdom, but as more and more people outside the home lent a hand to help, it became so much more.
Though told in training how foster care alienates families from their peers, the Stanfields have found it to be the exact opposite.
“It’s blessed those families. Our Home Groups’ kids are older, later elementary, middle school, high school. Our foster care kids have all been under 5 years old. Now, it’s given our foster kids a sense of family and community, like going to an aunt’s house,” Christina said. “And it gives me a break.”
At school, one of the Stanfield children even had two friends confide in her about problems at home, knowing that the family dealt closely with similar issues.
The Stanfields stay in contact with the biological and adoptive families of each child, even after the child leaves the home. All it takes is a text, and there are immediate pictures or updates.
“Foster care is a crazy ride. It has its ups and downs, but more so for us, it’s been up. After each child has left our house, we as a family sit and say, ‘Are we going to do this again?’” Christina said. “The burden and joy of it rests on my shoulders, but it has to be a joint effort from my family. Everyone always gives a thumbs up.”
No child is born with perfect parents. Few know that more than the Stanfields. But their ministry serves to point every child to their perfect heavenly Father whom they have come to know even better.