Nathan Buchanan and his wife, Kayla, knew God was calling them to help children from broken homes. They began the adoption process, assembling a book about their family for birth mothers to look over when selecting a family with which to place their child. But after three or four years of waiting, they had not been chosen by any birth mothers.
Around that time, Buchanan met a representative of an adoption and foster care ministry. The representative told Buchanan that, though there were 100 children in their county’s foster care system, there were only three foster homes to place them in. As a result, children were being sent as far as Houston, 300 miles away from their birth parents and siblings, to be placed in homes.
This opened the Buchanans’ eyes to the world of foster care. They saw a new way to fulfill God’s calling in their lives. So, they began going through the foster care training, and in 2015 they had their first foster child, a little boy, placed in their home.
Creating a supportive community
As the Buchanans were learning more about the foster care system, so was their church, First Baptist Church of Mineral Wells. Buchanan, who is the pastor of FBC Mineral Wells, encouraged the church to expand their ministry to foster families as he learned more about the difficulties these families faced.
A wrap-around team was created. As the name suggests, this team would “wrap-around” the foster families, encompassing them with love and support. The first step for the newly created team was to assess what these families needed.
“Find out the need in your community,” Buchanan explained. “Find out how many homes you have and how many kids you have. Then make that need known.”
For new foster families, the team provided home repairs to bring houses up to the safety codes required for housing foster children. These requirements included having locks on each door in the house, childproofing cabinets and ensuring that proper first aid was available.
FBC Mineral Wells also has clothing available to foster families, who may be receiving children for whom they do not have proper attire. The church’s collection of children’s clothing allows families to ensure that each child will have suitable clothes waiting for them in their new home.
One of the most important things FBC Mineral Wells offers is family nights, where the church provides free childcare so that the foster parents can enjoy a night out. Foster children can only be watched by certified individuals, and the church trains and certifies each person working the event to ensure the childrens’ safety.
They even offer a special Christmas night so that parents will have time to buy presents for the children.
Buchanan suggested that churches interested in starting a similar ministry seek partnerships with other churches in the area.
“If the church will find out what they’re good at, they can partner with other churches to meet all the needs,” he explained.
For example, one could provide a childcare night, while another takes care of the clothing ministry. When each church does a little bit of work, a great deal of good can be done for the foster care community.
Overcoming hardships in the name of love
Even for experienced parents, fostering children can involve some unexpected hardships. Buchanan explained that families often have to create a whole new discipline system or family routine to accommodate foster care regulations. Furthermore, many of these children have come from difficult environments and may have underlying issues that need to be addressed.
“They’re great kids, and they want to be there, but they might not act like your other kids,” he said.
For foster families, having a church body that supports them spiritually, physically and emotionally can make a big difference. Without that support, many of the families who feel called to foster can burn out or become discouraged and give up.
“A lot of foster families are one-and-done families… If they don’t get the support they need around them, like a church family, they’re done, because it’s very hard,” Buchanan explained.
By offering a strong support network, FBC Mineral Wells gave families considering foster care the courage to pursue what God is calling them to do. Now, four years after the ministry was introduced, there are about 20 foster families in the local community, providing homes for a total of 60 children. Buchanan explained that this county-wide increase in foster families is largely due to the partnerships that churches in the area have formed to in order to better serve these families.
Buchanan is excited to see how Mineral Wells churches will continue together to care for foster families in the community. By supporting these families, they are giving others the courage to foster children themselves. The more foster families available, the less children will have to be moved around the state to find homes.
Since that first child was placed with them, the Buchanans have seen 13 foster children, some of them siblings, pass through their home. Sometimes children are with them for as little as a month, while others have stayed for almost a year. He admitted that it is not always easy, but he continues to trust in the Lord.
“The Lord provides the strength that we need,” he said. “We’re taking care of the kids that the Lord gives us.”