In 2016, Kyle and I made the decision to follow Jesus's command to care for orphans. At the time, we had two little ones of our own and had no desire to add to our numbers permanently. We were content with our man-on-man coverage and didn't want to disrupt our system. So we first looked into becoming respite foster parents, meaning we would welcome a child into our home for a short time, giving respite to the full-time foster parents. But as we began to explore the world of foster care and learned of the staggering need for stability and permanency, we took a leap and decided to pursue adoption through foster care. And to make our leap a bit more like a dive off of a cliff, we decided that we wanted to be an adoptive family to a teen in care. Now, at the time we were a 30 year old married couple with a 4 year old and a 2 year old. Some people thought we were crazy. But we were determined to show love and breathe value and hope into the life of a teenager who likely felt little of those things. We began the process of family matching and, through that, met many wonderful youth. But many of them were discouraged by all of the disappointments they'd experienced and were skeptical of a family who promised they would never give up on them. It was heartbreaking. Eventually we met an amazing young woman who joined our family just before Christmas in 2017. She was 17 years old and had big dreams of finishing high school and going to college. She wanted to be the first person in her birth family to graduate from college. But it's incredibly difficult to believe that a family of strangers loves you when you've been told for years that you are unlovable and worthless. And when all you've experienced is conditional love from the people who are supposed to love you unconditionally, you're constantly waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you. It's hard to be hopeful when life has always felt hopeless. Our foster daughter ended up signing herself out of care and moving out when she turned 18. It was difficult to watch her make that choice, but we understood the factors that led to her decision. And it left us with some questions: How can we serve this population of youth who end up exiting care without the support of a family? How can we wrap our arms around them and guide them into adulthood without asking them to put their hope and trust in us as their family? SHIFT was the answer to these questions. Through SHIFT, we could provide a safe and stable home and support their transition into adulthood without asking them to put their hope in another 'family'. We could show them that they are known, that they are made worthy by God, a God who loves them with an unconditional love that will always pursue them and never fail them. We could disrupt the cycle of hopelessness that they were stuck in and walk beside them in a new direction, making a generational impact.
We could SHIFT their trajectory.