Foster Care Spotlight: The Lenharts
Tiffanie Lenhart says this quote from faith leader and orphan advocate David Platt sums up her journey toward foster care:
“Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms,” Platt writes. “But once you do, everything changes.”
A mission trip to Haiti in 1985 was life changing, opening the Lenharts’ eyes and minds to the plight of “the Fatherless.” They adopted three boys from Haiti before turning their hearts toward the orphan crisis in their own backyard.
Jake and Tiffanie Lenhart have fostered 12 children since 2008, not including the many children they have hosted for just a few days in between placements, as an alternative to staying in a shelter. As Tiffanie describes their family, “We have two home grown (biological) and four handpicked (adopted) children”
Their most recent adoption was last July, a daughter, Zola, whom the Lenharts had fostered for 1,196 days, more than three years.
Tiffanie says that one of the primary reasons they decided to become foster parents was to make a lasting impact on children in need. However, she did not expect to become so profoundly changed by the children’s impact on her own life.
“Our lives were forever changed the day we accepted our first placement. We went into fostering, naively thinking that we would be a blessing to these children when in reality they were the ones blessing us,” Tiffanie says.
“Fostering these precious children has taught us much about the presence of injustice, abuse, neglect and family-less children in the world. It has also taught us to look for beauty in the midst of really, really hard circumstances.”
Tiffanie says that when people find out she is a foster parent, they “inevitably say ‘I could never do that! I’d want to keep every single one. Don’t you get attached?’” She says that letting go of a child she has loved and cared for is the biggest challenge of being a foster parent, but that will never prevent her from giving everything she’s got to every child she fosters.
“I have found that the last thing foster children need is another detached caregiver. We recklessly love them knowing that it will be painful when it is time to say goodbye. But they are worth getting our hearts broken for.”
Despite the heartaches, Tiffanie says fostering is worth it. “Where else can you get court side seats to seeing lives changed?”