MINNEAPOLIS (Christian Examiner) – Rachel Mills's Facebook account is flooded with questions and responses to a post that she wrote about her excitement to turn 21 so that she could become a foster mother.
Mills couldn't wait to turn 21 "because 21 was the minimum age I had to be to foster," she wrote. "The day I turned 21, I was officially a foster mom, the youngest foster mom my Minnesota county has ever licensed."
After becoming licensed as a foster parent, Mills was immediately called on for her first placement, a newborn boy addicted to cocaine.
"Within hours, I was on my way to the hospital to pick up this baby who I had very little information about," she wrote. "I was asked to take the place of this little guy's mom for an indefinite period of time."
She wrote about her uncertainties—whether she would be able to care for her foster son, how long he would be hers, how his health condition would affect him. But she felt "an overwhelming motherly instinct" toward him.
"I was called to love him, and that was it," she wrote. And she did.
ALL ABOUT THE KIDS
Mills also experienced the pain of loss common to foster parents whose children must leave their homes.
"The day this little guy went back to his birth mom, it felt like I lost a piece of my heart. I realized very quickly that this wouldn't be an easy journey and that none of it would be about me, it was all about the kids."
"Days later, I received another call, and then another, and another..."
In a system so overwhelmed with need, Mills' home is rarely empty. She has had many calls like that first one.
The Facebook response to her story has been so astonishing that Mills has acquired help in fielding media questions. She is also creating a website, www.foster21.com, which will contain answers to frequently asked questions.
"Every child's story that I have heard is heartbreaking," Mills wrote. "Every child that I have met has had the potential to live a beautiful life if they are just given the opportunity. Thousands of children of all ages are stuck in shelters in Minneapolis because there are not enough people willing to take them in."
TAKING THE RISK TO LOVE
According to the 2012 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) report, there are 397,122 children living without permanent families in the foster care system in the United States.
"I share my story hoping that someone out there will be inspired to become a foster/adoptive mom. I have learned that I don't need to fly across the country to do mission work with children in orphanages. There are homeless children everywhere around us. I don't need to adopt a child from another county, there are thousands waiting to be adopted in my own state."
Over 100,000 of children in foster care are eligible for adoption, but nearly one third will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.
Mills wants people to understand her calling to love children in need, and her challenge is inspiring.
"I am not afraid to grieve," her website says. "I am afraid of what would happen to these children if no one took the risk to love them.