Family moves to fulfill the need for foster care families

  |  Source: Buckner International

Kaari and Lee Vasquez added branches to their family tree through foster care and adoption. They are pictured with sons Andrew (front) and David (back). (Buckner Photo / Russ Dilday)

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Kaari and Lee Vasquez understand when God calls a family to provide children with foster care, he tends to work out the details.

Kaari was drawn to a particular house on Kari Ann Drive as soon as she saw a picture of it. The similarity of the address to her own name caught her attention.

She dragged her sons David and Anthony to an open house “just to see it, and we walked through and just absolutely fell in love. The boys were excited.” She rushed home and told her husband Lee he had to see the house.

But the price was too high for them. Then they started praying.

After submitting an offer below the owners’ asking price, they decided to write a letter explaining their desire to use the home to serve foster children through Buckner.

“We wanted to explain why we made a low offer. We didn’t want to be rude,” Kaari added. “We could just picture our family in this home, and we told them [the owners] how we desired to use it: ‘We’d love to foster siblings, and your home would give us the room to do that.’”

When their realtor called to say their offer was accepted over a higher one, they were “blown away.” And then they learned more. The family selling the house had been a foster family and used the home just as the Vasquezes imagined using it. Their letter hit the spot. God worked it out.

On a foster parenting journey

Kaari and Lee Vasquez enjoy family game time with sons Andrew (2nd from left) and David (right). (Buckner Photo / Russ Dilday)

Lee and Kaari started their journey as foster parents 13 years ago in Virginia while living in a one-bedroom apartment. The call came for them to care for a brother and sister. But when the children showed up, it was two boys.

The youngest was a three-month-old named David, who stayed with the Vasquezes, while the 6-year-old went to live with another family. Thirteen years later, David is still with them, but not as a foster child. They adopted him.

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Their youngest son, Anthony, came soon after. His mother had aged out of foster care and was headed to jail. Initially, the plan was to keep Anthony as a foster placement for a year. Lee and Kaari agreed they wanted Anthony to maintain a relationship with his birthmother, so they visited her in jail with Anthony in tow.

“That was a very difficult time,” Kaari said. “But God really used that to help her see that we loved her and we cared about her.”

‘God made it very clear’

Kaari, a speech pathologist, had just started working full time again and was overwhelmed with two small boys along with her work.

“God made it very clear what he wanted me to do,” she said.

Andrew joined the Vasquez family when he was young. Kaari Vasquez, who works as a speech pathologist at a school with an outstanding program from children with hearing loss, was able to get Andrew diagnosed and enrolled in programs at the school. (Buckner Photo / Russ Dilday)

She told her boss about Anthony and that she needed to bring him with her to the school where she was working, so the school opened a spot for him.

Lee, an engineer with UPS, was traveling regularly for work then, and Kaari was nearing a breaking point.

“I found myself in my laundry room crying and just asking God why. I wanted to be home, and I thought it would be better for Anthony. At that moment, God gave me peace, and I was just thankful for all that he had provided.”

The day after her laundry-room breakdown, Anthony was diagnosed with hearing loss.

“So, here he was in one of the country’s best schools for children with hearing loss. Had I not been working full time there, he would not have been diagnosed as quickly.”

Co-workers approached her and said things like, “Wow. What are the chances that this child was placed with you and now he has a hearing loss? I don’t believe in God, but that makes me wonder.”

Ministry to families

The irony of Kaari and Lee adopting two foster boys isn’t lost on them. Their motivation for becoming foster parents in the first place was to reunify foster children with their biological families, while taking opportunities to serve the families along the way.

Kaari and Lee Vasquez have made a warm and loving home with sons Andrew (left) and David (back). (Buckner Photo / Russ Dilday)

“It’s not just the child you’re bringing in, you’re going to be alongside the family, or the parent, who is trying to get their child back,” Lee said.

“Sometimes it (our calling) has looked like children being reunited with their birth families,” Kaari added. “But truly, the most powerful and important piece to that calling and what we’ve seen over these years is the healing that comes from them accepting Christ, learning about who Jesus is, and being restored to him.”

Lee believes God has a plan for every family they serve through foster care. That plan “is for individuals, for families who are going through a tough time to see salvation at the end of their suffering. We have to trust that God is going to bring them back together.”

Extended family everywhere

As a result of getting to know the families, Kaari said their own family has grown exponentially because they now have “extended” family everywhere they’ve lived, including two years they served at an orphanage in Baja, Mexico.

Kaari and Lee Vasquez view foster care and adoption as God’s calling for them. (Buckner Photo / Russ Dilday)

“The Vasquez family has felt the pain and grief that comes with loving so deeply,” said Andi Harrison, regional director of foster care and adoption for Buckner. “I am very thankful that we are able to offer our families the counseling to find healing through their journey. The counseling that we are providing families like the Vasquezes extends longevity in this ministry as families receive the support from their organization.”

“The Vasquez family continues to respond to the gospel by saying ‘yes’ to caring for children through foster care, but they take it one step further by showing love and respect to each of the birth parents,” Harrison added.

After finishing their stint at the orphanage, the Vasquezes needed to decide where they would live back in the United States. Kaari researched states needing foster families, especially ones that speak Spanish, and found Texas. As they zeroed in on the state, they contacted Buckner and were told Dallas-Fort Worth had a high need for what they had to offer.

Services available through Buckner

“We knew of Buckner because of some friends at our church in Virginia,” Kaari said. A good friend from the church knew Buckner President and CEO Albert Reyes and recommended they check out the Dallas-based ministry.

“We researched and we really connected with the mission and the vision that Buckner had,” Kaari said. “I called Buckner up before we moved here and asked where the greatest need was for foster parents.”

They chose Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area because of Buckner.

“One thing that set Buckner apart from other agencies was the support they offer our family,” Lee said. “Not just the kids that come in to stay with us for a short while, but David and Anthony also get to benefit from therapy through Buckner and us as a family. We’ve worked through some things that are difficult.”

Sharing God’s love

“Whether or not a child is able to reunify, we see the big picture,” Kaari said. “God’s ultimate plan is for us to be able to share his love with others and pray and desire for them to experience that for themselves and ultimately come to know Christ.”

And while their mission is reunifying children, that also means suffering losses along the way. It was that fear of seeing children come and go that caused Lee to hesitate at first.

“I thought, why would we get into foster care? It seemed like something very difficult, an emotional roller coaster,” he said. “If you take in a child, you fall in love with the child, and then you have to give up the child. Why would I do that to myself on purpose?”

“I think the hardest part of this—of doing foster care—is also one of the most important lessons that we’ve learned and that is to be able to trust God with all our children,” Kaari said. “To be able to trust that even when the situation is something that we feel is not best for the child or we feel frustrated with or that we’re questioning, it’s trusting that God has good plans for that boy or girl and that he loves them more than we ever could.”

Reunification has no bigger advocates and fans than Kaari and Lee, because they know children belong with the biological families in which God put them if possible. So, they deal with the goodbyes and pray.

“I always say that the day it becomes easy to say goodbye is the day we should quit,” Kaari said. “Because, really, the children deserve us to become attached to them, to fall in love with them, to love them as our own. They deserve that. They deserve nothing less. And if we were to give them less, it would hurt less.”

May is National Foster Care Month. About 400,000 children are in foster care in the United States, and more than 30,000 of them are in Texas. For more information on how to become involved, click here.   

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