ONTARIO, Calif. (BP) – Single foster mom Alicia Wong developed a heart for adoption after learning of China’s one-child policy. Had her parents not moved to the U.S. after the birth of her older brother, Wong’s birth would have been deemed criminal.
“Ever since I heard about the one-child policy, even as a little girl, I always thought I’d grow up, get married and adopt kids,” Wong, an associate professor and director of the Gateway Seminary Women’s Program, told Baptist Press.
Decades later and having remained single, she began pondering whether God really wanted her to adopt, receiving an answer in 2016. Instead of adopting, she would become a foster mom.
Originally, Wong thought foster agencies would only be interested in two-parent homes, but she began to develop a different perspective as early as 2009. At that time, her job in women’s evangelism leadership with the North American Mission Board involved too much travel to allow foster parenting.
“I just heard of more and more people that were fostering and adopting, so that just became something I began to really pray about,” Wong said. By 2016, she joined Gateway’s faculty in Southern California, where she has the support of extended family members including her father Kuo Zung Wong and mother Kam Chee.
“I was just getting adjusted, and my first Christmas home, it was my dad who came up to me and said, ‘Alicia, have you ever thought about fostering/adoption, because we can’t push you to get married.’
“It was just perfect timing, because I had been praying about this now for over 10 years at this point, but never getting a peace about this, when I need to start. So when he said that, it was that following week I called a Christian agency that I was put in touch with, that just does fostering and adopting.”
Wong began fostering in 2017. She has fostered four children spanning ages 14 months to 12 years, and has offered respite care for middle-school-aged foster children when their foster parents are traveling.
She meets each child at their point of need, recognizing that many have suffered trauma, and loves them with the realization that foster parenting is designed to reunite children with their primary caregivers.
“Each child is so different. I think first and foremost, it’s really neat to be able to introduce them to the Gospel,” Wong said. “For a lot of them, they haven’t heard the Gospel. They don’t know who Jesus is. So, it’s fun to be able to share with them who God is.”
Wong expresses the joy, wonder and challenge of fostering as she takes the children to church, teaches them to pray and holds Bible studies with them at home, including the 12-year-old she currently fosters.
“She just started youth group (at church). It’s so fun because she’s able to ask, ‘Why are they singing? Why do we tithe?’” Wong said. “I get to really put all the ecclesiology, theology, soteriology, all those seminary degrees, the seminary stuff I’ve learned, and I put it into junior high language. And then I try to live that out, and I’m challenged by that day to day.
“I’m not just teaching anymore about who God is. I have to live it out. I have to be that example. They see you day in and day out… when I’m mad … when I’m sad … when I have to say I’m sorry,” Wong said. “Because I think it’s one thing when I’m up in the classroom and it’s for those three hours, or it’s for an hour. It looks great; it’s shiny, it’s polished. But what is it when it’s 7:30 at night and they don’t want to go to bed? What are you like then?
“I think it’s just such a good reminder, reflection, of you begin real with who you are. So they really help me to stay grounded. If I’m not attached to who God is, it’s really hard.”
Fostering a 14-month-old deepened Wong’s Gospel perspective.
“Being a single person, I’m not sure I ever felt lonely before,” she said. “But when I had her, and she was in the middle of teething and it’s 3 a.m., I was like I really want to be married, God. With that little baby, she taught me something else. I don’t know how to help her. I learned how to be so dependent on the Lord, in a different way. That was a different trust.
“Fostering really propelled me to grow and mature in my walk in such different, new lights. With each child it’s so different.”
Wong fostered a 4-year-old girl for nearly a year.
“She just became this little evangelist everywhere,” Wong said. “I just remember for her, she was a prayer warrior. She would witness to people. She witnessed to her mom. It was so neat to see her grow and love God. … She was a little 3-year-old when she came, and left when she was 4, and turned 5 with her mom.”
Despite the joy Wong finds in mentoring and discipling foster children, their subsequent return to their primary caregivers can be painful.
“It is not easy. Not everyone is called to it,” she said, “because there’s a lot of heartaches too, There’s a lot of heartbreaks too. When they go home, it’s really sad. I cried when the last one left. I think I bawled. He’s crying. I’m crying.
“These kids come so heartbroken,” she said. “And there are so many needs. You get to be a little bit of a reprieve for them, because for some, they’re so used to going in and out of the system. For some, it’s their first time in the system and you hope they never (have to) come back. It was just mom or dad not making good choices.”
Wong advises single women and men to seek to enter fostering prayerfully.
“Pray to see first if God’s called you. It’s kind of like when you’re getting married, because it’s a life situation,” she said. “It affects everyone in your life. For my family, it’s really hard for them because we’re really a close-knit family, even my extended family.”
Her parents are “like gold,” she said, serving as alternate caregivers. And she has “phenomenal neighbors.”
Potential foster parents should consider whether they have a support system, whether the foster children can be exposed to positive two-parent families, whether their extended families and friends harbor any prejudices that would adversely impact the children, and whether their job is flexible enough to allow the proper care of children.
Her current foster child, whom Baptist Press is not allowed to identify by name, expressed appreciation.
“She’s nice,” she said of Wong. “I feel safer than in the other homes. I’m really used to being here.”