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Seminary couple’s foster care expands their family of 6 to 38

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–During the past two years Terry and Sally Caywood have become the proud parents of 34 children, beyond the four children they already had.

Since October 1999, the Caywoods have served as foster parents to children from a variety of racial, social and economic backgrounds, but a common factor unites them all — love.

“They say to take the baby into your home like they’re your child, and we do,” Sally said. “I love every one of these babies like they were my own baby.”

Terry, a 1992 master of divinity graduate and business manager at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and Sally began their foster-care ministry when their youngest child was 2 years old. Terry had been praying for a family ministry that would teach their children the significance of meeting the needs of others.

At the same time Sally, unaware of her husband’s prayers, learned about the foster-care program administered by the Gladney Center, a 100-year-old adoption agency located in Fort Worth. The idea sparked her interest.

“When Sally told me about this idea, it fit together perfectly,” Terry said.

After further research and completing the application and licensing process, the Caywoods assumed the care of their first foster child, Angel, in 1999. Today the children they have cared for literally are located throughout the United States. But it’s not hard to remember where all the children went. Terry keeps a map in the kitchen. He marks each child’s location and writes their names where they now reside.

“It’s been for me everything that I could have dreamt possible for a family ministry,” Terry said.

Most babies, according to the Caywoods, are adopted soon after birth, but on occasion there is an intermediary term between birth and adoption. That is when the Caywoods step in. They have cared for babies for as little as one day and as long as four months before handing them over to the care of adoptive parents. The Caywoods are one of 16 families in Tarrant County serving in the intermediate care program.

Although they have parented only one foster child who was not an infant, the Caywoods are licensed as foster parents of children up to age 6. Regardless of the child’s age, parting is always difficult.

“There are tears shed every time we say goodbye,” Terry said. He is quick to point out, however, that the tears shed are not only tears of sorrow at giving away a child they loved as their own. They are also tears of joy for the family welcoming the child into their home.

“A lot of these situations are families who prayed for years and invested significant dollars in this process, and waited,” Terry said. “To see the joy on their face, because we get to bring the baby in and give it to them … for them it’s the birth of their child.”

The Caywoods are able to spend time with the adoptive parents on the day of the adoption.

“I think every one of them has said, ‘Why are you doing this?'” Sally said. “We’re able to tell them that God has blessed us so much that this is one way we can give back to God. That brings up a way to witness to them, and that’s been an amazing thing.”

The Caywoods also have discovered considerable ministry opportunities among the birth mothers. Even after the Caywoods have the baby, Sally often meets with the birth mother at the Gladney Center so the mother can see her child.

When the couple began their foster-care ministry, Terry thought the babies were being adopted because the birth mothers didn’t want them. He’s found the opposite to be true, he said.

“They’re really expressing an incredible love for this child to say, ‘I can’t do this. This baby deserves more than what I have to offer.'”

Sally has been able to encourage the mothers that they have made the right choice and also help them to see how God fits into their picture.

“God’s in the adoption business too,” Sally shares with the mothers. “He adopts us into his family.”

The Caywoods strive to involve their entire family in their ministry. They and their children have given each child a temporary name starting with a different letter of the alphabet.

“We’ve been through the alphabet once and we’re going through it a second time, and we take turns as family members naming the baby,” Terry said.

A recent addition to the Caywood household was Felicia, named by 12-year-old Bethany Caywood. Other members of the immediate Caywood family are Kristin, 15; Chase, 7; and Truett, 4.

“In my prayer time I just pray that God will give us the babies who he wants us to have, that we can minister to the families involved, and that the babies could benefit from our love,” Sally said.

As with any ministry, there are challenges. For Sally, one of the toughest has been a lack of sleep. She recalled a recent night when she was up at 4 a.m. rocking Felicia. While she was awake she decided to check her e-mail.

“There was an e-mail picture sent from one of our babies who lives in New York City. I e-mailed them back and said, ‘Thanks so much for the encouragement.'”

Sally enjoys shopping for clothing items for “her babies.” God has given her opportunities to minister even while shopping for them.

“It has opened up so many doors … people looking at this baby wanting to know why we have this baby,” Sally said. “It’s just an open door for me to start telling them about God everywhere I go.”

The Caywoods have learned much through their experiences. They have learned about life, love, God and even a new way of looking at people of other ethnic backgrounds.

“This has taught us a whole new level of understanding other cultures,” Terry said.

After two years of serving in the foster-care ministry, the Caywoods continue to find God’s peace in their assignment.

“Looking back on it, we’ve gotten great confirmation that this was definitely something that God wanted us to be involved in,” Terry said. “He gave us a great peace about it from the beginning or we wouldn’t have done it.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: FELICIA’S FIRST FAMILY.

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  • Lauri Arnold