On the Road to Adoption
About the Guest
Pastor Brian Borgman was hesitant about foster care, at least at first. But with his wife's encouragement and God's leading, they stepped out in faith to become therapeutic foster parents. Today Brian talks about the little boy, Alex, they would eventually provide care for, and the challenges of parenting a child who has known nothing but neglect.
Brian BorgmanBrian Borgman is founding pastor of Grace Community Church, Minden, NV (1993-present). He earned a B.A. in Biblical Studies from Biola University (La Mirada, CA), a Master of Divinity from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary (Portland, OR) and a Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Seminary (Escondido, CA). Brian and his wife Ariel have been married since 1987. They have three wonderful children, Ashley, Zach and Alex and a great son-in-law, Seth and a grandson, Calvin Owen.
Pastor Brian Borgman talks about the little boy, Alex, they would eventually provide care for, and the challenges of parenting a child who has known nothing but neglect.
On the Road to Adoption
Bob: When Brian and Ariel Borgman became foster parents, they brought into their home a little boy who did not respond to discipline. Brian said the impact was disruptive.
Brian: I could say that I loved this kid, but I also felt the emotional weight of this disruptive force; whereas, Ariel saw this more as: “This is God’s appointment for us. We need to love him and minister to him.” I, to my shame, really was more focused often on the disruption and the discomfort that he was bringing to my life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Brian Borgman today about how you navigate your family through some challenging waters that may occur when you take on the assignment of becoming a foster parent. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Can I give a shout-out to some of our Legacy Partners?
Bob: I don’t know how I can stop you.
Dennis: I mean, I’m just all over it. I’ve got a list here of folks who support us on a monthly basis; and they keep this broadcast coming on this station, all across the country. We’re heard about 1,100 times a day—
Dennis: —to about 1.5 million people a week. You, Legacy Partners, make this happen. So, I want to give a shout-out to Alexander and Patricia who live down in Friendswood, Texas.
Bob: I’ve been to Friendswood.
Dennis: I have too—got a brother-in-law who lives there. There is Megan in Herculaneum—
Bob: Herculaneum, Missouri.
Dennis: Herculaneum, Missouri.
Bob: Never been there.
Dennis: Both Bob and I are Missouri boys, and I’ve not been to Herculaneum.
Bob: Nor have I, yes.
Dennis: But thank you, Megan, for standing with us. Then, Michael and Nicole from Omaha, Nebraska, Michael and Janna from Fort Worth—
—well, that’s enough for today. [Laughter] I just want to say: “Thanks! You keep us coming on this station and keep a message like FamilyLife Today coming strong across our country.”
Bob: Well, and today’s message is one we have—we have visited this before; but, from time to time, you just need to remind folks that there is a noble and difficult assignment that some families are called to.
Dennis: There really is. In fact, I would just—in thinking about today’s broadcast about orphans, and about foster care, and about adoption, and going near the needs of children, I was just reminded of Romans, Chapter 12, verse 9: “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. Hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” It goes on to say: “Rejoice in hope.
“Be patient in tribulation. Be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”
Well, one of the areas that we need to improve our hospitality in is taking care of the needs of children who are orphans. Our foster care system in America today has over 400,000 children in it who need the church to step up and step out and make a difference in their lives.
Bob: Well, our friends at the Christian Alliance for Orphans have been advocates for this for years. In fact, they’ve got their annual get-together happening in Nashville, coming up at the end of April / first part of May. We’d encourage our listeners—if you have a heart for orphan care or adoption and want to see your church as a part of the solution for that, you might want to attend or send someone from your church to Nashville for the Christian Alliance for Orphans annual convention that will be taking place there, again, at the end of April / beginning of May.
We’ve got a link on our website—at FamilyLifeToday.com—that will get you right there if you want to look for it. Just go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the button that says, “GO DEEPER.”
Dennis: Bob and I will be there. In fact, you’ve made almost every one of these.
Dennis: This will be the 11th time, and it’s grown every year. Last year, we had almost 3,000 people in Chicago. I hope you’ll join us. This is a great conference especially for those who care about the needs of orphans.
And we have a pastor with us. Pastor Brian Borgman joins us all the way from Nevada. Did I pronounce that correctly?
Brian: Yes, you did.
Dennis: A lot of people blow the name of your state.
Brian: Yes, they do.
Bob: It’s not Na-va-da.
Brian: It is not Na-va-da.
Bob: He’s pretty dogmatic about that! [Laughter]
Dennis: Brian is an author. He’s a speaker. He is a pastor of Grace Community Church in Minden, Nevada. Share with our listeners where that is.
Brian: Well, Minden is in the Carson Valley which is basically on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We’re about 30 minutes from South Lake Tahoe—absolutely beautiful place to live.
Dennis: The only state in the country that has a perpetual drought. [Laughter] He and his wife Ariel have three children and one grandson. He has written a book called After They Are Yours. Now, you have to tell me, when did the idea about adopting get on your radar—both you and Ariel?
Brian: Well, it was on Ariel’s radar before it was on mine. We had always been strongly, strongly pro-life. We started trying to think about some creative things that we could do. So, we got into foster care.
When we got into foster care, I thought we were doing a good thing; and yet, the little boy that we had was going to come up for adoption pretty soon. Ariel was convinced this was what we should do—this was God’s will for our life—I was not.
Bob: Was he your only foster care child, or had you had other kids in the home?
Brian: He was our first. Then, we had another one who was a short-term foster care assignment.
Bob: And this was really a burden of yours, just to say, “If we are going to have a consistent pro-life ethic, we need to care for those who don’t have anybody caring for them.”
Brian: Absolutely; then, in our county, there are many, many needs. I mean, I’m sure this is true across the nation; but in our county, there were so few foster care homes and the need was just great. So, we thought, “What better way to demonstrate our commitment to life and to those who are in need than to step out and help in the foster care system?”
Dennis: Why foster care and not adoption originally?
Brian: Well, I think that, for us—first of all, we had a friend who was a director with Koinonia Ministries, which used to provide training—
—I’m not sure about their status anymore—but they used to provide training, especially for Christian parents—to go in and be involved in foster care.
So, we knew this guy—he had encouraged us. Of course, the need in our area was just so great. So, a lot of kids would be taken from their homes and then shipped off to Yerington, or Reno, or other places outside of their own communities. It was that initial burden that just seemed to strike us.
Dennis: You know, it’s interesting to me—we have a major crisis in America in the foster care system. There are not enough families—you said it—to take care of all of them. The only organization in the country large enough to address this need is the church because there are over 400,000 churches. If each church had one family in it that would care for a foster care child, we’d immediately empty out the foster care system with trained families to know how to care for them.
But that’s not happening.
Now, in a couple of states, like Colorado and here in Arkansas, there are churches who are going after emptying the foster care system by rallying the church and rallying families to step up and say: “You know what? We’ll get qualified. We’ll get trained. And we’ll begin to care for these foster care kids.”
Now, what happened with you and Ariel when you said, “Yes”? You were immediately visited by a foster care worker; right?
Brian: Well, we went through all the training. We actually decided that we would pursue therapeutic foster care so we could have special needs kids. So, we went through all the training. We had a state social worker come to the house for our final approval. I just knew, from the beginning of that interview, that it was not going to go well.
He asked us if we spanked our own children. He asked us how many times we were in church a week—
—asked us what kind of outside religious activities from the church that we did. Of course, I mean, we’d have family devotions every day. I kept asking him, “Are these things a problem?” He would say, “No. No.” Well, typically, the licensing would take place within a couple of weeks after that final interview. We didn’t hear anything—didn’t hear anything.
Finally, the Koinonia representative called and wanted to know what the holdup was. And there, of course, was just the typical excuse, “Well, it’s just taking longer than normal.” And then, finally, after probably like six weeks or so, they finally found out that we had been denied. At which point, the Koinonia worker said: “What are you doing? You say that you need stable families to take care of these kids.
“I have a stable family and one social worker doesn’t like the way they discipline their own children and thinks, ‘They are excessively religious,’ and now, you’ve disqualified them.” They didn’t change their minds until they had a special case.
Dennis: A child who had needs that they couldn’t find anyone to care for.
Dennis: I just want to say that this may happen—what you are talking about—across the country; but I would say, “It’s out of the norm compared to what’s taking place in other states.” For the most part, I think you are going to find the workers, associated with foster care, welcome people of faith and people from the church to address the needs of these kids because they’re overwhelmed with children who need families. They can’t get enough families to care for them.
So, I wouldn’t want to set our audience up to think there’s going to be an obstacle, right from the start, to becoming a foster care parent because I don’t think that’s the case, across the board.
Bob: In your case, it happened to be until—as you said—there was a special needs situation that came up. Tell us about the phone call you got to say, “Well, we’re reconsidering.”
Brian: Yes, we received a phone call directly from the state, which was unusual because Koinonia was supposed to be our liaison. We get a call, and they asked us if we were interested in taking a 20-month-old little boy. I said, “Well, we’re not licensed.” And they said, “Yes, you are. As of today, you’ve received a provisional license.” I really didn’t know what to make of it. I called the Koinonia worker. My wife was absolutely convinced this was the little boy we take.
Bob: She was ready to go.
Brian: Absolutely. And I’m thinking, “Why would they change their minds and offer us a little boy today?” They found out that this little guy had been in four different homes in six weeks and was a handful.
Brian: And I told the Koinonia worker that we would pray about it. My wife looked at me and said: “We’ve already been praying about it. This is God’s answer to our prayers!” She was 100 percent convinced, and I was not there.
Bob: So, how did you work out the marital conflict because—
Dennis: They went to a Weekend to Remember®, Bob. [Laughter]
Bob: You guys were not on the same page—she’s ready to go / you’re not so sure. How did you work your way through that?
Brian: Well, there really were two stages to that. I will say that there was some intense marital conflict, at points—but I kind of felt like: “You know what? We can give this a try. Ariel’s heart is in this 100 percent. I can certainly be a support. If this little guy blows out of our home, too, then, lesson learned and maybe they’ll let us keep fostering. I don’t know.”
Dennis: I’m hearing language, though—this is more Ariel’s idea than yours.
Brian: I was sold on the idea of foster care. I was not sold on the idea of bringing in a force into our home that would be disruptive and create more difficulties.
Dennis: So, what did they tell you about Alex, then?
Brian: Well, we ended up getting as much information as we could. He had an older brother. They had to separate them because they had been greatly neglected and, actually, had learned to be violent together.
Brian: So, the state believed that they needed to separate. The older went with the grandmother and, then, there was Alex—just really in limbo.
Bob: And you said he’s 20 months old?
Brian: He’s 20 months old.
Bob: Well, I mean, how much of a terror can a 20-month-old be?
Dennis: Yes, answer that question. [Laughter]
Brian: Well, I wish Ariel was here! She could give you some really great examples.
You know, the interesting thing was—is that we said, “Yes”; they brought him over. The first week was just wonderful—he was docile. He was just kind of checking out his environment. He got along with our kids. That first week, I’m thinking to myself, “Why in the world is this kid so tough?”
Well, then, the second week came; and it was just a little Tasmanian devil running around the house—biting Ashley and Zach, dumping cereal on his head every morning—just this constant defiance, not responding to any kind of commands and, basically, a 20-month-old anarchist.
Dennis: Wow! I’m getting the picture!
Bob: Brian, I have to think that there came a point—I mean, you describe—week one, he’s docile; week two, he’s a Tasmanian devil.
There came a point in this process where it became manageable. He became a functioning citizen in the Borgman home, even if there were still issues that were showing up—but you got into a rhythm, as a family, where you said, “Okay, we can do this”?
Brian: Yes; and, again, I attribute the bulk of that to Ariel and really God’s grace in her life—she just kept loving this little guy. I could say that I loved this kid; but I also felt the emotional weight of this disruptive force because our two biological children are fallen and sinners, of course—they obeyed / they responded to discipline. They responded to reproof and correction. Then, we have this child in the home that just didn’t.
Whereas, Ariel saw this more as: “This is God’s appointment for us. We need to love him and minister to him.” I, to my shame, really was more focused often on the disruption and the discomfort that he was bringing to my life.
Dennis: And I’m thinking that, right now, we’re talking to some wives and, maybe some moms, who have this burden like Ariel did.
Dennis: Coach them of how to approach their husband, who is dragging his feet—
Bob: Or maybe, how not to approach their husband—maybe, they need both.
Dennis: Yes. Give them a little coaching, both plus and minus, of some things they should do and shouldn’t do.
Brian: Well, for a wife and a mom, I think it’s important that she gets to the place where her husband buys into what she sees as something that is a ministry—a James 1:27 ministry of helping widows and orphans in need; right?
Dennis: And they really need to own it—
Dennis: —with their wives. It can’t just be—
Bob: “If that’s your thing, Honey, and you want to do that,”—right.
Dennis: Exactly; because, when it gets tough like we’re talking about here, it could become a point of division in the marriage and the family.
Brian: Yes. I would encourage wives to pray for their husbands and to pray that God would open the eyes of their husbands and their hearts so that they would see the need in the same way that they do. And you know, we really—we believe that God does answer prayer. We believe that God can change hearts. So, when I say, “Wives, pray for your husbands and pray for that,” that is not just some sort of Christian cliché. There is power in a praying wife. Enlist some close friends that you know—storm the throne of grace!
Dennis: Yes, and I guess, whether I’m talking to a wife or a husband, at this point—where this perhaps is something you are thinking about or you’ve discussed—I just want to pull back to the big picture for a moment.
Back a few months ago, I spoke to a group of homeless men. Before I went to speak there, I did some research about the number of homeless men there are in America. It’s over 650,000. And there are some that are veterans who are homeless. But one of the largest percentages—over 30 percent—were those who had aged-out of the foster care system. And it’s a human being—it’s a little boy / in some cases, it’s a little girl—who has grown up to be a teenager and, now, is going to tackle the world, as an 18-year-old, without the support system of a family?
To me, I think this is one of the most sacred callings of a church, and the people of that church, to stop and really do a census in their community: “What’s happening in the foster care system in our community?”—and if need be—“….in your state?” Just ask the question: “Why is this so? Why are there so many children that don’t have a family to care for them?” Then, secondly, ask the question, “What’s our responsibility?”
Bob: Yes; “What can we do?” Yes.
Dennis: “What’s our act of faith?” It is back to Paul’s writing in Romans, Chapter 12, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” Sometimes, our hospitality can be to those who will pay us back with hospitality in return. Perhaps, for some, it’s showing hospitality to those who may never pay us back.
Bob: And I know your book is about your own journey of adoption, which we’re going to talk about—
—but even a family thinking about foster care, it would be wise for them—for a husband and a wife—to both read the hundred pages you’ve written here and start to think through the cost, and the process, and just to have that as a framework—
Dennis: —as a dialogue, Bob.
Dennis: I mean, this is something that deserves a lot of conversation and, as we’ve mentioned, a lot prayer.
Bob: A lot of prayer. We’ve got copies of Brian Borgman’s book, After They Are Yours, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The subtitle is The Grace and Grit of Adoption. Whether you are thinking about adopting or you are in the middle of the kind of story that the Borgman’s had, where it’s hard to hope, it would be helpful to read a story that is full of reality and redemption.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com and order a copy of the book, After They Are Yours. Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER,” and you can order the book from us right there.
Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order over the phone—so, again, 1-800-358-6329 to order by phone—or if you’d like to order, online, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” and order from our website.
By the way, Dennis and I will be at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit that is taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, in a few weeks. It’s actually April 30th and
May 1st. If you have any interest in caring for the needs of orphans or how your church can get involved in orphan care or foster care, I’d encourage you to find out more about the summit. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. When you click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” you’ll find a link for the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit 2015; and we hope to see you in Nashville.
A quick word of thanks to those folks who make FamilyLife Today possible—
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In fact, right now, we’d like to say a special “Thank you,” by sending you a set of Resurrection Eggs®—a dozen plastic eggs—each one filled with something that represents an event that took place in the last week of Jesus’ life on earth. This is a great tool to use with your children or your grandchildren. It’s our thank-you gift to you when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen that says, “I CARE,” and make an online donation. Or you can request a set of Resurrection Eggs when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation. You can also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear about how Alex went from being a foster care child in the Borgman home to becoming a Borgman. We’ll hear that story tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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