By Jeff Shearer
Jay and Angie Jacobs know firsthand the challenges that come with foster parenting. The interrupted routine, lack of sleep and reduction in quiet times.
"But those pale in comparison when you can see a light bulb go off in a child's eyes when they learn something new, or you can see the love that they have for us and for our girls, it makes it worth it," says Angie. "We've been blessed beyond measure with the children we've had."
The Jacobs family first welcomed two foster children into their home seven years ago. Since then, they've taken care of 15 foster children -- some stays lasted only a night, while others were more than two years.
"It was scary for us the first time," says Jay, Auburn's Director of Athletics. "The first time these two little girls came into our home, they were two and four (years old), it changed our world. It changed our three biological daughters' world, but for the better."
The Jacobs will share their foster parenting story Tuesday in Montgomery at the second annual Connecting Hearts event, benefiting Agape of Central Alabama, a ministry focused on adoption, foster care and crisis pregnancies.
"I'd like to encourage people to consider, if they feel a calling in their heart, or if they feel a longing in their heart to do anything with children, to look into what Agape has to offer," Angie says. "They equip foster parents. They are doing great, amazing work with crisis pregnancies, and international and local adoptions as well. There are a lot of ways to help support children through Agape."
While the Jacobs discussed foster parenting with a visitor recently, a five-month-old happily played nearby with a musical toy.
When Jay and Angie found out the age of their newest family member, they reached out to friends via social media to help equip their home.
"I just said I need a crib for a few months," Angie says. "Within 10 minutes, I had three offers of cribs."
The Jacobs hope their appearance at Connecting Hearts at the Alley Station Warehouse will motivate others to get involved while encouraging those who are already providing foster care.
"We don't know the harvest of the seeds we're planting, so be encouraged," says Jay. "I just had a guy in my office, he was over 50 years old, he started telling me about his adoption story. He talked about what would have happened to him if these parents hadn't adopted him. Like the Bible says, you're supposed to love your neighbor. How much can we love people? Be encouraged. It is making a difference."
Angie says foster parenting is both the hardest, and most rewarding, endeavor her family has ever undertaken.
"I saw a banner once that read, `Foster parents aren't afraid of grieving. We are afraid of what will happen to the children that no one is willing to take the risk to love.' Whether we say yes or no to possibly having our heart broken when children leave our home, there are going to be children in foster care because we live in a broken world," she says. "Not taking the risk to hurt too much means that there aren't enough good homes for these defenseless babies.
"I do understand, however, not everyone is called to be a foster parent. Just don't avoid the call because you don't want to hurt when they leave," Angie says.
"You don't have to jump into the deep end of the pool on this," Jay says. "There's respite care. There are backup care providers. You can wade into the water. If anybody has a heart for children, we want to encourage them to explore it.
"If we want to change the world, we need to inspire a child," says Jay. "I just want to encourage people to get involved at some level. Let's quit complaining about what the problems of the world are, let's begin to try to help solve that problem by lending our time and our resources to such a great cause to help these people who cannot otherwise help themselves."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer