Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Mueller.
Hi Amanda, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’ve always been keenly aware of the brokenness and sadness around me. As a kid, I understood there was a need for foster and adoptive families, not because of having any exposure to it in real life. However, it became something on my radar. It was a tangible way to help people, to be a loving and supportive piece in someone’s life. As a young adult, I made it my mission to research, train, prepare, befriend those doing the work, and do something before we were ready to become parents or open our home to kids.
Because of that , a foundation was laid for trauma-informed care and parenting. It was so important for me to go through this process as a training ground, yes, but also to take some of the fears away about foster care. The children and parents impacted by foster care are actual, real, live people mistakes have been made, and resources are lacking, but reunification is the beautiful ending. This crucial time defined the advocacy I do now. A success story in foster care is not swooping in to take a child away and finalize with adoption. A success story supports a young mom who hadn’t had the tools to parent her child but now gained a support network to care for her child successfully. A success story might be a messy relationship between a biological family and an adoptive family working together to build a strong identity for the child. A success story could be fighting for parents who are caught in an unjust system and need someone to help guide them out. There are never two situations the same, but seeing the potential and humanity in everyone involved is so important.
After a slow pace, my husband and I became host families for a ministry called Safe Families for Children, bringing kids into your home for a defined amount of time, parents still have custody. Still, they are seeking support to get through a time of crisis. We had up to 15 kids through SFFC and then became licensed through the State of MO. Your worldview changes when immersed in the court system for a long time. It can make you softer, harder, more gracious, or judgmental. What I know for sure is there will never be a time where I say there is one hard and fast way to resolve a foster care case. It is messy.
We have had over 20 kids in our home over the last several years; we have 2 biological kids, one child adopted from foster care, and a handful more are my kids-in-my-heart but are with biological families. Some days my heart swells with joy; some days, it aches with grief. I know we’re doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing. I pray I do what’s in my power to love, serve and care for whoever is in my path.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think the word ” smooth ” cannot be used in the foster care system. It is a rollercoaster ride with a limited view. Even if things move expediently, you can never predict what will happen; there is always an unknown element as a foster parent and advocate. It is up to everyone but you what will happen in a case.
Also, on the flip side, this is a child’s life. Whether they should be reunified with their biological family or moved into an adoptive family is a life-altering, identity-changing situation and should be treated with care, compassion, and support. Appropriately carrying the weight of the situation takes deep emotional work; without that, it becomes callous and rote, which is what it feels like in the courtroom. It takes work to carry the emotional weight and value the situation but not let it completely drag you down.
Our daughter’s case was open for over 3 years. It was a literal rollercoaster of emotions for 3 years, and at the end of the (proverbial) day, we didn’t have a say in how the case would end. Even at the end of 3 years, we were overwhelmed with emotion when they decided to move to adoption. It is never one feeling in foster care, which can be confusing. It isn’t complete and utter joy. It is the termination of a mother’s rights. It’s a broken biological family. Yet, we love our daughter and had raised her for nearly 3 years, and we were ready and open to legally adopting her.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I haven’t worked in a professional setting in more than 10 years. In that time, I have birthed 2 children, fostered and/or cared for over 25 kiddos, adopted 1 child, navigated the court system for years at a time, walked with moms who needed support to regain custody of their kids, volunteered on the board of several organizations, and been able to show up for people in a time of need because of my malleable schedule.
What I strive most to do is have an open-door policy. People are always welcome in our house. We host 30-50 people weekly for our church group; we offer respite and babysitting and welcome neighborhood kids. We’ve had a young adult in transition live in our basement for a season, and friends on vacation crash at our place. There is always someone coming or going, which brings me so much joy.
I don’t think much of this – it is engrained in our family, our household, and I can’t help but want to bring everyone into my haven. I’ve realized this sets us apart when people marvel and comment on the carousel of people. The moment I see my children open the door and wave people in and run to the door to greet visitors is when I’m most proud. They see the value in welcoming people, not begrudgingly or because they showed up, but because it is our joy to serve and love them while they’re in our home.
What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
I am naturally a scheduled and pretty Type A person. I like to have a plan and stick to it. However, after waiting at the door for a placement to arrive and getting a call that they’re not coming any more multiple times, having dressed a kid for a visit with a parent, preparing them, feeding them, and then it being canceled multiple times. Putting other people first is an ultimate test of being willing to sacrifice a need for control. So, in my young adult years, I have had to learn to adapt and relinquish control. It’s still my natural leaning to want to know what’s going to happen, but there has been so much growth in being able to pivot to yield to a change to embrace fun to give way to my desire to make life a bit easier or more enjoyable for someone else. I know that there is always a lot to learn, but I can say I’m proud to see the growth that has come in me in this way.
- Instagram: instagram.com/littlehousebiglove