Sunset Hill is the hospitality home of Sunnybrook Cares, a ministry supporting foster families.
Michael and Meg Sanks live with their five children in Fort Worth, Texas. Four of their children are biological and one child is adopted through the foster care system in Texas. Sunnybrook was blessed to serve Meg through a women's retreat at Sunset Hill in October of 2018 and 2019, and the whole family enjoyed a stay at Sunset Hill for Thanksgiving of 2019.
Read ahead as Meg gives an insider's perspective of what it's like to be involved in the foster care system.
What do you want the world to know about foster/adoptive care?
It's an ongoing need for the entire family, not just the traumatized child. I read a term recently referring to adoptive/foster families as co-survivors, and that is so true. Adoption/foster care is portrayed as such a beautiful experience without acknowledging the difficulty of it all. It is beautiful, but it doesn't magically take away the pain/neglect/trauma the foster/adoptive child experienced, and it doesn't magically unify the family with love and acceptance of one another. Just like any relationship, it requires work- but with a child who's brain doesn't function at a normal capacity due to trauma, it requires even more work. Then, add in bio children or other foster/adoptive siblings. Our personal goal as adoptive parents is not just to love our child, but to raise our child to be a fully functioning adult accomplishing more than they've ever dreamed of accomplishing.
What is the most challenging part of foster care?
Support, especially for the parents. There are many services for the kids, but not much for the adults. What we are going through with our adopted child is not normal child-like behavior. It's so deep, unimaginable, and no one actually really understands trauma's effect on any child. We have to do things differently out of necessity and love for our child. It's been hard to find non-judgmental, unconditional love and support around us. It's not their fault. It's one of those things, if you haven't experienced this, you don't really understand and that's okay.
What is your dream for the children who need families?
That more families will be bold and strong enough to take the step to get into the ugly, scary parts of an abused/neglected child's life.
How did staying at Sunset Hill impact you/your family?
It's a breath of fresh air. I drive through the gate and peace overcomes my soul. Shea and Philip have such a gift of hospitality. They make you feel comfortable, they pamper you, they listen to you, they encourage you, and they are perceptive enough to leave you alone when needed. My family had the privilege to stay at Thanksgiving in 2019. My kids were amazed at the beauty of the entire place. Being such a large family on a single income, large vacations just aren't an option and we really are fine with that reality. Coming to Sunset Hill was an incredible vacation that didn't burden us financially. Sunset Hill allowed our family to make sweet memories outside of our home.
How can the non-foster world step up and serve foster families?
Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Many times we, parents, are getting advice, instruction, and criticism from so many directions regarding our foster/adoptive child that makes us feel like we just aren't doing it good enough. The difficulty, in itself, makes us feel like we just aren't doing it good enough. We need encouragement and acceptance in a safe space. When that trust is built, so many more things can be done like babysitting, play dates, and meals together. But as long as that trust is not built, foster/adoptive families will be scared to let you in to help. Love foster/adoptive families with unconditional, non-judgmental acceptance.
Your generous support is used to provide for foster children in two ways:
- Sunnybrook's residential campus offers home, hope, and healing to Mississippi's vulnerable youth.
- Sunnybrook Cares provides foster/adoptive families with support and encouragement in many ways, including through the Sunset Hill hospitality home in Flora, MS.
Will you consider serving and supporting foster children and families today?