“It’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do and it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do. You’ll get your heart broken over and over again.”
January marked thirty years since Mark and Janice Workman began their foster care journey. “When our youngest started school, we decided we weren’t done having babies in our home yet,” Janice said. Indeed, they were not. Over the next three decades, the Workmans would welcome over one hundred children into their home.
The Workmans have built lasting relationships with many children and birth families they otherwise never would have known, which has been their biggest blessing. “Many of the kids and families we have stayed in touch with,” Janice said. “We’re even foster grandparents now!” A recent video from one of their former foster kids talks about the continued impact of the Workmans in her life as she’s now married with kids and gets to celebrate holidays, birthdays, and milestones together. See the whole video here.
Although they have many good relationships from foster care, Janice admits it’s not easy. “When you’ve had a baby in your home for two or three years and they go live with a biological family member, especially if you know it’s not a better situation, it breaks your heart,” Janice said. “If you’re doing it right, when you say goodbye, it hurts like you’ve lost one of your birth kids.”
But that shouldn’t deter people from getting involved in foster care. “I believe everyone should be involved in some way,” Janice said. “Not everyone should bring kids into their home. But everyone can do something.”
Janice said the biggest need for foster families is support. “Don’t just say ‘Let me know if I can help,’ but be concrete. Say ‘I’m bringing dinner over tonight’ or ‘I’m taking your kids out for the day.’ The more the church can encourage foster families, the more they can be supportive, the more they can be looking for ways to reach out and help, it makes everybody’s job easier.”
The Workmans have worked hard to make a difference in the lives of those involved in foster care — birth families, foster families, and the child welfare system in Kosciusko County. They started a ministry at their church called Room at the Table that is a free store for families with foster placements, and they are part of a coalition of churches in Kosciusko County that work together to provide different services. “We really are different parts of one body working together,” Janice said.
Recently, Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church honored Mark and Janice with a scholarship in their name. The scholarship will provide funds for people in the church who are seeking to either become licensed foster parents or maintain their licensure through continuing training courses. Dave Rank, community impact pastor, surprised the Workmans with the scholarship announcement during the church’s worship service on Mother’s Day. He said, “We knew we wanted to honor Mark and Janice. Thirty years and one hundred kids is incredible.”
This year Mark and Janice are letting their license expire, meaning they will no longer bring foster children into their home. However, they will continue to support other families who do.