Success OR Significance: Can't Have Both?

4w_wed620x281_070914Pam Parish knew about living a quiet, successful life with her small but happy family. Then, she listened to God’s call to work for a church where Pam began to learn about living a life of significance. As God worked in her and her family’s hearts, they began a life-changing journey not only for them, but for countless children in need. She shares her story with us today.


4word: Your family has formed through untraditional means. What led to your interest in foster care and adoption?

Pam: I get this question a lot. Having seven daughters, six that came to us through untraditional means, leads a lot of people to wonder. Surprisingly, our initial interest didn’t feel like a “calling” at all. We had one biological daughter who was eleven and were unable to have additional children naturally. She really wanted a sibling, specifically a sister. We learned about adoption through foster care and decided to pursue that route. It was only after we really learned about the plight of children waiting in foster care that our hearts began to change. We had more room, in both our hearts and house, so we simply made ourselves available and said, “yes.”

4word: Why have you chosen to adopt older girls?

Pam: Our birth daughter was eleven at the time that we started this journey. By that time, we had no interest in going back to diapers or signing elementary school folders every day.

4word: Where do you find the resources necessary to meet the emotional needs of your daughters?

Pam: Prayer, training and great community are the most important resources for this journey.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to God and asking Him for wisdom as a mom. There are a lot of issues and challenges that come with being abandoned, neglected and abused—I want to approach those areas of my girls’ lives with compassion and wisdom from the Lord.

Additionally, I am a big believer in training. I can’t expect to understand PTSD, attachment issues, or the grief process if I don’t get specific training on those issues. As a foster and adoptive mom, I try to learn something new all the time. I’m currently learning about adolescent neurology so that I can understand my girls as they transition into adulthood and healthy independence. Understanding these things helps me meet them where they are developmentally and emotionally.

Lastly, having a great community is critical. There are so many times that I need to pick up the phone and talk to another parent who can say, “I understand.” Our family looks like it does today because of the time, prayers, and love that our community of friends has invested in us over the years.

4word: What does transformation and restoration look like for your family?

Pam: Transformation and restoration looks like seven girls who all come from vastly different backgrounds calling us “mom and dad” and one another “sister”. It’s about all of us, as a family unit, having a sense that we belong to one another—regardless of how we got here. We’re a team through it all. That means we are for each other. “I’m on your side” is often heard in our house. Everyone’s journey is unique, and what helps one heal might harm another. We can’t base our family’s success on physical, emotional or psychological milestones.

Transformation and restoration are lifelong journeys for all of us. I want my girls to experience life, share memories, create traditions, and embrace family (with all its flaws). As we embrace the good, bad, and ugly year after year, we heal together. That’s what transformation and restoration look like.

4word: What do you want others to understand about abused and neglected children?

Pam: They’re lonely. They need caring adults to come alongside them and be with them in their fear and grief, not to fix it but to simply understand it.

Secondly, there are a lot of them—right here in our country. There are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system who need safe homes with compassionate and understanding adults. At any given time, 25% of those children are available for adoption; meaning the state has terminated the parental rights of their birth parents and is now their legal guardian. These children range in age from birth-18 years old and are waiting for a family who will adopt them and give them a safe place to call home forever. Over 20,000 young people “age out” of foster care at 18 each year in the U.S.- without family, without healthy connections, and without the resources to create successful lives for themselves. Of this number, 50% of the girls will end up pregnant or in forced prostitution within one year and many, up to 50% both male and female, end up in prison or homeless.

I guess what I want others to understand is that, even if you don’t foster or adopt, there is something you can do. Raise awareness, volunteer, find a family who is fostering or adopting and become a part of their caring community. Get involved. These children belong to all of us.

4word: To those who are considering adoption or foster care, but think that the needs are too great and overwhelming for them to meet, what is your response?

Pam: I understand. Uncertainty is a powerful deterrent. When we first started the process we had a whole list of things that we “couldn’t” parent—sexual abuse, violent outbursts, suicidal tendencies, attachment issues, and several more. Since then, we’ve parented all of those things and several more. I’ve learned that we could handle far more than we gave ourselves credit for and, with proper training, the “scary” issues really weren’t that scary at all.

As with anything unknown, it’s intimidating. Before we learned to drive, driving a car seemed scary. Then we learned, practiced, and grew comfortable driving. It’s the same way with parenting children from hard places. We have to learn, practice, and grow comfortable with things that we’ve never understood or had to deal with before.

4word: It sounds like your family has changed their perspective over the years. Can you share about that?

Pam: Eight years ago, I was a successful executive at a wireless software company. We were a family of three, living the life. Driving a nice car, working a high paying corporate job, and spending weekends on the beach—life was good. Then, God led us out of the corporate world to work for a church. The first message that I ever heard at the church that would become our home, Victory World Church, was titled, “Moving From Success to Significance.”

That message, at that moment, has defined my life ever since. There’s no way, sitting there in that service, that I could have ever imagined what God would do in our lives to move us from success to significance. My Mercedes soon gave way to a minivan, and our comfortable, predictable life as a family of three would transform into the beautiful chaos of a family of nine.

Today, my girls are all young adults beginning to launch into the world knowing that they always have a safe place to call home. I’m launching a new career as a nonprofit leader, developing an organization called Connections Homes that will connect young people ages 18-24 who’ve aged out of foster care, are homeless or otherwise have no family, with families who are willing to walk with them through life and build lifelong family connections. There’s a lot to be said about living a life of success, but it has no comparison to the satisfaction of living a life of significance.

Moving from a life of success to significance is scary and uncomfortable, but it is also rewarding. Not everyone is called to adopt six children like the Parish family, but you are called to something. Maybe you are meant to be the prayer warrior or encourager Pam talked about. Find your ministry and run after it with all your effort.


What needs do you see around you? What can you do to be a part of the solution?

Pam’s new book, Ready or Not: 30 Days of Discovery For Foster & Adoptive Parents, releases this week and can be found here. You can learn more about Pam, her family and her ministry by clicking here.