Sister, I remember being where you are. You feel a yearning in your chest, a burning desire to DO SOMETHING. You feel as if God himself has placed a passion in your heart to help the helpless, to aid the very most vulnerable among us. You’ve uttered the words “foster care” and now you are questioning if you’re ready.
Nearly 7 years ago my husband and I were in the exact place that you are in. We were equally intrigued by and terrified of foster care. When we started the required training classes we still weren’t sure we would follow through. Now we are coming up on our six year anniversary of being licensed foster parents and it feels like just yesterday (and an eternity ago) that we signed the last document, had our final home visit and became OFFICIAL!! It only took a few weeks for us to get The Call for our first kiddo and it’s been a whirlwind since. We have learned a lot on our journey. For what it’s worth, here are a few tidbits.
YOUR FAMILY IS GOING TO GROW. I mean obviously, right? You’re inviting kids to live with you, so clearly your family is going to get bigger. But your family is going to grow by more than just a kid or two. Surprise: those kids bring with them parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. More than likely you’ll build relationships with those family members along the way. I really hadn’t prepared myself for this new extended family. Honestly, it’s been pretty great. While I was a bit intimidated by those relationships initially, I quickly realized that the more people in a child’s life who love them, the better!
GUARD YOUR NEVERS. God has a fantastic sense of humor. We were NEVER going to adopt…you know, until the time came that our son was going to live with another family and we declared, “Over our dead bodies.” We weren’t going to take a baby because we were NEVER going to do diapers again….then we got a darling 4 year old who wasn’t potty trained. We were NEVER going to adopt again….and here we find ourselves, navigating these adoption waters a second time. Yes, it is important to establish boundaries and recognize your strengths and your limits but don’t be so committed to your plans that you’re unable to bend a little. Some of our biggest blessings have come from our “nevers”.
OH, THE FEELS. Sure, you’ll experience the expected range of emotions: happy, sad, excited, and nervous. But there’s also this whole other subset of feelings that I didn’t even know about, ones that I don’t think there are names for. The celebration of a child being reunited with their family as my heart is absolutely crushed by their departure….what is that even called? How am I able to praise God for the resiliency of a child while being so angry that the same child has lived a life that required such resiliency? Foster parenting brings with it some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Learn to celebrate the good times and understand that the bad times are only temporary.
READ THE BOOKS BUT TRUST YOUR GUT. If you look, you’ll find a plethora of books. And blogs. And support groups. Read them, join them, listen to them…but don’t live by them. You’re smart. You’re equipped to do hard things, so do not underestimate yourself. If you’re going to lean on something, make sure it’s God. Everything else is just someone’s best guess. It’s awfully easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re not doing it right. Remember that somebody else’s “right” might be all wrong for your family. You know your people best.
SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE AND ASK FOR HELP. Ever heard the saying “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”? I think it rings true because busy folks get.stuff.done. If you’re accustomed to running, going, doing, and schedule shuffling, you are well on your way to foster parenting success. But you’re also on your way to a potential burn out. About 3 years into our foster care journey, I had to quit everything that wasn’t an essential on our calendar. Bible class teacher? Nope, can’t. Potlucks? Are you kidding?! Home room parent? Not on your life! I was exhausted and stressed out. I think this could have been avoided if I would have been willing to ask for help more often. You don’t have to be a do-it-all superhero. Let folks help you.
REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING IT. Because someday you’re going to question yourself. Someday when you’re picking nits or cleaning up poop or testifying in court you will say to yourself, “WHAT was I thinking?” Someday when you get a call from the daycare that your kid is sick and you have to sacrifice precious vacation time to take them to the doctor, you’ll wonder why you signed up for this. When we started our journey I wrote an entry in my journal about why I felt compelled to foster. I’ve gone back and re-read it on more occasions that I can count. I’ve needed reminding many, many times.
YOU ARE GOING TO MEET THE TOUGHEST, BRAVEST, MOST AMAZING KIDS. You will wonder why everyone in the world doesn’t foster. Yes, it’s hard. But it is also incredible. To be able to watch a scared, sad, timid child morph into a confident, happy, silly kid is a truly beautiful thing. And to know that you got to play a tiny role in that transformation is one of the best feelings in the world.
YOU CAN’T DO THIS. Sounds harsh, I know. I’m not trying to scare you away but you need to know right out of the gate that you cannot do this on your own. You’re going to have to trust God on this journey. You have to be willing to accept that while you have been entrusted to care for these precious souls for a time, ultimately they are His. He sees them, He knows them, and He has a plan for them. Wrap yourself in those truths and remind yourself of them regularly. And remember that He sees and knows and has a plan for you too. You are loved every bit as much as these children. God created you for this and will see you through it!
With all my love and admiration,
Another mom in the trenches