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Foster care has a honeymoon period. In the first days we felt excited to love James to salvation, and he felt happy to be in a home with some older kids that were “cool”. He was at another foster home before ours and others before that. He told us we were his seventh place, and I was determined we would fill in what others could not. James was funny, smart, creative, and very open about his past. We were excited to “save” our first long term placement.
I had no idea what was to come. Before long, the snarky set in, and I became the primary target of James’s negative behavior, resulting from all the trauma he had endured in his short 10 years. I sought opportunities to connect, and I likely over-employed the tools I had learned in training. He was resistant to my efforts. He acted like an angry toddler most of the time, whining and throwing tantrums when things did not go his way– which was most of the time, even though we were careful to choose our battles. His efforts at school were non-existent, and it got to the point where we would applaud him for the smallest things; we knew he was capable of so much more. This was more than I had anticipated.
His behavior was a façade to hide his pain. During our time with James, he would tell us; “My mom lies all the time”, “I had to take the bottle out of her hands”, “I don’t believe in God, because I prayed to Him and He didn’t answer” –I later learned from his mom that he was screaming out to God the last time he was taken from her. He hated daycare, because he talked of a foster home that had him in daycare all day every day, “even on my birthday, Joy.” He was unresponsive when anyone new tried to speak to him, which embarrassed us; but we understood his lack of trust. He manipulated his therapist for months. I think there were only a handful of times that he talked to her about anything of substance, but he loved the attention…. And he needed it. Any salve of love was important.
The most powerful thought that passed through my mind, almost daily, was, “I am living the Gospel. This is truly an opportunity to love James the way that Jesus loves me, as much as I am able.” I wondered on a regular basis if God ever felt toward me like I felt toward James….
I feed you. I clothe you. I see the bigger picture of the ugly world that you have to deal with, so I excuse the ugly way you respond to My goodness. I love you so much. I shed tears for you. I hurt for you. I long for you to respond to my love. I long for the evil that’s been done toward you to be vindicated and the people in your life to be restored. I desire a beautiful outcome for you. But you do not believe me. Though I do these things tirelessly, you do not trust me.
I wish I could say James’s life is amazing now. We extended this same love to his mother as he neared reunification, and we all had a sweet season together. They became family, but the ugliness of addiction returned and they have distanced themselves from us.
I still miss them both. People often say, “I couldn’t bear to give them back.” I have heard someone wisely say, “Someone has to bear pain, the child or the one who advocates for him.” I would rather, with my Father’s help, carry some of the pain and do this fostering thing. I long to have that boy back in my life, even though life was harder then. I pray that our time with him lifted his burden a bit, and that he will remember a season that he did not have to carry his pain alone.
Olive Crest invites you to learn more about becoming a foster parent, a selfless ministry that gives again and again to future generations. Learn how you can make a difference in children’s lives, through Olive Crest through fostering or donating. Visit today!
Author Bio: Joy Lanier is a wife, mom, and foster mom who strives to follow Jesus. She currently spends her “free” time as the Community Involvement Coordinator at Olive Crest. She loves her crazy life.