It is a bit surreal to look back over the last two years……..where has the time gone?…….and see all of the ups and downs, the trials and blessings, the bumps and smooth roads of being foster parents. Only by the grace of our heavenly Father have we been able to not only stand up in the face of heartaches and difficulties, but also to fully appreciate the sheer joy of taking care of these children. Most foster parents will tell you emphatically that foster care is the hardest thing they have ever done in their whole lives, yet right after that, they will usually grin and say, “My only regret is not signing up sooner!” Living it out is the only way to truly understand those two contradictory statements, but here is a peek into the crazy world of foster care:
1. No amount of training can prepare you for these kids……each child is so different, all coming from unique circumstances, and they all have their own personalities. Grouping them together is like trying to fit an elephant into a walnut shell 🙂
2. With that said, all foster children have one thing in common……they don’t want to be foster children, and most of them want to go home, no matter how bad home may be.
3. ‘Be Prepared’ is not just for Boy Scouts……..it should also be part of an official motto for foster parents. Having clothing (in all sizes for winter and summer, both genders), shoes, toys, bedding, stuffed animals, etc., before the first child is ever placed with you should be a requirement. Out of the 7 children we have hosted in our home, 5 of them came with just the clothes on their backs. No toys, no pajamas, no photos, no evidence of a family. Giving them their ‘own’ things while in our home, and to take with them when it’s time to go, helps to soothe their tender wounds.
4. Don’t believe any social worker who makes promises……..we have been blessed with one awesome social worker who keeps it very real and tells us only the facts. There have been others, however, that have gotten our hopes up when they do not have the authority or the knowledge to make such promises. It is PARAMOUNT that all foster parents be realistic and keep the following fact forefront in their minds: foster care by it’s very nature is meant to be temporary, and adoption is usually a last resort.
5. These children are not yours………..until you have a signed adoption paper in your hand. We have heard horror stories that couples have had their foster children for 2 and 3 years, everything pointed to adoption, and the rug gets pulled out from under them……a long lost relative pops out of the daisies and wants to raise the child, or the judge decides at the last minute to send them home to their ‘sometimes-present’ parents even though therapists, doctors and social workers advise otherwise…….or a ‘no-show’ parent decides to pull their lives together (after 2 years of not seeing their kids), and wants to repetition the court for custody because their rights were never terminated. Apparently, it happens all the time.
6. These children will always be yours :-)……….no matter if they no longer live with you. The above facts in #5 are true enough, but it will never completely sink into your heart, because raising kids takes your whole heart…..holding back even a tiny piece, the piece that will help you from being completely devastated when these babies have to go home, is not an option. One of my blog readers sent me an amazing song that has become our family’s foster care ‘theme song’. The title is ‘All of Me’ by Matt Hammitt. Listen to it here, but get a tissue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50ygAc2qP5A
I’ll trade the fear of all that I could lose, for every moment I’ll share with you” Um, that pretty much sums up the heartbreak foster parents experience on a daily basis.
7. Your inviting unspeakable things into your home…….you and your other children will be affected, make no mistake. Keeping the nightmares of what some of these children have had to face away from your more innocent children is impossible. We only take up to age 4, and even at such a tender age, two of these boys have seen things that belong in adult movies, and experienced hardships that I wish no one had to bear. One minute they will cuss at you, hit you, embarrass you in public……and the next they will curl into your lap and try to get the love and affection that was denied them in their crucial developmental years. It is exhausting, yet so satisfying to see even a millimeter of progress……but that is speaking from an adult viewpoint. Other children in the home have to witness all of this, try to process it the best way they can, and somehow not pick up bad habits, behaviors, or become resentful of all the time it takes to nurture the one with the most problems. Foster care is hard on the whole family.
8. Not everyone will understand what you are doing, but they will most certainly mention money……….forget the stares from strangers, you should expect that if you foster children from different ethnic backgrounds. You can even expect snide remarks or outright harassment from prejudice extended family members (we all have them in our family trees, as much as I try to knock them out of mine). We knew what we were getting ourselves into on that score, and we can handle it. What can be tiring, are the ‘friendly’ comments, the ‘not-so-friendly’ comments, and the comments from complete strangers. When one girlfriend of mine found out that we were fostering, she got real excited and said, “Oh! You should get a bunch of kids with physical and mental issues……my friend fosters those kind of kids and makes a ton of money each month!” Ummmm, ok, sure…..I will call our social worker and try to hit pay dirt with a mentally challenged child. If said child were in a wheelchair, that would just be a bonus, right?? Money is the single most commented thing about offering foster care in your home. People have heard the stories, they have seen the cases on the news…..and they will automatically assume that this is the motivator behind you ‘good deed’. Although I could write a whole post on this topic, I will simply say this: A Christian foster parent simply follows God’s Will in their lives. For us, our inspiration and motivation comes from the Bible…….we don’t concern ourselves with what others think of us.
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
9. Your faith will be tested……..again, and again, and again, and again, and again. When a child has to return home to a sexual predator because there was not enough evidence to convict. When a family member from a zillion miles away is chosen to take custody of a child just because they have the same blood running through their veins……even though the only good quality about them is that their background check cleared. Or, when you must face the facts that a child is not compatible to your family style or parenting, no matter how much you have prayed or researched for ways to help them. That is the moment when you realize that the only true comfort you will receive in these situations, is God’s Grace. Becoming a foster parent, as a Christian, is usually entered into by faith in God……..answering a call that is not an ideal one, but answering it because we believe that God will protect and love us through all of the hard times, and rejoice with us in the good times. We are not always meant to understand, but we are required to answer, obey and have faith. Without faith, I would never be able to withstand the pain and heartbreak that almost always accompanies foster care.
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7
10. Foster Care Parenting is easy……….as God is always in control! He is all knowing, and He knows what is best for all of us………even if those decisions threaten to break us. He loves us all and He will never do anything to harm us. God is in control, so we need to worry for nothing and focus our energies on being His Faithful Servants of Christ!
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13