This is the 2nd post in a series, "Foster Care? I could never do that". Click here for the first post.
The phrases rattled off my tongue like clockwork as we tossed around the idea of fostering children.
“I could easily welcome a child into my home, but I would have such a difficult time giving them back.”
“It would be so hard on our family to only have a child for a few months. It just seems so unfair.”
“I don’t think we can do it, I would be too heartbroken when the child has to leave.”
This specific excuse was my golden ticket, I thought. I would use it in conversations about fostering, and specifically towards God in prayer. I mean, wasn’t it clear that I would totally be willing to care for a child if it wasn’t for the grief I would suffer? After all, isn’t it the thought that counts?
Then with the force of a thousand bricks, I was smacked in the face with a vivid reality. Every bit of this excuse began to reek of selfishness – every difficult part was something that affected me or my family and gave no credit to the child we would be serving. My eyes began to widen as I discovered the truth behind this excuse – I like neat and tidy packages with clear expectations and foster care is NOT THAT. It’s more like navigating your way through a junkyard searching for a specific car part with no guidance. It’s terribly hard work and requires a significant time investment, but the treasure is under all the rubble, if we simply keep searching.
I realized early on that as the stable, well-adjusted foster family we are actually the most capable people in the scenario to grieve a child’s transition from our home. We have community, we have support systems, and we have counselors and therapists at our fingertips. The grief and loss we experience is nothing compared to the grief and loss the foster child will wrestle with as he or she transitions back home. Furthermore, while the birth family may be elated to welcome the child back, oftentimes they are still facing challenges associated with living in poverty and battling addiction. Don’t get me wrong, they will have obviously made huge strides in establishing a new, healthy life, but the roots of poverty and addiction run deep and often take longer to completely uproot than the 18 months the state allows.
Quite possibly the most convicting answer came as I thought about the potential grief we would experience - it is an expected grief. This is not the same sorrow someone feels with the unexpected or tragic loss of a child. This is a grief that can be anticipated and planned for accordingly. Appointments with therapists can be obtained long before the child leaves my home so that we, as the foster family, can prepare appropriately.
Lastly, I must consider what it means if a child is able to be reunited with his family. It means that parents have fought their way out of addiction, they have obtained a job, they have received counseling to become better versions of themselves, and have created a safe environment for their kiddos – Is that not WAY BETTER than having a child in foster care forever? Instead of helping one little life, foster families have an opportunity to change an entire family's legacy by allowing parents time to focus on their own needs. When my gaze focuses on this possible outcome, I am overwhelmed by the potential in each situation. What greater story exists than watching a family break the vicious cycles of addiction and poverty? And if all that's required on my part is to be a long-term babysitter, I think I can handle it.
So there I stood in the face of this new discovery. "Fine," I whispered to God, "I am willing to risk grieving to serve a child in need, but what about my own kids?"
This is the second post in a series, "Foster Care? I could never do that". Click here for the first post.
Next Post: Foster Care? I worry about the influence on my own kids.
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.