This is the 3rd post in a series, "Foster Care? I could never do that". Click here for the previous post.
Before I knew anything about foster care, I thought I knew everything. Between Hollywood and news stories I surmised that foster care could go one of two ways- either you take in a child like Michael Oher and receive all the accolades that accompany raising a future NFL football player, or you take your chances with another kid who ends up doing drugs and locked in prison. There was definitely no middle ground in my mind. Being a realist, I concluded that if we chose to foster, we would undoubtedly welcome a troubled pre-teen into our home who would teach my kids cuss words and how to roll a joint. (This is obviously a RIDICULOUS conclusion, but you get the point).
Having two small children, I was understandably cautious about bringing a foster child into our home. That is, until I became fully informed. All of my misguided preconceptions began to crumble before my eyes as I received more information. (But ignorance was bliss while it lasted!)
First off, foster parents have complete and total control over the types of children they are willing to care for. You can specify a gender, an age range, what special needs you feel comfortable with, what past abuse you can handle – the questions are endless. No child will be placed in a foster family’s home without their consent. This understanding was a huge relief to me. Having been a high school teacher, I have such a love for kids that age. However, with littles under my roof, I knew that a teenager wouldn’t be the best fit for us right now, so we agreed to take children ages 0 to 8. A child in this range seemed doable given our little ones, but still I wondered, “even a troubled 6 year old can be a bad influence on my children.”
And then I remembered – I am not raising little angels myself. I have a son who calls strangers “poopie” to their face and another one who throws hard toys at people when he doesn’t get his way. I adore them both with every ounce of my being, but I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that THEY can be a bad influence on other kids (*Gasp*). As a Christian, I was faced with the vivid reality that each foster child was created in God’s image for us to love—and while I can consider my own children in the equation, I must remember that children in foster care are no less deserving of a loving family than my own kids. I cannot place my own children's value above that of children in care.
Therefore, what if we did welcome a sassy eight-year-old into our home? And what if they DID teach my kids cuss words? Might they also teach my children empathy? Might they help my kiddos realize how ridiculously blessed they are to live in a loving (and often crazy) home where their daily needs are met? Might they learn how to bridge the gap between the different worlds to gain an understanding of the hurt some of these kids are facing? And God willing, might we as parents be able to model how to respond to the difficult situations that arise in welcoming a new child? It was a hard pill to swallow, but this pill was continuing to heal my broken heart.
And so, with two of my biggest questions answered, I began to see the beautiful potential before me of how fostering children could transform my family’s life, but I wasn’t sold yet. “Do we really need to foster, or can we just adopt?” I whispered to God.
I am a lover of people, a child of God, and a laugher at jokes. I write words, cry tears and smile at strangers.