A friend of mine from college emailed me and told me she and her husband are feeling directed by God to become foster parents. She basically opened the door for me to share my thoughts with her regarding foster parenting.
As I began to type my response to her, the only way I could think to format it in my mind was to share the challenges vs. victories of being a foster parent.
I thought maybe some of you might be interested to hear what my anwer back was…So here you go!
1. Most small children that have been effected by a traumatic background do have a behavioral or psychological challenge of some sort. It is only to be expected. Even though children are acting out because of all they have experienced, it can be truly overwhelming to us as adults. Believe me, I have shed my tears and felt totally at loss for what to do…God is your strength in these moments and you WILL make it through.
2. There are a lot of appointments to meet that would not normally be in the title of parent: Court, therapy sessions, visitations with parents, visitations with grandparents, visitations with siblings, Permanency planning meetings, support groups (if applicable), case worker home visits, licensing updates, required training each year, strict dental and physical appointments and so on and so forth.
3. Seeing children that have been hurt by their family and yet long to be with them. Little Boy (who is now back with his biological family) used to cry so hard when we had to leave his family after visitations. I have never felt so helpless and heartbroken as I heard him cry from the deepest parts of his heart in his carseat on the way home. Yet I sometimes felt conflicted because I knew the “whole story”.
4. In regards to fostering older children who remember or still have connection to their biological family…Probably the HARDEST thing for us has been loving so much and knowing that no matter what life our foster children had before – they would go back to their biological family in a hot second. In other words, your love is not reciprocated. It is a hard thing to process… They SHOULD feel that way for their family….yet it is not easy to love them so much and know their hearts are not truly with us the way ours is with them. Sometimes I feel guilty mentioning that because I know that is not the motive we have in parenting them. We do it for THEM and not for us…but it honestly does hurt sometimes.
5. A challenge many others face (that we do not face) is having communication issues with their case worker and foster care agency. Let me say – for the record – that Childhelp is a very professional, top notch agency to work with and their communication is excellent!!! However, if you don’t have a Childhelp office near you, you can TEST prospective foster care agencies. Make a phone call to the licensing person at prospective agencies and tell them you have an interest in foster parenting. Whoever calls you back first might be the best agency to work with (in regards to communication). Childhelp called me back the very same day I left a message. Communication is VITAL to foster care. If you can’t reach your agency or case worker, you will often feel frustrated… Try to eliminate the frustration by taking your time to pick the agency you will work with.
Victories – I am not sure I have enough lines to state all the victories, but I will list at least several of them.
1. YOU get to be the one, most of the time, to lead your children directly to Jesus. You see a child who has absolutely no recognition of who Jesus is begin to cultivate a personal relationship with Christ. It is so precious to hear their prayers for help and healing…They quickly realize that Jesus is real and the He loves them. When we last visited my parents in Ohio recently, I was overcome with emotion during our church service. I saw my Dad (who is a pastor), leading the congregation and my mom praying at the altar and I was overcome with the reality that Little Brother and Little Sister’s family line will be FOREVER changed because we follow Christ and chose to become foster parents. I saw in my mind the picture of Little Brother and Little Sister being grafted into our family line and forever changed.
2. If you adopt, there is an “aha!” moment as to why you ever struggled with having your own. How would I have ever met these little ones if I had my own? It doesn’t take away the pain/disappointment I have experienced, but it is another chapter in our life and we just have to look at this and realize we would have never met TD, Little Brother and Little Sister (and previous foster children) had we not gone through the journey of “not having”.
3. If you adopt, there is also a moment where you realize that God crafted these precious children in their birth mother’s womb with YOU in mind. How overwhelming is that?!!!
4. You get to see behavioral & psychological issues become better with Jesus, time and love. You experience firsthand the incredible triumph of your #1 challenge eliminated (or experiencing it to a lesser degree than before)…and my personal opinion is you appreciate the victory more because it took so much hard work.
5. You get to bake cookies with your son or daughter just like you always imagined (or fill in the blank)… You get to see your parenting daydreams come true.
6. Yes, there are a lot of appointments to keep, BUT, you have soooo many witnessing opportunities. I have had several staff members in my home burst into tears and say, “I don’t know why I am crying.” God is ministering to the hearts of the many staff members you deal with for the simple reason that they see you loving on these precious children and see the love of Christ exemplified in your home.
7. Probably my favorite reason (apart from them coming to Christ) is: You get to help bring healing to the wounds of these precious children. If they are passing through and will not be adopted, just think of how amazing it is for them to get to have YOU as a foster parent. They might have gone somewhere else and been looked at as just another kid or stuck in their room all day or even abused. But not with YOU! You will love them, guide them, and care for their every pain and wound as if it were your own. They get to be completely covered by you in their MOST CRITICAL AND LOW MOMENT OF LIFE. They were taken from everything they have ever known and need someone like YOU in that moment. What could be more rewarding than to be THAT person for them?
8. You get to hear a child call you, “Mommy!” and your husband gets to hear, “Daddy!” Nothing is better than that sound!!!
AND I COULD LIST SOOOOOOOOO MUCH MORE!!! There are so many blessings and victories in store for foster parents and foster children!
Do any of you have any thoughts on this you would like to share? Any other challenges or victories you would like to share either from your experience or by knowing other foster families? Just comment below!