Clearly, everyone knows where I stand on fostering – but, do you know why? My whole story with Lizzi has come about because of the way I was raised as a child. My parents made the choice to be foster parents when I was starting kindergarten. I was the last of four girls at the time. My mother was originally the one who wanted to foster, being brought up into a family that fostered as well. My parents made the choice to foster, and in my mind, it was the greatest decision they could’ve made in relation to our family’s well-being.
There’s often a lot of doubt and fear with parents considering fostering, in concerns to the biological children. There’s fear of the biological children becoming too attached to the foster children, and thus bringing heartbreak when the foster child leaves. There’s also fear that the preoccupation of the foster child will create jealousy and drive a wedge between the relationship of the parents and biological children. Not to mention the fear of the foster child hurting the biological children. While there are many more fears that could be listed up here, I would like to focus on those three most common fears.
Since I was so young when they began fostering, I cannot remember a time without foster children in our family. It has become something so normal and ingrained in my being, it’s hard for me to remember that it’s not quite the most common upbringing. I cannot stress enough how big of a blessing it has been on my life to grow up in a family that fosters. Quite possibly the biggest blessing of fostering was gaining my brother – but we’ll get to that later.
First, the fear of becoming too attached to the foster children. This part was probably the easiest for me out of the rest of my family considering my age, however losing ANY brother of sister at ANY age is saddening. My mother did a great job of preparing my heart, stressing that all of this was temporary care, and we would eventually have to let go. More than anything else I can remember the good times. Watching some good ol’ Veggietales with Bobby* and his sister Beth*, playing in the sprinkler with Keisha*, riding bikes around the block with Donald*, and going on family visits with Cash (my brother) and his siblings. While there were meltdowns and rough nights, the only thing that comes to my mind when I think of it all are these beautiful memories of smiles and laughter.
I can’t remember when the children left. I don’t know why, but the goodbyes just didn’t stick. I remember meeting the children, I remember playing and helping out with them, but I don’t remember their goodbyes. The one who probably remembers all of the goodbyes would be my mother, because she’s the one that it hurt the most. In my experience now with Lizzi and Brianna, I can see the same thing coming true as when I was a child – it doesn’t affect Lizzi nearly as much as it affects me to say goodbye to foster children. In summary, the attachments I’ve made with the foster children in my family were nothing but good attachments that haven’t even truly ended. I still care for them, and I still love them as my brothers and sisters, even if we’ve gone different paths. The pain of saying goodbye had no power over the immense happiness they brought when they were with us.
Next, my favorite fear: the fear that the preoccupation of the foster child will create jealousy and drive a wedge between the relationship of the parents and biological children. Why is this my favorite? Because, honestly, it’s the silliest thing I have ever heard. Fostering brought my family closer than we had ever and would ever be. Fostering was and is an entire family ordeal. As much as you may believe this a job just for the parents, it isn’t. Every single one of our foster children was my brother or sister, even for just a few days. I was so young, yet I cared deeply for them and did everything in my little six-year-old body to help out. One of my older sisters in particular was basically a second mom to the children. It was just as exciting and emotional for us as it was for my parents. This experience of a being foster family is so unique that its something we can really only relate to and bond over with each other. Foster care is so much more inclusive than exclusive.
Lastly, the fear of the foster child hurting the biological children. Alright guys, I’ll give you this one. This can be a scary thing. Since my family mostly fostered babies and toddlers, we didn’t really have to deal with much on this subject. Safety precautions are important. Setting up cameras to protect your family as well as your foster children is a great idea suggested by one of the foster moms that I know. There are many different families that have blogged advice, as well as many guides you can find on taking precautions. Although – from my experiences, I will say no matter the hurt, I would never take back the experiences my family gave me by becoming a foster and adoptive family.
Becoming a foster family is the most beautiful heartbreak you and your children could ever experience. It gives you and your family an empathy and understanding of the pain foster children experience. It provides cultural and racial diversity (I’m looking at you, white foster families trying to manage African-American hair). Your children will champion the rights and protection of other children, and become foster care advocates in the process. It gives you and your children an outlook on the real world, a world outside of comfort, a world outside of heartbreak, a world outside of the bubble most of us grow up in, and prepares you and, your children especially, for every type of person you/they could encounter in the future.
Foster care can also lead to one of the most beautiful things I’ve witnessed on this earth – adoption. Such was the case for the second foster child my family ever received: Cash, my wonderful little brother. Adoption is an exact reflection of God’s love for us. An initial heartbreak, an event that shouldn’t have happened, separates the child from his/her family, and is consequentially countered by redemption through love, mercy, and a new start. Foster care is not the solution to abandonment and abuse, adoption is. However, with the long procedures and limited adoptive families, foster care is a necessary and extremely helpful step. I am so grateful my brother came into our lives and stayed. There is no different love I have for him than any of my other family members, which is a common misconception when it comes to adoption.
If none of this has moved you in any way to foster, then at least take God’s word for it.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27 (NIV)
There is nothing I am more thankful for than being a part of a family that fosters. There was no greater gift nor any greater lesson than the experience I gained from it. Thank you so much, mom and dad, for the immense blessing you’ve bestowed on me.
My incredible family at my oldest sister’s wedding
*names changed to protect the privacy of the foster children