‘Foster care is like being on a tilt-a-whirl ride.’: Mom candidly shares difficult reality of foster care

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“Our experience with foster care has been much like being on a tilt-a-whirl ride. Round and round you go. Up and down over little bumps along the way. The length of a case = the length of the ride. Starting and stopping in the same car, at the same place. Different riders get on and off… new children, new birth families, new relationships to pursue. The ride can be smooth or the ride can be rough. It all depends on who you’re riding with. Who’s in your car with you. But round and round you go.

Relationships built between foster mom and bio mom climb on for the ride, too. They climb into the same car, loving the same children. Up and down it goes over the bumps. Built up with progress, torn down with disappointment. Round and round, they cling to the same bar for support. The outside rider gets smashed against the wall of the car by the weight of the inside rider. And the passenger on the inside grasps on for dear life, trying her hardest to pull herself back to the other side… fighting to do it on her own. Sometimes she can’t though. Sometimes the pressure of the round and round is too great to fight. She too becomes smashed into the wall and she can’t pull herself back. The outside rider tries to help push her back. Holding the weight of it all to do so. But it’s too much.

You’ve been there, haven’t you? As a kid at least… riding a tilt-a-whirl? Perhaps also as a foster mom… also riding the tilt-a-whirl?

This ride starts to feel deflating. Incredibly so. When cases end and hearts break. When children leave or stay and loss is incurred. All of a sudden the breeze from going round and round subsides and the air feels thick… heavy even. The round and round starts to feel sickening. ‘How can I get off this thing? Why won’t it stop? We just keep going round and round. Will we ever make any progress? Will she ever realize how I’ve tried to help her? Why did I ever get on this ride to begin with?’

Couple's daughter and first foster placement sit side by side at kitchen table.
Courtesy of Lisa Robertson

We question. We wrestle. We doubt. 

And as the ride comes to a temporary stop, you exhale and shake your head to get it to stop spinning. You climb off, regain your legs, and get back in line to ride again.

Comparing foster care to a silly tilt-a-whirl ride may seem far fetched… but in this season that we’re in, it’s exactly what it feels like. The spinning is sickening. The weight of the passenger is heavy. The round and round is deflating. I question and doubt and wrestle. ‘Will we ever have a healthy relationship? Will things ever change? Will she ever understand?’ But I continue to ride. 

I ride this crazy tilt-a-whirl over and over with the same passenger because that is who God has called me to in this season. My boys’ bio mom is my inside rider – and the ride truly does go round and round. But at the end of the day, I cannot make her get off the ride. I cannot make her choose a safer one. I cannot hold her hand through the entire amusement park. But Jesus can. He IS the operator and He is the only one who can convince her to get off the ride. He is the only one who can change her heart. I can’t do that.

I was reminded today that it’s okay for ME to get off the ride. To take a break to regain my legs. To allow the spinning to subside. To have healthy boundaries in place so the ride isn’t constant. I am not the savior – of any birth parent, of any child. Jesus is. And I HAVE TO BELIEVE that God is in control. That He is the ride operator. That the spinning is not for nothing. The ups and downs and round and rounds have purpose. That even when I step off temporarily, He doesn’t. He stays. He remains. He’s constant.”

Family continues to foster and takes picture on porch swing with current children.
Courtesy of Lisa Robertson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters  by Lisa Robertson of Hartville, OH. You can follow her family’s journey on InstagramFacebook, and on their website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos

Read more from Lisa here:

‘There was ‘our’ baby girl, outside the courthouse, getting photographed on her adoption day with her family that was not us.’: Mom shares ‘beauty and brokenness’ of foster care, adoption

Just 2 weeks after becoming a mother, I received a life-saving, emergency hysterectomy.’: Foster mom shares change in life plans after near-death experience

‘Triggers are a crazy thing. I never thought much about them… before I started having them.’: Mom shares experience with triggers after traumatic birth, life-saving hysterectomy

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