“There are two questions people ask almost every time people find out we’re foster parents:
‘How did you decide to foster? I don’t think I could handle it, I’d get way too attached.’
‘When did you know when the timing was right? I just don’t have enough time or energy to do that.’
The truth is there wasn’t a big ‘ah ha’ moment or sign from the universe that said, ‘become foster parents.’ My husband and I talked about foster care and adoption when we were dating. We both had becoming foster parents on our hearts and knew it would be a part of our lives. We got pregnant shortly after we got married, and we started the foster care licensing process a few months later. We just knew things would only get busier from there, and we refused to put foster care on the back burner.
The truth is there’s never a good time to become a foster parent because there’s never a good time to sign up to have your heart broken.
But do you know what else is never convenient? Being ripped from your home. Your family. Your friends and neighbors. Your toys and your pets and your bed. Your teacher and your school. Everything you’ve ever known, pulled out from under you all at once. There’s no ‘good time’ to throw a few belongings in a garbage bag and go live with complete strangers.
And the truth is my heart isn’t any stronger or harder than yours. The truth is I do get ‘too attached.’ There are days I hide behind the bathroom door and cry. I pray the same prayer every night, asking God to give me strength. To let me be enough for this child who has never had enough from anyone. It always feels like there’s something more we should be doing. And it never gets easier to love as hard as we do just to let them go.
But getting too attached is the point entirely… and I’d choose any amount of love and safety for these tiny people at my expense over one more ounce of hurt for them every single time. Because these kids — these innocent little lives who are broken and betrayed by the very people and systems who are meant to keep them safe — they are not made for this.
The truth is it is utterly ridiculous for a 3-month-old baby who was just taken from her mother’s arms to spend the night in a social worker’s office because I’m afraid of loving her too much. It is entirely unnecessary and unacceptable for an 11-year-old boy to wonder if he’s sleeping in the room with bed bugs again because I value my free time more than the outcome of his life and his story.
These children cannot and should not have to carry this. We are the adults here, and in my eyes, we have no choice but to carry it for them. Not because it’s easy and not because it’s not heavy… but because this is what we were called to do by a God who can take it all from us when our arms grow weak and our hearts feel weary. Psalm 55:22 says, ‘Cast your burdens on the Lord, and He will sustain you. He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.’
Still, we don’t have to pretend every family will be able to provide foster care. That’s just not realistic. And that’s okay. Just because you can’t foster doesn’t mean you can’t help. Half of all foster families quit within the first year because they feel alone. HALF. We’ve all heard the saying, ‘It takes a village,’ and foster families need that village more than ever. So if you can’t be a foster family, support a foster family.
Let me start by begging you not to say the words, ‘let me know if you need anything!’ While you may be well-intentioned, there are few foster families in the thick of things who have the mental capacity to ask for extra help and provide a list. Here are some things we really need:
1. Dinner. You can never ever, EVER go wrong with food. Just show up with the food. Any food. We are not picky. If we didn’t have to buy it, plan it, or make it, we will happily take it.
2. Clothing and supplies. These kids often come with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Our first placement came from a home with bed bugs and didn’t even have shoes on his feet. There is no such thing as too much or too many when it comes to formula and diapers. Ask for sizes, go to Target, and show up.
3. Help us out at home. Adding another human being to your home means more dishes, more laundry, more mess. If you aren’t comfortable or close enough with a family to come over and throw some clothes in the wash and start the dishwasher, look into a local maid service.
4. Babysitting. Rules for this will vary from state to state, but we need date night just like any other parents. There are foster parents who have to say ‘no’ to newborn babies because they don’t qualify for any version of maternity leave since they did not physically birth a baby. And it can be next to impossible to find a daycare that will take a baby under 6 weeks old – especially last minute. Did you know you can also be licensed as a foster parent strictly to provide respite care for other foster families?
5. Company. Come over. Hold our baby. Play pretend with our toddler. Bring a board game to play with our preteen. Watch a movie with our high schooler. Let us vent and cry and just talk to someone. Truly just listening to us talk through the roller coaster of emotions that is foster care is a gift in itself.
6. Pray. Pray, pray, and then pray some more. Pray for foster children, foster families, social workers, and birth families. Pray these children’s best interest is what is prioritized first and foremost. Pray for a broken system that desperately needs fixing. And if you feel comfortable, please tell us you’re praying! We need all the encouragement we can get.
We can spend our lives waiting for God to put a child in need on our front doorstep, or we can sign up to be that doorstep. We can show up with a meal or clothing or a shoulder to cry on at that doorstep. Being a foster parent has been the greatest honor and one of the deepest heartaches of my life… and it has been worth every second. ‘If I’m afraid, so a child feels safe; if I cry, so a child learns to smile; if I give of myself, so a child learns to receive; if I die a little inside, so a child comes to know The One who dies, then it is all worth it.’ —(Foster the Family)”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amelia Peterson from Fargo, North Dakota. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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