Foster Parenting Interview

What I said (and didn’t say but wanted to) that you should know! 

Our local social services agency called me this week and asked if I would consider being interviewed on TV as a foster parent. These interviews are the bane of my existence, but when I really believe in a cause, I feel it is my responsibility to help raise awareness. 

The TV station had contacted them because our state was ranked number one  nationally for having the lowest number of children in foster care. This came as a surprise to our specific locality since we are a relatively small community and currently have 172 children in care!

Anyone who has ever been interviewed for a media interview knows the anxiety of entrusting your story to a reporter. As a former staff-writer for a community newspaper, I also relate to the responsibility of the reporter to capture the true angle and emotion of the story. This is no small task. 

I truly appreciate the TV station’s effort to help raise awareness and the kindness of the reporter, but understandably they only have a limited thirty seconds or so to devote to what I believe deserves much more time and attention. 

What I said was that “We had the same concerns many people have. Would we be able to love a child as we love our biological children? What if we got too attached and they returned home? What if our house is too small? What about our busy schedules? What if we try and it doesn’t work out?” 

These are all valid logical concerns so I’d like to address them individually. Before I do, I want to state that I’m no expert on foster care. We were approved as a foster family exactly one year ago and have had (still have) one placement since last fall. These are just observations and thoughts from our very limited experience. 

The concern of loving someone else’s child as your own was huge for us since we do have biological children and we would never want to be unfair to another child. We had family and friends who have done foster care/adoption and they modeled for us that no matter how the children come to you, you love them as your own. 

I knew I loved our foster child when I got the phone call to pick her up at the social services office. 

In my mother’s heart, it was like seeing the positive pregnancy test and being beside myself with love and joy and anticipation. 

My husband confirmed his own feelings weeks later when I overheard him telling someone he felt no different about our foster daughter than our own children we brought home from the hospital. 

For us, loving her has been easy, natural, and without reserve. 

Which leads me to the next concern. What if we get too attached and they return home? 

This one will keep you up at night! We’ve had family and friends to whom this has happened. We saw their hearts shatter and their world crumble. We see how they continue to carry this love for a child now far removed from them and how the child (and concern for the child) lives on in their hearts. 

But more often, we’ve seen those who hope to adopt through foster care be able to do so. (Just this week my brother and his wife officially adopted two brothers through foster care!) For this concern though, it should be broken into two parts.

First, if someone goes into this process open to foster care without the intention of adoption, the attachment part is different. You can love and nurture the child knowing it is just for a season. That helps prepare for the outcome. From what I’ve been told by foster families who provide care in this way, the releasing back to biological family or into an adoptive home is difficult, but easier, because it was expected and planned for. There is a great need for foster families to provide care in this way. 

For us, as with many, our hope is to adopt. To love a child as your own and want to be their forever family, adds a different component to the process. We were honest up front that this was our goal, knowing that the ultimate goal of social services would be to strengthen and support the biological family so that the child returns home or with a relative. 

Holding these two goals in tension as a foster/hopeful adoptive family has been one of the most stretching parts of this journey. 

There have been moments where the thought of this precious child being anywhere but with us literally takes my breath away, brings me to my knees, leaves my heart vulnerable, exposed, bleeding on the floor, and feeling completely helpless about every single part of it and you realize the biological families must feel the same way. 

In our specific situation, we have already had to release a child back to heaven. Our precious first-born daughter, Sadie Rose, whom we loved with our very breath and being, died as a newborn from hypochondrogenesis. Now we have WILLINGLY risked love again with two more biological children and a foster child. 

We have told ourselves often, we never thought we could live through the death of a child, and yet the amazing love and grace of God carried (and continues to carry) us through that dark night of the soul. We cannot imagine or lives without our foster baby being a forever part of our family, but should that be the case we are fully confident that we will be met with that same unchanging unwavering love and grace. 

But that’s easier said than lived. And in those moments when fear of loss overwhelms, friends have sent beautiful messages of reassurance. 

One day I received the most timely text that read, “You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but you have her now. Love her now. Cherish her now. Pour your heart into her now, and believe that whatever her future holds, what you give her now will have an eternal impact.” 

Isn’t that the risk we all take to love anyway? We are never promised tomorrow, not even our next breath, LOVE NOW! 

But back to the interview, what I wanted to say but didn’t.

Fostering is an emotional roller coaster ride. You will feel love, fulfillment, joy, but you will also feel anger. You will be expected to support people who, for whatever horrible life circumstances, traps, or addictions, (and sometimes completely helpless situations) they find themselves in, cannot seem to find their grounding in life. While you rejoice when it looks like a child you desperately love and want may stay with you, you will be sad for the brokenness that brings them to you, sad for the person(s) whose lives seem to continue spiraling out of control. Your heart breaks for all the people involved and you find yourself hoping the best for everyone. There is no way to prepare for these emotions in advance except to expect them. 

I wanted to say, “Be prepared to say no.” We received a placement call within weeks of our approval, but it was for a situation beyond what we believed we were prepared to take on. Saying no to children in need made me feel like a horrible human, but if it wasn’t right for us it would not have been right for them either and we wanted them to be where they needed to be. We’ve said no to additional placement calls since, but may eventually say yes again when we believe it is the right fit. Just know it is okay to say no and be prepared to do so when necessary. 

I wanted to say, “People can say ridiculous and hurtful things about foster children.” Sometimes you are left speechless by their thoughtlessness and other times you defend your foster child with the tenacity of mama and papa bear. Just be prepared, because as with many situations, people share their unsolicited thoughts and opinions freely.

I wanted to say, “Be prepared to love more deeply and profoundly than you ever dreamed possible!” This is a redemptive life-changing love. We needed our foster child as much as she needed us. We are eternally grateful for this opportunity to have our hearts opened and transformed in this way whatever the outcome of this experience may be. 

If you have been one of those families considering foster care, or if something in this post stirs your heart to the possibilities, I urge you, please contact your local agency to start the process. You may find during the process that it isn’t a fit and that’s okay too! Fostering/adoption may not be right for everyone, but for us it has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever shared as a family. 

Because she is not officially adopted at this point and we do not know if or when that will ever happen, we cannot share photos. Instead, here is a picture of the beautiful sunrise from my walk this morning and a field of sunflowers from yesterday. 

If you take nothing more from this post, whoever the important people are in your life, LOVE NOW!

Love Challenge

We just passed the annual day of love. I am someone who is generally turned off by the commercialism surrounding holidays – any holiday, and Valentine’s Day is no different.

However, as a child, my dad nicknamed me “the love bug.” I have always loved love and the idea of love. I was born with a strong “mercy gift” and compassion for others that I did not (still don’t) understand. But when I compare myself to 1 Corinthians 13, I also realize how I fall short of true love for myself, my church, my community and my world.

According to 1 Corinthians 13, Love is patient. I am not. This is one of my most self-recognized “flaws.” Get-er-done already. That’s my motto. I don’t care if it’s a task, an idea, self-improvement or home improvement, just do it already. And the words “waiting” and “patiently” do not co-exist in my vocabulary. Love Challenge: Embrace the waiting in every situation and trust what God is doing.

Love is kind. Ah, well, sometimes I can be kind. Especially if someone is kind first. But Scriptures tell us it is easy for people to be kind to others who are kind first, true love is being kind even and especially when others are not. Love Challenge: “Be kinder than necessary for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.”

It does not envy. Hmmm… I don’t envy many material things, but guess what? I envy others’ gifts. I would love to be as even-keel and rock-steady as my husband. I wish I were as gifted with words, math skills, organizational skills… and on and on and on as my friends. This envy has at times prevented me from developing and stepping out in my own gifts because I measure my inadequacies and insecurities against other people’s gifts. Which leads right in to the next two… But first, Love Challenge: Recognize my own strengths and trust that I am who I am for a reason. Rely on God to help me use those strengths for the building of his kingdom and to accept his grace in my weaknesses.

Love does not boast, it is not proud. Ahem… (a little throat-clearing here.) Sometimes what seems like humility and inferiority is, in reality, an ugly form of pride. Yep. I deal with it. Love Challenge: Do not “boast” in or call attention to my insignificance in an effort to have others build me up. Recognize my identity as a child of God and rest in that.

It does not dishonor others. Uh oh. Repeating that embarrassing moment a co-worker shared in confidence, wishing (mentally or by telling others) that “over-spiritual zealot” would stop talking so the service could move along, reliving the past or revisiting moments that are shared only to let others know how I was wronged. Love Challenge: Choose to see every person as God sees them and then to love them as he does.

Love is not self-seeking. Sometimes doing good things can become more for the praise of others than because we should. As another portion of this Scripture says, we can give all we have to the poor, we can give our body to be burned at the stake for the sake of what we believe, but if we do not have love, we have nothing. Love Challenge: Don’t glory in the good I have done or will do. Recognize that the good we do often happens in times and ways that others will never know.

It is not easily angered. I’m not necessarily easily angered, but easily frustrated is a whole different story. I think it correlates with my impatience. Love Challenge: When I find myself becoming frustrated, take time to breathe. Take time to understand the source of my frustration or anger. Is the target of my frustration really the source? Is it worth the investment of time and energy it takes to hold on to the anger or frustration? 

It keeps no record of wrongs. This is one of the toughest parts of this Scripture for me. I. Keep. A. Checklist! Sometimes I’m not even conscious of this checklist, but I know it is there and I can pull those hurts out of my memory box without digging too deeply. I don’t believe we completely forget the hurts that caused our deepest pain, but I do think we can hold on to it by sharing only to retaliate against the perpetrator(s). This one can be really tricky.  Love Challenge: Burn the checklist. When the reminders come, make a conscious decision to let go… again… and again and again… 

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Sometimes I think our national and local media would do well to remember this one, but it is a good reminder even for myself. Love Challenge: Do not glorify the bad. Rejoice in and promote truth and light. Even the smallest light overcomes darkness. Be that light, carry that Light. 

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I fall way short on the trusting part of this sentence. I do not always protect those I love from harmful gossip nor do I protect the defenseless and “least of these.” Love Challenge: Trust. Not in others, not in myself, but in God. Protect those who are in my care, whether I know them or not. 

Love never fails. Well, this one I cannot live up to, but by trying to live by the above challenges I pray that I become better at this loving thing.

Read the rest of this Scripture here.

Despite all my shortcomings and failures to live up to this perfect love, I still love love. I still believe that love ultimately wins over hate. I pray that with God’s grace I can live his love in such a way that others want to experience it too.

Anyone else have a love challenge or want to join me in mine?

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