When my husband and I first decided to pursue foster care, I was going into it with a strong desire to rescue a child. Does foster care serve that purpose? In many ways, yes. However, there is far more involved than simply bringing a child into your home, and the name of the game in foster care is flexibility. (Which, if you have any perfectionist tendencies or control issues, is incredibly stretching! Not that I would know…)
I had to learn quickly that I was not going to be in control of how long this child stayed in our home, or what it would look like when he would leave. It was during this process that God began to give me a love and concern for my foster child’s parents. He showed me that I had an opportunity to show grace and compassion when it was not natural to do so. Of all of the lessons I have learned during this process, this has been the most surprising. Foster care is primarily focused on the kids, as it should be, but there are also plenty of moments to encourage restoration for the whole family. It isn’t easy and often very stretching, but isn’t that how it works when doing something worth doing?
I have heard others say that they couldn’t do foster care because it would be too painful or too hard on their own children, and I hold no judgment towards that emotion. You have to count the cost when doing something difficult. However, when God asks us to do something hard, He is so faithful to provide us with exactly what we need. The growth our family has experienced could not have come in any other way. It has brought my husband and I into greater unity as we work together to parent. It has also taught me to respect and count on my husband’s wisdom. It has stretched me as a mom when I am exhausted and struggling to discipline. Our oldest daughter was stretched in so many ways through having a new biological sibling and foster sibling in the same year. I think she is much more familiar with sharing now. (Notice I said familiar, not happy.) She also understands, in a kindergarten sort of way, that not all kids have the same kind of home that she does. I pray it has made her more compassionate.
As our family says goodbye to our very first foster child, a wave of emotions has hit. Having him in our home for several months has made him a member of our family, a brother to our daughters, a child that we love. We have clothed, fed and parented him in the same way we have our biological children. He has become part of the climate of our home and the routine in our days. This is hard, real, painful stuff. And yet, we also know his parents. We know how he loves them, and they, him. We know how much a part he is of their home and family. It is a very interesting dynamic, both incredibly painful and peaceful at the same time. I am sometimes surprised by my response to the situation.
While our hearts will be breaking as he goes, we are also rooting for his family’s success. Though the opportunity to connect with them came as a surprise, I am thankful for it. We don’t know what the future will look like in this, but if we were able to be an encouragement for even a little while, it was worth it.
If you are someone whose heart aches for the orphan, the abused or neglected, there is most definitely a reason and many ways to help. I would love to answer any questions or encourage you in any way that I can. You can also learn more by visiting compassnebraska.org.