I knew this day would come. From the first day we thought about fostering kids, I wondered what it would be like to love a child for a certain period of time, and then say goodbye to them at some point. This past weekend, saying goodbye became a reality.
Seven months ago, we received this little girl, our first foster daughter, late one night. I have written on it in numerous posts before. We got the phone call around midnight, prayed really quickly as a couple, and then agreed we would take her into our family.
I remember everything being a rush. It all seemed to happen so fast. Next thing I knew, I was holding a little girl. The Child Protective Services guys began explaining all sorts of details about the process. The only thing that I could think of was how this would change our family dynamic. It did.
Fast forward seven months, and we now passing her on. She and her two brothers were being adopted together. We had done our part, and now it was time to say goodbye.
So in the parking lot of the Dept of Health and Human Services, we knelt down together as a family around her and prayed. I prayed that God would protect her, that He would grow her into a Godly woman, and that she would one day come to understand more of His great love for her. And then we said goodbye. (This is one of my last hugs with our little foster daughter. It killed me when she started pointing out my nose, just like I had taught her.)
Since many people say they could never foster for this reason, I at least wanted to give you some inside scoop as to what it was like to pass a young girl off to another family. Here are a few things that stuck out to me:
1. It was harder for me than for my wife. She says this is probably because of our little foster daughter's age. Because we got her at a year old, and had her seven months, she didn't have that early baby connection with her. Whereas with me, I had been wrestling with her and teaching her many different words, so it was tough. I'm sure this is also a uniqueness about my wife.
2. We knew we were part of a team. Entering into fostering, you have to remember you aren't their savior. Jesus is. He is only using us temporarily. There was a much bigger team caring for this little girl. We were honored to be "picked on the team."
3. It was tough for my 5 year old. My oldest son is really sensitive. He was in tears as we sent her off. I held him a lot that day, and assured him that God loved this little girl far more than we did. Our other kids have asked about her since she left, but each time it has been a good opportunity to teach them about God and His love for His children.
4. Our situation was a great one. As I have been involved in this foster system for almost a year now, I've heard many horror stories of family scenarios. Our little girl came from a really bad background. But we provided a loving transition for her. Now her new family is a great, Godly family as well. I fully realize that we will encounter other situations that won't be so "clean."
5. Guard your hearts. Don't insulate them. This is what sticks out to me the most in all this. Scripture reminds us to guard our hearts. I think we too often confuse this with insulating them. Yes, it hurt saying bye to her, but it was well worth it. Our family is different because of her. If we never step out in faith, then why should we ever expect to understand His faithfulness?
So there it is. If you've been reading this blog for a while, then maybe you feel like you were part of that journey. I hope you are different as well, because of it.
For more blog posts like this on leading, following, parenting, fostering, and family, visit Kevin's blog at www.followingtolead.com.
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About Kevin East
Kevin East is the Executive Director of Family Matters. He and his wife Stephanie have five unbelievable kids, two of which they most recently adopted. If Kevin isn't busy with work or family, you'll probably find him in the woods near his house with a power tool. He writes at his blog, "Following to Lead". Connect with him on Twitter at @kevinteast.
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