Top 3 Fears and Surprises from a Foster Parent
- Amanda Idleman Contributing Writer
- 2022 5 Jan
As we enter a new year you may be considering how God would want to grow your family. God’s people are specifically called to the work of taking care of the orphans of the world. The Lord may put foster care and adoption on your heart for this next year.
Psalms 68:5-6 says, “Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” His heart is to set the lonely into families! God uses us to bring healing to the brokenness that plagues our world. While foster care and adoption always carry grief and loss with them, God can turn around even the most difficult of circumstances when we invite him into our stories.
We have been foster parents for three years and anticipate becoming adoptive parents this next year. There are some things that we were very afraid of when we began this journey that almost stopped us from responding to the calling that God had laid on our hearts. There also have been many things that have surprised us as we have begun walking this journey with the Lord. I am sharing a few of our biggest fears and things that have surprised us, in hopes that hearing our story may encourage you to follow God’s heart for vulnerable kids and families in our communities.
Here were our top three biggest fears about foster care and adoption:
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Fizkes
Trauma is an evil force in our world that changes our brains and makes our lives harder to navigate. Kids that enter Foster Care or are adopted have all experienced trauma. Being separated from your birth family, even within moments of entering this world, is a traumatic event. Loss is written into the stories of the families and children that enter into foster care or are adopted.
Sadly trauma can manifest itself in some intimidating ways. Children who have endured separation, abuse, and neglect often struggle in their ability to control their emotions, actions, and more. Parenting a child with this history is intimidating! I joked that the foster parent training we went through was designed to scare us out of signing up for this gig because the stories they share about potential situations we might face as foster parents can be terrifying to hear. The training though was created in a way to prepare us for the hardest situations we may face, so we didn’t step into this new role unprepared.
What helped me overcome this fear was taking time to talk to other foster parents that I knew had been doing this work for several years. They told me their experiences, both good and bad, and helped me remember that these kids are worth the risk. Their stories put more of a human face behind the descriptions that our class gave us of ways we may see trauma manifest in our homes. They also assured us that so many of the kids that enter the system are amazing, not as difficult as we might expect, people. The beautiful moments of love and connection vastly outweighed the tough ones.
We had become foster parents with three biological children ages 3, 5, and 7 in our home. Understandably they were our biggest concern when we began the process of becoming foster parents. We wanted to ensure that they would be safe, cared for, and comfortable with everything we were stepping into as a family.
Thankfully, our parent resource person helped us see that they were there to support our family, not pressure us into saying yes to something we felt uncomfortable with. She worked hard to get to know us, so she would be able to match us with cases that would be a good fit for our family. Having kids in our home I think is one of our greatest assets as resource parents. Our kids offer extra love, comfort, and experience to any child that enters our home. Our kids love the kids in our care so well! They help them feel welcome in our home, as kids in care are more skeptical of new adults but they may connect more easily with other kids. Also, our experience as parents has helped us be more confident as resource parents. We aren’t learning everything about parenting and fostering all at the same time.
The biggest objection I hear to becoming a foster or adoptive parent is the reluctance to experience grief on behalf of a child in need. It is impossible not to grow attached and even very quickly fall in love with kids that you bring into your home. Saying goodbye to them and accepting the fact that you are not in control of how their future will unfold is heartbreaking!
Our culture struggles with grief, we avoid it at all cost. While I also hate grief, I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to realize that he doesn’t wish to spare me of this emotion. He invites me to walk in it alongside these vulnerable children because they are worth it! He does not wish them to be in this valley of uncertainty, pain, trauma, and loss alone. As believers, we are called to love the least of these and that means God expects us to be willing to share in the pain of others for his glory. If the church shies away from this tough work, then who will do it?
Here are the top three things that have surprised me as a Foster Parent:
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
1. God Provides Abundantly
God’s heart is for the widows and orphans. When we step out in faith to love and serve this community, he shows up in a big way. When we started our journey, we needed more space in our home. God showed me a house the same night we decided to say yes to this calling and through a series of miraculous events we now live in that home. This is just one way of so many that God has made a way for us to serve and provide for our family and the children he desires to us to say yes to caring for.
God wants us to be equipped for the work he calls us to. If you have a need, desire, or reservation bring it to him. God provides what we need in his timing. For some of us that can be a quick journey, for others I know waiting for a child that God has laid on your heart can be a long journey. We can stand assured that God’s heart is in this work, and he will help us through the obstacles that may lay ahead.
2. God Gives me Peace and Strength
I am not brave. I am an anxious person that struggles to trust God in the face of the unknown. Becoming a foster parent has allowed me to truly allow God to work through my weakness. He has given me peace when my natural reaction was to cower in fear. He has strengthened me when I have wondered if having my heart so completely on the line was worth it. He has provided people in my life that have encouraged my family, providing support for my family, and that are working hard on the behalf of the ones in our care.
You don’t have to be a special breed of person to step out in faith on behalf of a child in need of a loving home. All you need is the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life. That does not mean you shouldn’t get all the support and training you can find. It also doesn’t mean that everyone is in the right stage of life or is called to be a foster or adoptive parent, but it does mean that God is your helper as a foster and adoptive parent. He gives you strength and peace that goes against what feels reasonable.
3. Choosing to Love, even for a Short Time, Is so Rewarding
Many people focus on the leaving part of foster care and while it is hard to say goodbye to a child you have invested yourself in, I have been surprised to find that choosing to love is so worth it, even if it's for a short season. Foster care has revealed that many times I love others in hopes of seeing a certain long-term outcome. Fostering really challenges you to embrace the moment and give of yourself sacrificially not knowing what the future holds.
The beauty that comes when we embrace the moment with these kids is so rewarding! Their presence offers so much life and joy to your home, even if it's just for a season. It’s also one of the most amazing things to see a family come back together. You can give a family the gift of support, encouragement, safe care, and so much more when you foster in a situation where reunification is possible.
Foster care is truly about stepping up to help a family unit, not just a child in need. When we begin to see this role through the lens of serving a family in crisis, not just as rescuers for a child, then we begin to see the prospect of saying goodbye differently. While we will grieve the loss of the joy of that child in our home, we can celebrate that we have supported a family in such a meaningful way that led to successfully keeping a family intact.
James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” God calls us all to find ways to love the most vulnerable around us. For some, that means stepping into foster and adoptive roles, and for others that looks like supporting those who can open their homes. We are all called to this work, may you dare to ask God how he can use you to live a life of pure religion this year.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Zinkevych