We are coming up on our four year anniversary of being licensed foster parents. It feels like just yesterday (and an eternity ago) that we signed the last document, had our final home visit and became OFFICIAL!! It only took a few weeks for us to get “the call”, our first kiddo!! We have figured a few things out during the last four years. For what it’s worth, here are some things I’ve learned.
YOUR FAMILY IS GOING TO GROW. Duh, right? You’re inviting kids to live with you, obviously your family is going to get bigger. But your family is going to grow by more than just a kid or two. Spoiler alert: those kids bring with them parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. More than likely you’ll build relationships with those family members along the way. I really hadn’t prepared myself for this new extended family. Honestly, it’s pretty great. A sort of a hidden bonus. Sorry to spoil the surprise.
NEVER SAY NEVER. Because God has a fantastic sense of humor. We were NEVER going to adopt…you know, until the time came that our son was going to live with another family and we declared, “over our dead bodies.” We weren’t going to take a baby because we were NEVER going to do diapers again….then we got a darling 4 year old who wasn’t potty trained. Yes, it is important to establish boundaries and recognize your strengths and your limits but don’t be so committed to your plans that you’re unable to bend a little. Some of our biggest blessings have come from our “nevers”.
OH, THE FEELS. Sure, you’ll experience the expected range of emotions: happy, sad, excited, nervous. Then there’s this whole other subset of feelings that I didn’t even know about. Like when you’ve exercised and wake up the next morning and have sore muscles that you didn’t even know existed. There are these weird combo emotions that I don’t have names for. The celebration of a child being reunited with their family as my heart is absolutely crushed by their departure….what is that even called? How am I able to praise God for the resiliency of a child while being so angry at Him that the same child has lived a life that required such resiliency? Foster parenting brings with it some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Learn to celebrate the good times and understand that the bad times are only temporary.
READ THE BOOKS BUT TRUST YOUR GUT. If you look, you’ll find a plethora of books. And blogs. And support groups. And opinions. Read them, join them, listen to them…but don’t live by them. You’re smart. You’re equipped to do hard things, do not underestimate youself. If you’re going to lean on something, make sure it’s God. Everything else is just someone’s best guess. It’s awfully easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re not doing it right. Remember that somebody else’s “right” might be all wrong for your family. You know your people best.
REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING IT. Because you’re going to question yourself. Some day when you’re picking nits or cleaning poop or testifying in court or answering a hotline call (because foster parents get hotlined sometimes) you will say to yourself, “WHAT was I thinking?” When you get a call from the daycare that your kid is sick and you have to sacrifice precious vacation time to take them to the doctor, you’ll wonder why you signed up for this. When we started our journey I wrote an entry in my journal about why I felt compelled to foster. I’ve gone back and re-read it on more occasions that I can count. I’ve needed reminding many, many times.
YOU ARE GOING TO MEET THE TOUGHEST, BRAVEST, MOST AMAZING KIDS. You will wonder why everyone in the world doesn’t foster. Yes, it’s hard. But it is also incredible. To be able to watch a scared, sad, timid child morph into a confident, happy, silly kid is beautiful. And to know that you got to play a tiny role in that transformation is just one of the best feelings in the world.