I don’t know much of anything about foster care. It’s been a desire of my heart for years and a concrete plan months in the making. Dear friends are sharing vast experiences and advice from the trenches. The training process is as extensive as it can be. But this is the kind of thing that can only be known from the inside and I’m not there yet. I am currently caught in the paperwork net set just before that first placement call, lingering for only the good Lord knows how long.
That being said, this post is my scatter-brained way of working out answers to three of the more difficult foster care related questions friends and family already ask often while I have time and attention to devote to doing so.
Let’s start with the big one, the perspective-setter.
My purpose as a foster parent is not to protect children by taking them away from their families and raising them as I alone would. Not quite. Those words may sound right, but can be dangerous when held close to the heart. Because I am not the best thing for them. I am a back up plan and pretty far down the list of back up plans at that.
My purpose is to nurture the well-being of family units by providing a safe place for children to be loved and well cared for while their families do what they need to do to be healthy, whatever “family,” “do,” “be” and “healthy” may look like in any given case. It’s to observe and listen, to discern what their emotional, mental, physical, developmental, medical, etc. needs may be and be a part of the team doing everything in our power to see those needs met. It’s to walk their journey with them for a season, to fight for their good. Ultimately, it’s to love them regardless of whether or not any of those things are “successful” to any degree, all-the-while pointing to the One who knows and loves and provides for us more intimately than any other.
Most of what I’ve spent a lifetime thinking about raising children only abstractly applies here, if at all. Some does, much can’t.
They may come and go with mere moments’ notice for days, weeks, months or years and care plans change on a dime all the time. In this moment they are mine to love with all that I am and have with a steadfast love that requires far more than all that I am and have. But I am not the primary decision maker for these children. I likely cannot give them some of the things I’d like to give my children; a well-rounded homeschooled environment, cross-cultural trips with invaluable learning experiences, a Facebook album dedicated to how beautiful and funny and gifted they are, Motrin at will, a godly father, just to name a few.
While wholly devoted to loving these children as my own, while they are held in my arms and heart and home, this has to be every ounce of motherhood but a completely different kind of motherhood, a co-motherhood with many dozens of others if you will. I appreciate your suggestions and sharing of experience, truly, but please understand that they may not translate. So keep ’em coming… with grace.
As for that “godly father” part… I am not an adoptive resource. Not at this time. There is a prayerful wife-in-waiting deep within my heart that would like to make that decision and life-long commitment with the godly man for whom I will be a helpmeet. This is a conviction and decision with many other intricacies taken into account that suits the nature of my own life. It has not been made lightly and is by no means a one-size-should-fit-all decision when it comes to single foster moms. It may or may not change over time; we’ll see how the Lord leads.
As for the rest of the most common questions, they can all be rolled into one blanket answer and that’s that there can’t be one.
These children will have likely walked through hell on earth before walking through my door with all sorts of scars that even I may not ever fully understand and it isn’t anyone else’s place to know. They need space to heal and grow and privacy will help them do so. So see the good in who they are when you meet them, and let’s talk about that.
We can navigate what building deep, meaningful, healthy relationships looks like on the day-to-day without talking about their pasts or futures. Sometimes even I am not sure how, but I am sure that we can because we have to.