This may seem a bit presumptuous, coming from someone who is just embarking on this foster care and adoption journey and does not yet have a child placed in the home.
However, I'm someone who has known fears regarding the foster care system, possibly like some of you. So I want to share a few things I've learned in the last few months as we've navigated trainings and certification.
1. Fostering (and Fostering-to-Adopt) has the potential to be frightening and intimidating
It unearths fears in many of us. We've heard stories and seen things on the news. Not only are we welcoming children into our home whose pasts are largely unknown to us, we also have to wade through a daunting government system. It all feels a bit outside-the-box and abnormal.
2. Because something is frightening or intimidating doesn't mean it should be avoided
And because I need reminding every day, Christianity isn't all about lovely blogs, cozy homes, complete financial peace, and verses written in calligraphy.
In scripture, when I don't skip over what's uncomfortable, I see a lot of tragedy, death, imprisonment, struggle, blood, sweat and tears.
But the beauty is it's all covered in redemption and eternal glory.
Our Christian culture may be slightly prone to using scripture simply for our benefit, and ignoring the parts that feel frightening or intimidating.
We may have to face some fears head on in order to see the beauty that awaits on the other side. For me, fostering has been one of those things.
It's okay to put ourselves in a place where we are uncomfortable and stretched, because isn't our weakness where God's powerful strength is most evident?
3. It's not about me, but a child in need
Most of the questions and uncertainties that have run through my mind have pertained to how this will effect me. And though it's necessary to consider our family, and to approach this process with caution, wisdom, and counsel, I'm reminded what this process really is:
It's not just a means of growing our happy family, but rather a direct way for our family, together, to minister to children in need.
So how does my mother-heart deal with the unknowns? When the social worker knocks on our door with a child how do I resist a need to know the outcome? Will this child remain in our family forever, or will they be gone in six months?
This is one of those difficult pieces of fostering to adopt, but this is where I also need to change my perspective. I have the incredible privilege of ministering to and serving a child who is experiencing trauma and loss. I will not be in control of the details, but can simply view this as a day-by-day ministry.
It's more about a long and slow serving process, and less about having everything wrapped up nicely in time for a Christmas card picture.
4. Help is needed
If we have anyone in our lives who is fostering or adopting they are going to need us to come alongside them for support. But it's likely they will feel bad asking for help because they will think, "We chose this, not our friends or family, so we should just carry the weight." (And maybe that's what you are thinking about them!)
This is not the function of community, or at least biblical community. We all play different roles and serve with different gifts. Some of our lives don't allow for fostering or adopting but there are still numerous ways to serve this group of children in need, especially by supporting our friends or family in meaningful ways.
Here are just a couple ideas:
- Do you sew or monogram? Offer to put a foster child's name on a piece of luggage so they don't haul their belongings from house to house in a trash sack, as many commonly do.
- Are you a photographer? You could take pictures of foster children and the family they are placed with, even if it's just a temporary placement.
- Ask a family who is fostering if you can serve as their Respite Care. This means that after meeting a few requirements you would be able to babysit the foster children to give mom and dad a date night.
- If you are a scrapbooker, ask if you can artistically document the child's stay with your friends. Then they child can take it with them if they leave.
- Bring meals to a new foster family like you would a family with a new baby. The first few weeks of transition will likely be strenuous.
- Ask if you can run to the grocery store for the family, or perhaps to pick out a few outfits for the new child.
5. We don't know the end of the story
As my story and your story are unique and varying, so will be the stories of these children and the way our lives intertwine with theirs.
Occasionally I'm bogged down by all the unknown pieces. We don't know the degree to which the child coming to our home will be affected by their past. We don't yet know their age, needs, or gender.
Every story is vastly different, though you can almost assuredly count on stress, strain, tears, laughter, breakthroughs, and breathtaking beauty. Those are simply common threads in all our stories, right?
I still have unanswered questions. But as we move forward in this process, little by little, things are coming into focus. Past perceptions are becoming less important as statistics are replaced by names and faces.
We are inexperienced but willing to learn. And we are continually grateful that many of you are willing to learn along with us.