11 Nov 3 Things I Wish I Knew Before Fostering
November is National Adoption Month!!
I have many friends with beautiful adoption stories. One in particular where you could see the Hand of God moving mountains to make it happen. It was awesome to witness. I also have friends whose adoptions stories are not so pretty and have even ended in loss and heartbreak. And then, for our family, we never even made it to the adoption phase.
The uncertainty of outcome can make it terrifying to even step into the arena of fostering and adoption, but the reality is that there is such a great need.
The number of children entering foster care each year is astounding.
“On any given day, there are nearly 438,000 children in foster care in the United States.” (childrensrights).
As of May 2020, there are 7,265 children in foster care in WV, over 10,000 in KY, and nearly 16,000 in OH.
And, as much as each child needs a loving, God-honoring home, and as much as I’d like to say that every person needs to open their heart and home to a child in need, the decision to foster should not be made without diligent research, preparation, and prayer.
And even then, it will be really hard.
But, as difficult and tense as it got in our home, I don’t regret fostering. I do regret that things didn’t work out as we all hoped. And, I honestly mourn the loss of this relationship in my life.
There are many things I wish I knew before we welcomed a foster child into our home—and to be honest, there were many things we did ask that I wish we had gotten real answers on—but…
Here are the top three things I wish I knew before fostering:
Let go of your expectations—
We expect that opening our home and providing love and security will make everything better.
The reality? A child who has experience the kind of trauma that removes them from their mom and dad and siblings and pets and favorite toy or blanket, is typically not ready to open their heart to your love and acceptance and security. Because, as good as that is…it’s not their home, their mom, their world.
They may even resent you for providing what their mom is supposed to provide. Rejecting you is their only way to reject their circumstances. They didn’t have the choice of being removed. So much of their life is happening TO them, and it happens so fast, and they are not equipped to respond well or even process it in a healthy way.
Whether it’s the child who is too afraid to let their guard down or the child that’s still holding on to the hope of going home, they are no longer wired to easily accept what you have to offer and thus ensues the perpetual battle for their heart.
Let go of your need to be accepted—
Opening our homes and loving a foster child well means opening our hearts too. That’s not an easy thing to do, especially if the love is not reciprocated. And, often, it’s not—at least not at first.
BUT, accepting you means letting go for them. No matter how good the new is, it is still a huge loss for them.
It doesn’t matter what their birth mom did or didn’t do, she is their first sense of home and security and love. Mom is not an easy person for them to let go of and we need to help them come to terms with the loss of her in their life.
The biggest way we can do this is to yield our need to take her place in their heart because we never will.
Regardless of how good or bad she was, she needs to be honored and respected by us. If we speak negatively (or truthfully) about mom we will lose the trust of the child. We also need to help the child have good memories of their mom. Talk about their favorite memory and what they remember of her. Write it down, maybe even make a journal for them. We need to do all we can to help them learn how to move forward in a healthy way without her being an active part of their life.
Let go of your desire to fix them—
We foster to make a difference.
It’s natural to want to remove their hurt and their pain…or at the very least, protect them for experiencing more. But, we need to come to terms with the truth that it is not our job to fix them.
They are hurt.
They are scarred by their pain…maybe physically but definitely emotionally.
And as long as they continue in foster care, have contact with their biological family, are burdened for their birth home or old life, they will continue to experience pain. And, if we take on the job of trying to “fix” them, we will lose sight of just loving them.
Every foster journey is different.
Some will be smooth and natural—whose stories are so beautiful they bring tears and provide hope. Some will be heartbreaking and devastating and end with tragic loss.
Regardless…there is a huge need. These children need to experience the love you have to offer even if their time with you is brief. So, whether it’s stepping up for the first time; or in my case, stepping back in, please prayerfully consider becoming a foster family.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:
to look after orphans and widows in their distress
and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Relatable Bible Verses: Isaiah 1:17, Hosea 14:3, Psalm 82:3
Relatable Songs to Listen for on Walkfm:
Like You Love Me– Tauren Wells
God So Loved– We The Kingsom
Who Can– Cochren and Co
Love God Love People– Danny Gokey
Truth Be Told– Matthew West
Who AM I– Needtobreathe
Reckless Love– Cory Asbury
Susan E. Greenwood is a wife, a mother, and a mother-in-law :D. She has over 28 years experience in youth and children’s ministries. Susan loves to write blogs, articles, devotionals, and curriculum. She has blogged for bible.org, and authors Mary Demuth, Lynn Cowell and Ruth Schwenk. Susan writes regularly for skitguys.com. Her passion is to help people live their Life In Stride with the Word of God.