Dear Foster Parent
BY ANDREA BURNS
Most days, life feels typical and normal. And by normal I mean totally crazy and wonderful and exhausting. But then there are the days filled with family visitations and social workers when I remember this life I signed up for isn’t normal; sometimes it’s flat-out hard and frustrating.
I am with you, kindred foster parent, in the trenches of this beautiful, messy life.
My life consists of caring for our almost three-year-old adopted son and newly placed twin, newborn, foster sons. There are some days when I have to drop these precious newborns off with a room full of strangers for two hours and walk away without any control of their care. I have to write everything down and even go back to the doctor’s office because, oh, I forgot to get that paper signed last time. On these days, I am quickly reminded I have little control and little voice over their lives.
The social workers we work with would like us to stop asking questions and quietly do the job they are paying us to do. But my husband and I have a hard time with that because that’s not what, we feel, good foster parents do. Good foster parents seek to know the details so that they can provide the best care possible for these kids and help them to process and embrace their story.
Adoption was something we discussed in our early years of marriage, but it was something we planned to do after biological kids. Six years, two miscarriages, and several complications later, we don’t know if biological children will ever be a reality for us. So, in the midst of those painful years, we decided that we were ready for kids and simply wanted to care for those who were in need, so we became foster parents. It has been the best decision we've ever made, but no less painful than our years of infertility and loss. But if we had not become foster parents we would have missed out on the incredible joys of this “job.” It has changed us and challenged us deeply.
Foster care has reminded us of the stark truths of God’s power over all of life. Our adopted son was our first foster placement and he was dropped off at our doorstep at a mere seven-days-old. We had visitations with his biological mother four hours a week for the first four months of his life and we had no idea where his case was going — the goal was reunification. He was the child we longed for. He was the child we spent years praying for. And it wasn't just us, but our family, friends, and church community petitioned for this child with us. When he came, he was greatly celebrated. He was celebrated without knowing the final destination of his home — celebrated just as he should be, simply because he was.
Everyone asked us, “How can you do this? How can you allow yourself to fall in love with him without knowing he will be yours? Aren’t you worried you’ll get hurt?”
“Yep,” was our simple answer. But this is what we have learned:
Fully loving and embracing a foster child is really no different than loving and embracing a biological child. If God decided to gift us with a biological child, we would never hesitate to love this child for fear that he or she would be taken from this earth at an early age. We were blessed with two natural pregnancies, but we quickly learned that only God knows the number of days for the children He gives us. The gift of a biological child is not given to us with foreknowledge of his or her length of earthly life, insofar as a foster child is not promised to us for adoption. With this understanding and the reminder of God’s supremacy and authority, we can wholeheartedly embrace a foster child without the promise of a long future with him or her, because of a deep-rooted trust in God to care for our needs if our hearts get broken, if that’s what He wills for us. Psalm 9:10 has given me that motive to press on in trust of God’s sovereignty over the children He has placed in our care: “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
So we don’t treat our foster kids any differently. We celebrate their lives as long as we have them as if they were biologically ours. Because in celebrating their life, we praise the God who created life and thank Him for these amazing gifts. If these children are removed from us (our current fear with the twins) we will cry and mourn as if we lost biological children, but we will do so without regret and with great hope and trust in our good God who saw fit to give us this time with them. This is how we do foster care.
So to you, weary foster parents who are wondering why you decided to involve yourselves in this mess, be reminded of God’s great command to care for the needy, to care for the orphans. Be reminded that parenting isn’t about us; it’s completely about caring, loving, and serving self-sacrificially for the children in our care, whether foster or biological, because none of these kids are really “ours.” While Cameron may now have our same last name, the twins do not, but they are all the same — they are the Lord’s, for they were made perfectly in His image, and they are a gift.
Despite my failed expectations when we got married nine years ago, I do not have to be a parent in order to fulfill God’s will for my being on this earth. Is being a mom something I deeply long for? Yes. Is it something I need? No. Parenthood is an incredible gift. A hard gift that causes many tears, and it would do the same if I had biological children. It’s really no different. So kindred, join me in loving these children wholeheartedly. Give them everything you have without any expectations in return. Love them as Jesus has loved us and laid down His life for us. May He be our example.
Finally, don’t do this alone. Involve your church, family, and friends as much as possible. You need the support and your kids need the extra attention and love. Let others love them, too. In remembering that God has already given us everything we need in His Son, Jesus, you can do this. You can give of yourself, and you can love these kids, and you can let them go if needed.
A child’s life is always worth sacrificing your time and energy, and God has already sacrificed the life of His one and only Son for us, so we can do this for these children. Following Jesus is not promised to be easy, but Galatians 6:9 encourages us to "... not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." Remember that Jesus always wins, so don’t give up in doing good.
Photos by Caleb Jones + Drew Hayes