“But what about my babies?”
That was my first thought when my husband approached me about becoming foster parents. At the time, our kids were ten, five, and four years old. My second thought was, “Have you lost your mind?”
I’ll be honest with you: foster care was not on my radar. I was neck-deep in raising three boys with a husband that was gone three to four nights a week for work. And he wanted to add another kid to the craziness?
No. thank. you.
And so, I did what any good Christian girl would do when she feels God calling her out of her comfort zone and into the scary unknown… I ignored Him. For 6 years.
The Moment Everything Changed
New Year’s Weekend of 2017, our church had a three-day revival. Among other things, they talked about finding your passion. Now, my passion and dream in life had always been to be a wife and a mom. And God gave me that. I was happy and content with my nice little family in my nice suburban home, living the American dream. Everything was working out exactly as I had planned, and… You can see where I am going with this, can’t you?
I remember it vividly. I was standing in a crowded sanctuary, but I may as well have been all alone because I heard God’s voice – clearer than I ever had before. And He said to me, “I am going to take your dream of being a mom, and I am going to make it bigger than you ever dreamed.” And I said yes.
Five days later, we walked through the doors of our local foster care agency.
There is no doubt that foster care is a very real and pressing need in every state in this nation. Over 440,000 children will need a foster home in 2021.
“Shouldn’t foster care be for people who don’t have kids at home or whose kids have already moved out?”
“How will my kids handle a “stranger” coming to live with them?”
“What if the foster kids hurt my kids? How will I deal with that?”
“Will my kids be able to say goodbye when the time comes for reunification?”
These are very real questions that I spent many years thinking about. I was scared, concerned, doubtful, and worried. Multiplied by three when I considered my own kids and their hearts too.
I didn’t have the answers when we got our first placement – or our second. What I can tell you is that my kids gained SO MUCH from being foster brothers.
What My Biological Children Learned Through Foster Care
- They learned unselfishness and an awareness of others. All of us are, by nature, selfish human beings. Kids especially. They are usually unaware of other family situations than their own. My kid’s eyes were opened to the world around them – good and bad – when we became a foster family. They learned about neglect, starvation, and pain. But they also learned about love and acceptance and giving in a whole new way.
- They learned empathy and a whole lot of patience. Sounds silly, right? What parent doesn’t teach their kids compassion for others? Well, we did. But I believe the deeper empathy came when it was in their home and in their face every day. It’s one thing to talk about loving your neighbor as yourself. It is entirely another thing when this “neighbor” breaks your toys in a fit of rage because they miss their mommy and don’t understand her drug addiction. Or when they eat every meal to the point of sickness because they know what it is like to go hungry for days at a time, or when they want your attention every single second of the day because it was denied them all too often.
- They learned about healthy boundaries. Boundaries are so important. We let our biological children know that they had personal boundaries that were okay to have. “I am in charge of my body” has always been a conversation in our home, and we continued to teach it to our foster kids. It’s also important for your kids to have their own space where they can go when they need a break.
- They learned that family isn’t always blood. We were very open with our boys from the beginning about what foster care meant: that the kids coming into our home were their brothers and sisters for life. No matter how long they stayed. When I introduced our fosters to family and friends, I made it a point to say, “This is our newest son.” Not only did it make them feel welcome and accepted from the beginning, but it taught my own boys that they are family, forever.
Considerations Before Fostering
When you have your own biological children and are considering foster care, I strongly believe you need to have a solid family foundation. Foster care is not easy, and there are caseworker visits, and parent visits, and doctor visits, and lawyer visits, and temper tantrums, and nights with no sleep. You must learn about this new person in your home and how to parent them.
Having an awesome marriage partner is key, and making sure you are on the same page is vital. Open and honest communication about foster care with your biological children is also important. There will be days when your kids have had enough and want to be done. Open communication with them is necessary. Remind them that you are a team. When my kids had rough days, my husband and I made a point to take them out one-on-one for some much-needed alone time. I highly recommend this!
You also want to make sure that you choose an amazing foster agency. You do not have to go through your local Department of Human Services. I recommend, if possible, a smaller agency where they know you and your family and will fight with and for you. I cannot stress this enough.
The Beauty of My Biological Children Embracing Foster Care
Not everyone will agree with you or understand your decision to become a foster family. Support from friends and family is crucial. It truly does take a village, and you will need people that will love you, celebrate in your ups, listen and let you cry in your downs, give respite when needed, encouragement, and patience as you navigate this crazy new adventure called foster care.
This will be important for your biological children too. They need to continue to have outside friends and family who are supportive of them and you throughout your foster care journey.
Everyone’s foster journey is different. But I can tell you that the decision we made as a family to love hurting children is not something we will ever regret. The blessings we got in return far outweigh the bad. It will be one of the most beautiful things you will do as a family.