Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Responding to Foster Care Questions & Comments

My posts on foster care speak to our personal experiences only.  My prayer is that they will give an honest peek at what it's like for us and encourage others to prayerfully consider the journey.

People who know you notice when you're toting around an extra child.  They just do.  Naturally, they ask about the extra child (I would ask, too).  Once we explain, the questions and comments ensue (I would question and comment, too).

The problem is that the questions and comments require lengthy explanations and discussion to be answered properly.  This is no un-complicated, one-word-answer life we're living.  But, alas, the inquiries come in grocery stores, between church and Sunday school in the hallway, and at get-togethers when said addition is crawling away and needs to be gathered.

So, we attempt to come up with meaningful answers in twenty words or less.  And it doesn't really work that way.  You see, while the inquirer/commenter has been faced with the idea of us having a foster child for all of 5 seconds, we've been seriously thinking about, praying about, training for, reading about, and, most recently living foster care for the last three years.  There are layers upon layers to the responses that we live in but cannot adequately convey in a few perky sentences.

I wish folks would identify themselves at the get-go.  If you're just being sweet and polite and supportive, wear a sign that says so.  This way, I can give you the brief, concise answer you're looking for without being a bore.  If you are fascinated and intrigued and want meat in your answer, wear a sign that says that. Then maybe we can find a quiet place to talk.

Sometimes, I can tell that the genuine person is just checking in but *I* need to do more than check-in.  I need to process, to talk through my feelings and day-to-day life with a foster baby.  And so I launch into it all realizing that there is a good chance they may avoid me next time they see me.

Other times, the person may want depth but I may be at a peaceful place that day when living it feels second nature and feeling normal is a blessed reprieve.  My answer may be brief followed by a change in subject.  I hope people don't take offense those times- I do appreciate their asking.

One of the things people are most curious about is why the darling boy in my arms was removed from his family in the first place.  This is totally understandable.  I would wonder, too! But we can't talk about that. We can't talk about the parents or what was/wasn't done to their child.  We don't talk about these things out of respect for both the parents and the child.

What we CAN talk about is how it's going for us and our family.  We can also talk about what an amazing, beautiful, and resilient (from what we can observe) child we're privileged to care for.  We can talk about how he's incorporated his little self into our lives...big time.

The comment we get most often (and don't ever have the time to launch into a sufficient answer) is when people tell us that they could never do foster care because they would become too attached.  That's ironic because...

We are too attached.

In our brief experience, it is absolutely impossible NOT to become attached.  Here is this sweet little person- completely blameless and innocent.  Before long, it registers for them that you are their people right now. They can depend on you to care for them, feed them, put them to bed when they're tired and cuddle them when they're hurt or lonely.  In turn, they become your people.  It is impossible to imagine trying to hold back the fondness we feel.  How would one do that?  By hugging them...but only briefly and not quite as tightly?  By smiling at them...but not for too long or with as broad a grin (and don't you dare let your eyes twinkle)?  By only picking them up certain times when they crawl over, climb up your leg and reach their tender little arms up to the sky to be picked up?

It doesn't work that way.

And, it shouldn't.  If (Lord, have mercy) one of my children ever ended up in foster care, would I want the foster parents to show them less love than their birth children so they wouldn't get attached?  No! Does that blameless, innocent child deserve any less than our whole hearts? No!

We do this for him, not for us.

So, yes.  When he leaves, we will miss him terribly.  Our hearts will likely break a little bit (or a lot) and it might take us awhile to recover.  But that's okay.  We are healthy enough to come back from that.  These children deserve the fullest extent of the love we can give.  They will be affected if they don't receive it.

We're not extra special people for doing this (another frequent comment). We're just willing to take a little heartbreak.  We're willing to travel a bit backwards in our parenting journey.  We're willing to give up a little independence.

It's not always easy.  We don't always do it well.

I write all this not because I want people to stop talking to us.  On the contrary!  We LOVE that our friends and family are interested and supportive.  And we need to talk (and write) about it- it's a bit of therapy for us.  I just wanted to convey that there is a lot more to our answers and responses.  Our decision to do foster care was not made lightly.  We've thought about many of (if not all) the angles. If we blubber around with our responses it's just because we're trying to be concise but thoughtful.  If you want to hear more, ask for more. If not, that's totally okay, too.  Just please accept my apology if my answer goes a little long.

One more thing.  We know that many of you are praying for us.  We feel those prayers and thank you and God for walking with us on this journey.

"The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." 
James 5:16b
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10 comments:

  1. I smiled to myself in church last Sunday when I looked over and saw the little guy blending right in with your family. He is so blessed to be fostered by you! I'm right here supporting and praying now, and I'll be here when the heartbreak sets in too. And by the way, you can always give me the long answer! :-)

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  2. Well, even if you don't think you are special people for taking in a foster child, I still think you are. Being willing to become attached, knowing that you will eventually have to say goodbye is not something that everyone is wiling to do, and some are truly not able to do. So though you are not accepting the kudos, I still think you (and Jamie) deserve them. I have considered foster care in the past, and may still do it once my kids are out of the house, but right now I don't think I could handle it. So - hats off to you and your family, and I wish you all the best luck in your journey. It is a great thing you guys are doing! :)

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  3. So beautiful. So well said. xoxo.

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  4. Beautiful, so blessed. I have a friend who does foster care, and I am forwarding this to her.

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  5. Bravo....very well said! My husband and I did fostering for over 10 years. We too received the same question and comments you mentioned. Some well meaning and some not. We would use a standard answer when questions were asked about the placement. "I am sorry I really can't talk about that to protect the privacy of everyone involved. But we would ask you to pray for healing for this child and for their birth family to overcome the problems they have and become a family again". We really did want as many people to pray over these precious children as possible. As far as the "I would get to attached" comments, we would simply reply "the day we don't get attached is the day we will quit". Every child needs TLC at a time when their lives are turned upside down. When we were blessed to adopt a sibling group we had fostered for over 2 years, we chose to close our home to devote all our time and energy to raising them. As well as our other 5 kids! I thank God for you and your husband willing to put your lives on hold to help the hurting children in care! Blessings to you and yours!

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  6. Well said Jane! Praying for you and your family!
    Blessings!

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  7. We fostered at one point (and look forward to doing it again in the future) and there is truly no other feeling like it. My standard reply to people's comments/questions about "but why" or "wow, you are such a saint for that" is that in order to do and understand it, you absolutely must feel called to it. Everyone is called to do something in their lives, and that's the beauty of our world - it takes all types. As far as the whole "I couldn't do it - I would get attached," my reply is always that that's the point - to get attached. If you don't attach to each other, you can't form the bonds necessary to parent them. They aren't students in a substitute teacher's class - they are a part of our family. Yes, it's hard to let them go (back to their bio parents, to other family members, whatever) but it's okay. I finally came to the realization that God puts each child in our lives for exactly the right amount of time. He will leave the with us for just as long as is necessary for us to teach them what He wants, and for them to teach us what He wants. We might not always understand (or agree!) why they are being moved or going back to the bio parent, but we must always trust His plan.

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  8. Beautiful. Lovely. All words I've used often when commenting on your posts. I've forwarded this one on to a lovely lady whose heart is similar to yours (at least fast as social media allows me to compare). Blessings on you. Sincerely, heartfelt, blessings.

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  9. I fostered children for many years when I was younger. One of my sons is a foster child that we adopted from the system. Now in his early thirties he recently married and he and his young wife struggle to begin a family. I had a phone conversation with him the other day and he shared that he told his wife that it did not bother him at all to foster and adopt a child from the system that he felt that in many ways it would be wonderful to pay it forward so to speak for all the love we had shown him through the years. I have to admit that I cried as I realized that this man has been such a blessing and I could not have loved him more if I had carried him and given him birth as I did his brothers. My biological children may forget my birthday but he never does. He calls and talks more often than any of the 5 children and visits more. I have to laugh because as I continue to get older the roles have reversed and he has become even more of my blessing. Although it was hard I have never regretted the children that I fostered down through the years and never forgotten those that we let go back to their parents. I continue to pray even after all these years for them and remember them all fondly. I think that these children helped to teach my husband and I the meaning of tolerance and forgiveness. Blessings CQ

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  10. Thank you for talking about your experience. It kinda made me want to cry, but in a good way. :)

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