I have had a couple of people ask me recently, what the hardest part of fostering is, what my advice would be for those who are considering it and just my overall impression. I wasn't sure how to answer any of these questions and found myself really pouring over them in the past few days.
As for the hardest part of fostering, strangely, it isn't what you might think, in fact it isn't what I would have thought prior to my experience, and it is likely different for all foster parents. Initially I really prepared myself for trying to love children who were mine for just a time, and who would likely spend their forever elsewhere. I prayed hard for God to give me the courage and strength to love them with all I had and let go when He decided. The thing is...that part, the part I thought would be the part that would make me want to throw in the towel and quit, isn't the hardest part...in fact it is kind of the best part.
I am not going to tell you it is EASY, but truthfully I have never felt so called to something, I have never felt so HONORED to be used by God as when I am rocking a sweet baby HE placed here as a safe place in the middle of the night...it is sacred and heartbreaking and so humbling. The loving them part is easy, and the letting go...tough but sacred in its own right.
Our current foster daughter has been here for nine months now. Loving her has been so easy from the get go. She is the most content, happy and easy going baby I have EVER had the pleasure of mothering. Her smile engulfs her entire face and she lights up a room in an instant. She belly laughs more than she cries and is the cutest little thing ever, her blue eyes see right into your soul and you can't help but want to be better when she is around. EVERYONE loves her. She is a delight and we are so very honored to have had her this long.
I won't lie and say it hasn't been hard loving her and knowing her situation. I pray for her mother every single day and have rooted for her all along. I'd love nothing more than to see a fairy tale ending to this story, it rips my heart out knowing that her mom misses her every single night and that she struggles so.
Seeing the brokenness of the world right up close in your own living room is something you don't recover from. You are changed...addiction, poverty, abuse, all become real and living beings with a face, we prayed for Him to break our hearts for what breaks His and boy did he ever. We have struggled because it sometimes all threatens to overwhelm, but He reminds us...HE is the healer, and that love covers a multitude of sins...so we hug and we pray and we do all that we can do because becoming overwhelmed and doing nothing...well...that won't help anyone.
Managing five kids is hard, two babies is harder than I've ever dreamed, but we've hit our groove and we make it work. I watch the older kids, even Jacob love on her and my heart swells. I remind myself daily of how God is honoring our obedience and that while society might tell us we are taking away from our biological kids, I can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE is giving them more than we ever could through this experience...they are learning to love, even when it is hard, and they amaze me every single day.
So, you ready for the hard part? It is going to sound trite and selfish and insignificant...but...it is the appointments! HOLY MOLY...NO ONE in classes prepares you for all of the ever loving appointments. I mean they teach you how to look for signs of abuse, how to follow all of the guidelines and stay within your rights as a foster parent, how to keep the kids safe, etc, but Feeding Therapy and Speech Therapy, and Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy, and GOOD GRIEF I NEED THERAPY. ;) I am a girl who loves to have an open calendar...I love to head for the beach when it calls and have an impromptu road trip or zoo day when the mood strikes and good gracious, that is no longer an option. In addition to therapies, there are doctors and specialists and social workers and birth parent visits and child profile visits and oh my goodness this 10 month old has a fuller calendar than a NY Socialite!
The hardest thing for me has been trying to find balance...trying to set boundaries and guard my own family time and still make all of those appointments work...we are learning to write in family days first and to occasionally be honest and say we need a day off.
My advice to foster parents is to set boundaries and to work on NOT being a YES person all the time. My people pleasing ways are getting worked out of me as I learn I just cannot make everyone happy so ultimately I need to seek Him first and make decisions that honor Him and are best for my family.
Overall, for us fostering has been a great experience. Our first few kids were tough because they were all here for just a few weeks or less and so once we got into a groove they went home or to a situation that was best for them, we've now had a longer term placement and have seen both ends...fostering is hard...don't get me wrong...it is tough to be expected to raise a child that isn't legally your own, as your own, except without all the rights...just the responsibilities, but it has been such a sacred honor to love His children and to be His hands and feet to them. To love with the love every child deserves from a parent. While letting go is tough, we've learned even with our own children that sometimes He calls us to love with all we have and let go and while it is heart shattering work, it is His work and it is what we are called to do...parenting is hard work...foster parenting...is also HARD work...but most things worth doing are! The system has flaws and there are frustrating aspects, but we can't let ourselves get caught up there...He says to love His children and to feed his sheep. The work is hard, but I've got to say knowing we are doing just what He has called us to and seeing him provide for our EVERY need has been simply amazing.
I can't help but think that Isaac and Asher made this difference in us, they helped us see that we can't live life for only ourselves and we have to love with a reckless abandon without fear of having to let go, it is that kind of love that makes this life worth living...the heartache, it hurts, but it is truly better to love and let go than not to love. I am so grateful for those boys and all of the work they've done here on earth despite their short time here...I am just overwhelmed still that God chose us to be the parents who got to be theirs!
Foster parents out there, what do YOU think is the hardest part of fostering? What would your advice be to those considering fostering?
He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. Isaiah 40:10