Why Are We Foster Parents?

black hanging bridge surrounded by green forest trees

Photo by Kaique Rocha on Pexels.com

J and I field questions about foster care frequently. I’ve hinted at why we do it here, but never devoted an entire post to the whys of it.

So, why foster care?

The short answer: it’s the path that shimmered for us.

Fostering is not for everyone. It’s a roller coaster of emotions and chaos; every time you think you’ve plumbed the depths of it, another twist and dip appears. The appointments and parental visits wreak havoc on your schedule and family routines. County workers are in and out of your home. And in addition to all that, there’s paperwork to fill out for every rash, illness or incident. It’s parenting under a microscope. There are few factors within your control, outside of disrupting a placement.

But, for J and I, not fostering would feel like Jonah running from Nineveh. While our bodies can still handle a little less sleep and our home has room, we’re following this calling.

Listening to people who’ve fostered or adopted, everyone has a moment where something lit up on their particular fork in the road. Something shimmered. They heard something. They dreamed something. And they said yes to the call.

To be blunt, for us, it felt like the least creepy way to start a family; for me, it’s one of the roads that felt the least like buying a child.

There’s no safety guaranteed on the path.  We know that. We’re working for reunification first, which is a path that leads away from our self-interest. If a child can’t be reunified, we’d love to talk further about adoption.

We know as we welcome children into our home: this is all temporary until otherwise notified. And even then, nothing is final till the dust settles with the all court hearings.

There’s risk. It’s painful. But, it feels like a place where our hearts and a child’s need meet together.

We intended to have biological children. With three miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy, and five and a half years of no pregnancies at all, that family ship seems to have sailed away without us. Maybe it’d be helpful to have a medical reason for the difficulty, but instead, like so many other devastating things in life, we have painful mystery.

For the kids coming through our home, life didn’t work out the way it was expected either. Something happened, and they need a safe place to grow while the adults in their lives work out some stuff.

Welcoming kids into our home is our way of making lemon meringue pie out of the lemons we and the kiddos hold. Lemon meringue is never my first choice for pie. Let’s be honest, it’s not even my second choice.

But, still we can make the best out of this life before us. We can’t always get what we wanted, but we can choose to make the best out of what we have.

What we have is open hearts and room in our home.

We’re not saints or superheroes or super strong. We feel extremely awkward when people try to tell us we are. We’re just regular people trying to build a life with what we have to offer.

As people ask how or why we do this thing that hurts, I’m reminded of a quote from  Richard Rohr’s book Simplicity, “On the spiritual path the enemy isn’t pain; it’s fear of pain.”

Maybe it’s a byproduct of my mom dying of cancer when I was a kid. Maybe it’s surviving the crucible of pregnancy losses and infertility. But, somehow, for me, the fear of the pain of goodbye is less compelling than the call to open my heart to kids.

We aren’t the children’s parents, but we can choose to care for them as best as we can for the time they’re with us. To paraphrase the artwork hanging in our dining room, together we can build a life we love.

And, we really love being foster parents, even as we still hope for a child to adopt some day.

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