everyday life · Fostering · Inspiration · Parenting · Words to live by

A Q&A on Foster Care {pretty much more than you even wanted to know}

We’ve been on our journey as foster parents for almost two years now. Just as all foster parents, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs. We’re still super new at this. I feel like I know maybe 1% of anything. Maybe next year I will know 2%. Most of the time we have no idea what’s going on or what to expect for our next step; as is the way with the foster care system. We get so many questions and comments about foster care and I absolutely love answering them, because there seems to be a shroud of secrecy (or fear, depending on who you speak to) and a whole lot of mis-information floating around out there about what it means to be a foster parent.

I’ve been hesitant to put this out there because… fear. I’m afraid of hurting feelings by being blunt. I’m afraid of stepping on toes. I’m afraid of my words from my heart being read through the filter of someone else’s heart and misconstrued or taken in the wrong way. I’m afraid of my own self-serving nature. I’m afraid this may come across as a slap-in-the-face for some of us, because so often truth stings in a similar way. And that’s why we sometimes turn our head and try to ignore it.

But I will press publish on this post, because God is good. I’m afraid, but God is good. And the lives he creates are good and deserving of love, no questions asked.

I’m loving these words from Rebecca over at No Hands But Ours. She wrote them as they apply to adoption, but they can clearly be applied to so many aspects of life and how even when A or B or C happens, God is still good.

“You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.”

Psalm 119:68

“So I can question His promise and character, or I can open my clinched palms and accept that He is good, and His work is good. I can let go of my expectations, efforts, timing and struggling. I can look beyond my adoption and parenting challenges, and remind myself of the profound truth. He’s always at work, and it’s always good.      

Adoption sings His name, all the time, in its beauty and in its stretching. Both the bitter and the sweet are saturated with His goodness. 

He is good. Let’s make that the cadence that we train our hearts to beat to.

good:

1. right, proper fit

2. morally excellent, righteous, virtuous

3. satisfactory in quality, quantity or degree

4. of high quality


5. kind, beneficent, friendly

6. honorable or worthy”

 

So with the mindset of “training our hearts to the cadence of God’s goodness” and the action of loving others because we are loved, let us begin this Q&A.

I hear some of these comments and questions almost daily. Maybe you’ve uttered them to me. or to someone else. or just quietly to yourself in your head. These are not the answers from every foster parent across the globe. These are my answers to tough questions and comments. This is a look into the hows and whys for the Baker family:

“I don’t know how you do it.”

Speaking from a true, honest place – I don’t know how I do it either. I don’t know how we do it. I don’t know how all foster parents do it. Being a parent to a child who is not your own {and probably won’t ever be} is hard. It truly is; I won’t sugar coat it. I don’t know exactly how we do it but I do know that even on my very best days, there is not enough compassion, love, selflessness, forgiveness and non-judgment in my body to accomplish the task of a foster parent. But God. God has given us his Spirit, and with the Spirit comes things that we have no hope of accomplishing on our own: love. joy. peace. patience. kindness. goodness. faithfulness. gentleness. self-control. {Galatians 5:22-23}.

And I don’t know how I will handle the things to come. God does, though. and He will sustain me emotionally. mentally. physically.

As far as the day-to-day operations go, we are able to do it because we have a team. Our teammates are fosterparents-by-association, and they are so so important to us. Teammates are all over the place and come into our life in all different ways.

My mother and father-in-law who watch Charlotte at the drop of a hat so I can make it to appointments for myself and for kiddos {as in…. sometimes with just a few hours notice because I’m so bad with planning-ahead}.

The mom-friend who had a bag of appropriate sized/seasoned clothing waiting on our doorstep before we even get home from picking up a child.

The teacher friend who kept her Spring break schedule open to help me shuffle kiddos around from here to there.

The church friends who take turns holding/feeding/changing a baby or holding/feeding/playing with Charlotte so other things can get done.

My private clients who don’t mind that I bring our littlest kiddos into our speech therapy sessions until I can arrange permanent child-care.

The girlfriend who picks up my slack and overlooks the rest, or brings me a latte because she knows I may not have birthed the babe, but I’m still dealing with all the things that come along with a fresh baby {like sleepless nights and quadrupled laundry}.

Our family members and friends who love on our visitors unconditionally.

Our team has been strategically placed by God. Our team is everything.

“I couldn’t do that.” 

Lies. That is actually a lie you tell yourself. You could do this. A more appropriate phrase would be “I don’t want to”. And I don’t blame you, I’ve said it before in regards to so many commands, whispered or shouted, from God. And sometimes I still say it daily, usually under my breath so God  won’t hear me: “but… I don’t want to”.

Fortunately for us, there are no parameters to God’s command to “care for the widows and orphans”. He doesn’t provide an ‘if’ clause. “Care for the widows and orphans if….. you have enough money. if you are married for at least 2 years. if you have your own children first. if you have a spare bedroom. if you can be a stay at home mom. if you are under 40. if you’re empty-nesters. if you have your whole life together”.

Remember me? I can’t plan ahead. I never finish laundry all the way. I’m not really in to the whole ‘cooking dinner’ thing {though I’m trying}. I dust never. I recently started my own business…. so I make practically $0. It’s a win in my book if I hit my snooze only twice. My gas tank is almost always less than half full {don’t tell my dad}.

and yet God uses ME! And fortunately for you and me, children don’t need much. Really, they don’t. They need food, water, shelter, love, and snuggles. They need someone present in their lives. They need time. We all have all of those things.

“I’d get too attached.”

Honestly, that’s kind of the point. I recently read this from another foster parent and I love how she just lays it out there. Attachment is the point of foster care. It’s why the United States uses Foster Care instead of Orphanages; to allow for appropriate attachment and bonding in a family environment. If you don’t get attached, you’re doing it wrong.

Research shows secure attachment in infancy results in better social and emotional outcomes later in life, and the inverse of that is also true: insecure attachments result in destructive outcomes. Having a caregiver who provides consistent, loving, responsive care (meaning they consistently meet a child’s needs) helps children learn to regulate their own behavior and emotions, as well as satisfies their innate need for feeling loved and lovable. All of these are good, necessary things for a functional, quality life. Many children in foster care have experienced disorganized (aka: dysfunctional) attachment as a result of abuse or neglect from their previous caregiver. It is possible (and necessary) for a child to build secure attachments with a surrogate caregiver (aka Foster Parent) if their birth parents are not currently able to provide them with that crucial developmental experience.

“Aren’t you afraid?”

Yes, absolutely. But, God has given me a spirit of power and love. not timidity. not fear. {2 Timothy 1:7}. What truly frightens me is the thought of living my life for only myself. For all of my thoughts to be spent on only myself. For my money, and time, and possessions to be hoarded for only myself. That is what I’m afraid of, because that is most definitely not what the creator of everything created us and redeemed us for. There is so much more life out there beyond the small confines of the Baker home in Chesapeake, Virginia. Lives in need; and children in foster care are a portion of those lives who have great needs {sometimes very great needs}. Needs that we can meet.

I am also afraid that I am not enough. I am not enough of a mother, or a therapist, or a compassionate and patient person to be what some of these children need. Chris and I don’t yet foster children over 4 or 5. Those are the boundaries we have requested, based on our space and time and abilities. And any long term placements we have had so far have been little fresh squishes, the ones that are needy but also cuddly. We have not yet entered into the realm of foster care that is the older child. The one who is needy, but maybe resembles a porcupine rather than a cuddly puppy. The one who has experienced more life {and the terrible parts of life, at that} in a year than we have in all of our years combined. When the time comes, we will most likely experience that aspect of foster care as well. And we will be afraid. I’m actually more afraid, though, of not cuddling that porcupine. They are ‘the least of these’; they have the greatest needs. If we don’t, who will?

“Are you worried about Charlotte?”

Yes. I  worry about Charlotte. Every.Single.Day.

She’s ingesting GMOs. There’s BPA in that water bottle. She skinned her knees. When did I bathe her last? She doesn’t know all her letters. She won’t stop picking her nose! I didn’t put sunscreen on her. I raised my voice at her. Are we parenting correctly?

But I know what you’re really wondering. No, I’m not worried that our involvement in foster care will hurt her in some way. I’m actually excited for her to have these experiences. We protect her from as much in life as we can, and we will protect our foster children from as much in life as we can. That may mean parenting or scheduling or abiding a little differently than we have in the past.

She does suffer, though, in the same way an only child suffers when the attention is no longer only on themselves. She shares her toys. her food. her mommy and daddy time. and it’s good for her. She was born with a big heart and her experience as a big sister to other kiddos is making it even bigger.

Big Sister Charlie

I’ve had this ‘big sister’ shirt sitting in her drawer for a long time; it was passed down from a friend but Charlotte hasn’t had the opportunity to wear it yet because we haven’t expanded our family {and won’t, at least biologically}. It occurred to me, though, that she is very much a big sister to all of the kiddos that we get to love on, and will continue to be to be a big sister to so many, whether it’s ever made official or not.

Just speaking from a real place here: I know foster care isn’t for everyone. We all can’t do all the things! But we each can do some things.

Thank you for asking those questions. And for being open enough to ask them. Thank you for reading this and for considering what your next step may be. It may not be foster care, but it will be something. Will it be a step towards providing for yourself? Or will it be a step towards providing for someone who isn’t able to help themselves?

He is good. Let’s make that the cadence that we train our hearts to beat to.

Advertisements

One thought on “A Q&A on Foster Care {pretty much more than you even wanted to know}

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s