As a foster parent, I’ve picked up the following 6 life lessons:
All families are different in their own special ways. None of the families have the same backstory. No matter how you start a family or what your nuclear makeup looks like, one thing is certain: we all need God’s grace to make it through this wild ride!
It is true that God’s people have a special responsibility to care for the widows and the orphans among us. Foster care is an opportunity to serve in a radical manner while also standing up for suffering families and showing love to children who cannot safely be raised by their birth relatives.
According to Psalm 68:5-6, God is “father to the fatherless, defender of widows; this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy; but he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” God’s heart is to set the lonely into families!
For the last three years, we’ve been caring for children in foster care, and now we’re working to adopt our son. When we first set out on our adventure, we were so worried about a number of different things that we nearly didn’t answer God’s call. As we’ve began our walk with the Lord, there have also been many unexpected developments. The ways in which God has blessed our family as a result of our decision to become foster parents are really miraculous. He has strengthened our convictions and broadened our affections. These last three and a half years have been filled with invaluable education for us.
As a foster parent, I’ve picked up the following lessons:
- The Importance of Understanding Trauma
Trauma is a malignant force that alters our minds and makes life more challenging. All adopted or fostered children have been through traumatic experiences. Even if adoption happens just after birth, being taken away from your biological family is distressing. Adoptive and foster families and the children they care for all have tragic backstories.
Regrettably, trauma often results in scary behaviors. Children who have experienced trauma, such as abandonment, abuse, or neglect, may have trouble maintaining emotional regulation, behavioral self-control, and other such skills. The prospect of raising a kid with such a complicated past is daunting.
I like to joke that the foster parent training we went through was meant to discourage us from taking on this role because of the terrible tales they tell about the possible circumstances we would encounter. We didn’t want to go into this new position unprepared, so the training was designed to get us ready for the worst-case scenarios.
My confidence grew as I spoke to other foster parents who had been doing this job for a while. My friends shared their stories with me, both good and terrible, and reminded me that these children are worth the potential dangers.
The examples we’ve heard in class on the effects of trauma at home are more relatable after hearing their stories. They also reassured us that the majority of children that enter the system are wonderful and not as challenging as we would think. The good times spent with loved ones much surpassed the bad. Furthermore, being trauma-informed is an ongoing process that does not conclude with foster parent training. They are completely worth the additional work that parenting through trauma reactions entails, but we must endeavor to continue to understand throughout the lives of our foster and adoptive children.
- Fostering Requires Involvement From the Whole Community
We took in three biological kids, aged 3, 5, and 7, and became foster parents. When we first started thinking about being foster parents, kids were naturally our first priority. We were concerned about their welfare and happiness as we embarked on this new chapter as a family.
The DSS staff made it clear that their primary goal was to aid our family, not to coerce us into doing anything against our better judgment. To ensure that we were assigned situations that would be a good fit for our family, our social worker took the time to get to know us.
One of our biggest strengths as resource parents is the presence of children in our house. Any child who stays with us benefits from the additional love, security, and life lessons provided by our children. So many of the children in our care are adored by our own. They make them feel more at home here, since children in foster care tend to be wary of new people but form bonds more quickly with their peers.
Thanks to our own parenting experiences, we feel prepared to be effective resource parents. While anybody may foster a kid in need (and should if they feel called to do so!), those who have experience with children find the transition to fostering much less of a challenge.
Having small children in the house has taught us the need of setting limits on what saying “yes” means in order to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Also, we witness how God can use everyone in our family to care for the foster children. It’s great to see our children serving as Jesus’ hands and feet throughout the world.
- It is possible that our reluctance to assume this role stems from our experience of loss.
People’s unwillingness to go through sadness on behalf of a kid in need is the number one reason given for not taking on the role of a foster or adoptive parent.
If you take in a child or children, it’s difficult not to feel a strong attachment to them, if not outright love, very immediately. To tell you the truth, you were made for this! You are there to demonstrate what unconditional love looks like to a kid who has seen loss and tragedy up up and personal. Undeniably, it’s painful to let them go and recognize that you can’t influence their destiny.
We as a society have a hard time dealing with loss. Whenever possible, we stay away from it. I despise and fear sorrow, but the Holy Spirit has helped me to understand that he has no desire to shield me from it. These defenseless kids are worth it, therefore he’s inviting me to join him on this journey.
He does not want these kids to have to go through this time of uncertainty, suffering, trauma, and loss on their own, as difficult as it may be for my family and I to put ourselves in such a vulnerable position alongside them. Is it not our duty as Christians to care for the most vulnerable among us? This indicates that, for God’s sake, we should be willing to experience the suffering of others.
- Abundant Provision From God
God cares deeply for the weakest among us.
He reveals himself powerfully when we take bold action in faith to love and serve this community. We needed additional room before we could go off on our excursion. The same night we accepted this calling, God showed me a home. The set of circumstances that led to our current residence being in that house can only be described as miraculous. God has provided us with many opportunities to minister to and provide for our loved ones, including the children he has entrusted to our care.
God wants us to have the resources we need to do the task he has for us. Bring him your needs, wants, or concerns. The things we need come to us at the right time from God. That may be a short trip for you. I understand how difficult it might be for some people to wait for the kid God has placed in their hearts. God cares about our mission, and he will see us through whatever difficulties we face.
When it comes to facing danger, I just just not courageous enough. I am a worrier who finds it hard to put her faith in God when confronted with the uncertainty. Because of my decision to become a foster parent, I have been able to surrender my weaknesses to God.
When my first response to danger was panic, he calmed me down. When I questioned if it was worthwhile to put my whole heart on the line, he helped me see that it was. He has placed individuals in my life who have uplifted my family, helped those in our care, and worked tirelessly for them.
You don’t have to be super heroic to take a leap of faith for a kid that needs a family. Only the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit will do the trick for you. All the help and instruction you can receive is still recommended in this case. God is your assistance as a foster or adoptive parent, but it doesn’t imply everyone is at the proper place in life or has a calling to do so. Despite all logic, he provides you inner fortitude and calm.
- The choice to love, even for a little while, is a fruitful one.
While it is true that saying goodbye to a kid in foster care may be difficult, I was shocked to see how much choosing to love can reward you, even if only for a short time. My experience in foster care has taught me that I tend to love individuals with an eye toward the future. Being a foster parent requires you to live in the present and make selfless sacrifices since you can never be sure of what the future may bring.
When we give in to the present with these youngsters, we are rewarded with a beauty that is priceless. Even if they are only visiting for a short time, they will bring so much vitality and happiness to your house. In the same vein, there’s nothing more heartwarming than seeing a family unite again after being apart. Fostering in a circumstance when reunion is feasible is a wonderful way to help a family out tremendously.
Providing foster care is much more than simply taking in a kid; it’s also about supporting a struggling family. Our perspective on the idea of saying goodbye changes when we see our function in the context of aiding a family in distress rather than just as rescuers for a kid. While we mourn the loss of the child’s presence in our lives, we may take comfort in knowing that our efforts to help another family were instrumental in keeping them together.
God asks us all to discover ways to love the most vulnerable among us, as James 1:27 states, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Some people may do this by becoming foster parents or adoptive parents themselves, while others can help by providing financial or emotional assistance to those who are willing to do so. We are all called to this work; may you dare to ask God how he can use you to live a life of pure religion. He is faithful to guide your steps on this incredible journey!