I wake up every morning and find myself in the middle of a miracle. I get up, walk to the kitchen, fix myself a cup of coffee, sit down in my chair and start my morning routine. Soon I hear the faint cry of a little 14 pound baby boy in a room about 50 feet from me. He was born into circumstances that I have never experienced. He was taken from his family because they need help and cannot give him a safe place to live and grow. My wife and I get a chance to help him survive and see the miracle of life, against incredible odds, thrive where it should not. Foster parenting has been a trek through a rugged frontier for us and we have learned a lot about ourselves, the world and what it really means to sacrifice. Below are four things, out of the hundreds, that I have learned since we started foster parenting.
You have no choice but to get attached.
I love this child like my own. He and I have spent a few sleepless nights together as he was screaming through withdrawals and now, teething. Our eyes have met a few times and especially when he smiles, my heart sings. My wife is in love with him too and she is an awesome mom to him and our biological kids. I couldn’t imagine feeling any different about this child. Nearly every day I think to myself it is going to hurt when we have to give him back. I am probably going to cry for a bit and I will miss him like crazy.
He’s a baby that knows no one else but who feeds him, rocks him to sleep, plays with him and makes the poop go away. Without us, he might not have someone to feed him, clean him or make him happy. He wouldn’t be safe. He would be introduced to the cruelty of this world before he could ever say his first word. So we are attached because it’s what’s best for this boy. We know it’s going to hurt later but it’s worth every minute of it.
Biological children benefit greatly from being apart of this.
One of my biggest concerns in being a foster parent was how my biological children would handle it. I imagined them being jealous or feeling set aside and neglected. In truth, my boys love our foster child like a brother. It’s wonderful to see my five-year old get on the floor and play and sing and laugh with the baby. They hug and kiss him. They hold him and feed him. They see mommy and daddy helping someone in need and they want to be a part of it. I know that my kids will be better adults through this experience.
You have an opportunity to help a parent change for the better.
The miracle goes beyond the four walls of my home. I am watching from afar an adult who lost their baby and instead of running away and hiding from the shame and misery, they are giving it all they have to turn their life around and get their baby back, and they are succeeding. The parent recently met with my wife and thanked her immensely for taking care of her little boy and told her that we had ministered to her so much through this experience. My wife has sent letters with each visitation telling her “You can do this! We are praying for you.”. Many adults like this parent have never had anyone tell them they can do anything. One of the biggest problems with people who have had their children taken from them is that no one has ever believed in them. Sometimes it just takes one person to say, “You can do it!” to make all the difference.
The system is as good as it can be but could be a lot better.
There are not enough case workers. There are not enough guardian ad litems. There are definitely not enough foster parents. Many times communication breaks down. There are last-minute changes and there are many service providers and doctors that just plain suck. But this is the system and there are some really good people in it that truly care for these children but the bad parts will not change unless more people get involved. I think that more people should get involved in foster parenting, even if it is, like us, just one child at a time.
What are your fears about becoming foster parenting?
If you have any experience with foster parenting I’d love to hear it!