I Got Into Fostering For The Wrong Reasons
I started fostering for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be a hero to children in need. We are called to so much more.
Serving as foster parents opens up opportunities to minister to a whole host of people: state employees, agency employees, the children's parents and of course the children. Some of you have a heart like my wife; who, despite knowing the circumstances surrounding the removal of our foster children from their homes has nothing but love for the child's parents. Others of you find it very challenging to have anything but hate and contempt for the parents who neglected or abused their child. If you fall into the later category, like me you might justify your feelings with the idea that you are saving your foster children; protecting them from the evil harm of their abusive parents. Noble. But we are called to so much more
Foster placements by design are temporary. The foster program is designed to reunite the parents with their children. Of course the program isn't perfect and some states or counties do a better job than others. But the goal is reunification. That is something that we often struggle to come to terms with. Especially for those of us who are adoption motivated. The circumstances leading to your placement is more than likely horrific, traumatic, disgusting. Just the thought of that precious child returning to those conditions can make our blood boil.
I think if we are honest we sometimes believe we can be instant families. We can't. Deep down we know this. We definitaly know this after our first placement. God may have a plan for our foster children that does not involve reconciliation with their parents. Maybe you will have the opportunity to adopt. But the truth is no matter how egregious we think the parents offenses are the law provides the right for them to earn their children back. This is a good thing.
The best possible outcome in any case is for the parents to clean up their act and raise their children with the love and care their kids deserve. We are in a unique position to influence this. My wife and I usually have the opportunity to meet at least one of the parents These are people who need to know that you care about them. Often Their spheres of influence include addicts. They may have been raised in and abusive or neglectful home. You may be the only person who has ever told them you believe in them. So do that. Tell them you believe in them. And tell them about how God has transformed your life. Remember the only thing separating us from being in their situation is God's mercy.
I am all about justice and courage. I enlisted in the Army to fight bad guys. I tend to put people into one of two categories: good guys or bad guys. It is easy for me to throw the parents of our foster kids into the bad guy bucket and my self in the hero bucket. Listen to me! this is dangerous. It inhibits your ability to minister to your foster kids and could lead to them feeling abandoned, isolated and confused.
Holding yourself up as some high and mighty hero can quickly lead you to expect gratitude from kids. Bad! This is a completely unreasonable expectation. An expression of gratitude would be a blessing from God, to encourage your heart. Gratitude cannot become an expectation. Especially not early on. If it does you will be left frustrated. You may become cold, impatient and short towards your foster child. This will leave them feeling isolated. Especially if you are treating them differently than another child in the house. Obviously this is counter to our intentions.
We are called to pour into these kids. To mirror Christ's love to them. So get rid of the good and bad buckets. Assume the best about the parents. This will set you up for success with your foster kids even in times of high stress or conflict with them.
In conclusion. We are called to so much more than simply opening our home. We are called to minister to the broken hearts of the parents and their precious children.
Lord, Humble our hearts. Help us view ourselves accurately. Give us the strength to assume the best in others. Let our words be your words so that we may encourage others. Thank you for the privilege and opportunity to share your gospel through relationships. Amen.