I Didn't Expect This When We Started Fostering

 
I Didn't Expect
 

The bonds formed between me and the men that fought at my side in Afghanistan were unique. They were so deep that we were willing to sacrifice our lives for each other. In fact, the friends I saw killed in action apologized as they died. They apologized for not being able to fight at my side any longer.

What could possibly form bonds that carry that type of selfless love? Do the same elements that form those bonds exist in fostering?

I am not suggesting that war is analogues to fostering. Fostering can be challenging but trust me, it is not war. What I am suggesting is that much like the shared experiences that bonded my brothers in arms and I, my family has grown closer because of the mission, sacrifice, and loss that we share through fostering.

Mission

My family and I share in a mission, just like you. To love and care for the children placed in our home as if they were our own. That is not just something heavy on my wife and I’s heart. It weighs heavy on my five and six-year-old kids hearts as well.

Stephanie (my wife) and I have invited our kids into this mission with us. We have explained their role in caring for their foster brothers and sisters. We have explained the impact they can have. We have asked them to consider how they would feel, and what they would need if they were forced to live in a strange house with strange adults.

They have taken that information, and both of them have stepped up in big and surprising ways. I have daily witnessed them voluntarily exercise selflessness. I have seen them exercise courage. There is no doubt that they value the mission of fostering just as much as Stephanie and I do. I strongly recommend (if you haven’t already) to invite your bio kids into the mission with you by clearly outlining the need and their opportunity to participate.  

Sacrifice

I know many of you have stories of difficult fostering moments or seasons. I know my bride and I do. My wife and I had a child who threw marathon tantrums. All we could do was hold and rock her as she screamed in our ear for what seemed like hours. My wife spent many late hours holding the hand of a little girl who wept for her parents nightly, not able to grasp why she had been removed from her home. We had an infant who we couldn’t get to sleep.

My daughter shared a room with a girl that often bit her and pulled her hair. Both of our bio kids have sacrificed hours upon hours of attention that otherwise would have been theirs. We have placed expectations on them that the average child doesn’t deal with. Our marriage has been challenged. Our patience tested.

I guess what it boils down to is that we have sacrificed comfort. I’m not sharing the sacrifices we have made to compare or brag. I am sure you have experienced more difficult situations and handled them much better. I share so that you know what you are about to get into; or so that you can know that you are not alone. But most importantly I write about our sacrifice because I want you to know what we know, that it is worth it. It is worth the joy that comes from knowing that you are modeling Christ.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

The passage goes on to talk about how Christ did this for us through His life, death, burial and resurrection. My wife, kids and myself see each other’s sacrifice and it grows our love and appreciation for each other. We are actively and intentionally sharing the gospel through our relationships with each other.  

Loss

As a family, we have experienced the loss that is inherent to fostering. We get a call, pack up suitcases, give goodbye kisses, and buckle car seats. Then we stand in our yard waving goodbye as the caseworker drives off with the precious child/s we had come to love. The realization that we may never see them again strikes our hearts like a thunderbolt.

If the pain of loss that comes with fostering is a deterrent for you I pray that you find the courage to overcome that. Sharing in loss of our foster kids has strengthened our bond as a family. None of us would take those experiences back. Not even the painful parts. As a familiar quote goes,

'It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” - Alfred Lord Tennyson

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