When we first started considering foster care, my first concern was about our own kids. How they would handle having “outsiders” in our home… how we would handle taking care of that many kids…
Now, having done a couple stints with respite (caring for foster kids for a few days or a week while their “regular” foster family is traveling or attending to a family emergency), I don’t know how we would do it without them!
It’s not just that we already have all the “stuff” we need (from carseats and boosters to bibs and sippies) – it’ s that, so far, my kids have made foster care at least 10 times easier.
For one thing, we already have mealtime routines and bedtime routines and getting-out-the-door routines in place, and new kids just seem to fall in line with what they see my kids doing.
But far beyond that, I have watched my children share not just their toys, but their coats, their beds, and their “Mommy-Daddy” time for the sake of a couple little visitors they have never met. I have watched them play peek-a-boo and pretend lions and sledding down the stairs – and get much bigger giggles out of our little friends than I could ever get! I have watched our 5-year old pull words out of a super-shy girl who didn’t talk to us for over 24 hours. Even the 2-year old gets in on the action with hand-holding in the parking lot, hugs for teary moments, and fetching toys that drop out of reach from the highchair tray.
I have discovered that my kids are instinctively compassionate, and that they have a strong desire to take care of people smaller than them. I watched both of those things kick in full-force – even when our small visitors were whiny or mad.
I can’t say that foster care is for everyone… or that we are devoting our entire lives to this… or that all kids will do well with foster siblings… or that foster care is easy… or that I even have enough experience to say anything definitive on this topic!
But I can say this: I am super impressed with how my kids have responded, I am more in love with them than ever, and I love how our entire family has pulled together to serve as a team. It is a fun and welcome surprise, and it feels like a family ministry.
I am so used to all of our “individual” roles in the church and volunteering – one of us on the worship team, one of us teaching Sunday school, one of us volunteering at youth group. But finding something that our whole family could do together? I didn’t even think that was an option!
I’ll leave you with the sweet note that my daughter wrote in her journal shortly after one of our little visitors left (complete with original spelling):
Oncs in my life I got a little girl and my girl was named “H”. H was a foster child. At ferst she did not talk, but in a little bit of days she did. I love H. But soon we had to poot her bach whar she stayed. I hope I see her agen. It was fun having H with us. I cried when she lefed. But now I am very happy. Whood you cry if one of your frinds lefd?
Yes, there is lots of emotional investment in fostering – as you can see from her note. But my kids don’t regret the time we’ve had with these kiddos at all! In fact, they keep asking when someone else will come to stay with us – and if we can keep them longer next time.
So if you have kids – don’t let it stop you from considering foster care! In fact, maybe it should inspire you to do just the opposite.