Foster Care: 10 Things I’ve Learned

There’s a lot I can’t tell you about foster care and the kids who have stayed with us, for privacy’s sake. But here are a few things I’m picking up from our experiences…

  1. My husband and I are licensed foster parents. But get this. The kids who come live with us temporarily are not “foster kids”. They are just kids, stuck in a system through no fault of their own. Even small ones will remind you of this. (“I’m not a foster kid! I’m just me!”). You can label yourself, but don’t label anyone else.
  2. Sometimes you get to know the biological parents… and sometimes there is teamwork and relationship and you are united in your joint love of a kid. And that is beautiful and bigger than just housing a kid for a weekend or a month or a year.
  3. Sometimes a kid will admit (despite appearances to the contrary) that they actually like having rules.
  4. Sometimes you will feel stretched and like you just don’t have the energy or patience to keep going – and then you will suddenly be reminded of the trauma that brought this kiddo into your life, and all of the empathy and care and “I CAN do this” floods back into your heart.
  5. Life can feel so, so normal after just a short time with someone new. It’s incredible how quickly our sense of “normal” adapts to whatever our current situation is. I’m thankful for this. You don’t have to be able to imagine how it will work for it to actually work.
  6. Affection can grow quickly. Hugs and kisses and words of affirmation and love can sometimes flow effortlessly – miraculously – even to someone you just met.
  7. The journey is never over. You can’t just write off a kid or a story as a “success” or a “failure.” Just like my own life takes unexpected twists and turns, I can’t ever label a situation [or person] as bad or good. Change happens, for better or worse! Foster care is an exercise in flexibility and flowing with constant change.
  8. It stinks to say “no” when the caseworkers call with a new kid. Even if you are positive that the situation/age/needs won’t work with your family, it’s still hard to turn down a kid in need.
  9. I’m pretty sure more people could do this. And when I drive a kid a long way to school or a visit with family… I sure wish more people did do this! I wish I didn’t get calls for kids who are currently living 45 minutes away, just because there is no one in that community with an opening or no one who wants to take teens, or whatever. The “system” would work so much more smoothly with a few more open homes!
  10. I am often mentally paralyzed by all of the needs around me. Homelessness, war, poverty, dirty water, trafficking, racism, injustice, lack of education, loneliness… there is just a whole lot of hurt in the world. And living in the suburbs, I hear about all of the problems – but I don’t come face-to-face with really intense, blatant needs on a very regular basis. I am so very, very blessed… and so very, very insulated. Foster care is one of the only tangible ways that I have been able to puncture a hole in the bubble of my suburban life and allow a heavy need to touch me. I need this reality check… and the kids who are living without stability, homes, food, or family need it, too.

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