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F is for Foster

Today's post is a gift from Kendra, a talented and busy mom, teacher, and author. Enjoy!


In Biblical times, cities were always surrounded by large stone walls to protect it's inhabitants from outside attackers. These walls were massive and intimidating because they were all that stood between the people and the enemy. If the wall was compromised, the entire city would scramble to fix the breach before the enemy could get through. Often times, a warrior would go outside of the wall, stand in the hole, and fight off the enemy while those inside the wall sealed up the opening. This person was essentially signing their own death certificate as there was no way back into the city once the wall was sound again. But they did it because it was necessary. Without their sacrifice, the entire city would perish.

This is where we get the phrase “standing in the gap”, and this is essentially what it means to be a foster parent. We are warriors standing in the gap ensuring that the enemy doesn't get into the city and destroy everything within it. To be a foster parent, you are basically staring Satan in the eye and saying “You can have this one over my dead body”. And of course, you must mean it.


By now you are probably thinking that I am trying to dissuade anyone from ever wanting to become a foster parent. I mean really, I'm likening the job to certain death! And though I would never seek to sugar coat the truth, I don't mean to be overly grim either. This is just the best illustration of what I believe it means to be a foster parent.

As a foster parent you are a lover, a protector, a fighter, an advocate, and a friend. You are the one who shows them love, speaks life into their future, gives direction from confusion, and teaches them how to be brave and free.

The sad truth is that thousands of children in the United States wake up every day to neglect, abuse, and sorrow. Their little lives are filled with things that they should never know about; things like drugs, alcohol, hooking, shoplifting, homelessness, and intense hunger. These kids can curse as well as any sailor, but can't read. They can tell you all about sex, but they don't know what broccoli is. These are kids who know that spilled milk is nothing to cry over, but that you will bleed for it. These are children who fear a bed because they have never had one before, and kids who at the age of five have already raised three others. Whether they come from extreme poverty, abuse (which can be physical, emotional, or sexual), neglect, or drugs, they all have one thing in common: they have been torn from everything that is familiar and cast out into a big scary world where people they don't know make decisions for them.

These children are like any other kid, except that they carry scars. Some of these scars are visible but most of the damage is hidden beneath their sad little eyes. They will distrust you and fear you, like a wounded animal caught in a trap. All they have been through in their life has taught them that big people do bad things. To them you are just another big person and it is your job to prove them wrong. It is an intimidating task to be sure, but one that can be done through prayer and honored promises.

The main excuse I hear (and once said myself) for not fostering is that it is simply too hard to send them home again. Why should you attach to a child only to send them back into an uncertain family situation? It would hurt too much. If you can identify with these feelings you are in good company. Though this is definitely something to prepare yourself for, it should in no way stop you from fostering.

Here are a few reasons why your fear of pain is worth overcoming:
Most foster kids have a very skewed image of love. You showing up in the midst of their torment and being there for them shows them what love in a family is supposed to look like. You have the unique privilege of changing how a child views parents. But more importantly, you have the unique opportunity to change how a child views God. We all view God based on our parents, particularly our fathers. If we have abusive or checked-out parents, we tend to view God that way. When these children understand that someone can be interested, invested, and proud of their existence, they tend to see that God views them the same way. This can change nations.

If you can unselfishly and unreservedly love the foster children that you bring into your home you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams! You will get to see first hand how a child blossoms under the influence of love. You will get to watch the cold exterior crack and crumble away. This is honestly my favorite part of fostering. This is the thing that makes it all worth while. Yes, you will fall in love and it will kill you to say good bye. They become your babies. after all, and it is hard to imagine your life without them. But seeing them come to life before your eyes is worth every single tear you will ever shed. I can't really explain the beauty of this transformation, but those moments break up the monotonous dredge of daily life. These moments make all the hard things seem manageable. These moments teach you more about love than anything else in the world.

Here is what I have learned about love from my foster children:
Love is hearing my seventeen year old girl laugh for the first time and seeing the smile spread all the way to her eyes, igniting a spark which had burnt out long ago. Love is seeing my five year old boy try to wink at me because that is my secret way of telling him that everything is ok, and now he believes it. Love is crawling into a closet to hold a sixteen year old girl as she sobs because she thinks she is too dirty and shameful to be loved, only to see it click with her because I wasn't afraid to touch her and crawl into her misery. Love is watching both of my girls graduate from high school and head for college, something they didn't think would be possible. Love is driving my two toddlers to daycare as they giggle and and carry on, when before they both stared out the window blankly as they wondered if they would see me again tonight. Love is only being able to listen to one song, “Set a Fire” by Jesus Culture, in the car because those toddlers sing it over and over, sometimes closing their eyes or raising their hands when they think I'm not looking. Love is hearing my four year old boy exclaim, “I'm your Little Duck and he (his brother) is your Goose!”. Love is picking up the phone to hear my now nineteen year old say “Momom, I love you.”

I could go on for pages, but I think you are getting the picture. Those moments make it worth it. I have had to say good bye to kids, and even now as I type this, I am preparing to say goodbye to another. It will hurt, it always does, and there will be a hole in the family for weeks. However, I do it because it is the only thing that I can do. I have to show up and make a difference while I can in the hopes that God will use my efforts to change their life from this moment forward.

Anyone can do this. You don't have to be a perfect saint. You don't have to be a millionaire. All you have to do is be ready to love a child who is not naturally yours. The process to become licensed is not that difficult and it will cost you nothing but time. If God has laid it on your heart to be a foster mom or dad, take the risk! I promise you won't regret it. Not sure about fostering? You can be licensed to do respite by simply having a background check and signing some forms. Respite workers do overnights and short term care for kids. This is a great way to get to know some of the types of kids you could meet as a foster parent.

The need is great. In my small county alone, one hundred and three children have been taken into care in the last three months. In less than three months the amount of children in care has more than doubled. If you have been wrestling with God over the decision to foster, now is the time to say yes.

If you are interested in learning more, you can visit Family Matters or contact your local Family Services. Kendra is happy to answer questions if you would like to send her a message on facebook.


2 comments:

  1. your comments echo the comments of women I know who foster children. they learn so much, struggle mightily at times with restrictions, but love for the children...it's amazing. :)

    Annette @ a net in time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is heartbreaking. I'm still stunned - there are children who don' t know what vegetables are???

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