“I would never foster if it wasn’t headed toward adoption. What’s the point?”
This question from a friend struck me with a surprising jolt. My already tender heart has been feeling a bit more vulnerable lately as a result of the intense emotions from having six kids under 12 years old in our home.
In a world full of mission statements, strategic plans and the tendency to ask “What’s in it for me?” why would someone choose to foster children knowing they were not going to be a forever family?
My husband, three biological children and I knew that it would be hard to love and let go, but we also knew that God would give us His peace and strength to enter the difficult journey of temporarily loving children from hard places.
Fostering without the intention of adoption is a belief in redemption and second chances. At the heart of the Gospel is a belief in grace. Many biological parents simply need a breather to get their lives straightened out in order to provide a stable environment for their kids. If children can be safely reunified with their biological families, this is best for everyone. Fostering without the intent to adopt allows me to wholeheartedly pray and advocate for the biological parents to get the help they need to turn around their story.
We are commanded to love and serve our neighbors, which means sowing seeds even if we are not the ones to reap them. I love the Greek proverb celebrating the greatness of a society where people “plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” I want to be able to work on kindness, respect and self-control with the children in my care not only to make my own life easier but also for the good of these individuals and their future families.
As parts of the body of Christ we each have different roles. The analogy that has stuck with me is the many different specialties in health care—your ER doctor doesn’t stay with you for your entire course of treatment. As foster only, rather than foster-to-adopt parents, our role is to triage, to stabilize and to lovingly hand these children to their forever parents, either through reunification, adoption or another permanency plan. I look at these children several times a day and think “these are someone else’s babies.” I pray for wisdom to make parenting decisions that are setting their forever family up for the best.
Any love is risky. None of us are promised a timeline. My faith has been tested and strengthened as a result of having to parent day-by-day with no guarantee of how much time I have been given for the task. This has taken some pressure off the performance tendencies and allowed me to see each moment as a chance to keep love and safety as the primary goal.
And, if I’m being completely honest, having biological triplets, more children–especially several more–seemed like a lot to swallow. Before we started this journey I would have never imagined a season where we had six children under the age of twelve in our home. Now that we are, I am reminded that none of us know with certainty the story God is writing. He leads us to different chapters through time and circumstances and gives us what we need when we need it.
This is why we foster.
How we do what sometimes feels like a monumental adventure as a family is with the Community of Care. It reinforces the truth that there is a place for everyone in this process—adoptive parents, foster parents, respite providers, drivers, baby sitters, meal providers, tutors…and the list could go on. Everyone has something to bring to the table in caring for foster children. Rather than feel shame over what you cannot do, ask God to reveal what you can do and walk boldly into that.