When we were preparing to open our home to foster children, I prayed daily over the bedroom where these children would sleep. Each time a car pulled in my driveway to introduce a new friend to our family I knew deep in my soul this was a child for whom I had prayed long before I knew their name. As I bathed, tucked in, and tended each child, I wondered how long they would be part of our life. Even though we are not pursuing adoption, I allowed myself to wonder with each individual child if they might become a permanent part of our family. Much like a school girl with a crush, I'd whisper their names with Scott on the end. It wasn't a wish or a prayer as much as an acknowledgment that God--not us--held the future--and anything could happen.
In the last two years of fostering, we have had five school aged children in our home for periods ranging from 10 days to 17 months. Twice, we have had the difficult task of requesting a child be removed and placed elsewhere. It is not a part of the fostering process that anyone likes to discuss, but it is a reality I felt led to write about--if for no other reason than to quiet some of the self talk running through my brain at 2am.
It is a difficult reality to admit. My family enjoys challenges. We believe in grace and second chances. Neither of us considers human beings items that can or should be "traded in" when the going gets tough. We are not shocked easily. We don't want to raise bubble wrapped children and we certainly never entered into foster care thinking we would "give up" on a child--especially ones who had already been let down by the adults in their early lives.
Sometimes the behavior is such that even with knowledge of the reasons behind it, a family cannot tolerate it. For safety's sake, every heart and developing life in a home has to be considered.
I deeply believe in the need for loving, stable foster families and gulp hard when I write about the challenges. I do not ever want my words to be used to justify someone's decision to turn the other way and ignore the plight of the orphans among us. I do, however, think it is vital that people understand the deep and real challenges of this system. I trust that God will continue to call people to this work not because they've been shown only a rosy view.
It is frequently generational cycles of sin that result in children coming into care. Those of us on the frontlines of this ministry are also plagued with sins of fear, pride, self-reliance, and greed. Sinners helping sinners in a sinful world. Of course, it is broken!
Both times we have requested removal it has been with an overwhelming sense that we could not serve the therapeutic needs of the child and the others in our home as well. Both decisions have held a moment of eyeball to eyeball unity with my husband. Each time as the child was driven away, I have cried tears of loss, resignation, regret, shame, and relief.
Even knowing the intimate details of our situations and trusting the wise counsel of those who agreed with our moves, I cannot help but feel ashamed that we couldn't 'cut it,' fear that maybe it wasn't really that we 'couldn't' but instead that we simply wouldn't. I've had to lay down a Messiah complex I can be reluctant to admit. I'm realizing this work is sometimes a marathon and other times more like a relay. We aren't always called to cross the finish line, but instead to merely run the baton for our leg.
As I've processed some of my disappointment, I've recognized my preference to 'lick my wounds' privately--reserving the exposure of my vulnerabilities to only a few. I tend to shout from the rooftops when life is good and go quiet when I'm wrestling. May we never forget there is a deep blessing in the wrestling as well.
This is the part of the journey that has stretched and grown us most--especially in our reliance on the Lord instead of the opinions of others or our own wisdom and life experience. Each time has been a great humbling, but also a reminder that following God where He leads means letting go of the cleaner/neater/more flattering-to-our-own-image story we would write. I am reminded that God uses it all--every broken and confusing piece.
This is real life. This is where growth happens.