To say otherwise would be an understatement. No matter how they’re cooked, outside of cake or cookie batter, they don’t taste good to me at all. Most people think this is weird–How can you not like eggs? They’re delicious and full of protein and all of that… But it doesn’t change the fact that I hate eggs.
On the second morning of our first foster placement, our foster son came downstairs after my wife had left for work. We had made pancakes for his first morning and his first day at his new school. The second morning, I asked him if there was anything he wanted for breakfast.
His reply: “A fried egg.”
Okay, sure, no problem. I have no experience frying eggs, but I’ll give it my best shot.
“I know how to fry them. And I can fry you one, too.”
What do you do when you hate eggs but your new, nine-year-old foster son says that he wants to fry you an egg? You get out two eggs, let him fry away, and do your best to enjoy it (with a lot of hot sauce to help cover up the taste).
Fostering upsets your expectations. It pushes you out of your comfort zone in more ways than one. Welcoming a stranger into your life to live with you for a period of time brings plenty of new experiences. Sometimes it even forces you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do (in a good way).
Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow from it. And eat a fried egg, even if deep down you really don’t want to. You may just find yourself coming out better because of it.
When my wife and I first contacted our state’s Department of Family Services about foster care and adoption, we were planning only to be a foster-to-adopt family. It didn’t take long, though, through the course of our training to change our minds. We still want to foster-to-adopt some children, but we also decided to be engaged in traditional foster care.
Statistics tell us that on any given day, ~428,000 kids are in the foster system in the United States. In our state, Missouri, there are ~13,000 kids in foster care. The need, obviously, is great.
Two things drive us to play a role in foster care.
First, is the conviction of love. We believe that every child deserves to be loved. I like to define love as a commitment to happily seek the best for others. No child ends up in foster care because of a fault of their own. Some are there because tragedy has robbed them of family, but most are there due to neglect, abuse, or abandonment.
Most biological parents of foster kids desire to love their children, but something hinders the way that love is applied. Thus, these kids often experience far from the best. Some even experience the worst.
Foster kids need someone to love them (and someone to love their parents) for a season while attempts are made at improving their home life and the love given there. Now, sadly, such love will not be a panacea to all the trauma they have faced in life. They will battle figurative demons sometimes for years if not for life because of their experiences. Yet, a commitment by willing adults to love these children the best they can while they are in care will improve the possibility of a thriving future.
Second, is the conviction of faith. Allow me to get “religious” for a moment here: My wife and I are followers of Jesus. The sacred text of our faith (the Bible) opens with God creating humanity in his image. This, in part, means that every person has intrinsic worth and value. Even as the Bible goes on to describe all the ways we have come to screw up the world and life, it doesn’t devalue personhood.
Indeed, the highlight of the story is that Jesus came and died to rescue us from the mess, allowing us to be adopted into God’s forever family and giving us the hope of eternal joys beyond this life. This because God values humanity. Then, in the midst of this grand story, Jesus says that his people are the ones who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. In other words, we each play different parts in helping the disadvantaged.
We believe that our role in this work involves taking in strangers. Even if we don’t ultimately adopt a child as a part of our “forever family”, even if we only have them for a few weeks or months, we want to welcome these children into our homes to feel a part of a present family and hopefully make it the best experience for them that we possibly can.
They deserve to feel valued. They are, after all, made in the image of God just like you and me.
We all deal with it to some extent. Different things enrage us, making us mad. We all handle it in various ways, too.
Just like our foster kids.
With some the rage is verbal. A child gets in trouble for the way he provoked another, and he ends up hiding under his bed yelling at you with tears, “You’re terrible people and I hate living here!” But then, some days you get punched in the face.
Some days you’re driving down the road and a child lets his anger fly along with his shoes as his feet pound the backs of the front seats. Then you pull the car into a parking lot, get in back with the child to keep him from running away while trying to calm him down. And when you reach over to keep him from escaping, he tries to bite you; when you pull back to keep from being bit, he throws punches; when you use your palm to absorb his punches, he tries to escape.
The rage continues. The cycle goes on. And he finally lands a fist to your lips. Fortunately the fists of a young kid don’t hurt that bad.
When the rage happens, in whatever form, you have to do your best to remain calm while also trying to protect yourself, the child, and property. It’s not easy, but your calm will help them weather the storm back to their calm.
Many foster kids have learned to be guarded as a defense mechanism. One of our foster sons, in a rare moment of vulnerability, told us that he almost always feels angry on the inside.
That’s what abuse and abandonment does. These kids deal with many bad things in life and they often grow up robbed of healthy coping mechanisms. So, when they’re in your care they can have the same sweet moments as many children, but they also have moments where the rage manifests in unhealthy ways.
Be their calm. Help them through. Remember that they need lots of love. Even on those days where they punch you in the face.
Most of us have within our hearts a desire to be somebody’s dad or mom. And with that, the longing for someone to call you Dadddy, Dad, Mommy, or Mom. In fact, most of us think it’s kinda strange (maybe even disrespectful) for a child to call his/her parent by their first name.
But in foster parenting, that’s a reality.
Foster parents live with a weird tension. As long as the child is in your house, you act as their functional parent. You get to make normal day to day decisions, fix them meals, read them stories, help them learn chores, go to their ball games, play in the yard… just like a parent would.
Yet, when these children come into your home, and especially when they’re not young babies, they come as strangers with their own backgrounds, experiences, hurts, expectations, and understandings. Even if they quickly accept you as a good caregiver, they are far from the intimate place of seeing you truly as a dad or a mom. Indeed, in many cases, the aim is to return them to those who biologically are dad and mom. Unless adoption is the case goal, our time with the children is purposefully limited.
So, you learn to parent a child who calls you by your first name. And that’s okay.
Despite the desires of our hearts, the love for the children in our home is not to be based on what we think we can get. The love is based on our desire to give the child the most normal and beneficial life we can as long as they are under our roof, whether that is for a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. And the reward of that love is not found in a term but in the positive impact you make in another’s life, even if that fruit is still years in the making.