I don’t know if I could foster. I’m afraid I’d get too attached.
That is one of the reasons some people give as to why they don’t foster or are hesitant to foster. If I might be blunt for a moment: It’s actually a pretty lame reason.
When you foster children, the goal is to be temporary parents while the children’s biological parents seek to make changes to their lives in order to have their children returned to them. As a foster parent, you are there to be a support for the family, both the children and their parents.
In other words, you are meant to play on the same team as the biological family. When rights are terminated and children are made available for adoption, it means that something has gone wrong. The hope is to avoid this. The hope is to play your role of positive support until the children return. The hope is reunification.
When Children’s Division did our training and home studies, a part of the emphasis was on personal loss and how we cope with it. A practical reason for this is that you do get too attached to the children.
And that’s not a reason to avoid fostering. That’s a reason to jump in.
Not long ago, we said goodbye to our most recent placement. One child was very young when they came to live with us for three-quarters of a year. My wife and I took turns rocking her to sleep at night, singing lullabies, while she drifted off in our arms. We took part in experiencing many of her firsts–sitting up, crawling, standing, walking, and talking. When the time came to say goodbye, it wasn’t easy to place her and her sibling in their car seats for the last time, surrounded by boxes and bags of clothes and toys.
Your heart breaks. You cry. You face the pain of loss.
But it’s worth it to see the joy in their parents’ face as they get to welcome their children back home.
Children need attachments. Even though it is not meant to be a permanent situation, when they’re in your home, they should feel safe and loved, and like they belong. They need foster moms and foster dads who will love them like their own, albeit for a season. Even the children who have faced much trauma, who have been badly hurt, and have yet to learn healthy ways to face their pain, need someone who is willing to bear their pain and in return pour out a heart full of love.
I keep pictures of all our foster children in my office. It’s been over a year since our first placement went with family. He was only with us a few months. Still, when I see his picture, I miss him.
That will never change.
When a child lives in your home, you love him or her the best that you can, and they return home, go with other family, or change placements, a piece of your heart leaves your home and you’ll never fully fill it. It hurts.
But fostering is not about you gain or keep. It’s about what you give to a child and his or her family in the hope that their future will be brighter.
Dare to get attached. Dare to pour out your heart. Dare to face loss.
Dare to foster.