Why We Foster

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.

adult adventure baby child
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Some Days You Get Punched in the Face

Rage.

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.

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland
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