Common thoughts pertaining to foster care are often, “I would get too attached—I could never do that” and, “the system is too broken”. Well, now that I’m in the midst of it I can tell you, both of those things are entirely true.
Before my husband Aaron and I got married we definitely talked about kids, both biological and adoptive. It would have been really hard to marry Aaron if he wasn’t willing to adopt since I’ve always had that desire even before I became a Christian. We moved to Los Angeles in March of 2015 and after just a few months we met a man who had adopted his own child through foster care. We had never considered fostering or adopting through foster care before that. In our planning, or lack thereof, we had always assumed that we would internationally adopt. We’d never put much thought or action into it. But after meeting this man and hearing his story we started to research what foster care was and both our hearts were moved and we were confidant that this was the direction we wanted to take regardless of the outcome.
The certification process was not easy. Months of paperwork, psychological tests, and interviews. Our lives became categorized into a little black binder. The agency that we chose was a Christian-based agency and they forewarned us that this was an intrusive process with a lot of unknowns, waiting, and more waiting. Eleven months, four failed placements and one potential adoption later and we were placed with our first foster child. He was 6 months old at the time and I will never forget the moment that he was handed over to me by a frantic county social worker. In that moment, this little stiff, anxious, sweating, urine-covered boy stole my heart.
That brings me to the attachment part. I’m attached, yes. Everyday, I struggle with the heartache that comes with this. I’m terrified of the day that we get the call that this little boy is leaving us. He was a case for reunification (to his biological parents) from the beginning, so he’s bound to leave at any moment without notice. But we’re reminded with something as small as his sweet smile, giggle or even dirty diaper of why we’re continuing on. We’re doing this because we get to be a part of his story and he gets to be a part of ours. We get to build attachment with him so that he knows what security is. Attachment is the point. To love on our foster son until the day that we let him go. We get to be the middle man that deals with the dirty, emotional work and bears the burden for our innocent child since those who should be protecting him are unable to right now.
The "system" comes off as a negative term within fostering. I believe the foster care system has some of the best intentions at its core, but with overworked staff and little to no resources, it feels like a daunting structure to work within. My husband and I needed to learn what it meant to work within the system, but make sure our foster child doesn't feel like the system is running him. We sometimes had up to four meetings a week with county social workers, developmental specialists, case managers, doctors and so on. If there is one thing I can advise any foster family—don't look too much at the system. It'll be discouraging and overwhelming. Our main focus is the child. We met some incredible people within the system. People who truly cared for our foster child, not looking at just a case number, but a child with a life and a story. When you strip away the procedures, policies and systemics, you can find genuine humans trying to provide a child with a life of stability, safety, and opportunity.
When we first signed up to be foster/adoptive parents, our hearts leaned heavily towards adoption. We were blindsided when we found out how few cases lead to adoption. The social workers kept reminding us that reunification is always the goal they hope to accomplish. I understand that reunification is important, especially considering what it would be like if I was in the biological parents' shoes. I would want all the chances I could get to get my child back. The conflict I had in my heart wasn't about the idea of reunification, it was about my assumption that we would be the best fit. Something finally clicked though. God changed my heart overnight and now I’ve become a cheerleader for the biological family… sort of. It goes up and down because we remember we’re dealing with real people, broken people like ourselves. I have to remember that my idea of what is best isn't always Jesus' plan. He knows the beginning, middle, and end. And honestly there are just some things that we may never understand on this side of Heaven. What I do understand is that for the rest of our lives, we will be able to pray for our foster son that was entrusted to us for a season. I pray that on this earth or in Heaven I will be reunited with that sweet, little guy that was dropped off at my door. And honestly, that is enough.
Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.
I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.