I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this question by well-meaning, concerned people who are wrestling with the thought of becoming foster parents. “Shouldn’t we wait until our kids are older?” “Won’t this have a negative affect on them?” “Won’t they pick up bad behavior, bad language, and just bad stuff in general from foster kids?”
Okay, so this question is a two-edged sword. On one point is the fact that kids who come into foster care have experienced trauma of some kind (through no fault of their own) or they wouldn’t be in foster care, and yes, that trauma could manifest itself in unsavory and unwelcome ways. But on the other point, is the fact that our biological children will never be the same once they have been intricately involved in the family foster care mission. In fact, it will shape who they become.
I know this because I am living it! When we began fostering over 17 years ago, we had three children: Chase-6, Caleb-3, and Cara-2. Connor was born a year and a half into the process. These precious ones are now 23, 20, 19 and 15 3/4 respectively. And let me tell you about them….
All four of them love kids. Last year our family did a television interview for a local tv station- the reporter asked Chase (who was newly engaged) if he and his fiance’ had talked about fostering. He said “yes, we’ll be foster parents at some point”. (That was the first we had heard of it!) Cara and I were talking a few weeks ago and she said “well of course, I’ll foster, Mom, it’s been my life, why wouldn’t I?” Connor has always said he would foster and adopt. Caleb was my only one that I thought might not foster or adopt- not because he doesn’t love kids, but because he is an independent guy with a love for foreign missions. He was at home the other day and I mentioned something about foster care in general…he said, “I don’t think I will foster, but I definitely think I will adopt!”
My kids growing up to carry on some foster care or adoption tradition never entered my mind and is certainly not the point. The point is foster care effects who our children become. My children have had to open up their hearts and their lives to strangers. They have had to share their parents with over 45 other children who have floated in and out of their lives over the past 17 years, and have done so graciously and compassionately. My children have learned at a young age about the inequity of life; that things aren’t fair and that children sometimes suffer at the hands of their own parents. They have had to learn early about pre-marital sex and unplanned pregnancies and addiction and child abuse. They have watched Jeff and I struggle with the emotions that come with fighting for the very life of a child and they have cried with us when we have lost the fight. They have seen their parents’ imperfections and the way in which a merciful heavenly Father can use them anyway. They have joined hands with us in prayer countless times as we have cried out to the Father for justice and mercy and they joined hearts with us when we all embraced a new daughter/sister. They’ve been babysitters, diaper changers, drivers, confidants, and shoulders to cry on. They have literally held me up in times when I couldn’t hold myself. They have truly poured themselves out so that the children who come into our home are cared for with the hands and feet and heart of Jesus.
Are our kids perfect? No way. They are just kids and now young adults. But, I realize that because of God’s call on our lives, they have been given an opportunity; a gift, and they have chosen to enthusiastically unwrap it. Inside is a beautiful picture of the Savior as He reaches out His arms and says “behold, children are a gift from the Lord” (all children!) and “whatever you do to the least of these, you’ve done it unto me”.
If God is calling you to foster or adopt, take a step of faith and give your children a gift. Will it be easy? No. Will it require sacrifice? Yes. Will it be worth it in the end? Absolutely.