Why do you do it? Why would you put yourself through that? It’s a question I have been asked many times over the past 13 years. I’m not going to lie, I’ve asked myself the same question.
A little person is brought to your home, a stranger, and we’re expected to shower them with love and understanding and patience. All the while, we are greeted with temper tantrums, sleep issues, feeding problems, and lots of anger from a child who is scared and confused. Not exactly the recipe for a smooth transition. There’s also the endless appointments; pediatrician, therapists, specialists, parent visits, WIC, etc. Yet, there we are, ready to dive in full force and try to make them feel welcome in our home and try to ease some of the pain they may have endured. We’re ready to offer hope and love and understanding to a child who either wants nothing to do with us, or wants our undivided attention, screaming every time we try to put them down.
Sure, there are quite a few good reasons why I shouldn’t do it. But there are so many more reasons why I should. First and foremost, we are needed. There is now, and always has been, a lopsided number of kids in foster care compared to licensed foster homes. There just aren’t enough foster homes to house the children in care. Because of this, many kids are sent to stay in shelters, when they ideally should be in a stable family environment. Although shelters serve the purpose of meeting all of the children’s basic needs, it cannot compare to the advantages of living with a family.
The beginning of a new placement can be very hard. Trying to figure out what works for them is tricky and very time consuming. What kinds of foods do the like, what helps them fall asleep, what triggers temper tantrums? We work so hard trying to figure out what makes this little person tick, and do our very best to ease their fears. Little by little, we start to figure it out. We fall into a rhythm and our routine starts to flow nicely. For me, nothing compares to seeing an angry, scared, sad little boy transform into a trusting, caring, happy child. This literally happens right before your eyes, and it makes all of those first difficult weeks/months fade away. For me, it’s the highlight of being a foster parent. It’s my brass ring!
As we all know, children are placed in care because they are coming from abusive and neglectful environments. We have the opportunity to show a child that life does not have to be about fear and chaos. They need to know that there are people that they can trust, who will love and nurture them. We hope and pray this is something they will take with them wherever they end up. Giving them unconditional love could make a difference in how they form relationships in the future. It could determine what kind of person they will be.
Fostering certainly isn’t for the weak of heart, that is for sure! And if you’re a control freak, you can forget about it. There is very little about fostering that we can control. I’ve never really considered myself to be strong of heart, and believe me, I get “attached”. What I do know is that as much as it hurts when they leave, I’ll be ok. I’m a big girl, with a supportive, loving family and so many things in my life to be grateful for. I have never had to face the hardships that many foster children have endured. I grew up feeling loved and safe with a nice roof over my head and food in my belly. I’m pretty sure it’s called taking things for granted, and I sure did. Unfortunately, that’s a luxury most foster children have not had in their short lives. The person who is supposed to love you and protect you most in the world has not. As a foster parent, I try to put myself in their shoes. It seems to really help me on those tough, overwhelming days. It gives me the strength, patience, and understanding I need to foster, and most importantly, to help a child heal. It also motivates me to gas up my 7 passenger car (anything less wouldn’t be ideal for a foster parent) and plug in the addresses of the therapist, pediatrician, neurologist, and whoever else I’ll be frequenting soon, into my GPS system.
So, why do I foster? I am quite certain, without a shadow of a doubt, that what I do matters. It matters to me, and it matters to all the precious little people that have come through my door. With all the tough days and heartache that can come along with fostering, there are even more happy times and reached milestones and healing hearts. Those hearts matter and those hearts are certainly worth it.