Advocacy, Children in Foster Care, Encouragement, Family Support, Foster Parenting, Make a Difference Mondays, Vulnerable ParentsJun. 27, 2016

Make a Difference Monday | 21 Things I Love About Fostering

We’ve been fostering children for two years now, during which time we’ve had eight children in our home as long-term placements, plus over a dozen more for shorter “respite” stays.

I’ve been pretty transparent about the hardships of foster parenting, even as I try to be quick to turn my attention back to the ultimate God-ordained purpose behind it.

I do that because I refuse to varnish the truth; foster parenting is not a walk in the park.

There’s pain and there’s angst.

There’s too much information and not enough patience.

There are squabbles and arguments.

There’s selfishness and spite.

But there are plenty of things to love about it just the same.

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21 Things I Love About Fostering

1.) Watching my children rally around kids in need who are often unloveable and hard to get along with. Don’t get me wrong – my kids are far from perfect at this. (And truth be told, neither am I!) But they do a remarkably good job of this foster sibling thing, considering it means that they must share their parents and their home and their rooms and their toys and their grandparents and pretty much everything else in their lives with kids who were complete strangers not that long ago.

2.) Enjoying baby snuggles and toothless grins when I had believed those days were most likely over for me. Yep. These are a few of my favorite things.

3.) Being a bright spot for a family during the most difficult days of their lives. Because here’s the thing…foster parenting isn’t only about saving children. Ideally, it’s about helping a family – often with hardships dating back multiple generations – pick up the pieces of shattered lives, and by the grace of God seeing those families restored. It’s been our experience that most biological parents don’t expect to like their kids’ foster parents. They start out with their guard up and their hearts hard – and I can’t say that I blame them. But it’s not easy to remain hostile toward people who are cheering for you and taking good care of your kids while you are able to improve your family’s prospects for a happy and healthy future.

4.) Having the opportunity to live out the gospel in a way that’s very real to me and very obvious to others. The gospel – living by grace through faith in Jesus Christ – is very real to this foster mom. I absolutely could not do this on my own. And for anyone who would say about foster parenting, “I could never do that,” I can tell them positively, “I couldn’t either. But God is doing it through me.” I delight in this chance to let my light shine before others, not to glorify me, but to glorify my Father (Matthew 5:16).

5.) Seeing my husband care tenderly for children he didn’t father, carrying them up to bed when they fall asleep on the couch during family movie night, diapering babies who aren’t his own, inspecting boo-boos and giving hugs. It’s adorable and heartwarming and hot. Enough said.

6.) Being able to plant seeds of truth in the hearts of children who have never heard it, and who may never have been exposed to it otherwise. This is one of the big ones for me. Of the eight children we’ve had in our home as long-term placements, 0% have known who Jesus is, who God is, or what the Bible is. Yes, you read that correctly: zero percent. And these are children living within a few miles of my own home in the “Bible belt” of the United States of America. What an opportunity!

7.) Watching God show off His ability to change hearts, in a way that’s unmistakably Him. God is using foster parenting to change my heart. He uses it to work in the hearts of my children. We’ve seen Him move in the hearts of our foster children, and most amazingly, we have watched Him do unbelievable things in the lives of biological parents and even grandparents. Yeah. Good stuff.

8.) Receiving hugs and “I love you’s” from children I didn’t give birth to. It’s particularly precious considering that many children in the foster care system struggle to trust adults – some because they have learned not to trust their parents, and others because their parents have taught them that law-abiding adults are enemies of their law-breaking family. To have these kids put their faith in you is humbling and endearing.

9.) Showing other families that foster parenting is an important ministry, and a feasible one for them. Foster parenting is not God’s calling for every Christian. But I believe God wants far more Christians to be involved than currently are. Before I was a foster parent, I had plenty of excuses why I would never consider it. But the truth is, God equips us to do what He calls us to do. Period. So the question is not, “Do I have what it takes to be a foster parent?” The only question we must answer is, “What does God want me to do?”

10.) Witnessing our extended family tenderly embrace outsiders as their own. My husband and I both come from very loving families, so I didn’t expect anything less. Still, watching it with my own eyes has been a special kind of blessing.

11.) Seeing God’s complete provision for us in every way. Two and a half years ago, my husband lost his well-paying job and I was sure we would have to move from this home we chose precisely for its large bedrooms and potential for housing a large family. To be honest, our finances have never recovered. On paper, the numbers don’t add up. But we’ve never lacked for a single thing, and are still blessed with so much more than we deserve to have. God’s provision goes far beyond the financial realm, though. He provides strength, stamina, stability, encouragement, help, joy, and so much more.

12.) Cooperating with the public school system. Though I homeschool my own children, our foster children have attended public schools, and our experiences have been overwhelmingly positive. From principals who extend extra grace, school guidance counselors who provide extra help, and teachers who are outstanding communicators, encouragers, and educators, I have been blown away by the support our foster children have received.

13.) Observing the quick progression from children not knowing how to pray, toward fighting over who gets to say the mealtime prayer. When they first enter our home singing “I Like Big Butts” (and that’s the cleanest option that came to mind), it’s particularly sweet when you catch them absentmindedly singing “Jesus Loves Me” while they’re folding their laundry.

14.) Being to a needy child their first and perhaps only example of a solid family, and a Christian one. One of the driving forces behind our decision to become foster parents is the richness with which we have been blessed. And you might be surprised to know that finances are toward the bottom of that list of blessings. My husband and I were both raised in stable, loving, Christian homes. That is a heritage that is increasingly rare, and one that we’re responsible for stewarding well. For children born into multi-generational dysfunction, being in a very-imperfect-but-very-functional-Christian home can be a life-changing experience.

15.) Shepherding my biological children toward greater Christlikeness, in ways they couldn’t otherwise experience. Being a sibling of foster children can be very challenging. Kids in the foster system are often victims of numerous traumas, and have complicated emotions as a result. Many of them are used to being left to themselves, and balk at adult authority figures as well as child playmates. They are far too experienced in some realms, and extremely immature in others. My children are having intense opportunities to learn about selflessness and service. Plus, in getting to know biological families, they have an up-close and personal view of the consequences of sin. My prayer is that these are powerful lessons that stay with them for a lifetime.

16.) Observing our church family invest in children who’ve had limited exposure to the gospel. We are members of a exceptional local church, and I have always been appreciative of the loving child care workers there. So while their care for our foster children has come as no surprise to us, I’ve been amazed by the way they go “above and beyond” at every turn. This has served to validate what we’re teaching the children at home, and to broaden their knowledge of the Bible.

17.) Proving God’s promised promises to me that His grace will always be enough, that His ways are perfect, and that His presence is my only true constant in this life. Knowing God’s promises are one thing; believing them is another matter entirely. Choosing to step out in faith and to put ourselves in impossible situations has opened the door for God to do the miraculous in big ways and small every day. And that is priceless.

18.) Cherishing moments with my biological children all the more. Our foster children have a weekly hour-long visit their parents. One hour out of one hundred sixty eight. That’s a little more than one-half of a percent. Their biological parents miss birthdays. They miss cold pink cheeks on snow days. They’re absent when their baby rolls over for the first time. They aren’t there to soothe scraped knees or teething gums. Being part of this process has taught be how to savor these moments with my own children. And yes, with our foster children, too.

19.) Being used by God to change the course of a family’s life. The goal of foster care is to reunify the family, whenever possible. By God’s grace, we have seen this happen twice so far. It is an honor to care for children while their parents receive much-needed help, and even more, to introduce entire families to a God who loves them and who wants to change them from the inside out.

20.) The question, “Can I call you Mom?” While I don’t want to take their biological mom’s place, I do want our foster children to feel loved. I want them to notice that I nurture them and care for them just like…well, a mom! While none of our foster children have yet given me the title on a long-term basis, the question has been asked more than once, and permission has always been granted. No matter what they call me, I’m thankful that they sense my motherly care for them.

21.) Loving and letting go. I know that’s a strange thing to say. At face value, it probably doesn’t seem like it should be something I love. Having to love and let go is probably the number one reason why I thought I would never be a foster parent. But God has a way of changing our hearts, and I’m so glad He does. Since becoming a foster parent one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that while life is transitory, love is forever. And that makes up for whatever heartache comes in the meantime.

Jennifer Clarke Jennifer Clarke

Loving child of Almighty God, adoring wife, homeschooling mother of three, and thankful foster mom, Jennifer is active in teaching and music ministries in her local church. She is passionate about encountering her Savior and about encouraging other women to do the same. It would be an honor to have you visit her at A Divine Encounter!

Find Jennifer on FacebookPinterest & Google+!

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