Multiple times over the past two years, people have shyly asked “What is foster care like?”
Mostly, the people asking were considering foster care themselves. And they needed to hear the good, the bad and the ugly before they jumped in any deeper.
I understand how they felt. I wanted the same thing when we were praying through the enormous, life changing decision; someone on the inside to bare their soul and lay it all out there for consideration. It helps take the edge of the unknown.
What is foster care like?
Foster care is letting go of life as you know it. It’s having things that were once important cut down to size for the sake of the more important. Foster care means changes. Lots of changes. And sometimes it means living differently from the culture around you.
Foster care is a humdinger on marriages. But it’s also an amazing environment for growth. It’s learning to fight alongside your spouse rather than against them. Foster care is the catalyst that causes you to cling to one another lest you both drown. It also means laughing, a lot. And crying even more. But doing it all together.
Foster care is watching your bio children’s world shift, and them surviving…even thriving…because of it. It’s saying I will do what God asks me to do, even if it means your life will be less cushy, less cozy, less comfy than it used to be. And it’s believing they will be better for it. That they will learn to look out for the vulnerable because of it. It’s hoping they adopt a faith that is countercultural due to it. Foster care is being amazed when you begin to see evidence of that very thing.
Foster care is having unexpected emotions toward bio parents. From grief, to anger, to deep, deep compassion. It’s seeing yourself in those you thought you never would. It’s wanting to shake them silly one minute, and take them under your wing the next. It’s motivation to reach the next generation before they suffer enormous hurt and loss and devastation.
Foster care is loving a child so much, it’s appalling. It’s having all the questions about whether you could love a child who wasn’t “yours” disappear. It’s delight. And joy. And a surge of protective instincts.
Foster care is wondering if you will ever love the new child like you do your others. It’s deciding that this might be the child that you pray to love, choose to love, despite your feelings. Foster care is tears, and frustration and driving around in the car for hours trying to get them to fall asleep. Foster care is realizing six months later that you’re crazy about that darling little thing. It’s forgetting what life was like before them and realizing your can’t see your future without them.
Foster care is trading your four door in for a minivan. And being totally okay with it.
Foster care is having a messy house. All. The. Time. It’s being embarrassed when friends drop by because there is just stuff everywhere, again, always. But it’s also learning that a clean house can become a shrine. It’s the chance to let go of that idol worship and embrace a bunch of little people and all the mess that raising them brings.
Foster care is being totally overwhelmed with laundry. It’s doing laundry every day. At least twice a day. And still not seeing the bottom of the hamper. Foster care is swallowing your pride and letting that saint from church take your laundry to be washed, dried, folded and delivered back to your door. It’s smelling those clean clothes while tears of gratitude run down your face. Foster care is letting others help, when you are usually the helper.
Foster care is being embarrassed in stores. At church. At the park. In the McDonalds playplace. Foster care is having children who act in VERY different ways. Foster care is wanting to announce to everyone in the vicinity that you aren’t an incompetent parent and explain all that child has been through. But you Can’t. Ever. Do. That. So you simply take the looks and learn to let it go.
Foster care is being overwhelmed. And tired. And emotionally depleted. It is loving your bed in a way that you never have before. Foster care is being really, really thankful for Kids Night Out and a date. And nap times.
Foster care is having more people pray for you than you can ever personally thank. It’s knowing there is an army on your side. It’s humbling and empowering all at the same time.
Foster care is meetings. Lots of meetings. And social workers. And lawyers. And a system you don’t understand and certainly don’t always like.
Foster care is feeling powerless. It’s having other people lay claim to a child who’s been with you since birth. It’s knowing you have no control over what happens to them in the future.
Foster care is a roller coaster. It’s terrifying. It’s stomach churning. It’s being certain that if this ride doesn’t kill you it will leave you beaten half to death.
Foster care is knowing God in a way you never have before. It’s feeling like you’re drowning one minute, and knowing He’s saving you the next. It’s learning to trust in new ways and for new reasons.
Foster care is a little girl who learned to walk and talk and sing and dance. It’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and books and “sippy cuppa.” Foster care is footed pajamas and hold me mama. It’s seeing the light come on in once dark eyes and watching what was dead come to life.
Foster care is a little boy with blond hair pattering through the house as fast as his legs will carry him. It’s tight squeezes around my neck and “mama mama mama mama” over the monitor when he wakes up in the morning. It’s rocking rocking in the middle of the night, my cheek resting against the top of his noggin. It’s prayers, and prayers and prayers and prayers.
Foster care is more thoughts, and emotions, and experiences, and love, and prayers than I ever thought I would hold in a lifetime.
I guess you can say foster care is more life. Abundant life.
Beth is Mama Bird to the four chicks in her nest; two bio and two foster, and Wife Supreme to one good-looking pastor. She’s quick to say that nothing in life has ever refined or challenged her more than fostering, and is passionate about sharing what she is learning with others. She loves writing at www.justbethlawrence.com.