After a momentary plight of speechlessness, I managed to stutter a few words to the new social worker that I could not give her a concrete answer. I really had to wrestle with this idea of permanence. After nine years of fostering, how did I forget that this question would always be on the horizon if the birth parents did not complete their requirements for reunifying with their child?
None of our foster children have ever stayed and we feel that God has called us to foster high risk babies (because there is a high risk of returning to their birth families) since 2013. We are not afraid of the inevitable heartache at the end of each stay. Before 2013, our intent was to adopt if need be.
Baby S has been with us for nine full weeks and we finally met her continuing county social worker last week. It wasn’t the social worker’s fault that we had not met her before. The first one quit within a week or two, then the county assigned a temporary one we never met, and this is the third and hopefully final one. She helped us to understand our new timeline a little better. Reunification is usually scheduled at a six-month hearing, in our case it would be December. If things are going really well with the birth parents, they will receive the child back on a 60-day trial. If not, the child will stay with the foster family for another 6 months until the 12-month hearing.
She’s the perfect baby, only crying when she is wet, tired, or hungry. She smiles constantly and brings a smile to everyone’s face who interacts with her. Any family would love her.
Most foster families I know desperately want to adopt the children already in their home. We, on the other hand, think twice before saying yes.
Why did I hesitate and stammer over my answer to the social worker’s question? Most of our other infants had gone on to live with birth relatives. We have not been presented with the possibility of permanence for about four years now. This is what’s called concurrent planning. A child can either stay if her parents don’t complete their plan or go back to them if they are successful. Most of our other infants had gone on to live with their birth relatives. This question had not been presented to me for at least two years now.
Babies grow up into toddlers, children, teenagers, then adults. More difficult parenting will be involved. What about potential behavioral and identity issues that come along with adoption? Ever since God changed our hearts to NOT pursue adoption, we never gave it a second thought. Foster care it is. We love it. We can pour our lives and our love into a child for a few weeks, months, or years, then send them back to their birth parents or relatives, praying and trusting that the Lord will take care of their future. There is a different kind of deep joy in seeing families reunify.
I really, really want Baby S to go back to her parents. They love her so much and are committed to all of their visits. I adore watching them interact with her, smiling and playing with her the way parents should. When extended family members show up for the visits, that makes my heart even happier.
My pastor preached from Mark 12:29-31 last Sunday, challenging us to love God most and to love others. God spoke to my heart that morning with the words of His greatest commandments.
“‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31
Even though I am 99.9% sure that Baby S will be going back to her parents, do I trust that God will direct our hearts if He decides otherwise? Do I love Him enough to believe that this slim chance of adoption may be in our future after all?
If I say no, Baby S might be moved to another foster family who would be willing to adopt her for sure if it came to that. If I say yes, I am committed, knowing that if we change our minds later, there might be more attachment issues in her future. We don’t want to be the source of more potential attachment issues.
We are commanded to love others as ourselves. It would be best for her to stay in one home until reunification. So I said yes.
If I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I won’t let my fears dictate my actions. A happy, bouncing baby today does not automatically translate into a happy, well-adjusted teenager in the future. (Yes, I still have battle scars from having a dearly-loved foster teen a few years ago.) However, I have no such assurance for my biological sons, either. I must love God with all my mind. Prayer will push me to remember to depend on our Father in heaven.
God loves all my children more than I ever could. I must not worry about their future nor my future. He’s got us all in His hands.
Note: This is just my thought process for our current foster baby. It is not my intent to produce guilt if a foster family decides to say no to adoption for whatever reason. God has called us all to different ministries, assigning us varied gifts, trials, and desires. Your journey is your own that God has paved for you.
Michelle is a daughter of God, wife of one handsome hunk, homeschooling mom of three boys, foster mom, foster blogger, and foster care advocate. Over the past 9 years, her family has learned to love their foster children deeply, yet hold them loosely. You can read more from Michelle at her blog, Loving Deeply, Holding Loosely.