“Did I tell you my son and daughter-in-law are getting licensed in foster care?” she blurted. She was scared. Angry even. She continued to vent, each exclamation a punch to my tender foster grandmother heart. But that’s where I was four years ago when my daughter told me that she was going to start fostering. I knew I needed to respond to my friend’s fear of foster care with grace. So in reply to her son and daughter-in-law’s decision, I said, “I admire them, really. Let me share some of our own foster care story with you.”
Why do we fear our adult children stepping into foster care? It’s the fear of giving up what we know in order to step into what we don’t.
My daughter, Lisa, and husband, JJ, could have chosen “one and done,” as parents to their beautiful daughter, Avery. Life could have been so much easier. Instead, they chose to step into the hard and unknown future of foster care.
These young marrieds were seemingly prepared for something outside of the ordinary having already survived a few gut punches of their own. A week after Avery’s birth, Lisa was back in the hospital fighting a rare bacterial infection. An emergency hysterectomy was needed to save her life. Two years later, still hoping for more children, a gestational surrogate attempted to carry for them— not once, but twice without success.
After going through all this alongside them, I suppose my husband and I were being prepared for more than what is typical as grandparents. Of course, as our family navigated through this unexpected and hard season of life, we were left with so many unanswered questions. We were unable to make sense of any of it, until foster care. Then, it felt like we were made for this! We finally had an answer.
We are a family of faith. I believe God had a hand in everything that happened to draw our family into foster care. It was our faith that got us through our challenges. You may not share the same faith as I do, but I hope as you enter foster care, you find support from the people you love.
Even still. It was a big step. I feared the effects foster care would have on both my daughter and son-in-law as parents and my granddaughter, Avery, as a sibling to kids who would come and go from their home. Would their hearts be crushed every time kids left? Hadn’t Lisa and JJ’s hearts and dreams been crushed enough already? And, little Avery was not even four years old yet. Should she be protected from this lifestyle rather than be introduced to it? But it was not my decision to make.
So as her parents started attending foster care training, I started looking for children’s books to prepare Avery for the upcoming change to her family’s routine. Since I could not find anything, my desire to write a help source for children whose parents were stepping into foster care was born. ‘It’s Okay to Wonder’ is now a part of Avery’s collection of books as well as a part of many other foster families’ books. It has become a resource that helps prepare three generations for their role in the foster family.
Yet, nothing compares to actual hands-on experience. When Lisa and JJ got their first placement nearly four years ago, the real testing of preparedness began for us. Their first foster child was a different race than us. My husband and I had been teens in the late 60’s and believed in Martin Luther King’s dream of equality for all people, but had our belief ever been tested so personally? This was a new dynamic that grew us out of our predominantly white culture. This little boy found his way into our hearts and made some necessary adjustments.
Every child who has come into Lisa and JJ’s home has made heart adjustments in their own unique way. Could it be that the effects of foster care I had feared for their lives, our lives, were actually effects we all needed to embrace? With these children in our lives, might we all be stretching our hearts to love bigger and love better? I think so. These kids have made us better versions of ourselves.
Foster care is not easy. Actually, it’s quite hard a lot of the time. I was certain my friend’s son and daughter-in-law would soon learn this. And, that’s okay. Families who step into foster care can do hard things. They need not be afraid.
Musical artist, Zach Williams, sings about fear: “Stop you in your steps. He will rob your rest. Steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire. ‘Cause fear he is a liar.” May you or anyone you know who is led to serve in foster care stand up to fear. Give those fears a well-deserved gut punch! And, let your loving heart swell.