You can’t expect what’s coming. You can’t anticipate it. What you can know is that, when you follow with God, He’s going to put steps in place for you. Whatever obstacles come, there’s going to be a way through.Jessie Gallaher, author of Many Thorns, Yet Still Roses
We spent over a year preparing our hearts for parenthood. We knew that we would be grateful for a new family member at any time after we got married, but there were certain things we wanted to have in place to be able to give our children the best lives possible. We wanted to be secure in our jobs, putting down roots in a good home, anchored in a strong local church, stable in our relationships, and truly ready in our hearts for all the joys and challenges that might come. We didn’t know originally that foster care would be part of how we grew our family, but when we finally started pursuing parenthood, we knew we couldn’t limit ourselves.
The foster licensing process is supposed to take 4 months or less, but delays are normal, and we hit our fair share of bumps in the road. After more than a year of preparing ourselves, it still took 7 months to get our license, and another month after that to get our first placement. All in all, we had as much time or more as most couples have in a typical pregnancy to prepare for our first new arrival. We made the most of the wait, doing our best to trust in God’s timing and to use our time wisely.
Then the moment finally came. I was at work, my husband was at home, and DSS was on the phone telling me that they had a little boy who needed somewhere to go. We said, “Yes!” And within a couple hours, our son was at our door.
We knew as we said “yes” that we could barely begin to know what that would mean for our lives, but uncertainty was just something we had accepted would be part of parenthood—especially foster parenthood. But something changes in your heart when uncertainty has a name, a face, and little arms that wrap themselves around you.
At the very first meeting, as I held our son in my arms, the investigator asked if we might be interested in adoption. It caught us off guard, as we had been told over and over and over that adoptions are unlikely in foster care, but we did our best to explain our position: We plan to always support reunification as the first goal, but we hope to be a permanent option for any children in our care who need it. I was conflicted about facing the question of adoption so early, because while we would love to adopt, we also want to give reunification a chance.
That was the first of the many times that we would be pulled in all different directions on our son’s future. Every child welfare professional had a different opinion about whether he was likely to be reunified, placed with kin, or adopted. We had been told to expect uncertainty, but we had not been told to expect this whirlwind of opinions.
For every opinion we’ve gotten about our son, we’ve also gotten one about his birth family. In such a short time, we have already learned their names, their faces, and snippets of their stories. We are learning that they have more than their fair share of challenges, that their own families and childhoods have been broken, and that they need love and support just as much as their child in our care. We picture them when we pray for them, when we write to them, when we send pictures through the caseworker to them.
After about a month of these ups and downs and all-arounds, we just started accepting the truth: We don’t know what will happen to our son or his family, but we do know that we’ll love them through it. That’s what we have to tell all the extended family members and friends who are falling in love with him, who wonder about his own loved ones, and who want to know—maybe even as much as we do—what will be the ultimate outcome of this situation.
It’s tough not knowing if that goodbye is coming unexpectedly later today, or three years from now. I have to prepare my heart and my head—and my biological kids—for these goodbyes, yet I never really know when goodbye is coming. But if the time I can spend with these precious children does anything to ease their heartache and trauma, I consider it a privilege to become attached, even if it’s only temporary.Sara, SC Foster Parent on compassion and judgement in foster care
It’s a hard reality to swallow as I rock this little boy to sleep each night, thinking about him and both his birth and foster families, but there’s peace to be had. Every day, I surrender the future to a God that I believe loves each of us more than we can possibly imagine, and I pray the best for us all. I remember that every moment we love this little boy and his family, every bit of our hearts we give away as we get “too attached” to them, and every sacrifice we make to help them through this challenging time—it all makes a difference beyond measure, not only for the children and families we serve, but in our hearts, as well.