Probably the single most obvious & consistent thing that could be said about foster parenting is that it’s hard. There’s not a foster parent around who won’t admit how challenging it is, and on how many different fronts. Signing up to foster means signing up for hard things: absorbing punches, carrying crosses, and generally accepting a whole lot of hurt just to help at least one other person achieve healing. No one makes it through the licensing process who doesn’t realize that this is what they’re committing to do.
But foster parents commit anyways. And why? Love, of course. Love is always the answer to this question. The kind of love that is so overflowing it just has to find those empty spaces in which to pour. Love that is so strong it really can endure the hard hits of life. Love that is so genuine that it absolutely cannot sit idly by when a beloved, even a beloved stranger, needs it.
People like to thank foster parents, as if they’re special for having this kind of love to give. But most of us know that we don’t deserve credit for this, and most of us are convinced that the ability to love in this way is not unique to something special about us. This kind of love does not just appear spontaneously from the depths of our own character—it’s just what we’ve already received from some other source, like our God, our parents, our spouses, or maybe even just our larger communities.
When faced with a child or a family who is experiencing brokenness that we can only imagine, we don’t step up to the plate because that’s what a good person does or something like that. We step up to the plate because we can. It’s that simple. We have something that another person doesn’t, and we know we can share it with them. A loving family, a safe house, a warm bed, food on the table, whatever it might be—it always begins & ends with love.
Foster parenting is not about being a good person or having a good heart. Foster parents are just ordinary people with ordinary hearts. Ordinary people who’ve received something we’re compelled by its very nature to pour back out in the world around us: Love.
And honestly, remembering this helps to keep me going. When I look in the mirror and think to myself, “I’m not good enough…” I remember that I don’t have to be. It’s not about me, my character, or what I bring to the table. All I have to do is the make the most of what’s been entrusted to me. My God, my family, my friends, and my community have invested something important in me, and all I have to do is make the most of that investment.
When I look in the mirror, I see a person who doesn’t deserve the love they’ve gotten, but who’s gotten plenty of it anyways. And when I look at a child in my care or their parents, all I see is someone just like that: a person with no necessarily natural claim on my love—no blood tie, no legal tie, not even earned favor or affection—just a person who could really use my love anyways. If that’s how generously I’ve been loved by others, then I know that I can love others that way, too.
And when I’m shown data about the foster care crisis in our community—the extraordinary number of families that are falling apart, the innocent kids that have nowhere to go, and the extreme shortage of folks stepping into the gaps for them—I know that I could just as easily have been any one of those people. And if we’re being honest, that’s true for all of us. If you were born to different parents, faced different challenges, were denied certain advantages, or lacked the love you know you’ve gotten, you could just as easily be in any one of their positions.
What would you want someone to do for you, or for your child? Exactly what my God and my people did for me: Love anyway.
There is an overwhelming foster care crisis in our community, and we cannot afford to lose a single person who thinks they don’t “have what it takes.” Odds are, if you’ve ever even thought about foster parenting, you’ve got THE most important thing that a child or family in foster care desperately needs: Love. And if you don’t step into the gap to offer that, you need to understand that no one else is going to take your place. We have a shortage of support in foster care, and that’s what a shortage means: There is NO ONE to replace the part that you could play.
You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be a “special person” with a “special heart.” You can & will make mistakes. You will most definitely have to do serious work to get through licensing & face plenty of obstacles in the journey. And if foster parenting REALLY doesn’t work for you, there are still a million other ways you can pour love into foster care—serving as a guardian ad litem, volunteering with a foster care support organization, spearheading a foster care ministry at your church, advocate, or just directly supporting a foster child or family with prayer, encouragement, mentorship, financial support, resource support, or anything else.
And I’ll let you in one last little secret… Most of the best things in life are also the hardest things. One of the ways you know they’re so great is that they’re WORTH everything they demand from you! Serving in the foster care community is one of those things. I won’t pretend the hardships get any smaller once you get started, but I promise they start to look a lot smaller when compared to all the hope, joy, grace, and healing they’ll bring you.
Just consider giving it a try! What do you really have to lose?
“To love at all is to be vulnerable.” – CS Lewis
Curious if you really have what it takes to be a great foster parent? We’d love to connect with you!
Our staff is prepared to answer your questions, talk with you about foster care, and help make connections to the people and resources that will help you to thrive! There is no guilt, no judgement, no pressure ever! This is not a journey to step into lightly and we want to walk with you along the way.
Contact us at [email protected] or call (864) 202- 6839.
Learn more at fgi4kids.org/care2foster
Want to connect with others on the fostering journey or considering foster care? Search “SHAREfostering” + your state on Facebook to see if there is a community in your area. Or check our Fostering Great Ideas’ workshops and training opportunities.