A dear friend considering entering the chaos that is foster care recently asked me for my perspective on responding to people who may not support your decision to foster. But what will it do to your kids? I think this question equates to: Is it safe? Will they be exposed to horrible things? Can you juggle it all? Will your forever kids still get the attention they need? And also, perhaps, a little of…I admire what you’re doing, and asking this makes me feel a little better about my decision not to right now. And you know what? It’s all okay.
Jax was not even a year old when we started the process of fostering. I wanted to scream – “NO, I’M NOT SURE!” when people asked if this was a good idea. The unknown is really scary. Seven years later, I still feel panicky when a placement is on their way. Jason Johnson recently posted this on his blog, and it spoke to me. I’m still not sure, but I’m hopeful. And, I will share with you what foster care has done to my kids.
So – yes. Foster care has “done” things to my kids. Some hard things. They know far too about domestic violence, chemical dependency, sex, and generally just the horrors of the world. Our dinner conversations likely don’t mimic yours. The language in our home can be colorful. This is all true.
It is also true that once, my 3 year old son woke up to three extra kids playing with his toys, and instantly said – “Hi, my name is Jax, and this is a safe place.” My three oldest children recently heard Charlie and I discussing how to make three extra kids fit, and they immediately began problem-solving and offering up their rooms to give strangers a safe place to stay. My daughter once watched a new foster child raging and said – “he must be so scared.” Scared. Not mad, scared. When hearing us discuss if we can manage a newborn, they simultaneously say, “we will help!” They know that often, doing what’s right isn’t doing what’s easy. That’s it’s okay to ask for help. That compassion is more of an action verb. That’s the world isn’t always unicorns and sunshine, and that’s where they come in. They are not saints – they have complained. They have asked when kids would be moving on. They have asked to take breaks, and we have respected that. Once, on day two of a “break,” we got a call that kids would be spending Christmas in a homeless shelter if they couldn’t find a placement. Our kids’ response? WELL WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR, GO GET THEM! And so we did, because that is what foster care does to our kids.