Part 2 of Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started Fostering
This morning while I was looking for photos to add to the piece I wrote on “Things I Wish I Knew Before We Started Fostering, Part 1, Adoption is free through foster care” I could not scroll back far enough to find the content I was looking for.
I knew the day we signed papers for little buddy was November 3, 2017, so I scrolled as fast as I could to get to November 2017 in my Camera Roll.
The photos I was looking for were not there.
I was looking for the photos I took as Tim and I completed our foster care training, selfies I so happily took as we progressed in our journey to become certified foster parents.
They were not there.
It took a few moments of confusion to remember why, and that’s what I want to share with you here now.
The reason those photos were not there in November of 2017 is because we had been certified since February 2017. We had started the classes and paperwork in November of 2016, and it took nearly three months for the final background checks to clear.
It was ten months between the time we were approved and the time we said yes.
Please read that line again and think about it for a moment.
Then let me tell you this: we had gotten calls asking for us to take certain ones. Many calls. The first day after we were approved, I got an email asking if we would consider a five month old medically fragile baby girl with heart issues that would need to be staying in a hospital hours away for many months.
A part of me died as I read those words.
That was a real child, with a real purpose for her life. And I had busted my tail to get approved so fast, the urgency was just so great in my heart, I was so completely confused when that urgency stayed in my heart… but none of the information I was getting lined up to bring me peace that this was my “yes.”
What was wrong with me?
I could not deny the feeling in my heart that, as badly as I wanted to save this child and be the “yes” to end the phone calls for the agency looking for a family for her, she was not my “yes.”
My heart was heavy for weeks after that, and to this day every time I think of her, my Mama’s heart pauses to say a little prayer for her and the plan that God has for her life.
But I had never experienced any part of this Foster Care World, and the newness of it washed over me like cold hard water when all I wanted was a hot bath.
How was I going to reconcile these thoughts with my heart?
In the days after that email, I learned many things about myself and God. I had to acknowledge the parts of me that were people-pleasing, saying yes to others even when I knew I was strapped for time, money and other obligations. I had to acknowledge the parts of God that were never-changing. I knew the vision He gave me that day about my kids, and I knew the vision I had for my family. I re-read my reply email about that baby girl many times over the next few weeks. I knew I could not physically even do the job for her, leaving my four children ages 4-13 at the time to spend days at a hospital hours away. I knew I couldn’t leave my husband or my job, I knew it wouldn’t even be best for her, that her life would be a “duty” to me rather than a joy. I knew that in my heart. I knew it in my heart of hearts.
But it still hurt to reconcile.
No one in any phone call or email ever made me feel bad or guilty about any of my “no’s. And I know why now: They don’t want you to say yes to something that will eventually end in disruption and sadness and failure. They want you to say yes to the ones that you know are right for you, because you are the one who has to live it. And that child has to live with the wounds of another move, another placement, another trauma, another rejection.
And still the calls came. Another baby girl, this time needing medical care for the rest of her life. Then an 11 year old boy who was living in a group home for boys and needing a forever home. Then a brother and sister duo ages 9 and 11, not even officially declared “foster” children but headed that way so would we consider them?
I considered them. I considered them all. They were lives to be cared for, I was “certified” as a therapeutic foster parent and trying to be obedient, and months into it, starting to feel foolish for how often I just said “no”…
A couple times I got emergency respite calls, which were calls asking if we could take in children within that day, many times within that hour, because the foster home they were in either had an emergency happen in their family, a teenager needing some breathing time away from his foster parents, or a possible accusation that had to be cleared before the kids were safe to stay there.
Each time I got these calls, I can see where God had intervened. I would ask the questions for the amount of kids, the time needed, and ask if I could call them back to check with Tim. By the time I called the agency back, even if it was less than ten minutes’ times from when I hung up with them and ran to find Tim, they had either found another “yes” or worked it out another way.
I was both parts relieved and disappointed.
We said a few little “yeses” to respite care throughout that time, on calls that I had more than a few minutes to make the decision, and some visits were planned out even a couple weeks in advance so we could meet the kids and get ready for them. We got to spoil the sweetest little three year old boy for a weekend, and another time twin autistic six year old boys for a week. We ended up more changed than they ever could have been. It was amazing.
Towards the end of our Waiting Time before we said “yes” to Little Buddy, I was starting to really analyze what was going on, and wondering why I wasn’t getting the call that would let me know that this was “it”… was something wrong with my way of thinking, or was something wrong with my process? What had I seen in my heart so long ago, anyways?
Still God was silent.
I called a few of my closest foster and adoptive mamas to help me check my heart. They loved on me and encouraged me, and when I finally heard them out, I hung up thinking I was ready to just let God do His thing, and I would say “yes” to the next call I got as long as it was healthy for our family. One mama just broke it down so simply: “Just go meet him!” She said so full of life and excitement. “What have you got to lose?”
Those words stuck with me as summer turned into fall, and I was starting to think I had missed out on the plan God had for us. Month after month, we attended training, and whenever there was a guest speaker, they’d ask us to go around the room and tell them how long we’d been fostering, and how many kids we currently had in our home. It was so embarrassing.
Around the room, all we received were comforting, understanding and encouraging smiles, thanking us for our honesty at the hesitations and “no’s” but it was months into fostering before I realized why that honesty was so important.
The majority of kids that come in to care are hurt from so many different ways in life already. The very fact that they are removed from their home has created a trauma that they will never forget. You can also assume* they have Reactive Attachment Disorder, a condition that causes children to have trouble “attaching” or forming healthy relationships, with others. If you truly want to help that child, you will see that the greatest help in their healing process is time, stability and patience. You need to be committed to getting them the help that they need, and asking for help as you step outside your comfort zone and realize you do not have all the answers for what they need. If you are not “all in,” that child suffers not just from your lack of help but from a second-time rejection, that even the people who are legally supposed to care for them are not.
Children in the court system can move from foster home to foster home an averageof 4 to 6 times. Some children will move more than 15 timesFoster Care Statistics | – Kinship House
So I am glad for the “no’s” and the Waiting Time we went through before we got our “yes.” I know I needed to learn so much more about myself than any book could teach me, and so much more about God that any other experience could have shown me. I watched what the waiting process taught our kids, and it was a lesson I could never teach them on my own.
And when I scroll backwards in my camera roll nearly a year past the time we said our first full “yes,” I know I can use that part of our journey to encourage the rest of you that sometimes, the waiting process is the greatest part of what God is trying to accomplish in your life, if we are just brave enough to hang in there long enough to see it through.
*When I say “assume” they have RAD, I mean to say that we must treat every child with the mentality that their ultimate healing will come from time, patience and stability. RAD is becoming more and more common as people are understanding the way trauma affects brain development, and an official diagnosis, though important, does not negate the fact that children immediately have a need for these healing points in their lives.