It has been about nine months since we had our last foster children in our home. Since then, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of the seven kids that have come through our home and left to be with their forever families. I think of fostering again and I am met with an extreme mix of emotions.
Fostering children is a messy endeavor. Even with very open hearts, we have been stretched and depleted in ways we didn’t think possible. In the same breath, we have been grown and strengthened by the little ones that have taught us more about love and selflessness than we could have ever dreamed. Our children, as well as Scott and I, have grown in compassion and understanding. Don’t think this was easy to come by though. Dealing with the effects of trauma, physical wounds, undesirable behavior, attachment issues, night feedings, screaming, hyperactivity, not to mention all the people that become a part of your lives… all the social workers, therapists, doctors, biological parents and specialists and juggling all of life’s activities and schedules…. can take its toll on anybody. But, we learn from these experiences, inconveniences, and challenges. They make us better people.
I have been praying for the chance to be a foster mom again. We have recently been finishing the process of being relicensed, which is required every two years in our state. It is not an enormous inconvenience, but it does take work. Enough work to think, is this really something I (we) want to do again? The answer is a resounding yes. Scott and I have been talking to our four kids about opening our home up again to foster. We think it is very important to stay open with our own kids about where we are in this journey and listen to them express their ideas and feelings about it as well.
I started reading this book The Middle Mom by Christie Erwin a few days ago and I am already done reading it. It is a memoir of Erwin’s experiences fostering over forty children during the past fifteen years. Her family decided to start fostering through a private agency. Their particular fostering story started with taking on baby placements for 10 days at a time. They would pick up the babies from the hospital, sometimes even naming them. Then, the baby’s forever family would meet them at the agency ten days later. Then, after several years, the Erwin’s decided to work within their state’s foster care system. This proved to be a truly different and challenging experience. The placements were much longer. I enjoyed reading through case after case that Erwin and her family worked with. The Erwin’s ended up adopting two kids from the foster care system and continue to foster and be active members of their county adoption coalition and Pulaski County Heart Gallery.
I have found her writing to be extremely encouraging and interesting. There are so many feelings and experiences she shares within this book that I can relate to. I have been pleased that Erwin doesn’t just share the golden moments of fostering, but the true pain, loss and hardship it brings. She tells many stories from her journey that show the whole scope of emotions and the give and take that are involved in this ministry.
Fostering is truly a ministry, although I have never put those words to it. It is a chosen work that causes us to put others before ourselves. This isn’t comfortable or easy. To walk into what one knows will be a challenge is daunting to say the least. As we foster, it is our mission to serve these kids and live our belief that they deserve to be known, valued and loved unconditionally. They deserve a voice. They deserve a family that will cradle them and pour transforming love and grace over them. Erwin writes, “They deserve to be loved with everything I have as a parent: the sold out, no-holds- barred love, without the presumption of receiving something in return, without condition, regardless of their behavior, attitude or actions.” Not only are we ministering to needy kids, we are serving their parents. We are working alongside the birth parents to ensure that these kids are cared for in the best possible way until there is reunification or other arrangements for permanency have been made.
In our experience, God takes all of our willingness, inadequacies and flaws and works through us to transform foster children through His love. I still anticipate the next phone call from DSS (Department of Social Services) asking us if we will give a child or two a home. The most unnerving thing is that “the call” never comes when you have a clean house, you are starting a three day weekend, your pantry is fully stocked or your kids are all bathed and in perfect health and brimming with great attitudes. I have been asked if I am ready for the next placement. My answer is that I do not think anyone is ever fully ready. There is so much unknown wrapped up in a placement, we can never be truly prepared. I feel that we can only be waiting with an openness and readiness for service in the midst of our daily this and that. I know that if the Lord blesses us with the opportunity to foster again, I will be high and low, I will be pouring out and praying a lot. If He wants to use us, He will give us (our entire family) what we need in order to care for foster children. Does this mean I will make myself vulnerable? Yes. Vulnerable to make mistakes, to doubt, to fear and at times lose hope. This vulnerability also means putting my trust in God, putting my hope in Him that He will do amazing things in the lives of very needy children and work through this imperfect, often disorganized, simple minded and naive woman … a middle mom.