With 450,000 kiddos in the foster care system across the United States they need our help. Whether you are donating, volunteering or becoming a CASA, it really takes a village. These children are our future and addiction, abuse, instability and neglect are destroying them.
Since stepping into this world 3 ½ years ago, I realized the magnitude of the need. Over the years I have collected a variety of responses from people when they find out I am a foster parent. As I describe my eclectic family of 7 I have found that most people’s response often seem to come from one of two places; a guilty conscience of sorts or an over the top for enthusiasm that I am this “saint” doing an amazing thing. I am quick to brush off the “saint” comments not because I can’t take a compliment but because in all honesty I am not a saint, I am just willing. There is nothing more special about me that makes me more capable than anyone else. The longer I am in this world, the more I see how much they need us and that fuels me.
My life has radically changed since stepping into this world, I walked through a door and saw things that changed my whole perspective about the world of foster care. I saw and heard things I can’t unsee, faces I can’t forget. I am writing this post, balancing my fearful pre-mom months with my adoptive/foster mom experiences. I will tackle some of the most common responses I get from people when they find out how I have built my diverse family. I will call them Naive Jules and Seasoned Jules.
“I have thought about doing foster care but I haven’t because…”
“...I could never say goodbye.”
This one was so hard for me and honestly my greatest fear, Naive Jules would lay awake at night knowing my heart was going to break. I spent the first several months of my parenting experience being territorial, insecure, clutching tightly to any security I could grasp. Little One leaving the first time was my first loss experience, I sobbed as I prepared to have her exit our home in two short hours. I grieved and grieved, that one was a sucker punch to the soul, my heart physically ached for months. That struggle produced really good fruit in my soul, I came back stronger, braver and with more love.
One year later when Little One left our home for the second time (she came back to us 7 months after leaving the first time) my Seasoned Jule’s hand began to loosen it’s grip, I was beginning to figure out my heart a bit. Learning how to love well and let go. The crew and I had a conversation the other day about the price of love, how costly it is but how worth it. I have learned this is true. The cost of loving well means that my heart aches a lot. I feel things deeply and really have very little control over this heart of mine. It isn’t easy, counting down days to goodbye, wondering each time the phone rang if it was bad news, dreading each court hearing, all while fighting the thoughts that plagued my mind. I have learned that the more I love somehow the more love there is. When Baby was just 2 weeks old I remember holding him and just sobbing realizing that I had “accidentally” fallen in love with him. I knew the cost of that reality, it was going to hurt like hell to say goodbye. The truth is I fall hard and fast for all of them, I see the risk, I know the risk. My soul knows that loving them well into a place that hurts is a risk. They deserve me to take that risk, for I may be the only heart out there that breaks for them.
“...I worry about the influence of foster kids on my kids.”
Now, I must start this portion with the perspective that both Naive and Seasoned Jules does not have the desire for biological kids, nor do I have any biological kiddos. I recognize my perspective is slightly different on this one, I have built my family entirely through adoption/foster care. My children are 100% percent my children, I do not imagine I would love them any differently if they were grown in my womb but what I do realize that there is a level of innocence that exists in children who have not been traumatized.
Most of my children have come to me with pre-existing conditions of trauma, I spend most of my parenting trying to rewire their neural pathways and pack in innocence. I think my experience with bringing perfect Baby Boy home from the hospital has taught me how to parent an innocent, “pure,” clean slate, sweet baby. That reality stirs in me a whole new layer and desire to protect from everything, in hope that he doesn’t ever experience a fraction of what his siblings have. Naive Jules was able to just love kiddos well with no concern on the change it would have for other children in the home. Seasoned Jules has watched as our family has grown by another 3 after the adoption of the crew.
Our journey into foster care has switched from my journey to our journey, we love well as a family. I have watched the beautiful gift of my Crew opening wide to love new members of our family. They jump in wholeheartedly and with such grace and compassion, they inspire me. I have realized what a missed opportunity this would have been had I not allowed us to do this together. I am confident I am raising a crew that knows how to love well, that is compassionate and kind. They have learned to live with arms wide open, beckoning the world around them. They know first hand the ache and fear these little people feel.
“...my spouse would never agree to it.”
Naive and Seasoned Jules don’t have a spouse, so in this realm I make the decisions for my family cautiously stepping to ensure I keep us safe, balanced and thriving. I don’t factor in a spouse’s opinion but I do let my crew share their opinion on us taking calls on kiddos.
If you have a spouse who isn’t ready to jump into foster care there are so many ways you can help. You can get certified to do respite care, which is temporary care to help support foster parents. You can befriend a foster family and support them in tangible ways, join them for dinner and hang out, read with the kids and playing sports. You can volunteer for organizations like CASA, who advocate for kiddos. There are so many ways you can support this system beyond being a foster parent.
Naive Jules rode this statement my entire 20’s knowing I would do it someday but couldn’t imagine myself doing it as a single woman. Seasoned Jules realizes this journey has been hard yet, I believe that you will be blessed if you choose to step into this world. You will be challenged, changed and be pressed. You will see fruit unlike any other, born from seasons of great pruning and storms. The need is great and the time is limited. Yes, there will always be kiddos in foster care but for every kid that ages out of the system without the stability of a forever family enters into society, repeating the same cycle of brokenness. These children, here and now are our future.
“...I am worried about the behaviors these kids have.”
Naive Jules feared the things that I saw in the news, those stories that happen and make you sick. Like most things the media highlights the worst. There are some kiddos who have been hurt by life experiences and they have never recovered, that paired with unhealthy coping skills can be toxic. There are kiddos who have remained sweet despite the hard road they have walked. There is no such thing as a ruined kid, a broken kid or even a lost cause. These kids are hurting and have experienced things that most adults couldn’t process, trauma mixed with minimal coping skills makes for some pretty rough behaviors but I have found that stability, love and structure heals a multitude of hurts. It is not easy, it isn’t always a happy ending but in the small daily wins, when you see them start to change you are reminded to hope.
If your heart is stirred for foster care, orphans or adoption, press in. The need is great.