Yes, I’m attached

babywr

“I could never do what you do; I would get too attached.” This is what we hear. We hear it at the park, at school, and when we meet strangers on the street that eye us and ask about our diverse family. We even hear it from family, and dare I say, at church.

Every. Single. Time. I hear these words uttered, the phrase “’Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” broadcasts emphatically across my mind. Who knew Alfred Lord Tennyson would have such a lasting impact in my life. But this is not usually how we respond.

After fostering for seven years, we have learned to respond with love as these words tumble effortlessly off someone’s tongue. And to be honest, I say effortlessly because it is a shockingly casual remark considering the circumstances of the children in foster care.

Children are almost always in foster care due to abuse or neglect. Even when they’re not, they were thrown into a system that often isn’t moving quickly enough. (“Moving quickly” is a description that all participants agree is the minimum standard of action constituting the child’s best interest while in care.) The children are removed from the people they love the most and placed suddenly into a home with complete strangers.

Even if they are being abused at their home, they still fiercely love those who are abusing them. The abuse is all they know. Removing them from the one thing they know and placing them into something they don’t creates instability. The only thing worse than the instability and insecurity of removal is the abuse itself. We know that. Kids don’t. They have no idea why they have been taken away from what they know and placed in a situation completely foreign. And for many of these kids it will be many years, maybe a decade, before the reality of the situation is clear to them.

Our response comes to a few simple points.

1) Understand that when the child leaves to go home, this is called reunification, and this is a hopeful sign that the family is healing. The parents are addressing the problems that led to the foster placement. Rejoice! Rejoice with tears of joy knowing that not only was a child cared for today, but a family was strengthened for tomorrow.

2) Stability through attachment is critical. If you don’t attach to the child you are not doing your primary job as a foster parent. These children need healthy attachments and loving adults. All children need the stability of healthy attachments to loving and protective adults.

3) You are the adult and they are the child. You can and should sacrifice your heart for these children. Regardless of the age or developmental stage, all foster care children require shelter, bed, food (preferably meals with a family at a table), and clothing. But those things are not what make a GREAT foster home. They contribute to, but do not create stability and development. You must love. You must provide emotional, relational, and spiritual security. Yes, without love you can meet the minimum standards of foster care. But without love the child will go home just as traumatized as the day he entered care, or more so. (We think this is why most people reflexively reject foster care the way it is advertised; your heart tells you it’s not worth the pain to simply provide three squares and a cot!) It is much better for you to suffer emotionally a little now, than for the child to suffer emotionally, spiritually, physically, academically, and relationally for the rest of their lives. Take an arrow to the heart for them.

4) Did I mention attachment is critical for children? Healthy attachments lead to healthy adults. The only way to break a cycle of foster care is to intercede now, for people you don’t know and children you didn’t birth, and attach your heart to the children in your care.

5) Foster care is a ministry you can engage in at home and in your community. It doesn’t require approval from a mission board (although support from your church is preferred) or a passport. You have the opportunity (and responsibility) to help a child when they are most in need. If you are called–all Christians are called (see James 1:27)–then you should/must act. Open your home. Get licensed and get involved. Support others who are directly involved. Ask your church about how they are, or can be, involved. Seek out organizations that are helping (e.g. Go Foster!). Donate money. Pray. Pray some more.

Yes, it’s hard. I’m not going to lie and say reunification is easy on the foster parents or the other children in the family. It’s not. But foster care teaches us to love a child, to sacrifice ourselves and to step in and fulfill a real need. (And that’s something I want myself, as well as my own children, to learn.)

It’s also a blessing. Meeting a child, having them fill your home with laughter and tears, helping them cope and understand what is happening, investing in their life. It all makes sense. And it fills your heart and home with many, many memories.

If you have considered fostering a child but have had doubts due to the pain you may suffer when the child leaves your home, please understand that attaching to a child is positive thing. It should be seen as blessing, and not as a hardship. And more importantly, reunification with their family is the primary goal.

Over the last seven years we have fostered 15 children and today four of those children are currently in our home. We grieve the day a child leaves. But as the days and years pass, we remember all the fun and all the laughter and we look forward to knowing that we made a difference during that time of their life when they were most in need.

Advertisements

12 thoughts on “Yes, I’m attached

  1. Reblogged this on forlifeforloveforjesus and commented:
    “Yes, it’s hard. I’m not going to lie and say reunification is easy on the foster parents or the other children in the family. It’s not. But foster care teaches us to love a child, to sacrifice ourselves and to step in and fulfill a real need. “

  2. This blog pot really spoke to me. We are in the process of getting our foster care license for infant emergency care and I get asked those same questions, or hear those same comments regularly. I never quite know how to put into words exactly how I feel and you managed to do that perfectly! I think next time I hear it I will just send them a link to this post! We are passionate about this journey although we know our hearts will be broken in the process it is worth it to heal a small part of theirs. Following this blog! Thanks again for your insight and wisdom.

    To read about my family’s journey through foster care and adoption visit me at http://www.fost-adoptmyheart.blogspot.com

  3. Oh how I loved this post. I stumbled upon it while on pinterest. I too am a foster mom who loves her children dearly and am facing having to let them go quite soon after two years with us. I am having difficulty with the thought of them returning home, but I know the purpose of fostering is reunification. I hope that I have made a life changing impact on their lives, because I know they made one in mine!

  4. Hi Sherri. My name is Hollie and I am a Marketing Associate at Arrow Child & Family Ministries. I absolutely love this blog post and was wondering if we could share it on our website? While recruiting foster parents, we hear the “I would get too attached” line all the time. Your blog post provides great insight. Thank you!

  5. So true & well written. When faced with the same comments, I have quoted the Garth Brooks song, The Dance. “I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance.” Watching a little one blossom before your eyes is a gift from God, I wouldn’t miss that for any amount of pain.

  6. Love this post! I can’t wait to foster children in the future (when I am more stable). I currently foster cats and can relate to a lot of this still! Always hear “i don’t know how you do it! I could never!” When my foster kitty babies leave I cry for days but I keep doing it because it is worth it. I have fostered 26 cats in almost 2 years.

  7. Can I use this post at church? I want to share the joy and need for fostering at a service soon.
    Show your Christianity by actions.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s