A common fear among foster parents and soon to be foster parents is how the decision will affect their children. They worry about the damage that could be done. How possible bad behaviors of the incoming children will or could affect the current children in the home. After giving birth to two children and while we were waiting for our first fost/adopt placement, my mind often wandered to that place. What if my kids resent me for bringing in other children? What if they are emotionally scarred for life from the loss of foster children? Will they be in therapy some day recounting the days of their youth when their parents took in children? These questions would keep me awake at night and caused anxiety in my mind.
Two amazing adoptions and countless foster children later, I can officially say I’ve wrecked my kids. There is no doubt in my mind that they will never be the same. If I’m completely honest, it thrills me to say that. Our decision to do foster care has completely changed our family. It’s shifted our priorities and changed our goals. Our children have become experts in foster care and can often be heard talking about court hearings, visitations and social workers as if its no big deal. They even educate their friends on foster care.
That is not the reason why I’m thrilled. I’ve noticed a shift in their hearts. They are aware of the need for babies to have safe, loving homes. They have witnessed and experienced diversity and families of all shapes and sizes, that it no longer fazes them when we see a family that isn’t “typical”. They have a “what can we do to help” attitude. The sad stories of abused children are no longer just something they hear about and feel sorry for, they have faces and names and at times, live in our home.
We recently had a family meeting, and I saw firsthand how greatly we have wrecked our children. We have had a shelter baby in our home for the last 2 months. Much longer than we keep our shelter babies. We have become very protective of her and have fallen head over heels in love with her. She has a horribly sad story of abuse, and a complicated case that will keep her in foster care for a very long time. The worker has informed us that she needs to be in a long term foster care home that would also be open to adopting her. She told us that she would like the baby to stay in our house, but that we would need to decide if we wanted to assume the risk of having her for a long time with the possibility of not getting to adopt her at the end. After much dialogue and prayer, we decided to let our children make the call. After all, it affects them the most. They needed to be aware of the risk and possible outcome of the decision.
We told them what was going on, and our oldest asked a question,
“So if we keep her in our home, we could love her and still risk losing her?”
“Yes, hon, we are taking a risk by keeping her in our house”
My third son, chimed in:
“Like you took a risk on me??”
Through a choked up voice, I croaked, “sweetie, you were the best risk we’ve ever taken”
My second son said, “and like we took a risk with Sissy?”
“Yep, we also took a risk like Sissy, but this might not end like hers did. We could keep the baby for a very long time and maybe lose…”
I didn’t even get to finish my sentence before I was cut off by 3 little boys chattering all at once.
“Of course we’ll keep her, she needs a home!”
“She needs a family and we have one for her!”
“Why wouldn’t we keep her??”
They then proceeded to burst into a chant, “Worth the risk! Worth the risk! Worth the risk!”
It was at that moment I realized that at their young age, they have grasped the very concept that I had struggled with for nearly all my life. They understood the call to action and were willing to put another person’s needs above their own even though it meant possible heartache for them at the end. They weren’t paralyzed by their fear. They only thought of the little life that needed love and a home.
So yes, I’ve wrecked my children. I have wrecked their hearts for the orphan. They will probably still be in therapy when they are older. But most likely, the therapy will be because of their crazy mother, not because they grew up in a family that loved orphans.