Many people have heard about the need for foster parents. But probably fewer have thought much about the needs of foster parents. My husband and I are in our 50s. We have been fostering for almost eight years and have had the privilege of caring for 13 babies and toddlers during that time. We are very much “newbies” in the world of foster parenting. But here are some things we’ve discovered along the way.
People our age don't generally have little ones in their constant care, so being a foster parent can tend to be a lonely experience. People our own age may overlook our need for friendship and inclusion, thinking, “They’re busy with those little ones.” And the people who have babies or toddlers the ages of ours are young, so we don't quite fit there either.
Comments we hear often are, “I've thought about fostering, but I wouldn't be able to give them up,” or “You knew going in that you would have to let them go.” While these statements are true, they are not helpful during the difficult time of saying goodbye to one of our foster children. Saying goodbye is very hard, even as the focus quickly changes to the next little one. Family, friends, and church members quickly forget that we just had to let go of a member of our family. If a family member had died, everyone would be understanding and expect us to be grieving. By contrast, although we have a painful hole in our home, we “knew it was coming.” And so we grieve alone.
When a child first comes into our home, it means major adjustments. Many of the newborns we care for are dealing with some sort of withdrawal from substances such as alcohol, which can mean six weeks or more of crying that doesn’t respond to comfort. It means little sleep and heartache along with night feedings. Older children may come with other issues that need to be worked through.
Contact with the birth parents can be challenging because we are called to love even those who are difficult to love because of the choices they’ve made that affect their children. We’re called to love those who sin, as we who sin are loved. It continually reminds me of how our Father loves us. We mess up over and over, and yet God loves us and continually welcomes us back to him. God also uses others to draw us back to him. Our prayer is that God will use us in the lives of the families we come in contact with through fostering.
Do you have foster families in your church? Please pray for them and each of the children whose lives they touch. Church families often show amazing hospitality by bringing meals to a young couple welcoming home their new baby. Perhaps your church could consider asking foster families what would be helpful when they are adjusting to a new child in their home. Besides bringing meals, perhaps someone from the congregation could offer a pair of arms to hold a crying baby or an hour of babysitting as foster families adjust to a new child in their home.
Romans 12:6 says each of us are given different gifts and abilities. If you feel a nudge toward this ministry, please look into it further! As difficult as foster parenting can be at times, the rewards of touching the lives of children gives us so much more than we give. And if that is not your calling or gift, please pray for, encourage, and enfold the foster parents in your church.