It’s what everyone wants to know.
Where is his family?
Why is she in foster care?
Doesn’t anyone love them?
How could a mother or father abandon their child?
I can see it in their eyes.
Pity, judgment and confusion.
“They’re better off with you,” they say.
“I don’t understand how a mother could do that.”
“Doesn’t that scare you?”
I wish I could show them the other side of the story.
I wish I could describe to them the struggles of growing up surrounded by addiction, poverty and domestic violence.
I wish I could capture the joy on my foster child’s face as they run into the open arms of their mommy.
I wish I could show them how he cries every time he has to say goodbye to his Daddy, and the way his daddy has to turn away blinking back his own tears as we walk out the door.
I wish I could show you the bags and bags of clothing Mom has given me or the toys Dad brings…their desperate attempt to try to fix things.
I wish I could show you the pain I see in their eyes and the longing for some understanding.
The amazing thing about love is that it thrives even in the most unlikely environments. Even surrounded by chaos, it takes root deep within hearts. When yanked up, it bleeds out pain and raw anger at the injustice of it all.
You would be surprised to know that most parents of foster kids are a lot like you and I. Moms and Dads who love their kids.
Sometimes love is not enough.
Love isn’t always enough to conquer addictions and poverty.
Love isn’t always enough to change the trajectory passed down through generations of abuse and loss.
Love isn’t always enough to heal the wounds of abandonment and rejection.
So much grace is needed to see past the behaviours to the cause.
For a parent who is at the end of their rope, social support programs are sometimes enough to pull the pieces together.
If you know you are out of options, you will be willing to try almost anything.
But it takes a lot of courage to accept that someone else might know how to raise your children better than you.
It takes a lot of discipline to tear apart the fabric of your life and try to implement completely foreign patterns and habits into it.
I don’t know many parents who would react well to being told:
“You don’t know what is best for your child.”
“You need help raising your child.”
“You need to change major things about your life to be allowed to continue raising your child.”
“You need to move.”
“You need to break up with your partner.”
“You need to attend support groups once a week.”
We ask big things of these parents.
And we are right to…but it doesn’t make it easy and it’s important that we understand what we are asking.
From their perspective, they often feel someone is trying to rip apart their family and ruin their lives.
It’s hard not to feel attacked and lash back in destructive ways.
But under all that, most of these parents love their kids desperately and just need some support to pull together the pieces of a life that has disappointed, wounded, ensnared and deceived.
We often make the mistake of setting unreasonable goals for these parents.
We want instant results.
But real progress usually happens over time, with lots of support, plenty of chances and grace.
Sometimes the children will suffer during the interim…as they wait for their parents to become healthy enough to parent…and this feels unfair.
But I’m beginning to see that it’s so important that we don’t rush things.
At the end of this story, I want to be able to look that child in the eye and tell them I did everything I could to help salvage their family.
It’s so important that we, the foster parents, are the ones there to offer grace and let these moms and dads know that someone is in their corner.
I am still working at becoming this kind of foster parent.
They are often intimidated, frightened and bitter when they meet us…so it’s a big shift to show them that we are not the enemy.
But if we can…
Well…we might just be able to be the babysitter they call when that little one returns home.
We might just be that friend they text, send photos and vent to on a difficult day.
We might just be that ongoing support that every parent needs through the long days of parenting.
We might just get beach days and walks and playdates at the park.
We might never hear from them again, except to watch them grow from afar on social media, their eyes alight with happiness through the camera lens…
and in that moment…
even when it’s obvious that not all is perfect…
we will know it is right and good.
God came up with this perfect design and called it a family.
The blood bonds that run through our veins are powerful and precious and should be fought for fiercely!
I know that it doesn’t always work.
And I know that it’s a bloody, awful mess in the process.
But if it works…
if it works…
we have just done something extraordinarily beautiful.
It’s called redemption.