The Only Way to Love Foster Children
My husband and I have chosen a path to grow our family that is probably the most challenging one out there, foster care. Those two words alone make many people cringe. There’s a stigma with foster children and the foster care process that causes people to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to an entire world of possibility. Each case is different, but all follow a similar path—reunification with the birth family. Many families never consider fostering because of the heartbreak that is sure to be experienced.
We know the heartbreak. When we said goodbye to a child we were almost certain would become our forever daughter, our hearts shattered. As we grieved and searched for other options, we took a six month break from fostering. During this time, we were approved to adopt privately through several agencies and had become confident in our decision to abandon fostering all together.
But God had other plans. Trusting Him with our longing, we decided to continue fostering, called our social worker, and told her to place us back on the call list for potential placements. Our phone started ringing immediately.
To date, we’ve loved, cared for, and poured into more than 20 children, and we’ve let them all go, except for the two children we are currently raising. So many people question how we are able to love and let go. We hear over and over again, “How do you do it? I would get too attached.” I began to think, “Is too attached even a thing?” The truth is, it’s difficult to foster well if you don’t allow yourself to become too attached. Every child deserves having someone willing to become too attached.
Every child is worth at least a thousand heartbreaks.
If we won’t place ourselves in the place to be broken for them, who will?
I’ve often said, “Fostering is a journey of faith unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced.” Without a secure faith and trust in Jesus, we would not even attempt fostering, especially given our end goal of adoption. What if God didn’t think you or I were worth the ultimate sacrifice of His love? God was willing to become too attached when He created you and me. He loves each of us so much, He gave His all. In His eyes, we are worth it. Those truths challenge me to love deeper and to give my all, even when it hurts beyond compare.
The children we care for have experienced days far worse than our minds can comprehend. They arrive confused and afraid. They’re met with warmth and love. I can’t explain it adequately, but this love just wells up inside and flows out from our hearts instantly. Our goal is to make their worst day better in any way we can. Isn’t it ironic? Their worst day is a day we embrace and celebrate. We celebrate a new member joining our family, we celebrate their newfound safety, we celebrate their life—a precious gift we get to be a part of.
From the moment a child arrives, there are no typical days. Every child has parental visits, appointments, and court dates. We try to prepare for the fallout that always follows each visit. We hold our breath from one court date to the next, never knowing how the gavel might change our lives. Nothing is ever certain in foster care. We certainly don’t know what each new day will bring, but our hope remains, and our prayer the same...
“May our fostering lead to forever.”
The one thing we make sure is certain and steadfast is the level of love these children receive while with our family. We drop the “foster” label all together. While in our care, every child is ours. We are a family, a real family. We never introduce a child to other people as our foster child. They need to hear and see that they belong and that they’re not an outsider. Even the smallest children can process belonging on some level. These children are sons and daughters. A beautiful reflection of our relationship with Christ. God’s fingerprints are all over fostering!
We’ve taken care of drug-addicted newborns, neglected and undernourished toddlers, physically and sexually abused young children, and angry, troubled teenagers. We’ve taken on head lice in full combat mode, well into the middle of the night...more than once (no rest until there is no bug left standing). We’ve held children trembling in fear through the night as they’re terrified for any number of reasons. We’ve intervened in a teenager’s life, keeping her safe from sex trafficking. Nothing about parenting the children in our home is average or normal. We’ve gone from not having any children to having one or two at a time, and we’ve had as many as five at once (not recommended for sanity’s sake). A Masters in Organized Chaos could be added to our resumes.
We’ve also seen such significant transformations in many of these children. That alone pushes us to say, “Yes,” when those calls come in. Watching undernourished and dehydrated children grow and become healthy is so rewarding. Experiencing a hug from a child, who’s been so abused that their normal reaction to adults is to cower and tremble, is indescribable. Connecting with those same children the first time they’re brave enough to make eye contact is breathtaking. Hearing a child that was born to another woman call me, “Mama,” is extremely humbling.
For Christmas, I received my favorite and most treasured gift ever—a beautiful tree with all of the children’s names we’ve cared for so far. There’s a quote under the tree that sums it all up perfectly, “A moment in our arms, forever in our hearts.” Each child leaves a permanent imprint on our hearts, and we pray, most of all, they will learn to walk in the love of Christ which was poured over them every moment they were ours.
Lacey Hines is a foster mom who enjoys all things Southern, i.e. a glass of sweet tea served up with a good book on a porch swing. She resides in Blythewood, SC with her husband, the two foster babies pictured, and a third newborn addition since this article was written.