Since becoming a Licensed Foster Parent last April, we have received a huge range of compliments, blessings, admiration, commendation and a whole bunch of strange comments that I am not sure I would classify as good or bad. Strangers, family, friends…they all responded with shock and awe when discovering our intention to open our home to someone else’s children.
I discovered that Foster Care in general has a very harsh view of the children and a ridiculous view of the Foster Parents. I just want to focus on the view of the Foster Parent for this article.
A few people had the ridiculous opinion that most Foster Parents were in it “Just for the money”. While of course, there are always people that abuse the system, I am sorry. That is just ludicrous and NOT the norm! Foster care reimburses you for some of your expenses for the child in your care. In our state, most children get approx. $17.24 a day for care. That means Foster Parents get less than $1 per hour for caring for a child 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not to mention the added schedule of appointments, parent visits, doctor appointments, counseling, in-home visits, and the list goes on and on. Really. If Foster Parents were in it for the money, this is an extremely inconvenient way to make money!
On the flip side, and the side I heard much more often, “You are a Superhero!” or “You guys are such Saints.” Of course, these lines would most always be followed up with, “I could never do be a Foster Parent. It’s way too hard.” “I couldn’t fall in love with a child and loose him.” “Foster kids have too many problems. You are a saint to take them on.”
While I appreciate the compliments and encouragement. These responses make me so sad. And I have often wanted to reply to these high compliments and praise, “I am NOT a Superhero or a Saint!”
The truth is, I was scared out of my mind when we started on this journey. (Heck, I am still scared!) We didn’t start this process to become Foster Parents because we have some special powers or gifts or were stronger than others. Nope. We did it because we could not ignore the 13,000 children in Foster Care in Michigan (at any given time of the year) any longer. We had room in our house and we had room in our hearts. And frankly, I am pretty positive that as a Christian we are commanded to love the fatherless… (Something about TRUE RELIGON??)
The process was simple. Didn’t cost me anything but time. It opened my eyes to a whole new level of hurting children. Babies, children, and teenagers who were innocent, exposed to great horrors and hurt. They are judged and shunned and their whole lives have been ripped apart. But they just want love and stability.
I quickly realized during our process of training and licensing that this would be inconvenient to our life. And honestly, I wondered if this was really going to be worth the disturbing of our family and schedule.
In other words… I WAS HUMAN! We don’t have some strong reserve of super-human strength and never have doubt, fear, wonder, or become frustrated. It was God and determination to trust Him. That’s it. Jesus. Not me. Not a secret formula. Jesus and support from my husband and family and friends.
I sometimes want to respond very strongly back to the comments. When I am told that I am somehow amazing and you could never do what I do… Yes. You CAN! You just don’t want to. You don’t choose to. It’s easier to judge or give out high praise and walk away, content in your own life.
Maybe you aren’t called to be a Foster Parent. That’s totally okay. But you are called to love your neighbor! And these children need love. They need a friend. They need basic needs met. Maybe you could adopt one of the thousands of children waiting for a permanent home. Or you could donate to a Foster Closet. Find a Foster Parent support group and offer babysitting. There is something that you can do! Find out what that is, and DO IT!
The real Superheroes are the kids. The Foster Children who through the horror and hurt find their way and push through. Some of them really struggle. (You struggle and you haven’t been through half of what they have! Give them some grace!) Sometimes there are relapses. Some days are hard. But when you find love and it’s the kind of love that doesn’t let you down… You can really, REALLY soar!
The more Foster Parents that I meet the more I hear them say that they were the ones who were blessed. They don’t regret having loved a child (difficult or easy). They smile and push on. Not without fear, or exhaustion or even frustration. Every child is worth it. Every child whether my own or yours. And whether they are in my home or on my street or in my city, we should find a way to show them love.
And last I checked…you don’t have to be a Superhero or a Saint to love.
**For more information on becoming a Foster Parent find a local agency and attend an orientation.