On January 12, 2010, many of us watched in horror the devastation that had shaken the country of Haiti as they experienced an earthquake that ultimately claimed the lives of more than 100,000 people. As a young family, my husband and I were especially moved by the images of children – thousands of children orphaned at the hands of a single earthquake. While we had discussed the possibility – maybe, someday – of growing our family through what some would consider nontraditional means, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t caught off-guard by how immediate the need felt in my heart. If we were to chart our family’s move toward foster care (and eventually adoption), then January 12, 2010 served as our call to arms.
But let’s face it – we’ve all been here before. No one really follows through on things like this, right? From late night ASPCA commercials to radio telethons or our neighbor’s wrapping paper fundraiser for the speech and debate team, we’ve all felt that gentle nudge to do something. To be the difference. To change a life.
But foster care? Why foster care?
Below are my top three reasons why you should not consider foster care:
- The process of becoming a foster parent can seem invasive and overwhelming. Over the last few months, we have joked with friends that the only requirement for taking our newborns home from the hospital was being able to securely load and fasten a car seat with a nurse hovering over our shoulders. After being a parent for more than six years, imagine our surprise when we discovered the foster care licensing process involves 27 hours of classes, a criminal background check, a home study (talk about invasive…), a physical exam, and more. One or more of these requirements has deterred at least one family we know from even pursuing foster care at all. Like them, you may already be asking yourself, “is it worth it?” The answer is yes – yes, because these kids deserve more. If sacrificing our time and resources – no matter how uncomfortable we may be – guarantees a home (temporarily or permanently) for a child in need, then this is a sacrifice we’re willing to make.
- Foster children are messy. But isn’t every kid? No, I’m talking about the very painful baggage these children carry with them when they leave home: abuse, neglect, poor health, etc. Many of them have suppressed their hurts in ways that don’t reveal themselves until weeks, months, or even years later. Some would argue that these hurts will surface in ways that could be detrimental to our biological children – and while I will always go out of my way to ensure my children are protected from harm, I won’t raise them in a bubble for the sake of what feels “comfortable” or “safe.” The need is too great for that.
- Being a foster care provider is hard work. Almost immediately, families must deal with court hearings and doctor appointments and family visitations and therapy appointments – all this in addition to the day-to-day aspects of parenting a high-needs child. Many of these kids have been stigmatized by simply being part of the foster care system which creates a host of behavioral, emotional, and social issues that have to be dealt with on top of the issues they brought from home. That said, most anyone familiar with the needs of foster children would tell you the reward – knowing you’ve made an even momentary impact on a child or family in need – is more important than all of that.
So – why foster care? Two days ago, our family completed the four month process of becoming licensed foster care providers and welcomed our first foster child into our home. We have no idea what our next days will look like as a family, only that they probably won’t look anything like they have for the last six years.
And that’s OK.