Fostering Love: How I Learned To Be a Parent
For as long as I can remember I have always known that I had a calling for youth. There literally has not been a time in my life where my world has not revolved around youth development. From teaching children’s church, working in juvenile detention centers, volunteering in group homes, advocating for them in court as A CASA, and now as a school director – taking care of other people’s children has been my life, my calling you could say.
When my husband and I were dating we connected on the fact that there were so many children that needed love.
He worked as a football coach and, sometimes for days at a time, moms would ask him to keep their children because of poor behavior, them needing a break and more. At times, those days would turn to weeks.
In these moments, we learned just how important having a village was. While he was coaching, I was mentoring girls who were in group homes that longed for a family, love, connection and some type of hope. I would leave those meetings heartbroken, just wishing that one day I would be able to take every child in who needed a home.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing I want more in this world then to give birth to a child, and I know in due time that will happen. But I also have always known that my family was going to grow in unconventional ways, and that adopting or becoming a foster parent was not something to do in the meantime, that regardless of me ever having a child or not, I was going to be a parent and care for children in this way.
You see, deciding to be a foster parent wasn’t a difficult decision for us, but I know for a fact that neither one of us knew just how much we would change during this process. Weekly after each one of our training classes, we would have long and deep conversations about just what we were walking into, but each week we decided that we were going to keep going. Before we knew it, we were filling out paperwork, having our home visit, and suddenly we were licensed. Three days after becoming official we got a call about two children, a sibling set and we said yes.
Now, I want to knock down any misconceptions people may have about becoming a foster parent. The goal of becoming a foster parent is reconciliation, meaning they will go back home to their parents/family (at least that is the hope).
As a foster parent you become the village for the child, you are their safe space, you are not better than their birth parents and your goal is not to “take them away.” Your goal is to look out for that child’s best interest, help them heal from whatever traumas they have endured, build a relationship with their parents (if possible), caseworkers and advocate for them.
Your foster children become your children, they are not treated like the stepchild; they are your family no matter how unconventionally they entered into your lives. Every foster child’s story is different and though reconciliation is the goal, it cannot always happen, and that is when it can turn into adoption. This is ONLY after all attempts have been made to safely get the child back home. The reason I stress this, is because this has everything to do with them and nothing to do with your emotions or just how much you may miss them if they were to return home.
Our foster children mean the world to us, literally. We now have three of them and our world revolves around being for them what they need. Our weeks are often filled with parent visits, therapy, calls to case workers and more. We love them so much and honestly really cannot imagine them not being in our life. But over these last few months, we have cultivated a relationship with their mom, letting her know that we are on her side, being a support, sending pictures to her so she can still feel like she is involved in her childrens’ lives. We have grown closer as husband and wife because we have had to lean on each other in moments of exhaustion, confusion, or joy.
We have learned what unconditional love looks like as we have had the ability to fall head over heels in love with three people we did not even know six months ago. We have celebrated over milestones and grieved over them with the child who wished their mom was present. We have felt all of the emotions and then some.
You will find joy in so many things, but there will also be frustration, and tons of moving pieces that can make the day to day difficult to say the least. But, if it is something you have considered then I know this has probably been something that you have been feeling on your heart. There are so many children who need YOU and so many children who are waiting for people who want to take the road less traveled. Whether you choose to adopt, foster, or both understand that the selfless “yes” that you have chosen can literally change the path of a child’s life.
This has been a journey to say the least, one that has shown me what I am really made of. I know I am going to love the children in my home with everything that I have for as long as I am blessed to have them here. I put my emotions aside daily, and fight for what is best for them, after all that what being a parent is all about.