“Think nothing else but that God ordains all, and where there is no love, put love, and you will draw out love.”
This quote from Saint John of the Cross articulates my journey as a foster parent in a much more profound way than I could ever muster up. Loving these children has revealed to me a depth of the Father’s love I had not previously known.
Growing up, I had foster siblings in and out of our home. My parents adopted five of my siblings through foster care. They have been such a blessing to us in ways they will never know. I began my own personal foster care journey several years ago and it has been a hold-your-breath, learn-to-juggle, experience tears-and-laughter journey up to this point.
My Foster Care Journey
There are much more experienced foster parents out there, which makes me perhaps under-qualified to share. But here are 6 (of the many) lessons I have learned from this beautiful journey.
The Lord’s timing is providential and even miraculous.
After being licensed as a foster parent, I thought I would have a child placed with me that day. I waited in joyful anticipation for a year and a half for my first placement (albeit not very patiently at times during that painful waiting period). I said “yes” to over fifty children I received calls for.
Each time I said yes, I would start preparing my home and heart only to be let down when I didn’t receive a call back. Ironically, when my first sweet kiddo came home with me, it was at the start of one of the hardest seasons of my life. My foster son’s presence during that time was astonishingly providential in ways I could have never imagined.
As the psalmist says in Psalm 91:1:
he that dwells in the secret place of the most high God shall abide in the presence of the almighty.
Some of the most beautiful work done in your life will be in a waiting season at the foot of the Cross. Jesus used this waiting period to reveal to me that His timing is inscrutable and His ways are unfathomable.
You will get “too attached."
I often hear people say they would like to do foster care but “can’t” because they will get too attached. Simply put, I have learned that yes, yes you will get too attached. That is the exact point of all of it: to love someone like they are your own child.
Despite a child’s length of stay, attachment is just the beautiful by-product of loving someone unconditionally and without barriers.
Every story is unique.
Foster care is not a “one size fits all” journey. Some children will reunify with biological parents and some will be adopted; some are sexually abused and some are addicted to narcotics; some will want to call you "mama" and some will hate you; some will come with twenty broken bones and some will come home with you from the hospital at birth; some will need therapy and some won’t; some will come with a pillow case of belongings and some will come with nothing.
This is a glimpse into the exponential uniqueness of each child you may encounter. The Lord has been so sweet to help me understand that everyone’s journey as a foster parent will be unique because every child is unique. I was reminded that each child is not defined by any label describing their past or current situation, namely, “a foster child.” They are fearfully and wonderfully made children of God who need to be loved just as Christ loves us.
There is someone who loves these children even more than I do.
There are times throughout foster care that I have felt like my heart is shattering for these kids. At moments, I have felt like I am in a white, padded, sound-proof room screaming for my child’s voice to be heard, but to no avail.
It is in these moments that I drop to my knees and surrender them to a Father who loves them even more than I do. He has not forgotten them and it is here that the only thing I can do is obediently say “thy will.”
Loving through foster care is a glimpse of biblical love exemplified by Jesus’ foster father, Joseph.
After a court hearing, it dawned on me that, in the eyes of the “system,” my role is inconsequential. The magistrate took a roll-call of everyone in the room. There were probably twenty named adults who were in charge of making decisions for this child. However, when referencing me to the court recorder, I was a “caretaker” present.
I was in disbelief.
There was not a single other person in the room who knew how many times a night my child woke, what soothed him when he was inconsolable, or where to find the banana teether he loved. II believe it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that some may not have known his full name. I was an unnamed adult with opinions that would never be taken into consideration. I was a walking zombie trying to juggle single motherhood, military life, and all of the demands of foster care.
My pride wanted someone to congratulate me for everything I was pouring into this child. When no one cared who I was, I was dumbfounded... and then convicted. It was at this moment the Holy Spirit challenged me to ponder the life of Joseph, the foster father of Jesus. Joseph was never "the hero." In fact, there is very little found in Scripture about Joseph. We know he was obedient, a man of pure character, and a carpenter. Apart from this, there is very little revealed about someone who raised the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I began to imagine Joseph gently reminding Jesus to slow down as a rambunctious toddler running through the streets of Nazareth or teaching Him how to tie His sandals or imparting carpentry wisdom with this gentle spirit. This man was the definition of humility, pouring into raising a Child without the demand for recognition.
Jesus stopped me in my prideful tracks to show me foster care had nothing to do with me. It had everything to do with Him and His love for these little ones.
The system needs us.
There are nearly half a million kids in foster care in the United States alone on any given day. Sadly, the system will fail many of these children due to a lack of resources and being overburdened and underpaid. These children need people to step up and fight for them as foster parents, case workers, guardian ad litems, court-appointed special advocates, volunteers, donators, and prayer warriors.
We live in a time where it is hard to hear past the din of society advocating for everything but a wholly-supported right to life. I want to gently encourage everyone to contemplate in holy discernment how the Holy Spirit is convicting us to open our homes, our wallets, and our hearts to help foster children during a time that is in desperate need of the Church to rise up and say, “Here I am Lord, send me.”
Any other foster parents out there? What have you learned throughout your journey?
Written by Sarah Falvey.