Discerning Foster Parenting

should i be a foster parent

Discernment is different for everyone. We all walk such a unique path in our journey to Heaven.

I stood in my bedroom, the hanger forgotten in my hand as I looked at the face of the child on the television screen. A foster child, asking the world for a home. It pierced through me in a way that the nearly twenty years since have not dulled.

How could these children be alone?

Where were the families to take them in?

That seed was planted. The first call outside what I thought my life would look like had sounded. It worked in my heart for years, slowly distilling into an urgent calling. Each Sunday, I would kneel after Communion and a weight would settle onto my heart: my children are out there.


Waves of life soon carried me further from the call. A wedding, a new life growing within soon after. Then came the baby who didn’t sleep, who always cried, and the waves of life started pouring in over me. Every day was a struggle for survival, the waves receding so slowly it took a year to look up and realize I once again stood at the bank. Perhaps I’d survived the worst, maybe we could consider another baby.

Slowly, hesitantly, like a fern, reflexively closing again at the slightest breeze, we opened our hearts to a second baby. As we crept towards our daughter’s second birthday, we began to wonder.

Is something wrong?

How could we get pregnant so easily the first time and now nothing?

Years of longing began to roll into each other. We took tests that came back inconclusive, we began to talk about adoption.

Joy and Loss

Then, unexpectedly, right before our daughter’s fifth birthday, I was pregnant. We had one day of transcendent joy. The long-awaited baby was coming. Our daughter would have a sibling, one she’d been fervently praying for since age three.

The next day, I began to bleed. Testing showed low progesterone, so supplementation began. But, on a Monday morning—the day I was waiting for the second blood draw results—everything shifted. A sudden, searing pain radiated through my right abdomen. The Holy Spirit urged me out the door to the hospital, contrary to my brush-it-all-aside-and-push-through nature.

My doctor discovered an ectopic rupture. I was bleeding internally at a life-threatening rate. I woke from surgery minus one fallopian tube and one baby. Both were gone. The loss of blood left me so weak, it was days before my emotions fully resonated with the experience.

The Call to Foster Parenting

In the wake of grief, I felt a firm push that now, now was the time. After nearly a decade of slowly growing in intensity, the call was sounding loudly. The answer wasn’t in us, it was outside us. It had risen to the level of an alarm bell in my soul, warning me I was missing God’s timing in our lives to resist any longer.

So, slowly, my husband and I began talking about fostering, what it would look like in our lives, whether we both felt comfortable with it. I somewhat jokingly refer to myself as the “gas pedal” and my husband as “the brake”. You need both for a safely moving car, so it’s a good pairing, but one that can cause tension. Perhaps it’s the holy tension of two souls making their path to Heaven. Perhaps it’s a little less holy and more frustration filled, depending on the day.

Discerning with Your Spouse

I walked around with an internal weight for months of the alarm sounding. My husband eased through information, digested it slowly, and moved to the next step at a rate that left him no doubt to his footing. I tried to force a wild scrabble up the cliff face.

This tension refined us in ways I didn’t anticipate. It grew our empathy for each other, it taught me how to be a better communicator, and to appreciate the way my husband analyzed the world (even on the days my impulsivity screamed out against it).

Even as I struggled not to be the pacesetter, the Holy Spirit clearly worked in my heart that I couldn’t walk this path any way but next to my husband. I couldn’t run out ahead, I couldn’t drag him along. We needed to be all-in together or walk away altogether. We would be a team or we would be nothing in this journey.

The day we walked into the agency for initial interviews, it was together. Aligned in purpose. United in resolve. This is where we should be, this was where God was leading.

Bravery and Foster Parenting

My jump into fostering was a wild leap with abandon, the resolute commitment to years of tension building in my soul. My husband took some time, made sure we had the information and resources we needed, and then he walked into it with the bravery and determination of a man who knows he’s embarking on a difficult journey. When I think of our path to that day of decision, I think he was the braver of the two.

Our foster placements have taught the hard truth these souls aren’t mine. There is no guarantee. They are what God is calling me to learn with each of our children. I must care for them, all-in, all the way until they don’t need us anymore. Slam straight into the wall of love and loss so that they can know the complete love we’re all striving to give our children.

People call fostering brave. For me, it’s brave like breathing is brave. It’s brave like being my whole self is brave.

I don’t feel brave. I feel worried and uncertain and blind to what my future looks like. We all have pieces of our journey that ask bravery, of which we’re uncertain. We all walk through some area of our lives with our hands along the wall, feeling for the next step. We all have breathless moments where the call on our hearts outweighs the fear and we run our hearts into danger.

I don’t know how to do it without getting too attached. We go in scared of loving and losing, we get too attached. We have broken places in our hearts of the children who have left our home. Yet, those broken places are precious. They let God in more than before, breaking us open.

Knowing If You’re Called to Foster Parenting

This call is the voice of God that leaves no rest until answered. The Holy Spirit called, increasingly loudly, urging me to jump. I could feel the unrest in my soul building until we leapt. Now, it’s the peace of the flight, the landing is left to God. It may be a crash landing where we are built anew again. It may be a sweet story of how our family grew. But always our hearts are growing in the gift of giving them away.

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Annie Tillberg is a work-from-home homeschooling mom. She’s faced secondary infertility, pregnancy loss, and the loss of a foster child after she spent 2 1/2 years with their family. You can find out more about her here.

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  • Reply
    July 2, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    This is so what I needed to read today. Mu husband and I had tried for several years to conceive and nothing. Then one day I found out I was pregnant. It was the greatest gift I ever unwrapped,but it wasn’t meant for me for God had called our child home before I held it in our earthly arms. We had tried to conceive again to no success. We to had all the tests and such.
    About a year ago after discussing on and off for years to foster children we became certified foster parents. We now await for the right placement. We have come close but I believe its not what God has designed for us yet.
    Today and many past days I struggle with gods plan for us, questioning if I’m hearing God’s voice correctly.. my knuckle turning white as I hold my hands in prayer tightly..
    I read this today and it was Gods way of speaking to me. Thank you for sharing your story.
    I pray for you and ask you to do the same.

  • Reply
    July 30, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    As a foster parent myself I appreciate this post. Discerning foster parenting took 17 years of marriage, 4 children and 2 miscarriages, it wasn’t a decision that we came to easily nor can it be. We’ve fostered 12 children now and each of them break us in new and different ways that only God can heal. Our current two we have had for 7 months, and none of it is easy. But God put us on this mission field and we keep facing what each day holds. Praying for you Colleen as you await your first placement.

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