We have been Foster parents for almost six years. In that time we have fostered at least 20 kids from newborns to age 14.
I know some foster parents who have been fostering for many more years than we have, and who have loved lots and lots of children through the years. I’m sure they could share a perspective that would be much more insightful than my thoughts. But as we transition again, I was reminded of some things that might be helpful for those who encourage their foster-parenting friends. I hesitate to share these because it feels like I’m asking for praise. I hope I do not have that motive at all. Honestly, we have had so much support! We have been abundantly blessed by a church family who has loved our kids and has constantly shown grace to us. So, it’s because of that encouragement we have received from friends that I share this. Their concern and timely words of grace have given us the strength we needed to press on in our commitment to foster hope.
Following are four statements that I believe most foster parents would like to hear from those around them. While this is a short list, I think it covers how most might be encouraged:
- “What you do is hard.”
Fostering may not be more difficult than what someone else is doing, but most foster parents are doing the hard work that many just don’t want to do. Letting them know you appreciate their commitment to the difficult task of parenting foster kids can lift the spirit of that parent who feels overwhelmed and unseen.
- “What you do is good.”
Becoming a foster parent doesn’t make a person holy. It’s not what creates a clean heart. In fact, there are some people who foster for all the wrong reasons and are more harmful than helpful. But for those genuinely and humbly loving and caring for children in the community who have been neglected, sometimes abused, and/or abandoned, it is right and it is obedient. And good. And even if impatience and frustration win the day, caring for an “orphaned” child day after day requires selflessness and sacrifice from foster families.
- “What you do matters.”
Whether a child is in a home for a few days or a few years, it is significant. Giving children an example of a safe and consistent environment offers them a look into something they probably do not know exists. Although many kids will go back to a less than desirable environment, forever etched in their minds is the knowledge that safe homes and caring families exist. And maybe that knowledge will produce a hope that never leaves them … that a better future is possible.
- “I want to help.” When a church family rallies around foster parents, the impact is huge. Supporting foster parents with your prayers, your words of encouragement, and your time is such a gift. Inviting foster kids into your home and including them in your family’s life reinforces what they see in their foster home. Engaging foster kids in conversation and showing you care demonstrates to fosters that Jesus people love each other.
Because we serve on a church staff, people know what we do. We have the benefit of a congregation of people who keep up with us and care deeply. But I know lots of people who have friends or family who faithfully serve Jesus through foster care, and do so quietly … way in the background. So if you know a foster family, reach out to them. These are just a few ways that we have been encouraged and supported, and I thought it might be helpful for you to know how you can lift the souls of those who are ministering in their communities in this way.
Thanks to all of you who love us from miles away. Thanks for your prayers, your encouraging words and your never-ending friendship.
“Foster care bears too much brokenness to be ignored and too much beauty to be hidden. Know this: It won’t be easy. It will be worth it. You can’t see everything. God is sovereign. You are not alone.” Jason Johnson, The Orphan Care Network