You’ve heard it said and may have even said it yourself, “I could never do foster care because I am afraid I will get hurt.”
I said it too—in the face of a three-month-old, injured boy who is now our youngest son, Charlie. Honestly, I believe the fear of the unknown is a great barrier to deciding on becoming a parent.
When our family ventured into the unknown, I believed that controlling the outcome with adoption would lessen the fear. We had already been through the adoption process. Our first experience had been fairly “easy.”
When we arrived at that first foster placement call on a Thursday night about an hour after we had gone to bed, this was where the rubber met the road.
“Jami, we have a placement request,” the voice on the other line said.
I groggily inquired, “Is he adoptable?”
I recall the silence from the caseworker and then her response, “I don’t know Jami, but he’s injured, and he is here all alone. Would you sit with him until we know more? Or should I call someone else?”
In hindsight, I am glad I asked that question.
Having said and felt this way, I can identify and confess that it was a scary place. The idea of giving your heart and life to someone who may not stay is terrifying. That fear is legitimate.
In Charlie’s case, I went and sat with him in the hospital that night. The two years that followed turned into an emotional roller coaster ride. I cannot write this and not be honest about that aspect of it. And in the years since that first call, we have experienced the loss of a long-term placement, one we hoped to adopt.
But it is those hard stories where I also grew in my understanding of the need for more foster parents who love well and provide sanctuary for children in need. Knowing myself, my fears and my weaknesses allowed me to grow in the process.
Certainly, there are no guarantees in life. Bad things happen to us all, whether we sign up for them or not. This was most apparent to me that night in the hospital, holding an injured baby boy who was oblivious to the struggles I was facing all while falling in love with him.
I am not flippant in my understanding of the statement, “I am afraid to do foster care.” However, I am most passionate about the calling of being a foster parent. I am cognizant of the idea you may grapple with a love for children and the hope of ministering to them on a deeper level. And yet, what if?
Society will offer a would-be foster parent a multitude of scenarios that make it seem like a very bad idea. “Guard your heart and hide the matches,” and yes, I heard those suggestions too. There is the proposition that it is dangerous and all the stories about so and so’s cousin and the awfulness they encountered through foster care.
But I would propose those stories are fewer than the amazing stories—ones where families were created, successes were met and love conquered the impossible. In a Google search-driven world, it is easy to find the negative, even when the positive news is plentiful.
Furthermore, it has been my experience that people believe foster families have a superpower that keeps them from being hurt. I can testify that we do not. We hurt, and just like the rest of humanity, we have the capacity to heal. I want to be so bold as to say you can too.
The tug at your heart when you hear the stories of suffering, even the scary parts, could very well be a calling to venture into the unknown. In our journey, that is where we have seen the greatest benefit. Our family grew in numbers, but it also grew in compassion and bravery.
Braving something new is always hard. But what happens to the person who isn’t willing to try something new or difficult? Furthermore, what happens to children in need when no one is willing to take the chance?
Our family was not convinced to wade into these waters by the hard stories. We heard them and heeded the warnings. Instead, as a family, we braved the unknown because we saw a need, held that need in our arms and said “yes” in the face of the broken.
Support from family, friends and our foster care community strengthened the weak places. Ideally, there would have been resolute and happy endings in every story. But I would encourage you to recount hard times where you grew in love and ability. Furthermore, I would say, in both good and bad, opening our hearts and minds to foster care has been one of the greatest experiences we have encountered.
The choice to further investigate foster care may yield the truth that it is not for you and your family. Before you decide you can’t, take time to investigate for yourself. Talk to an agency, your pastor and a few active foster care families. The experiences and wise counsel of others who understand the fostering journey might be exactly what you need to venture into these waters and bless, and most certainly, be blessed.
Jami Amerine is an author, speaker, blogger and artist. She has two books, Stolen Jesus, an Unconventional Search for the Real Savior and Sacred Ground Sticky Floors: How Less than Perfect Parents Can Raise (Kind of) Great Kids. She and her husband, Justin, have six children and live in North Houston. Jami holds an undergraduate degree in Family Consumer Sciences and a master’s degree in Education, Counseling and Human Development. She and her husband are advocates for foster care, adoption and foster care reform.
If you’re interested in learning more about foster care and how you can begin your journey, visit Upbring.org/FosterInfo. If you would like to submit a guest post for our consideration, please contact [email protected].