Home. That’s really what we are talking about in foster parenting. A place to rest. A place of calm. Consistency. A place where you can know love. A place of safety and security.
Thinking about foster parenting is hard. It’s difficult to think about kids who are without these very basic things we take for granted. Why would you take on someone else’s problems? There are going to be all these things, all these appointments, all this everything.
But it’s not about any of that. It’s about real, actual children. This isn’t a hypothetical anymore. There are children, right here in our community who are in need. Their parents are not currently able or perhaps not even capable of taking care of them. Parents may need a hand to learn skills in parenting, managing their time, anger management, life skills like keeping a clean house, making sure there are groceries in the house, or managing their money. The foster care system provides the space and time for a parent to do the work they need to do, and a child to be cared for in a loving, supportive home.
Do you think “I’m sure there’s somewhere kids go in a situation like that?” Well guess what? There’s not. There’s no such thing as some nice big happy place where kids all get together in a big school type setting and have a wonderful caring older woman who lovingly tends to her charges. This is it, foster care is the system. Individuals, like you, are who make this work. Kids don’t need an institution, they need real people. An actual foster parent to open their home and their heart, to let them know that there are adults who will care. Who can provide. Who will be there. Who won’t let them go hungry. It’s you. You are the person who can fill in the piece missing in their hearts where they know that all these things are supposed to happen, but they haven’t experienced it yet. They know other kids who seem to have these things, but for some reason it hasn’t been true for them.
Hopefully, their parent or family member will receive the training and support that they need to be able and willing to parent. The goal is to keep families together. Your role as a foster is to help during this transitional time. To model appropriate behavior. Show the child that adults can be counted on. That you will make promises and keep them. Food will always be available. That education and working hard at school are of the highest priority and you will help them to pursue their best.
When you’ve done your job you’ve shared your heart. You have to give it freely, and you send a little piece of you away with your foster child when they return to their family. In the time they spend with you, you can create believers. Believers who know that they are safe, that they are loved, that home is a real concept. You can change something in a child who might have believed that they weren’t worth all the things they deserve, that maybe they were the reason things were unstable at home.
You can do this. It is scary to take the leap, but you won’t be alone. Your agency will be there to help. There will be appointments, but they are by providers who are part of your network of supporters who also want great things for your foster child. You may have extra meetings at school to set up accommodation for a child who might have fallen behind or need extra support. If you do this for them now, they can sustain these positive changes when they return home and will have an added safety net of professionals who care about them.
Be the one who notices and does what needs to be done. Make children believe in goodness. Build community. Be better and more than you thought you could be. The most simple things you provide are the things these children need to most. You can’t regret sharing your heart. You can make a home.