The Case That Broke Me (Foster Siblings Leaving)

A previous version of this story was published in The Foster Care Survival Guide by Dr. John DeGarmo. I revised the story to share with you here. If you have read it before, I hope you will read this to get a fuller sense of the story.

The world of foster care can never be fully comprehended outside of diving headfirst into it. Nevertheless, my parents did their best to give me an understanding of what becoming a foster family would be like. They had often talked about people in need, including children in foster care. My tween siblings and I were fascinated with the idea of foster care.

Nothing could prepare me for the reality of two little sisters who arrived at our door. The toddler had eyes of wonder and confusion. Though she was wary of my parents, she warmed up to my siblings and me as we brought her toys and played with her.

That worked out well because my parents were busy with her infant sister. The baby was suffering the effects of drug withdrawals. She would tremor, break out into sweats, squirm, scream, and bat away her pacifier. We tried literally dozens of different pacifiers to help comfort her. It took weeks and weeks for her to finally overcome the withdrawals and gain a healthy weight.

Though my parents did not share all of the details of the girls’ case, they would try to prepare us for the changes that might happen. As the girls began more visits with their parents, my parents told me that the girls might be reunited with their parents soon. If the girls were returning from a difficult visit, my parents would remind my siblings and me that the girls might act out because of the tough stuff they had to deal with.

As time passed, different people dropped out of the girls’ lives. It was a messy situation. After a particularly rocky month, the county asked if our family would be willing to adopt the girls.

Although my parents prefaced this new revelation with caution and “this is only an option and not for sure,” my heart was dancing with the possibility. These girls, my sisters forever? Yes, please!

The more I looked at it, the more I thought it was perfect. We knew the girls’ likes, dislikes, and unique personalities better than anyone it seemed. They had been living with us for over a year. They seemed to fit into our family completely.

Then one evening, we got a call. With only hours of warning, my family had to pack up all the girls’ belongings. A social worker arrived in the morning and took them to live with a relative. I haven’t seen them since.

After all of that love, with one call, my sisters were gone.

It was hard. The grief was lonely. Not many people understood what we were going through. Even within our family, each of us coped differently.

Then another call came.

My parents sat our family down and explained that there was another set of siblings that needed somewhere to stay. These new children needed a temporary family just as much as the shy toddler and screaming infant had. Just like the girls, these children could not control how long they would stay with us, but they needed a family in that moment who would love them even if it hurt in the end.

So we loved them too.
Even when they were set to move home, we loved them.
And even when it seemed they would move to relatives, we loved them.

Though I was broken by what had happened before, I learned something as I moved forward. When you choose to love again, you are truly thinking beyond yourself and beyond your own pain to meet the needs of someone else. That is love. And love, even when it costs us, is exactly what children in foster care need. When we love children, despite the costs, we are showing them that they are worth the cost of love.

Next time you think “I would get too attached” or “I would be devastated when they leave;” ask yourself also:

“Do I believe children in foster care are worth the cost of love?”

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ReMoved #3

At the end of the day, foster care is about the children in care.

Or at least it is supposed to be.

Through the noise, rhetoric, media spotlights (and ignorance), opinions, horror stories, rose-glasses stories, and all the other noise about foster care comes the ReMoved videos. Each of the short films brings the narrative back to focus on the children in foster care. The storylines revolve around the child’s perspective and experiences, which are so often forgotten or overlooked.

ReMoved #3

The third and most recent film centers around a young boy, Kevi, who enters foster care. The story shows the emotions and struggles of a single mom trying to take care of her son, a foster family taking in a child, but mostly on the boy himself as he struggles to reconcile these two situations and the competing emotions that come with being a part of two worlds.

Full disclosure: It took me like 4 days to watch the whole video. I kept having to pause it because I was crying. I had been one of those little girls- foster sister to children in my home- and then watched those children leave. I cried because I had loved, they had left, but love is never wasted.

Are you a new foster family? Have you been a foster family for a while? Do you wonder why anyone would be a foster family when the child will leave? Check out the video.

Just a warning: you may need tissues…

No sponsored post here– just wanted to share a resource I found useful!

“The Foster Care Survival Guide” Review

Foster parenting is hard.

Yep, you’re allowed to say that. Being a home for children in foster care is rewarding; needed; and hard. The journey will stretch you more than you ever imagined.

So what do you do when your foster child’s parents don’t show up for a visit and the child is heartbroken? What might Reactive Attachment Disorder look like in a foster child? Should you really make an effort to have a relationship with your foster child’s parents?

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The Foster Care Survival Guide:
The Essential Guide for Today’s Foster Parents

Continue reading ““The Foster Care Survival Guide” Review”

4 Verses that Prepare Your Children for Being a Foster Family

I was barely a teenager when my family began taking in foster children— and it changed my life. I had a front-row seat to the foster care system in all of its successes, failures, and realities. During my teen years, I rocked many babies to sleep, helped toddlers take their first steps, and played board games with my foster siblings.

While being a foster family had positive aspects, it also had difficult parts. Children came from tough situations and had sad stories. Our family sacrificed many of our own wants in order to provide for foster children’s needs. It was hard.

Continue reading “4 Verses that Prepare Your Children for Being a Foster Family”

Foster Grandmas

I have three grandmas. One is my mom’s mother, one is my father’s mother, and one is my “adopted” granny. Not to confuse you; it is not a legal adoption. It is our sweet way of saying how much we love each other and what type of role we play in each other’s lives. Fitting for my family, right? Since my family takes in foster children, these women get to be “foster grandmas”. It is a role they all embrace and fulfill in their own way.

Read On >

Foster Families on Children Leaving

The fear of losing someone you love can petrify you.

People have claimed this as a reason they do not take in foster children; because it would be heart breaking to have a child leave. They are completely right. It is horribly painful, but not always the hardest part. Sometimes the most difficult thing is knowing that the child may be returning to a bad situation.

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I turned to some of my foster parent friends and asked them how they deal with foster children leaving and possibly moving to bad situations. Here is a summary of what they said:

• Foster care is not about saving the world. As much as you may try, one person cannot fix everything. It is not the foster parent’s job to decide if the biological parents are good enough. It is not the foster family’s job to go check up on the child after reunification. Foster families’ job is to love the child and advocate for them while they are in our care.

• No matter what happens after they leave our care, we know that we have made a difference in their lives for that time. They may not remember our names, but they will know what love is. In the back of their minds there will be some memory of what a family is supposed to be. The love we poured out on them will carry them farther than they could go before.

• And when they go, foster families must let go to an extent. Worrying about the child does nothing for them, but it does prevent you from caring for the next child who desperately needs you. Any bitterness has to go too, along with longing for the situation to be different. Both will eat you alive. Cry over the grief that the child will not be with you. Pray for them as they go to a situation less than ideal (prayer is the only thing that does any good anyway). Find the people who support you; lean on them during this time.

Ultimately, most foster families have this in common: they do it for the kids, not for themselves. They know they will be hurt, risk burn out, witness heart-wrenching things they can never forget. But they choose to do it anyway for kids who have no choice.

Something that gives me hope is Philippians 1:6. My grandma, a foster parent to over 150 children, shared that verse from the Bible with me when my family first began taking in foster children. It goes like this: “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you [read: foster child] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

This post came in response to Audrey C.’s question. Thanks Audrey