I Need Answers. How Do You Do This Foster Care Thing?
I’m a homeschool mom. Phonics and the Industrial Revolution and fractions take up the majority of my days. The thing about being a homeschool mom is that you feel utterly stupid 50% of the time (also known as 1/2 or .5). Yeah, I can do third grade math, but I can’t figure out how to teach you, dearest daughter, to do it. As a homeschool mom, you realize fairly quickly that there are things that you know how to do...and you don’t know just how you do them...until you have to tell someone else how to do them.
My dear friend just opened her home to her very first foster child. A few years into foster care myself and many months into my most recent placement, I nearly forgot just how trying the first week of a new placement is. Paperwork and phone calls and visits and workers and, oh yeah, a human being joining your family.
I’m no expert, but always one to learn, she called a number of times over the first few days with questions. Her voice was heavy with the concerns of this new “placement,” this new little person who had taken place in her home and family and heart.
Her questions mirrored the “what ifs” I hear from foster parents all the time, the “what ifs” of my own heart. What if he? What if I? What if they? “What ifs” about plans and feelings and court dates and medical decisions and the future. And then, of course, there was the great question of every foster parent. How do I love him with my whole heart and be okay with giving him back?
Her questions weren’t rhetorical. She wanted answers. And me? I had a homeschool mom moment. I don’t know how you do it...you just...you know, do it. Very helpful advice.
I thought about it. How do you do it? And then I realized: The love is in your heart. The what ifs and questions and worries are in your mind. How do you do this foster care thing? You let your heart go, but not your mind.
You love your foster child hard and fierce. You hug and kiss them, you smile and laugh with them, you cry and grieve with them. You take them to baseball and dance, you watch movies and do puzzles, you kiss their skinned knees and tuck them in at night. You treat them and love them like they’re your own. You let your heart go.
You hold on tight to your mind, to your thoughts. You don’t let yourself worry about the future. You keep your mind from wandering during visits and doctor appointments and weekends at home. You don’t fear worst case scenarios. You bring down that oh-so-strong and negative imagination. You don’t try to come up with all the different answers to all the different “what ifs.”
Foster mom, how do you balance the impossible tension of loving a child like they’re your own, when they’re not?
You keep a strong reign on your thoughts, a close leash on your worries. You keep your mind sealed up tight. But you don’t close your heart. You keep that wide open.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you. (Psalm 55:22)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)