When we got into foster care, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Yet, I honestly didn’t realize just how hard, exhausting, and trying it was going to be. Of course, there are so many amazing moments that truly make us understand the importance of caring for these kids too. Just this past weekend, a chance encounter with a foster mom really broke my heart and also healed it a little too. For the first time, we used a night of respite and it turns out, we actually had a connection. Both of us had cared for the same set of girls, doing respite for them earlier this year.
Let’s Back Up
Earlier this Spring, we agreed to do some respite for a sibling group that was out of our preferred age range. At the time, these girls were 9, 7, and 6. They spent a weekend with us and just melted into our family seamlessly. It was amazing! Of course, our older daughter was especially thrilled to have these playmates. But when I went to drop them off, I knew things felt off. The kids became completely despondent the closer we got to their foster home. Once we arrived, one actually broke down completely and clung to me. Leaving them there was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Literally, each of my kids and myself drove away in tears. But the foster dad assured me “they always do this” when leaving someone.
But after that first weekend of respite, we knew we were 100% open to doing respite for older children now. So when the social worker called again to see if we’d take the girls back for a week, there was NO hesitation. Of course we’d love to have them!
The week went well. We took the girls swimming at the hotel, to several local parks, an Easter Egg Hut, bowling, and my husband even took them to the Father Daughter Ball with our daughter. It was an AMAZING action-packed week! The only heartbreaking times was when the girls would repeatedly say “we’ve never done this before”.
So this time, when the end of the week came and it was time to make the drop, I made my husband come along. I wanted to know if I was crazy because he thought I had totally over-exaggerated. The same exact thing happened. The girls completely shut down, their smiles disappeared, and the tears came. But the girls had never said anything to make us think there was anything really terrible happening but we could just tell the home was definitely not a good fit. However, the girls had been with the family for almost 2 years. With us still feeling like fairly new and inexperienced foster parents, we didn’t know what to do.
God Stepped In
The next time they called us for respite, we couldn’t do it and I was heart-broken. However, I now know that God had a better plan. The same wonderful family that helped us out this past weekend, took the girls. Over the course of two respite cares, the girls confided several disturbing and abusive things that were happening in their foster home. And because this wonderful foster mom was able to report it, the girls’ case was expedited and they were moved to a relative adoptive home.
So Many Emotions
We had actually pursued adopting these girls earlier this year but then the relative had stepped forward. Our county always places with family when possible so we knew that meant we would no longer be considered. However, these precious girls were still heavy on my heart often. I’ve prayed for them and shed many tears. My husband and I would lay in bed talking about them so many nights. However, hearing the confirmation about our suspicions drove me to tears this weekend. First tears of absolute sadness that I wasn’t able to help them. But then, tears of joy when I heard the good news that they are in a great place now. They are happy, healthy, and no longer have to live each day in fear.
Learning Something New
From this experience, I’ve learned that I will not stay quiet next time. If I’m having doubts or concerns, I will voice them. Part of the reason I didn’t with the girls was because I could never reach their social worker as she never returned my phone calls. But I know that next time, I will go higher up. I will not stay quiet. And I will advocate when there’s doubt.
The Foster Care Roller Coaster
So as I try to decompress all that I learned this weekend, I want to share. If you are feeling called at all, there is a shortage of GOOD foster homes. I won’t sugar coat it as it’s a tough journey. However, it is also so very rewarding. Over the past year, we’ve had 17 children come through our doors. Some as placements and others as respite. But that number just shocks me. There are so many children who need a safe place. Who need love. Children who have never experienced stability or even family life. If God is urging you to take this journey, I just want to encourage you to follow his lead. The system is broken and failing but these children still need good, safe homes. Consider checking with your local county and learning more. Then pray about it. 🙂 And if you still feel that pull, just do it!
Also, be sure to head over and learn about 7 Ways You Can Help A Foster Family for some easy tips on how to lend a hand.