For More Than The Children
When we started fostering, I was 100% focused on just loving the kiddo in our home. Baths and meals and parks and books and songs. "Wow - I can do this!! This isn't that hard!!"
And then, God sweetly reminded me (quickly, thank goodness) that foster care is actually about a lot more than loving the kids. YES, they're at the forefront of our minds and intentions in so many ways. But for me, as a Christian, foster-care is about the Gospel.
Practically, that means its about taking the opportunity I've been given to also impact and love the birth-parents, the social workers, the GAL, the Birth to Three worker...etc etc. It means not dismissing these other people in the name of "focusing on the child", but embracing their role in this childs' life, and ours too. It's about honoring the role these parents and workers have, and partnering for a greater good in the childs' life, together. It's about seeing each relationship as another person we get to love with all we've got.
Between God and other foster parents, I'd soon been given many ideas for what this could look like to move towards birth-parents and others involved in our kiddos' case - with the same mama-bear heart I had towards our little one. They too, needed reminders that we loved them, saw them, appreciated them, and were on their team - especially the parents. Parents who are missing their baby, and working hard in many cases to get their kiddo back.
Things like: care packages when they're sick. Regular photo and video updates. Mother's and Father's Day cards. Promoting visitation regularly. Pictures drawn by their little one. Reunification gifts. Letters expressing our hearts and hopes. Praying for them. Reaching out to them. "As much as it depends on us, making every effort to live peaceably with all." (Hebrews 12:14).
It wasn't always easy, and there's so much I've learned throughout our first case. There's many things I'd do differently, and many I'd keep the same. But more than anything, I've learned that foster care is for more than just the children. Its for the many involved in their life, to get the support they need, to hear the reminders they need most, to know our hearts intent to care for their little one temporarily, and to experience the love of Jesus through our helping hands and heartfelt words.
Also, seeking to love parents and workers IS for the child, too. You'll find things all run smoothest when everyone's well connected and aligned. What a gift to give your foster kiddo, too - that they might know your heart for their mom and dad, and hope for their successful return home.
Also also, just because you move towards parents and workers with gestures of love and intentionality, doesn't necessarily guarantee a response of gratitude. That's okay! Do it anyway. Our love shouldn't be given in order to get a single thing in return. You might feel discouraged as you reach out and hear nothing, or send love and receive disdain, but you did what you felt was right, and that is the important thing. Foster Care is hard on everyone involved, so don't expect everything to become peachy because you sent a nice letter. Relationships take time, and some people aren't interested or ready for what you're offering. That's okay! Keep going.
I hope what I've learned in this area in particular, helps new or future foster parents to reset their minds with the parents and workers in mind. To not miss out on the gift of getting to love this tribe, despite differences and complexities, as much as it depends on you. Saying yes to foster care is saying yes to more than just the children. And even so, it's a yes you'll never regret.
More people to love? Never a bad thing. Always a lucky one.
If you're new to foster care, what does this "more-than-the-children" approach have you feeling?
If you're familiar with the system, how have you moved towards parents and workers in the past?