How Do You Know When It’s Time To Stop Fostering?

There’s a beginning and an end to everything. It’s one of the natural rules of life. Foster care is no exception. But, how do you know when it’s time to hang up the license and be done?

Finish line

On a warm sunny afternoon in May, 2012, we stood in a stuffy courtroom in downtown Indianapolis, before a judge, and family and friends, declaring that we wanted to be our son Sam’s forever parents. It was an exciting day for us. We had stood in that very courtroom for 2 other adoptions in year’s previous. Our little man was glowing that day. At only 3 years old, he knew what was happening and he was excited.

A year earlier we had made a decision about his adoption. We determined that when it was final, we would end our journey as foster parents. We did this for many reasons, but mostly, after 9 years, we knew in our hearts it was the right decision. And, it was time. We had fostered over 23 kids, with 6 of them never leaving our home. Our family was complete. We had grown from a family of 2, to a family of 10. As we surveyed the landscape of our family, we felt complete.

To stop or not-to-stop?

That is the question! Really, it actually is a question we get often from people who are on the journey of foster parenting and wondering about the end. The question comes in all shapes and sizes- some are from folks who are overwhelmed, tired, or defeated. Some have built their family from scratch to a large one like ours and feel they’ve crossed the finish line. They recognize it’s time to move on. But pretty consistently, people are wondering the same thing…

  • Am I a quitter for wanting to stop?
  • What about the people who foster for 50 years and take in a 400 kids?
  • Shouldn’t I want to keep going?

We’ve wrestled over these same questions and many more in the decision process to end our license. It’s easy to start beating yourself up and feel guilty when you’re working through this. But here’s some important truths I want you to know as you’re wrestling through some of these thoughts…

  • You’re only a quitter if you’re a quitter. If you’ve determined when and where your finish line will be (which we’ll talk about in a second) you’re not a quitter. You’re wise.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. You can’t determine your worth, based on what you don’t know about someone else. You may be called to do this for 50 years, but you may be called to do this for 5. If it’s 5 for you, that’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up.
  • Maybe you should keep going…but maybe you shouldn’t. If you feel like you should, and every prayer, sign, and thought points to yes, rather than no, then you should. But, if you have a reoccurring thought that it’s time to be done, you feel your family is complete, or you know in your heart it’s time, then it’s time to stop. And that’s okay.

How do you know?

So, how then do you know it’s time to stop? What signs should you look for to confidently know you’re making the right decision for you, your spouse, and the children who are permanently part of your home? Here are 3 things we identified when we made the decision several years ago…

  1. The landscape of your family looks complete. If you were to zoom out to a 30,000 foot elevation and have a look at where your family’s been, where you are now, and where you’re going, what would the landscape look like? Are you complete? Are you whole? Is your home not big enough to take anymore placements? A quick zoom out will tell you all you need to know about the landscape.
  2. The health of your family is on the line. Health is a big one. You must consider the health of the children who are permanently part of your home. You must consider the health of your marriage, your finances, and more. The last thing you want to do is continue when there are glaring signs you should stop. You don’t want to find out later that you went too far and caused irreparable damage.
  3. Your heart says “It’s time.” Stop underestimating the influence of your heart. And stop thinking that you’re just being selfish by wanting to be done. If you’re being selfish, you’ll know it. You don’t have to blame the feelings you have in your heart on selfishness. Sometimes, they’re legit. If you got into foster care for the right reasons, you’ll get out of foster care for the right reasons.

Moving on.

At the end of the day, you must weigh all the options for your family and for the future. And the decision to continue or to end must be one only you and your family make. A case manager cannot make this decision for you because he or she is not in your home. A judge can’t make it either.

If you’ve spent a healthy amount of time thinking, praying, and considering the journey you’re on, you’ll make the right decision. If you continue on, it will be for the right reasons. But if you end and move on, it will also be for the right reasons.

Question: Are you a current foster parent considering whether to continue or to end your license? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Colleen Ncrew

    This question has been on our hearts and on the table for months. When the struggles of parenting a child with so many hurts is overwhelming you can’t see stopping. You keep soldiering on. Then one day you realize it is time to concentrate on everybody in the home. The landscape was on fire. It would eat each up in its own way and just as quickly spit you out. We were there, in the fire, we were there, spit out, empty, defeated, tired, hungry for peace, wondering what had we done to get to this place, where did we go wrong. But…we serve a big God and when we stood back and looked again, we saw hope, determination, brokenness crying out for direction for God, and we saw His hand. It was because of His promoting in 2007 that got us to this place. If we believed that He had brought us to this point, then He would bring us through. We took a break and asked for our file to remain open. We contemplated life with the littles we had adopted and knew without a doubt, we are not done. None of us are done. Every night our child who has come through the fire, prays, “God we give you the glory for another good day, help me make good choices and help everybody have a good sleep and be with the littles that you have for our family”. We know we are not done forever but maybe in a few months, Holy Spirit will give us the discernment to know. For now we have buckets of baby clothes, cribs, etc tucked away…I job search and nothing comes up that works. So we wait, being reminded of His timing being the best for our family. Thanks so much for a clear blog post. I have sent it along to three friends. I pray that each person reading contemplates the importance of self care. So important.

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      Yes! Self care is so very important!

  • Janice Yoder

    I was thinking over our situation tonight, before reading this. Less than two years as foster parents, and we already closed our home. Why? Because we did an unusual thing. We adopted our first placement of 3 siblings, adding to our 3 bio children. The wise words of our personal caseworker will always stay with me. She said, “You take a break and get these kids well on their way before taking in more.” And knowing what all a placement can do to disrupt life for everyone, we do well to consider the cost before taking more. I have certain criteria that must be met before we foster again. God is able to provide strength; I also believe He will provide common sense to choose the right path. It was the right thing for us to adopt our children and close our home to more for the time being. It may be the right thing for us to open again 5 years down the road, when the ones we took in are old enough to help out others. The ministry possibilities are endless. For now, we are content to raise the little people we have.