Is Foster Care Really Worth All The Pain And Agony?

Ask a complete stranger on the street to describe foster care and they’ll probably say, at one point, “I’ve heard it’s really hard!” And they would be right. It’s extremely hard, in fact. Given this truth, is it really worth it?

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We were so frustrated we couldn’t see straight. We had re-arranged our entire day, cancelled several appointments, pushed some meetings back on the calendar to make sure we were both home with the two children we were caring for, because our case manager told us earlier that morning that she would be by for a visit at 2pm, sharp. “Please be on time. I have several other visits I have to make,” her voice message said.

So we were on time. We barely made it home from a doctor’s appointment across town, but we hit the mark. All because she had asked us, urgently, to make it a priority.

Two o’clock came and went, 2:30 passed, then 3. It was finally 3:30pm when we received a text message explaining that she would have to reschedule for the next day because something had come up, last minute. We glanced at each other, angry and frustrated, but trying not to let on to our children. I guess all we had to do with our days, and our life, was wait around for someone to show up, who really wasn’t going to show up. Forget jobs, doctor’s appointments, or errands we had, we both thought silently.

It’s not that we weren’t understanding, nor patient people. We were. Schedules change, appointments need to be rescheduled, we get it. But this was the 3rd time (in a row) this had happened. Not only that, but every phone call came the morning of the day she demanded a visit. And every cancellation happened at least an hour after she was supposed to show up.

We weren’t frustrated….we were angry!

It was much more than that, however. Between the missed meetings, the continued hearings when TPR (termination of parental rights) was to have already happened months earlier, the skipped visits by birth parents, and the emotional collapse we had to deal with every time we left the visitation center without visiting, we had all we could take! We were ready to call it quits and it had only been a year.

Is it worth all the fuss?

To read that, one has to ask, “Is this really worth it? Do I really want to put myself or my heart out there like that, just to be knocked back and forth like a tetherball?”

The answer is yes! Yes it is worth it. The reason? Children are worth it. In the crossfire of poor birth parent choices, cold and disconnected judges, MIA case workers, and a broken foster care system, there are innocent children who’ve done nothing to deserve the trauma that’s been forced on them. They were unwillingly dragged into the chaos and bad choices of another human being. At last count, there are a lot of them. Over 100,000 currently in the United States waiting to be cared for!

To love another human being with no strings attached is what we were created to do, as human beings. We’ve been divinely created with the capacity to do so. And what an amazing gift that is!

Why you should.

We could add up all of the reasons why a person shouldn’t be a foster parent. But we could do that with just about anything on earth. What about the reasons you should? There are several, but here’s the biggest…

  1. Love. We covered this one above, but I’ll say it again- you were created, as a human being, to love other human beings.
  2. The foster care system needs good people. There is a need. The foster care system needs strong, reliable, good-hearted, responsible people to care for children in need.
  3. The number of children in need is not decreasing. You saw the statistic above- Over 100,000 children currently waiting. But 800,000 enter the system every year. If you break it down by day, thats almost 2200 children a day! Reality? That number is not decreasing.
  4. It’s an opportunity to meet diverse people. One of the things I love most about the time we spent in the foster care system is that we grew an appreciation for all different types of people. We truly do not see color or ethnicity when we look at people. We just see…people!
  5. It’s an opportunity to be light in someone’s darkness. For many children who come into care, their world is filled with darkness. From abuse, to drugs, to violence, to witnessing crime, it’s dark. You have the opportunity to shine light by providing love, care, positive influence, a healthy example, and more!
  6. You can develop great support systems and sounding boards. Some of our best friends in the world (more like family) have been foster parents and have walked similar roads. You definitely learn what a great support system looks like. On some of our darkest days we have turned to our support system as a sounding board or a voice of reason. They have helped us navigate some sketchy waters.

Jump!

A few weeks ago Kristin and I were recording a broadcast for foster care and adoption with Focus On The Family when Jim Daly, President of Focus, asked me, “What would you tell a person who is feeling called into foster care or adoption but is unsure?” Without taking a breath I responded, “Jump! Don’t wait for all the answers. Jump off. Follow that call. Hurting children need you!”

I’ll say the same thing to all of you reading. If you’ve felt called to step into foster care and care for children in need, don’t wait, jump! It will be frustrating, you may feel defeated, and you will have times where you want to give up. That’s the honest truth. Jump off and then weather the storm. There are children in need who really hope you will!

Question: We would love to hear from you? Current foster parents, what are some of your biggest struggles? Up and coming foster parents, what are some of your fears? Share with us. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • mom of 5

    Yes, I agree it’s important for the kids, but how do you get through the worst of it as a couple? How do you keep your marriage strong through it all? Do you have any advice? We have a sibling group of 3 we are fostering plus 2 of our own and they are all 4 and younger. Some days (okay a lot of days) it’s completely overwhelming. We question if we are hurting our biological kids and our marriage by doing this. Any input is welcome.

    • Autumn

      I’m not currently a foster parent, but my husband and I have a goal to be down the road. I know I couldn’t handle 5 under 4 years old. There’s be no way I could keep my sanity! Do you have a good support system? Grandparents, babysitters, and respite care? Ask for help. It’s okay. It’s understandable that you are overwhelmed. Good luck to you!

      • Autumn, yes, we have a great support system.

    • Heather Taylor

      You should also consider if your hurting the “other” kids not just your biological children! I also find it unsettling that cps would place so many with you when u already have two. Foster children need extra love and care. With so many its got to be hard to give them the attention they deserve

      • Yes, we have been through this. I totally agree!

    • Heather Taylor

      Why was my comment deleted?

      • Hey heather, I don’t think it was. I’m seeing it on here now.

    • Heather Taylor

      Why do my comments keep getting deleted!?

      • Heather, I’m not sure what you’re seeing on your end but all of your comments are showing up in Disqus. Nobody on our team is deleting them. Promise. 🙂

    • Heather Taylor

      What the hell

    • Heather Taylor

      You should also ask yourself if your hurting your foster children. They are just as important as your biological kids!

    • Allisonm

      We adopted three siblings, all of whom have special needs. Our marriage and health have taken a beating. It takes a lot of tenacity to hang in there and keep being hopeful and teachable and resilient. No one ever said we wouldn’t be hurt. Life is risky and tough things happen. That said, prudence does dictate that we prioritize where we put our time and energy. We have to put a lot of it into our relationships, first with God, then with each other as spouses. If we had children to whom we had already pledged our lifelong parenthood, such as you have with your children, we would have to put our energy into their long-term health, development and well-being. Our adopted children fall into that category. We have no children to whom we are biologically related. If we did, they would be on equal ground with our adopted children. (I grew up as the only adopted child among four siblings and that’s how it has always been.)

      Whether you can meet the needs of your foster children is very important. But you don’t have the authority to make most serious decisions about their lives other than to request that they be removed from your home. They are someone else’s children, and no matter how committed you are to their care and how amazing you are as foster parents, someone else will decide whether they stay or go and under what circumstances. Someone else will decide whether they will get a haircut or have tubes put in their ears, or take/not take medication. Someone else will decide whether your home is enough better for those children than other available placements–as long as you don’t insist that they be moved.

      So don’t feel badly about considering your permanent family. Five children under four years old is a lot of work and feeling overwhelmed sounds pretty normal to me. We have to be proactive about caring for ourselves or we won’t be able to provide stability for our children. We also have to take a longer range view. Short-term difficulties don’t necessarily mean we are on the wrong path and neither do all long-term challenges. But you are right to consider how these things are affecting your family and look for ways to strengthen your core so that you can carry out your calling, whatever that turns out to be. We have participated in support groups, marriage counseling/support, family therapy, equine therapy, activities that provided support for our children’s disabilities to enable us to enjoy things as a family, respite, retreats, Bible studies, parenting classes of many kinds, gardening, quilting, and other things that help us stick together and refresh us. It is so important to have a community around you who understands and honors what you are doing.

  • JoAnna Hunsucker

    This rings so true to the Foster family my husband and I support. I too encourage you to get involved on some way be it BIG as a Foster Parent or small as the support system to Foster parents. These children need positive role models and unconditional, love.

    • JoAnna, definitely. Glad to hear you guys are supporters of foster families. It is much needed.

  • Michelle Furtado-Hopster

    I’ve done a foster to adopt it was a last min decision, you mention just jumping into adoption or foster care and i def,. did My son now 5 years old was just born when we looked into adopting/fostering him i knew the mom she was a mentally ill client but i have to say It was a roller coaster ride emotionally with him with court dates ext. trying to finalize the adoption with him, but in the long run i would not change it for the world he is one of the best things to happen to me, i have a son that i birth to and he do not treat him any different, i was thinking about doing foster care for children but wanted to see how others have done it with already having children in the house, how did there kids accept the fact there was another child in the house, how do you discuss it about another child coming in the home, my buys are 9 and 5 . also i work full time how does that work with fostering, if there people i can talk to top help assist?

    • Michelle, you hit the nail on the head by saying it’s a roller coaster ride. So true.

  • Heather Taylor

    My comments keep getting deleted!

  • Cheryle Maybury

    We’ve been foster carers (Australian) for several years now and our biggest challenge is the lack of support. We didn’t get any respite for our 2 intensive needs children for almost 3 years. Our case worker had no follow through with all her empty promises and we are very isolated from any of the support groups that operate in our district ( 2 hours drive away). We do often feel like we should quit especially when we’ve had a lot of health challenges recently (husband had cancer & I developed a heart condition) but then we look at our kiddos and wonder what will become of them and will they be cared for and loved. So we keep hanging in there and look for blogs like this to remind us these kids need us.

    • Hey Cheryle, so awesome to hear from our friends across the globe! Love it. We have been where you are and know how frustrating that can be. Don’t give up. We are in your corner. We know how isolating it feels to have no support. You have support from us (even if it’s virtual). Don’t be a stranger…email us or Facebook us whenever you need a shoulder or an ear!!

  • Pingback: The 5 Fears That Attack Foster Parents The Most | Confessions of an Adoptive Parent()

  • Paula Kamrowski

    I felt called to foster & my husband was very supportive, We got our license on Wednesday, a phone call on Thursday & we walked out of the hospital on Friday with a brand new baby boy. As parents of 4 girls we were ecstatic, but that was soon subsided as we became educated in how this broken system limps along. We finally got through one of the most trying years of our life & were on the verge of adopting this wonderful baby when an aunt came out of the wood work & a judge after dragging it out for 6 months decided he was better off states away with an aunt he didn’t know instead of the only parents he did know. Our hearts were crushed as we were drug through a 3 week transition period, watched our son put in a car screaming & drive away forever.

    • Paula, this breaks our heart to hear. So sorry you have gone through this.

  • A.Shyanne

    My husband and I decided to foster/adopt. We were doing everything right, we were changing our entire lives for this little guy. we tried to make his life better and perfect so-to-speak, we neglected us. Things were coming to a head as we started questioning each other’s ability to parent this child. We stopped talking and doing family/adult activities. We finally had a huge blow up where my husband decided to grab our Foster son and say he was protecting him from me and the cops were called. Our foster son was put into respite care and we get a message today to set up a meeting to discuss our foster sons placement and our license. (We live in Colorado) we are absolutely terrified, we initiated Marital Counseling but I’m still worried they will not allow us to continue the Foster to adopt. Anyone know if we should be worried and if our foster/adopt days are over?

    • Taking care of you is top priority. We understand!

  • Alvin-Katie Harley

    My husband and I have been involved in foster care for 11 years…adopting our 2 oldest 10 years ago. We are currently parenting 6 children (2 adopted, 2 biological and 2 foster). God has shown himself to us in so many ways and yet there are days that we sit back and ask, “can we keep going?”. This post spoke right to me. We have been experiencing the same things mentioned…no shows at visitation, missed and missed again appointments, case workers that tell you that “this case is not a priority to me” (that crushes the soul) and TPR hearings that are going to happen and then get postponed for whatever reason of the week. All that said, we could never give up on these kids. I’ve quit probably a thousand times in my mind, but then you reschedule, strap the baby back in the carseat after another failed visitation, go home and love on the kids that God has placed in your home for this season. We are always praying for more of God’s people to step up into this role. If there’s one thing that I daily hope for, it’s for more understanding from friends and family. More support on the good days and the bad days. Thank you for writing. It really is a blessing and encouragement to my husband and I.

  • Beth Turpin-Walton

    We’ve been foster parents for a year. In that time we had a teenager who begged to come live with us when she found out we were taking classes. We specifically asked if she had ever filed false allegations and history. I was told no and behavior issues in the past but not anymore. Needless to say I found out none of that was true. She was physically violent with me and fought us every step of the way. I discovered what RAD was this year and lived with it each day. Each worker kept quitting so we had 3 in 3 months. We had 2 newborns, one of which we were told was probably adoption and no way would a judge send her back. One evening 2 days after being told that, we received the call to meet her family someplace and turn her over immediately. Another placement was toddlers who were moved to us as adoptive placement in Febuary. We were told no family and tpr occurring. We took them in and told them they were home. They called us mommy and daddy. At tpr court date family showed up. It turns out family had tried to make contact several times in the past year but were ignored. We lost them last week. Watching our almost forever daughters being driven away with strangers to another state broke my heart. I miss hearing those sweet voices say mommy, mommy, daddy, daddy and seeing those beautiful smiles. I cried and prayed more in the past year than any year prior. Been a rough year. I’m thankful for such a wonderful church family who has stood with us and prayed for us this year. I don’t know what we would do without them and my Savior who gets me through it. Psalms 34:18 has been my comfort verse this year.

    • Beth, I am so very sorry to hear that this happened. Gosh, our hearts are breaking for you. Hang in there.

    • h mar

      This sounds similar to our fostering experience. We have had 4 foster children, 3 who were returned home. We currently have a one year old little boy. Upon removal we were told by the CPS caseworker they “they had no intentions of ever returning these children”. Our little boy was removed due to a broken femur from an alleged fall from a couch. He and 4 of his siblings are also products of incest. Yet, the mother, who is pregnant, is taking classes and has a home, so the kids are on track to go home. I’m beginning to question whether I missed the mark on our calling. We have these children for a year and they go home to an unstable environment. It is gut wrenching.

  • Jessica Marie

    We have been foster parents for almost three years .. We still have both our 1st and 2nd placements .. We got Z when he was 7 months old and we have now on going thru the TPR trial .. Definitely been lots of extensions and not knowing .. And our 2nd we finally think she is going to be freed to be adopted .. Her bio mom died of a drug overdose last July and it has been a process ever since to get her freed.. A possible father came into the picture .. We go to family court a lot and have lots of appointments and visitation .. It’s hard at times for sure

    • Hard times for sure. Sounds like you have much to celebrate though. 😉

  • Bev Chase-Melius

    We have been foster parents for 16 years. Have adopted 6 amazing children through the system. We feel the system needs to hold birth parents more accountable, hold them to the same high standards foster parents are held to.

    • Very true. Hard to do…but necessary.

  • Patrick M. Foley

    I was recruited by DC’s Child and Family Services to house gay teens 7 years ago. My oldest (22) has been with me 6 years; my 20 year old has been with me 4 years; my youngest (17) for 2 years. I’m the legal Guardian of all three now. Later this month we’ll bring in another teenager.

    My biggest concern is that my schedule is rarely considered when arranging home visits, etc. Like the author of the article, I’ve had many occasions where the agency failed to show up, or cancelled at the last minute. Fortunately I’ve also got a terrific support worker assigned to me, so we usually get things back on track pretty quickly.

    I wish agencies would do a better job educating prospective foster parents about taking in older children. Sure, you’ll be using different skills than you would fostering a younger child, but the older kids are great kids, too, and need a safe place to grow.

    • I agree with you Patrick. I think the tides are changing but we still have a long way to go.

  • Kathleen Buck

    No No No, in my case I HATE foster care. The state of Florida, Key West to be exact, has STOLEN my grandchildren from me. They have drugged my 9yr old granddaughter because the foster mother is so overweight. that she could not handle my active wonderfully active granddaughter. I was denied a home study because my finances were not enough, despite the fact the the childrens grandfather is more than willing to support the children as well.

    The children, five siblings, where taken from my daughter because the childrens father tried to strangle her for not having sex with him. She tolerated ten years of physical and mental abuse, before the children were taken. My daughter has indeed led the life of a “battered” women. Even after the children were taken and she was on her own, he beat her! The sad part is that he never got charged for it.

    I have been actively trying to bring the children home to me, since the day that they were taken. I have written hundreds of letter to President Obama, Michelle Obama, state reps, Oprah, etc… I have a petition on Change.org, I have tried fundraisers, anything I could think of that me I have always been a part of their lives. They are in my heart and I am in theirs. Since the children were taken, I have been renting a five bedroom home on 9k square feet of land, in an exclusive part of Honolulu. I have been in this house for sixteen months, yet I was denied the rights to care for my grandchildren.

    I understand that sometimes a child has a better life in foster care than with their parents, but in this case it is the opposite. We love them and want them. The trial to take away the parental rights is now on 7/22. My daughters father and I have hired a good lawyer for her. He is also representing me as a grandmother as well.
    I am just waiting for all the lies that the social workers from Wesley house, the guardian ad litem and the reps from DCF will tell. I already experienced a mediation that was suppose to be in favor of me getting custody of the children. So many unprofessional people in one room. I was shocked! All the lies!

    The system has to be changed. When family that can and will take care of the children, they should have to full right to do that. I raised my children in Sweden. This situation would not exist there.
    I would certainly be grateful if anyone could give me feedback about this horrible situation!
    If I could, I would take all foster children and bring them home to me.

    • R K

      My heart breaks for what you are going through. I don’t know who all you have spoken with at DCF but I pray that your lawyer will be able to get the right answers for you.

    • So sorry to hear that this is your experience Kathleen. Hang in there.

  • Susan Lupoli Cardwell

    When I think of my childhood in the 1960’s in foster care in north jersey, the automatic thought is “I was loved.” I was fortunate enough to spend 9 years in the same home sandwiched between shorter placements with other kind, caring folks. Thank you for doing what you do so we can do what we need to do. I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor with a thriving private practice who’s faith in God is solid. Be encouraged!

  • Christa Pruitt

    Is the foster care system worth it? It is! I am a survivor of sexual abuse, I ran away. I had very few options then. Staying in the situation was not one of those options.
    I was determined to leave in one way or another. I chose to leave the situation and seek help.
    The anger in the story ReMoved is so real, the lashing out and hurting because you hurt.
    But finding that right set of adults to help show you you can trust again and love again. It is worth it. I did run into my share of foster parents who had a screw loose.
    I also received a frightening warning from my new vise-principal the very first day of high school. He mentioned that he knew how horrible and uncivil foster kids are and he would have me out of his school if I caused the least little problem. I hope he watched this girls situation. I sometimes wish I could tell him mine. To let him know all I wanted was a chance, a little more out of life. I was am older child in the system but a child all the same. I am grateful for my opportunity and know I made it in this world and still growing strong.
    I refused to remove myself from this life for the errors of someone whom should have known better. I refused to become a statistic. I succeeded.
    So yes From my stand point it is worth it, I was worth it. Thank you to those strong enough to be foster parents.

  • Melanie Hunt

    My husband and I have been foster parents for two years and received our first placements 4 months after being licensed. Our first placements were a brother and sister ages 2 months and 18 months. We were told when they came that it could potentially be a long term placement. In March we will have had the kids for 2 years.
    Neither parent followed through with any of the requirements and both were in and out of jail numerous times. Never making visits, contacting the children or attending doctor appointments.
    To say that we have bonded with the kids would be an understatement as we have had the littlest one almost her whole life.
    We have also bonded with the families on both sides celebrating holidays, birthdays,graduations and baby showers together.
    The mother recently got out from her last time in jail and has now started with visits again. Neither of the children know her and my thoughts are that she is just doing this to benefit herself.
    Our last court appearance stated that they county is moving towards a TPR.
    We are so afraid of losing these little ones that have become such a huge part of our family and we are not sure where to turn or frankly what we should do.
    Do you have any advice for some first time foster parents??
    Thank You in Advance.

    • Hey Melanie, thanks for reaching out. We definitely tell first time foster parents to give themselves fully to the children in their care, but also keep this understanding in your mind that they may be reunited with birth families. It’s a torturous journey really. Be open and ready if TPR happens and they are available for adoption but remember what your role is before that happens- to love and care for children from traumatic places.