Should I Get Attached To My Foster Children?

It’s a question we’ve been asked quite often. We’ve even asked ourselves this question a time or two when we were still fostering. The answer is, yes! And here’s why…

father holding baby hand

“I gave up being a foster parent because I couldn’t stop getting attached to the children I cared for. Every time one of them left, it hurt. Figured it was best if I just stopped putting my heart out there like that. I always ended up sad and depressed.”

Her words echoed off the concrete pillars of the bus station we were sitting in. As passengers hustled past, her face fell solemn. I could tell she didn’t really mean the words she was saying to me. I could see the heartbreak in her eyes. But out of defense for her tender heart, she held her emotional wall in place. Her graying hairline, and wrinkles under her eyes, told a story void of words. Life had been hard on her. With every ounce of sadness she swallowed, with every emotion she forbid to show itself, regret silently burned a permanent spot on her face.

As my bus pulled away from the station, and I watched her sitting alone, I reflected on our conversation. My heart was sad for her.

I get it, I thought to myself. I’ve been in that situation of questioning- should I build a wall, or allow my heart to love? Should I wrap my arms around this hurting child, or keep my distance? After all, if they do return to their biological family, I need to be able to move on with my life. Is it healthy for me to carry the burden of loving a child who is no longer in my home?

Defying Humanity.

I get it, but I never did it. The greatest decision I could have ever made was permitting my heart to have it’s freedom. With every child who entered our home, over 8 years, I threw open the gates of love. We all did. With every ounce of our being we loved those precious children. How could we not?

To not love would be a defiance of our humanity. To build walls around our hearts would go against the very way in which we were created.

Created to love, created to care, created to feel broken, created to grieve. All of these emotions make us human. They make us alive. They tell us that we have a heartbeat and a mind that cares. They forge character in us. To not allow ourselves to feel these things would be like not allowing a bird to fly, or a fish to swim. You simply can’t do that. If you did, they would die. So would we.

Yes, it’s painful to say goodbye to a child you were caring for! Yes, it’s hard to grieve their loss! Yes, it takes the life out of you to watch a child return to an environment that may or may not be the healthiest. But if, or when, it happens, you have to step aside and allow it to. You have no choice.

And, yes, you should get attached to them. Yes, you should love them so extravagantly you think your heart is going to burst!

Setting Our Hearts Free.

Back to what I said a minute ago…

Attaching ourselves to another human being is what we were made to do. We were created by God Himself to love others. We’re not complete unless we can do this. When it comes to foster parenting, you should attach yourself to the children you’re caring for. They need you to, but you also need to for yourself.

Attempting to guard your heart, for your own protection, will only hurt you. Convincing yourself that not attaching will make it easier to say goodbye, is a lie that will permanently bruise your heart. You need to set your heart free to do what it was created to do…. love…give…and grieve.

To do anything less would be inhuman.

Question: Have you struggled with this? Share your story with us in the comment section. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Jim Buchanan

    My wife and I started fostering 9 years ago. we’ve become attached to every kid we’ve had (over 30) and we’ve adopted 4 of them, and remain in touch with others who’ve aged out of the system (we take mostly teenagers). I don’t know why anyone would do this if they didn’t love and become attaced to the children. They need it, and we need it. It is very hard though.

    • Jim, I completely agree with you. It can take the life out of you but also fill you up until you’re overflowing.

  • Pru Baker

    I did get attached to some of the children who were in our home. It was very painful letting them go, and I eventually quit fostering. It nagged at me, and after approximately six years, my family opened our lives to foster/adopt. I’m happy to say that we are in the finalizing adoption of a sibling group of three. The process included many ups and downs, as one of the children was considered unavoidable (there’s no such thing as an unavoidable child). Most of our friends were telling us not to ho through with it. Now that same child has turned corners, and blended right in. I say follow your heart.

    • Absolutely. So cool that you guys are back in for the journey. Definitely follow your heart! 😉

  • Kathy Kebschull

    We are fostering for the first time, a 6-month old beauty. She ‘had us at hello’ as far as loving her goes. I have met her mom, and I have to say that I love her too. I see her own brokenness. I know that but for the Grce of God go I.
    She had a rough road ….. Needs a real mom herself. She loves her child and I can already see the conflict inside of her ….. Wanting to parent this child and knowing she is not able to …. No home, no job, no support system.
    Pray for them both …. Baby and mom … That God continues to point them towards wholeness.

    • Kathy, we sure will, Thanks for sharing your story here! 😉

  • Pat M.

    We has 6 foster children over a 15 year period and adopted one of them. We loved all of them and it was awful every time one of them left. We still keep in touch with most of them. How can you not love a child you are taking care of? Its just a natural thing to love them like your own.