Why You Shouldn’t Quit Being A Foster Parent.

We were foster parents for 9 years. They were extremely long and difficult at times. To be honest, we almost quit, especially when it seemed that we couldn’t take one more day. But looking back we are eternally grateful that we didn’t give up. We would have missed out on several big blessings!

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I get it! Let me just say that clearly before we get into this post. I completely understand why people want to walk away from foster care altogether. If you’re not dealing with difficult case managers, a court system that says one thing but does another, birth parents who continually bail on visitations, then you’re dealing with children who are pushing you to your absolute limit!

We’ve been there. We have the scars to prove it. So, “I get it.”

In 2008, just 4 years after we began taking placements, we had both had enough. One of our placements was failure to thrive, requiring round the clock care, and multiple feedings through an NG-tube daily. If we pushed the formula through the tube too fast, she would almost certainly vomit, and vomit a lot! To make matters worse, she was completely wild and out of control. At 3 years old she wouldn’t make eye contact with us nor listen to anything we told her. Kristin and I looked at one another one night, around 2 or 3 am, as we cleaned up the latest river of vomit, and knew exactly what the other was thinking- “This isn’t worth it!”

One weekend became one month, one month became 4 months, and 4 months were quickly turning into an entire year. At first the birth parents were accusatory every time we had visitations. We couldn’t do anything right. The case manager was cold and always preoccupied with other cases, and our other children were dealing with the trauma of watching their parents stretched so thin they could hardly make it to the next day. By November of that year, the children were reunited with their birth parents and we found time to breathe. And breathe we did.

“Not What I Signed Up For.”

A few weeks ago I listened to a several men, all foster parents, pour their hearts out, and share their wounds. “This is not what I signed up for,” one guy admitted, through tears. “I hate myself for some of the things that go through my head,” another shared. “I feel like I’m failing.” “I don’t want to do this anymore. I keep asking myself when it will be over.” Many of the children in their care were severely traumatized, difficult to handle, out of control and it was taking a toll on them, their marriages and their biological children.

My heart broke for all of them because I had many of the same wounds. I’ve walked this road. I too have shaken my fist at the heavens and told God that, “This was not what I signed up for.” I’ve looked at the children in our care and felt zero sympathy or affection toward them and hated myself for it. I know the guilt of wishing, even praying that the case manager would call and say they’ve found a different placement or the children were being reunited with birth parents soon. I have felt the frustration of trying to handle an out of control child and make sure my other children were okay and cared for.

There were days, especially in 2008, where I would’ve quit foster care on the spot if my wife had decided to, no questions asked. But, as I stand here and look back on our journey, 7 years later, I am glad we didn’t. We would’ve missed some amazing blessings that we couldn’t see from where we currently were at the moment.

You Have No Idea!

My 8-year old son Eli has an interesting perspective on the world around him. He makes me smile almost everyday with the words he uses and the funny things he says. I look at his 2 younger brothers and feel the same way. In fact, last night as I snuggled up to my 7 year old son, Jake, my heart filled up. “Gosh, I love this kid!” I thought to myself. “I couldn’t imagine my life without him!”

If we would have quit in 2008 we never would have known them. The two of them and our youngest son, Sam, came into our care in February 2009. When we were in the midst of our darkest moments in 2008 we couldn’t see very far into the future. Nor could we have believed, for one second, that a day would come, years into the future, where things would not be as difficult or defeating as they were then.

Truth is, you may not see your story unfold in the first 3 years, 5 years, or even 6. We didn’t. We didn’t see the beauty of our family really unfold until 2012, eight years after we started foster parenting. It was a hard, defeating, and exhausting journey. One we thought would never end and eventually kill us. You may feel the same way right now. You may feel like this isn’t worth it or that you made a mistake and you just want to opt-out! Hang in there. Stay the course. Keep moving forward. Don’t quit! You have no idea what story God is using you and your family to tell to the world. You may not see that story for what it is for years.

If we would have given up, and quit on foster parenting, we never would have known our 3 youngest sons. I couldn’t imagine our life without them!

Question: Are you struggling through foster care right now? How can we help? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Edward Dart

    If God works the way I know Him to, finding your blog is RIGHT ON TIME. We’ve been foster parents for 5 years, have had a half-dozen long-term placements, MANY MANY more shorter-term ones and one that resulted in the adoption of our daughter who, although medically fragile with half of a heart, has filled our hearts and lives to the brim. We have 3 bio kids as well. Two months ago, we were asked to take on a little guy who was just a month older than our 2 1/2 year old little one. It was a total bait and switch. He was angelic for the first week. His real personality came out more and more as he became more confortable with us. We kick ourselves as we should have known that the true colors would come out after a honeymoon period. He’s a good kid, but was a neglected only child for two years before being adjudicated and brought into the system. (He was separated from his mom about 6 months before he landed here.) He has bonded with my wife more than with me, and I am having an increasingly hard time dealing with his behaviors. They are not eggregious, just typical of a kid with attachment issues. But, I am at my wits end and feel like I’ve reached my breaking point. My wife aptly reminded me that we’ve reached this point with every one of our other longer-term placements, except for our adopted daughter who came to us at 7 weeks old. That made mee feel just great about myself. I’m tired. We have very little support from people who “get it”. I am really ready to throw the towel in, and said so tonight. But then I found your blog. I’d love to hear how you have overcome with little ones who don’t feel safe and who seemingly do not want to make you one of their safe people. Admittedly, I have a short fuse, and I have spent 40 years trying to temper my visceral reaction to high-pitched screams and hissy fits. I’m at the point of second-guessing whether this is a ministry we really should be in. Thanks for your openness on your blog and if you could weigh in, I’d love it!

    • “Gosh, I’ve walked this road!” That’s exactly what went through my mind as I read your comment. You are not alone. Trust me on that. As a man, I’ve struggled with the same thing- overwhelmed by the outbursts, the screams, the out-of-control behavior, questioning whether or not we made a colossal mistake. It’s extremely difficult and defeating and you feel like a failure when you reach your breaking point. You never dreamed (back in the day) that you would ever feel this way toward children. Take comfort in knowing that you’re are not alone! I’m right there with you. What has helped me (and continues to help) is to first of all, self-evaluate. For me, a lot of times, there are external circumstances (stress with job, stress with a project, etc) that tends to boil to the surface and the outbursts of my children are just the tipping point. I take needed time to be still and be away. That helps. Not sure if you are able to do that but that helps. The second thing is to realize that much of what your children are doing- the screams, the cries, etc, are actually voices from a place that you don’t understand. It’s a place of trauma and darkness from their past. Back in December I had an ah-ha moment with my oldest son. As he was flipping out, screaming, melting down, and I wanted to throw him out of a second story window I suddenly saw his behavior for what it was- it was trauma from his past when he was exposed to drugs, domestic violence, etc. It changed my whole perspective. If fact, it gave me more of a compassionate heart toward him.
      The third thing that will help is to seek out a guy or two who get your situation and lean on them. Make sure they are solid and safe friendships that you can get behind closed doors and fall apart in front of. There is no quick fix for any of this and quite frankly you will have a lot of feelings of wanting to quit. I know this because I was there once. I still have dark days. The best encouragement I cn give is to keep going, keep fighting for the heart of those children even when they are pushing you and pushing you away. There is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. It may take years to discover.

      I am in your corner. Trust me on that!

  • Cindy Andruss

    I have my 5 grandkids all under 10 in my care. Some days the anger I have is overwhelming. My husband left me as soon as I took in the 1st one. And my teenage son went with him and barely will ever see me. I work full time in a professional career. Extremely difficult. I know I’m not alone but there are days I just want to jump off a bridge.

  • Jacqueline Kuhn

    What about the theft of $4,500 worth of jewelry by one child? Work through it?