I love this picture of my dad and my oldest son sharing a shake when he was just a little guy. We fostered him for close to two years and we all underestimated how deeply we would fall in love. We didn’t know how hard the road would be or how complex feelings are when you want biological parents to succeed; yet, you also want so desperately to hold on to the kiddo that captured your heart. It was close to two years before we were declared his (legal) family and on that day, our entire family exhaled a collective sigh of relief, belief, and appreciation.
My parents absolutely 100% poured everything they could into our children while we were fostering them. They did so with zero promise that they would be their “forever” grandparents. Looking back, it seems a bit selfish to have asked them to do this. Their instant adoration upon meeting our babies was apparent and a bit heartbreaking. They understood that reunification was the goal but it didn’t make things easier. They asked “when will you know anything” for months upon months. Yet, we could not promise anything nor could we give a lot of details.
With each step, our parents just went with the flow. I saw the concern in their eyes. I saw the worry covering their expressions. Even so, our parents accepted, celebrated and cherished each child and each moment with them as if it would be their last.
Foster care and adoption brought us closer as a family. We were stretched in faith and in our worldview about what family means.
We know that FAMILY is more than blood.
LOVE is not defined by DNA.
Children are the best GIFTS anyone could ask for, regardless of how they come into your life.
Most people remarked about how hard it must have been for us to love our children without knowing what would happen or how long they would be in our lives. To say it was hard is quite an understatement. It was painful, full of worry and just plain exhausting.
Looking back, I recognize that no one really asked how our parents were holding up. Sure, we were asked a lot. We were offered prayer and assistance. Our parents, however, were not. At least, not to the level that we were. Yet, fostering is hard for the entire family.
Grandparents (aka – the parents of foster parents) play an oh-so-important role in the life of a foster child. They attend birthday parties, help out when one is sick, celebrate holidays, bake that special little goodie that the child devours, and nurtures the child just like most grandparents do. They do all of this even while knowing how devastating it would be to lose the child they have grown to love. They also do all of this with the knowledge that reunification is a part of foster care and absolutely does happen in a lot of situations.
If reunification occurs (and it should if the biological parents are healthy and able), not only do the foster parents grieve the child moving (even though they are aware this is a reality), grandparents also grieve, worry and wonder about the child’s future. It’s a loss that is manageable but also life-changing.
Will the child remember them?
Will they ever see that ornery little girl with dimples in her cheeks or that sweet little boy whose eyes could melt the world again?
Will that spunky 6-yr-old think back fondly of baking cookies or playing catch with “grandma and grandpa”?
Will that pre-teen still yearn to hear “grandpa’s” goofy jokes?
Will that teenager call when he needs some advice?
Will they know how deeply they were cherished and loved?
Foster parenting affects the parents of those who foster and anyone else who is a part of the child’s life.
If your son or daughter is a foster parent, you know how it has affected your life. You have so many questions that have to go unanswered. Your heart breaks with pain and leaps with joy all within a few days. You did not sign up for this. Sure, you were excited and worried all at the same time but you really had no idea what to expect. You get frustrated, even angry, as you watch your child ride an incomparable wave of emotion.
Your support during the tough times and your willingness to listen is so important. Of course, a few nights of babysitting always come in handy but at the end of the day, your unwavering commitment to be there during the bad days and the good ones is vital.
Even when you are anxious and angry, you put on a brave face. Instead of showing your sorrow, you lie in bed at night thinking about the love that has entered your life. You fear what could happen in everyone’s lives – yours, your child’s and the little one that you adore.
If your son or daughter is a foster parent, I hope you know how valuable you are. Like our parents and the untold numbers of other out there, your input in a child’s life increases the output of love they will feel. You matter.
Thank you for loving (foster) children without the promise of tomorrow.
Just know that what you do for the life of a child can change the course of history for generations.
This is something we should all be thankful for.