How To Support Reunification Even if You Don’t Want To

Foster parenting is certainly not for the faint-of-heart.  Foster families understand that reunification of children with their biological parents is the most important goal when children enter protective custody.  This process can be draining and emotional, but it is possible to support reunification even if you do not want to.

I recently wrote an article for Adoption.com about this topic.  You can read it by clicking here.

Foster parenting is hard but anything we do for children is always worth it!

Blessings,

Caroline

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #5}

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

It is winter where you live.  With the snow comes playful days of building snowmen, frolicking in the wonder of it, and warming up with a warm cup of hot cocoa.

IMG_0645These moments…these times…are ones that will forever be written on your heart.

These moments are passing by too quickly.

As the winter turns to spring, and the spring turns towards summer, you know the clock is ticking.  You know that next winter the child you are tucking into bed tonight may not be with you.  Still yet, you embrace each moment as if they could last forever.

In many ways, Momma of a Stranger’s Child, these moments last forever.  Memories are not seasonal.  They do not melt away with the warming of the sun. They do not stop growing.  Even though the seasons change, memories remain.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Although you are carrying the weight of the child’s life in your hands, the child you are caring for is experiencing a life of magical moments.  With each snowflake that falls, the child’s eyes are opened to laughter, joy, and the things that matter so deeply to children.

Freedom from abuse, the warmth of embraces, and the wonderment of what life can be are all experiences that you, Foster Momma, have given.

The seasons tend to relay a message to us.  They remind us that change is always around, and that as much as we try to predict the future, we often wake up to a changing of our circumstances.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

As you watch through the window while the stranger’s child is playing in the snow, you think about how simple life should be for children.  Childhood should be made up of days that humor, shape, and build up children.

Yet, you know there are too many children who never seem to escape the seasons of neglect, invisibility, and strife.

As the little one comes running to the door, shakes off the snow, and awaits your welcome, you do what you always do.  You smile, ask about how fun it was, and then wrap a layer of warmth around him or her, just like you have done since the moment this stranger’s child entered your home.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

As winter melts away, and time goes by, the day is drawing near to when the child you cherish may not be with you.  You want so desperately to freeze these moments in time, to slow down the clock, and for this season of your lives to stay.

Still yet, you also know that the seeds of hope you have planted will sprout despite the changing of seasons.  Because of this, you embrace these days.  You work even harder at providing memories of goodness in the child’s life.

As the winter turns to spring, and the spring turns towards summer, you know the clock is ticking.

Yet, you know that memories remain, and this season of your lives will be remembered not by a ticking clock, but by love.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #4}

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

A year has gone by since the child of a stranger entered your home.  You look back on the year, and it seems like a blur.  On one hand, it feels like the slowest year of your life.  On the other, it has gone by in a flash.  So much has happened, but one thing that seems to stick out the most is this,

You are no longer loving on a stranger’s child.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore.  No.  She is someone you have experienced an array of feelings over.  You have gotten angry at her choices.  You have felt pity for her own life story; especially the parts you have learned about her childhood.  You have been exasperated by her failure to respond, felt fear over her sudden motivation, and then, felt incredible sadness over her life falling apart again.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore

You don’t want to care about her.  You don’t want to pray for her success.  Still yet, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.  You see her in the way he gets a certain look when telling a little fib.  You see her when he smiles a certain way.

You catch moments of her when he holds his tongue a certain way while concentrating on what is being said.  You’ve seen it as well…at court hearings, in meetings, and in pictures.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

It has been a year since your eyes first met the stranger’s child.  It has been a year since you tucked him in for the night, attended his meetings at school, watched him unwrap presents on special days, carried him while he was sick, cried with him when he was crying for his first Momma, stayed up all night to watch him just in case he needed you, and found yourself falling in love.

It has been a year since you sat quietly at that first meeting just taking it all in.  It has been a year since you heard the allegations, attended the court hearings, helped with visits, and started praying fervently for God’s will to be done.

It has not been easy.  You know that.  You have even thought to yourself, “I don’t want to pray for her life to fall apart again, but how do I pray about this love I feel for him? How can I separate my selfish love/desire to be his forever Momma while also praying for the very soul who birthed him into the world?”

You look back at the year and cannot believe how far you all have come.  The little one who entered your home is making incredible strides.  He still has his moments of complete melt-downs (which are all completely heartbreaking), but these moments seem to be further apart.  In their place, you are now witnessing the growth and gifts of a child to whom had been stifled by the chaos of neglect.

You look back on the year, and while you do not see a whole lot of progress in the stranger whose child you love, what you see instead is a human being that is and always will be near to your heart.  You see someone, once a child in need herself, who has failed time and time again, but you cannot help but yearn to see her through eyes of love.

After all, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.

You look back at the year and you remember when you started on this journey.  A bit naive?  Perhaps.  A bit of a superhero complex?  Maybe.  A bit scared?  Absolutely.  You recall that first phone call about placement, driving to pick up the little one, nervously greeting the case worker for the first time, meeting the stranger that you did not understand, praying and crying in your pillow at night, exhaling in exhaustion after the court hearings, and welcoming case managers, attorneys, and others involved in child welfare into your home on a routine basis.

You look back at the year and you remember those special moments of discovery and healing that you and the little one have embarked on together.  You recall the joy at first successes, the sadness of first disappointments, and the day in and day out of growing a child who belongs to someone else.

And then…

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore.

She is now someone you have come to care about.

After all, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.

Most of all though, you are beginning to recognize the gift of life that the Lord has given you.  You are able to see His hand-prints and His footprints that have marked the path to which you have walked this last year.  You see how He has answered your prayers. Each day, you have grown more in your walk with the Lord.  You feel renewed, refreshed, and refined.

You look back at the year and you now see how the very child you love, the stranger to whom you swore you could begin to understand, and the reflection of yourself in the mirror are all part of a bigger story that is still being written.  You see your part in the story of a precious life that was crafted by our Creator in Heaven.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are no longer loving on a stranger’s child.

You are loving on His child.

Psalm 139:1-18 (The Message Bible)-  I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in! Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute – you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration – what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts – how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them – any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! 

Around the Fire

Last night we had the privilege of spending the evening around a bonfire in the country.  Hot dogs, roasted marshmallows, the sound of crackling wood, a gorgeous full moon, the chatter of folks, and gleeful screams of children playing in the field next to us made up our evening.  Fires are so good at catching one’s eye.  I sat and stared for a long time at the majestic wisps of flames as they flickered their way up to the heavens.

With the scent of fall in the air and the comfort of a blanket over me, my thoughts immediately went to the reason why we were all out there under the stars.  Out of the eighteen or so children present last night, around thirteen of them were adopted out of foster care.  Let me say that again….13 out of 18 or so children present last night were adopted out of foster care.  Most of the children were siblings of some sort, but not all.  A handful of families adopted the siblings.  Honestly, it was kind of nice to be at an event where my children were not a minority.  Usually when we go to “get-togethers”, or anywhere in general, my kids are typically the only ones adopted; especially out of protective services.

There is something comforting when being around fellow parents who have experienced the journey of being a foster parent and adopting.  We are able to swap stories of our experiences and compare notes.  We can relate to the challenges sometimes experienced when raising children with histories of abuse, neglect, prenatal exposure, or separation from family of origin.  We can also talk about resources that may come in handy if future issues should arise.

Last night, I took a moment to look out in the field at the children playing.  The image of glow sticks in hands, glow-in-the-dark balloons bouncing up and down, and the sounds of laughing children running freely through the field filled my mind and my heart with gratefulness.  I thought about how their young lives were interrupted by the ways of the world and the poor choices of their  birth parents.  I thought about the losses every single one of them has endured already in life.  I thought about the adults around the fire who took them in.  I thought about the opportunities they have because of permanency in their lives.

I thought about how they get to have a childhood free of abuse.  I also thought about how lucky we are to be a part of this.  Adoption out of foster care is not a second best choice.  It is not reserved for only those who cannot afford private adoption.  It is not just for couples who are unable to have biological children.  It is a blessing to parent a child whose beginning to life automatically put him or her in the category of the “least of these”.

It is a blessing to meet other adults whose lives have also been impacted by the decision to become foster parents.  We are all connected in some way to each other by the children playing in the field.  We are all a part of something bigger, something more eternal, and something better planned for these children.

As I watched the fire burn and looked around, thankfulness filled my heart.  We were all brought together by the one true God who brings light into dark places, hope into hopeless situations, and love into the lives of all of us.