Love Is Not (always) Enough

As someone who works in the field of child welfare (and as an adoptive parent), I have been afforded many opportunities to train folks just coming into the foster care arena.  It is really inspiring to see people, from all kinds of walks of life, choose to step towards children in need.  It continues to convince me that despite a lot of junk in the world, there are still amazing people out there.

During the initial foster parent training, I have heard people say things like, “I’ll just love it out of them” or “All they need is love”.  This is in reference to trauma and behavior related issues.  In my head, I’m thinking, “Well, bless your heart.”  And, I mean it.

Seriously.

Bless your heart for wanting to love on children.

is not (always) enoough) (5)However, love is not always enough.  This is where rubber meets the road and is a hard pill to swallow.  I know that goes against just about everything that most of us have been raised to believe and even what we teach our children.  But, it is true.  Love is not enough to erase years of abuse and neglect or genetic issues or any other struggle a child has.  If love were enough, I suspect there would be a decline in child abuse and neglect cases as well as a decline in substance abuse or any other issue that causes turmoil in one’s life.  We all know people whose love was unwavering; yet, their child succumbed to bad choices.

This post is not meant to be disheartening.  Of course, love is powerful and feeling loved is crucial.  However, if one enters into child welfare and expecting all the feels of goodness and sweetness, it will be a very disappointing and bumpy ride.  It is child abuse and neglect that lands children in the system – not warm, fuzzy, feel-good rainbow kind of moments.  Don’t forget that.

We must stand up and speak out for children.  We must wrap our minds around the fact that while love is powerful, alone, it cannot solve the issues at hand.  It takes resilience and courage.  It takes flexibility, sacrifice and humility.  It takes the willingness to recognize that we have a lot more to learn than we believe we do.  It also takes a whole heck of a lot of humor.

In caring for abused and neglected children, love (in itself) may not always be enough.  It can, however, set the wheel in motion towards a journey that meets the pain and hardship of others head-on.  It can stir hearts and minds in the rendering of waking up each day with a passion to seek and serve children in need.

 

Loving children means meeting them where they are at; RIGHT where they are at.

There isn’t a better example of this than Jesus.  He met people where they were at; the outcasts, the lost, the sick, the hungry, the dead, and us.  With love, He chose to discipline and in love, He chose the Cross.  He chose to stay where He was supposed to and He did it out of love, but He also did it because He know what He needed to do.  (Thank you, Lord!)

It may not feel good to say that love is not always enough, but let me tell you, this Momma has lived this truth.  Right now as I’m typing this, my thoughts are to where I had planned on being.  I had been scheduled to be in the Ukraine.  Yes, you read that right.  I was asked to travel to the Ukraine to train Ukrainian foster families who have taken in children with very little to no resources.  However, I had to cancel those plans.

One of my children has been struggling with anxiety and a variety of emotional and behavioral issues.  Loving this child is not enough to keep this child stable.  I had to ask myself some hard questions.  Do I leave for a two-week trip to another part of the world knowing that my child is struggling?  How would my absence affect this kiddo (who does struggle with some attachment stuff)?  What would happen if, in my absence, everything breaks apart and my child ends up suffering because of it?  

I really wanted to go, but just simply loving my child regardless of where I was on the planet would not have helped.  I chose to say “no”.  I have found that when it comes to parenting children whose beginnings of life were not exactly ideal, it has taken more than love.  Love is obvious, but what seems to overrule my life as a parent is fortitude, understanding, the willingness to learn, the desire to change my own parenting style, and whole lot of grace and empathy.

For those who are seeking to become foster or adoptive parents, set your love aside for a moment.  Take all that energy bound up in desiring to love a child and put it to use.  Use it to build up a pool of resources.  Use it to open your mind about what works for children who come from difficult circumstance.  Use it to persuade yourself to tweak and adjust your expectations and parenting style (which will evolve as time goes on).  Don’t set love aside, of course, but take the same intensity and use it to seek knowledge about how to help children heal.

Love is not (always) enough.  LOVE IN ACTION, well, that has no measure.  It will look different for you and I.  If you truly want to love a child who comes from a hard place, then you must understand that LOVE is a VERB.

It has to be.

 

For any future foster or adoptive parent reading this, I’d love to hear from you.  Ask me anything.  I can be brutally honest, but I think that is what you probably need to hear.

 

 

Tips for Navigating the Child Welfare System {Adoption.com Article}

For new foster parents, getting involved with the child welfare system can be quite overwhelming.  There are meetings, court hearings, visits, rules, and all a ton of paperwork.  There is also the deep desire to meet the kids where they are at and help them heal.

I recently wrote an article for Adoption.com regarding tips a new foster parent can do to navigate the system. Click on this link to view it:  Tips to Navigate the Child Welfare System

I hope you find this helpful!  Does anyone have other tips that a new foster parent will find useful?  If so, I’d love to hear them!

Blessings,

Caroline

 

 

fostering His will

Back in 2006 when we first became foster parents, I was not really sure what to think about what we had just thrown ourselves into.  My husband and I understood the legalities and processes of being foster care parents, but of course, were not as prepared for the emotional and spiritual aspect of it.  I respected and followed the laws regarding reunification, but to be honest, deep down I knew that fostering children would help to fill the hole in my life that had existed due to being barren.

In some respects, it seemed that fostering was a noble cause, while on the other, it also felt like it was more about my needs.  In the end, we hoped to adopt but understood completely that there was no guarantee at all of this.

The same day we were licensed, we received our first placement of a precious little two-day-old baby boy.  We were ecstatic, excited, and nervous at the same time. The few first days with him were just a whirlwind of no sleep, visiting relatives, learning, and joy.  My body was so tired, but my mind was already set on imagining what was to come.  To be honest, I fell in love with him the minute I saw him.

On the Monday following the placement of this sweet little one in our home, the case worker called to establish visits, set up meetings, and to let me know they (the state) were looking into finding relatives.  This conversation was sobering and brought me back to the reality of being a foster care parent.  I was just someone to nourish this child while his birth parents gathered their lives back together.

As I was talking to her on the phone, this innocent little one was quietly sleeping in his crib.  He had no idea of the gravity of the conversation taking place.  His little life and the decisions being made for him were in the hands of the juvenile justice system.  As soon as the phone call ended, I dropped to the floor in front of his crib and immediately began sobbing.

In that moment of complete vulnerability, I started praying “Oh God, Your will not mine, Your will not mine, but if it is Your will for him to stay, Father, then show me the way Lord.  Help me through this.”  I held my hands up to Him as if I was holding this baby up to the Lord.

On my knees with my hands held up high facing this child that I was already passionately in love with was the most remarkable, yet heartbreaking moment of the beginning of my foster care journey.  In that moment, the Lord said to me “Caroline, this is not about you.  This is not about you.”

This was an “aha” moment, or more like an Amen moment.  Fostering this child really was not about me.  I thought going into it that I would be offering a “service” while getting my fill of mommy-moments, and that it would all just be okay.  Looking back, I believe that the Lord was proving Himself by refining me to be a person of less selfish desires and more humility.  This was about this child and his birth parents.  It was about the Lord’s will, not mine.

There were times throughout fostering him that I wondered and fretted over what the future held.  Again though, the Lord reminded me that I just had to act in love.  I had to wake up every day with the intention of being a loving foster parent to this child and of showing mercy to his birth mother.  One foot in front of the other…one day at a time.

Strange as it may sound, fostering a child with whom you would give your life for is like trying to swim in mud.  The more you try, the more energy you exert, and the more love you give, the thicker the mud seems to get.  Fostering this little one was also one of the most enriching experiences of my life.

Daily, the Lord gently reminded me that this journey was not about me, but about His will and His intentions over this child.  He also provided me with moments to walk humbly and act mercifully.  The Lord implored me to show love and to increase my prayer life.

Through prayer I found submission and trust; not just trust of a few of the details, but trusting God with complete wholeness.  His plan for our lives outweighed our intentions and was more powerful than anyone else’s.  My daily prayers for this baby boy included praying steadfastly for the Lord’s will.  They also included asking the Lord to help me put my desires behind and that He would bring clarity and intervention as fitting and according to His plan.

As the case moved along, I found myself more and more in love with the sweet one, but I also found myself caring deeply for his birth mother.  Some people said to me “I don’t know how you do it.”  I know how.  My faith became stronger, my leaning on His wisdom became more pure, and I met the Lord through His continual guidance that the only way to walk this path was with love.

When the case was over, almost two years later, we adopted our sweet boy.  I am so incredibly grateful and keenly aware of this tremendous blessing.  I am even more thankful though that I had to fall on my knees with hands held high, with tears streaming down my cheek, and with a heart of submission declaring “Oh God, Your will, not mine”.