With the help of tag-team babysitters, Josh and I have been able to attend two foster care trainings over the past two weeks. We sat around a square of tables with other prospective foster parents. Only ourselves and two other couples had experienced fostering already.
Each night the evening concluded with a parent panel. This is by far the most enriching part of the trainings. Every word that the parents speak draws me in. It’s as though I can hear the richness, tenderness, and years of ache turned sober-wisdom in each of their stories. Some are simple and some funny. Others are intimate tales of battle scars healed, but with a history easily re-felt.
One couple shared their stories of over twenty years of foster parenting. In this time they’ve been home after temporary home to over three hundred children. Three hundred to our three. When our eyes meet I know we look bright eyed and fresh in this—but our same passion and understanding is clear as we exchange encouragements and wisdom.
As this mother shared the details of a particularly painful loss—raising a child for nearly three years and having to say goodbye—she abruptly stopped when words couldn’t be found. We could all tell how much they had loved. And as our stomachs twisted a little—wondering what our stories of foster care will tell—we waited for the advice at the conclusion.
What she said was sobering.
“Remember…It’s not their job to love you back.” An instant reminder that we do this to give not gain.
Then she said, “Grieve now. Grieve daily.” This, a permission. A survival tool. Grieve daily? Yes. Because daily, as in all things, we die to the way things used to be and hopes for how they could end up. Foster care is constantly letting go of expectations to make room for new ones. Grieving for the children because one can never forget that while we make progress as a new family, these boys have still lost nearly everything from the life they once knew. “And whilst you grieve…love.”
It is a special kind of love formed in this way. If it makes any sense at all, it is a good grieving.
A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” -Forest E. Witcraft
About the Author: Amanda is a mother currently going through concurrent foster care planning. She also shared with us the 31 lessons she has learned about foster care.