What I wish I would have known
1. Fostering is going to hurt. A lot. You will think about the heartaches your foster kids have endured and it will break your heart. You will never see suffering in the same way again. Their stories will stay with you in your head, and their faces will forever be imprinted on your heart.
2. People won't understand why you choose to foster, sometimes even your closest friends and family. Most will be supportive, but there will be those who discuss your choice behind your back and say things to your face that will feel like a punch in the stomach. It's okay. It's part of the process.
3. You will realize just how selfish of a person you are. Flexibility is your best friend when you foster, and you will absolutely hate how annoyed you get at interruptions. It will make you or break you, so my advice is to let it make you.
4. It can cause remarkable tension within your original family unit. Relationships will have to grow to accept a new person, and it will most likely be a difficult transition. You will have to be intentional to spend extra time with your bio kids, and give them a listening ear.
5. You will get angry at alcohol and drugs for how they come between the kids you care for and their families. You will want to scream with anger at how the parents will allow harmful behaviors to have priority over their own child.
6. You will become very frustrated by the hoops that have to be jumped through, and the system that you have to work with. It will get so frustrating that you will want to quit...often.
I also wish I would have known...
1. It will change you... forever. Your eyes will be opened to a different world that you didn't know existed. You may have known that children were mistreated, but when you live with the face of one who is neglected or hurt, you suddenly can't help but enter into their pain.
2. You will grow to love these kids with a fierce, protective love. You will do whatever it takes to help them understand how much you want them to succeed. You might even rub your foster child's back every night and sing the same song over and over, just hoping that someday when they are older, they will hear that song and have a comforting memory associated with it.
3. You will wake up each day with a purpose greater than yourself. You won't be able to walk away from this other world that you have entered into. Your life will become less about having a bigger TV, and more about making sure your foster child has a bike.
4. Your family will be forced out of their comfort zone, and it will be good for them. Their eyes will see suffering in a new way, and it will have a face attached to it forever. They will have the opportunity to learn empathy, a skill that involves entering into someone's pain.
5. Your life will stop being so much about you, and more about how you can leave a mark on a child's life that you may only have for a few weeks or months. You will come up with clever ways to help that child feel love, regulate their emotions, and you will pray that they form a bond with you. Because bonding is one of the most important "skills" for them to acquire.
6. You will come to appreciate the system that surrounds these children and tries it's best to help the child achieve long term success. You will realize that the Case Workers, Guardians, Parent Coaches etc, are all over worked, under-payed, and doing the best with what they have. You will not always see eye to eye with them, but you will need to learn how to work together in order to make successful transitions a possibility.
Foster parenting can be a wild ride, but it's one I'm thankful I've had the privilege of being on. I am a different person today because of it. I pray often that the little lives we've loved in our home will never be the same. That they will grow and flourish into incredible human beings because someone was willing to help them during a time of transition.
If you are thinking about fostering, but worried about what it means, I get it.
Just know...It won't be an easy task, but it will be rewarding. You may wonder if you can continue, and you may even take breaks from it along the way. You will learn that you need boundaries and self care. You may find that your involvement in the system looks different from time to time.
The point is, these kids are worthy of your time and attention. They are worth getting up in the middle of the night for. They are worthy of a caring home with a comfortable bed. They are worth it.
What I wish I would have known, is that your life may change forever, but you won't want to go back to the way it was before.