I have spoken with many foster/adoptive parents over the years, and I know I speak on behalf of many of them in what I am about to write about. One of the difficult things that you don’t really anticipate when you adopt or foster a traumatized, troubled or difficult child is the judgment or opinions of curious onlookers that have the best intentions. I want to help out with just a few tips. When you decide to become a foster or adoptive parent, especially of an older or traumatized child, you do your best to prepare yourself in every way possible, and this is an area that many foster parents don’t expect. Comments, opinions and judgments vary widely, and I don’t feel the need to get into specifics about what comments are the most common or what should be avoided the most, I just wanted to give a few notes or reminders on what to remember when you encounter a foster or adoptive parent.
1) Remember to not only give grace to the child, but also to the parent. When people decide to become foster parents, they are choosing to walk a child through darkness. These are foster parents, not angels. Many times, they are just trying to make it through the day or the hour, and to navigate the cloudy and uncertain waters of foster care or adoption. Taking in a foster child is no walk in the park. If you are a foster parent then you know what I am talking about. You have seen a child shut you out and shut down emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. You have seen a child become “unreachable”, and it ravages and rips your heart and soul apart. You have wept over a child who hates you. You have held a child who dumps all of his/her anger from their past into your lap. You have cleaned up the mess time and time and time again, because you believe that this time, your child will go a little bit further. They will walk with their head a little bit higher. They will try a little but harder. They will trust you a little bit deeper, and just maybe that this time around, you will have the hard won privilege of introducing them to a savior whose love will never let them down. You have seen a child that will outlast you, outfox you and defeat you without even blinking or breaking a sweat, because their lives have given them the experience and smarts that no child should have. A child who has lost their innocence, or rather, had it ripped away from them. When you pick yourself up and try again, because your desperately committed and in love with this child that the God of the universe has divinely placed in your care.
2) Remember that they are battling for this child’s soul. Statistics say that 70% of children that have spent any amount of time in the foster care system will end up either in jail or in the sex trade at some point in their lives. When foster or adoptive parents take a child into their home, they are drawing the battle lines with the devil himself. They are storming the gates of hell. They are welcoming oppression and a spiritual warfare that has been unprecedented in their lives until that first child steps over the threshold of their home. When the child comes into the custody of their home, the clock starts ticking. Their time of influence is running out. Whether they are a temporary court ward that will end up back with their biological parents or if they are planning to adopt. The child will either end up returning home at some point or becoming an adult and Satan has got a major head start in destroying this child’s life and future. These foster parents are rolling their sleeves up and getting into the messy of this child’s life. They are making a difference and an impact. Satan has most likely ruined generations of this child’s family, and he isn’t about to sit passively by while us foster and adoptive parents waltz in and stop the cycle of abuse, neglect, addictions etc. The battle is real and the battle is extremely tough. You are in the fight of your life to keep your child from becoming just another statistic. You are in the fight of your life to tip the scales. To help your child rise above. To believe that they are worth it. To believe that they are more than just their label of foster kid. To believe that they are worthy of the love of a Savior that is so deep and so wide and so vast that He came straight down from heaven where He sat at the right hand of the God of the universe so He could die for them.
3) When you see a foster parent, try and remember to offer up a silent prayer, and simply say “doing a great job mom”, or “doing a great job dad”, even if you may think that the foster parent is being too harsh or too easy on the child in their care. Instead, remember that this parent has only so much time to break their iron clad will and piece back together their broken heart. It is an extremely fine line. Your encouragement could mean the difference between the determination to continue or throwing in the towel. I have a friend. I won’t mention her name, but she will probably know that I am talking about her if she reads this. I am a foster parent, and every time I get a new child in my home, she always buys him or her a new pair of robeez and collects clothes and toys to give them. I don’t ask her. She just does it. It speaks volumes to me, and she probably doesn’t realize what a big part she plays in our journey through foster care and adoption. I am always trying to be more like her.
4) Lastly, remember eternity. We are all on the same team, and we will have the victory. Lets build each other up and help to strengthen each other to bring more people to the winning team. Together, our main purpose is to be pulling people out of the flames of hell and introducing them to the healing power of Jesus and the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.
I hope my meager words have helped you understand the world of a foster parents just a little bit better. God bless you all.