Everyone knows foster care is hard. If you didn’t know it going in, you’d know it by the time you told the first person you were going to foster parent. We’ve all heard the responses or even said them ourselves. ”I could never do that.” ”How could you ever stand to give the child back?” ”Those kids come with all kinds of problems.” ”I’d never want to deal with those parents.” ”You really want the government involved with your family?” ”The system is SO messed up.”
While it’s discouraging to hear those responses, there’s a nugget of truth in each one. This IS a hard process. Parents, caseworkers, lawyers, “the system”, even the kids themselves can be difficult to deal with. We persevere because we believe caring for kids who need the love and consistency of a family is the right thing to do, not because this is an easy process. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need support.
Finding family members or a support network of friends who understand foster care can be a major challenge. Without a supportive community willing to walk this road with you, it is tough to find the strength to walk through it yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to find friends who are willing to invest in your foster child and come alongside you because they don’t understand the struggles you’re going through. And sometimes that’s our own fault.
I think foster parents often struggle with what I call “foster shame”. We go into this process hoping for the best, but knowing the worst is probably waiting for us. We hear the concerns of our friends and family that we’re bound to get our heart broken, but we continue on because we believe we’re called to help. But what happens when we DO get our hearts broken? Who can we turn to? It feels difficult to go to our friends who questioned our decision to do this in the first place because we feel this foster shame. We feel everyone is thinking, “You brought this on yourself, you know. If you’d just quit you wouldn’t be going through this.” How can you share your honest pains with someone when you think their solution might be for you to quit doing the thing you feel you’ve been called to do? Do we really feel we should only do the things that are easy?