My husband and I have been fostering in Fairfax County for three years. It’s one of the best and hardest jobs in the world. What makes it the hardest, is the same reason people say the following statement when they find out I’m a foster mom, “I could never do that, I would get too attached.” Fostering is tough, but it is worth it, it is needed, and it is an important role in our society and in the foster child’s life and family.
There’s a tension to fostering, a balance of making a child a part of our family while knowing that the goal is to get them back home to their biological families. This is the tension that made it hard for me to open up when our first foster daughter was placed with us. I was wrestling with this: How do you protect yourself from heartbreak when you’ve invested so much into a child who will most likely never be “yours”?
But the answer is simple. You can’t. You have a choice: to remain emotionally distant to avoid getting hurt OR to love, get “too attached,” and therefore invite heartbreak into your life. There are no in-betweens.
Every child deserves to know unhindered love. If I can’t give that, I have no business fostering. To love is to be vulnerable, to open yourself up to someone enough that they could break your heart. No holding back. No walls allowed. This is one of the best gifts you can give to a foster child.
This past January our second foster daughter was placed with us. And I’ve been hearing the same statements again, “You guys are amazing, but I could never do that.” And sometimes I still wonder what we were thinking. I think things like:
“We are in a crazy season of life, is this too much?”
“My heart is going to break into a million pieces whenever this little girl has to leave.”
“My kids love her so much, they won’t understand.”
“What if she ends up in a terrible situation?”
“What if we never see her again?”
But nothing worthwhile ever comes without sacrifice and risk. To make an impact on a child is not about you and what you can gain, but about what you can give to that child, even if you never see them again.
There a hundred logical reasons not to foster. There were a hundred in the back of my mind when the county called us again, but when I heard her name none of those reasons mattered. And no matter what comes, I will never question our decision to say yes. And though I do not believe that everyone is called to be foster parents, if everyone with the ability to foster decided not to because it would be “too much,” where would these children go?
If you’re worried about your heart getting broken or loving these kids too much, then you are exactly what the foster care system needs. If you’re worried that your life is already too full of friends, family, and activities, then you have an opportunity to include a child who may have never experienced the joy of a full life, which is exactly what the foster care system needs.