Two truths and a lie about foster parenting

We became foster parents five years ago after my husband came home from work one day and told me that our county was experiencing a crisis and he wanted us to consider becoming licensed providers.

“Why not?” I thought. We live across the street from a park and I loved raising our four biological children, who were now grown and out of the house. “Let’s do it.”

As it turned out, we were pretty naive about the level of care children who have experienced trauma in their lives require. Still, we are glad we jumped in and we’re so grateful for how foster care has expanded our family in such magical ways.

Foster parenting is an exponential learning process and we have a long way to go before we would ever consider ourselves experts in the field. But, I am comfortable pointing out a few of my observations and I’d like to start by playing “two truths and a lie”.

Here are my statements:

  • You can’t get too attached to the young people who come into your care.
  • Foster parenting will hurt your heart.
  • Foster parents are heroes.

Can you spot the lie? 

The first statement is true, but not in the way you might expect. It is not possible to get too attached to the children you meet because, if you ask me, attachment is the whole point of foster parenting. You get to pour as much love as you can summon into these little souls because they need it more than they need anything else you provide. Food, shelter, discipline, education, consistency, warm clothing, entertainment and cool experiences are all important. But I think love eclipses them all. And you don’t have to hold back just because these children  won’t be living in your house forever. They can pack up your love, take it with them when they leave and you’ll both be better off for exchanging that gift.

The second statement is also true, but that’s okay. Your heart is a muscle and muscles often hurt when they expand. No one rides a merry unicorn into foster care and they can’t hitch a ride on one out of care either. That path winds through some dark and disappointing places and relies on the slow, frustrating plod of very human feet. Your heart will hurt every day. But, it will also grow and you’ll approach the other parts of your life with a bigger, more empathetic capacity to love. Isn’t that a gift? 

The last statement is a dangerous lie and I say that as a person who has been consistently humbled and awestruck by the foster parents I’ve met on this journey. But, calling them heroes isolates them from a wide pool of potential foster parents in a time of desperate need. Every foster parent trips up occasionally. They just pick themselves up, stick a few bandaids on their scabby knees, apologize when needed and move on. Foster parents aren’t heroes, they’re just regular people leaning into a challenge and supporting each other along the way.

If you have any interest in becoming a foster parent, I’d be happy to answer any questions you have. I also highly recommend following Foster.Parent.Partner on Facebook, or Foster.Parenting on Instagram. “The other Laura”, as I like to call her, has some extremely helpful insights and tips for prospective foster parents, current foster parents, educators, social workers and anyone else who works or spends time with children.

3 thoughts on “Two truths and a lie about foster parenting

  1. As always- you write from the heart. Mind if I capture some of these thoughts for First 5 Fox Valley newsletter if I ever can find time to get it up and running? Attachment is critical component to the healthy development of children. A child cannot have too many people loving them.

    1. Absolutely. I agree. There is no such thing as too much love and you don’t run out when you give some away.

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