Hi, I’m Sara. I’m a foster mom, turned adoptive mom, turned volunteer to foster youth. Our family has participated in foster care from multiple angles. We first became involved when my husband and I became licensed foster parents. We were placed with a 2 year old boy whom we eventually adopted. We got to know his birth family and now cultivate strong relationships with them. We chose to let our license lapse to put primary focus on our son, but then shifted to supporting other foster families by aiding with transportation, respite care, meals, etc. Currently, we’re largely involved with a foster care group home for unaccompanied minor teenage refugee boys. We are a host family, which means we step in as a support system to provide them with experiences and guidance as they navigate adjusting to the United States and aging out after a year in the home.
I entered foster care believing the safest way to guard my heart was to place boundaries on my affections. Regardless of how you’re involved with the foster care system, you run the risk of saying goodbye to children to whom you’ve become attached, which was cause for worry over how I’d react. However, it wasn’t long into fostering our son before I threw all of that out the window. If you enter into foster care you’re signing up for potential heartbreak, but I found very quickly that I would rather break my own in the process of caring for his. As soon as I understood this, I hung pictures of him on the walls because, regardless of his time with us, I wanted him to feel how wanted and welcomed he was in our home and my personal welfare became far less of a concern than his feelings of worth and attachment.
Being a part of the Foster Care world, as a mom and volunteer, I have learned so much grace. Foster care presents many opportunities to harbor anger and resentment; don’t give in to it. You can reject an action without hating the person (and that goes for the child as well as the birth family). There are reasons behind even despicable actions, because everyone has a story even if they don’t reveal a bit of it publicly. Holding onto the fury and hatred will break you and then you’re of no use to anyone.
Guarding your heart doesn’t require you to curb your affection, but it does mean you choose what you allow in. Foster care taught me to offer grace even (especially) when I rage because it allows me to release the anger, (even if it takes time), so I may more clearly identify how I can help.
To anyone out there wondering about how to get involved in foster care, there are so many ways! Certainly, becoming licensed foster parents is a critical need, but it isn’t an option for everyone. Check with your local foster care agencies. Depending on your location, options may include: providing meal gift cards to foster families, donating to or helping sort clothing for clothes closets specifically designated for foster children, providing respite care, offering to take bio/adopted kids of foster families you know out on special excursions (it can be easy to feel left out when foster siblings require extra attention), supporting foster kids who’ve aged out (our local college has a scholarship program for students who’ve aged out of foster care and offers opportunities to donate back-to-school gift baskets filled with dorm necessities or to provide meals to be delivered over holidays), or by aiding in refugee care (fostering young unaccompanied minors or mentoring older ones). No matter the avenue, there is a way for you to offer an invaluable place of support to children in the system or the families who are fostering them.
Anytime you are making a life changing decision, there will be naysayers to offer horror stories. (Why?! Why do they do this?!) Learn early on which voices to turn up and which voices to tune out. (But make sure to listen to the voices of adult adoptees and those who’ve aged out of foster care. It will be hard, but do it anyway. Their points of view are invaluable.) Find a support system to provide honesty and support and then go for it! There are so many children just waiting on you to do the same for them.
Professional Photos above by Nicole Marie Foster