Here are some things foster care doesn't mean.
It doesn't mean we don't understand the risks and the pain...When we mention foster care and our desire to eventually adopt children out of the system, people usually respond with concern about a number of perceived (and accurate) difficulties. They are usually concerned about the influence of foster children on our son (I addressed this in the previous post). But they are also frequently concerned about the behavioral, social, physical, and psychological needs that accompany these children.
I promise you, we understand the risks. We've discussed what might come. We've talked through some worst-case scenarios. We've cried for children that aren't even in our home yet. We have no experience, but we've taken every opportunity to learn, read and try to understand the hurt that we will inevitably experience.
Most of the kids in the system have been removed from their homes. For some of them, the removal was initiated because of abuse to the children directly. Some come with a history of sexual or physical abuse. Many of them are years behind their peers developmentally because they didn't have an environment conducive to natural development. The very act of thrusting them into our home will be another shift that will cause pain, frustration, guilt, and fear for these children.
We are aware and we are ready for this pain. We will have a (figuratively) messy family and a (literally) messy home.
It doesn't mean we are better than anyone else...Foster care is not our attempt to look sacrificial or to appear more holy than anyone else. We have been overwhelmed and convicted over the last year or so to forego growing our family biologically and pursue opportunities to reflect God's grace through the fostering and adopting of children without a home. This conviction led to this decision, but we recognize that it is not the best decision for every family. I will do my best to be respectful to the choices other families make, all the while trying to gently encourage Christians to consider opening their home to foster care and adoption as a means to alleviate suffering in the world while reflecting God's adoption of us into His spiritual family.
Foster care also doesn't mean that we are better than the parents of these children. Most of the children that move through our home will not stay. Our home will be a retreat, a place of rest, a place of growth, and a chance at normalcy before they return to their biological family. In an ideal world, parents would provide a nurturing home for their children and there would never be a reason for an outside group to remove them. But we live in a fallen world and sometimes these children need a temporary home that is safe from some of the damaging consequences of sin. In this situation, the best thing that can happen is for complete reconciliation -- that families would be reunited and that parents would come to a place where they can bring their kids back home to a safe environment.
But as we bring kids into our home, it will be hard not to see the parents as "the enemy". We will have to constantly fight against our prideful belief that our home is better than the one they came from and might return to. If a child is freed for adoption, we will advocate hard for them to stay with us, but as long as the opportunity still exists for a child to return to their biological home, we will pray for those parents and do our best to support them as they attempt to reunite with their children and be parents. Adoption is a second-best option in a world where the best possible option, healthy natural families, is simply not a reality for every home.