The system we are part of does not make sense to me. The best interests of the children are often not at the forefront of the child's case, and the loudest and most influential voices in the court room too easily become the people with the worst ethics and least concern for the kids. A lawyer who still does not know why the child is in care can say there is no reason for the child to be in care and that can change the trajectory of the case. It doesn't make sense.
If you're considering foster care, know this. This is a broken system. You will be frustrated. Your family will feel overlooked, your thoughts and first-hand experiences will hold no weight in court, and you will be frustrated to realize that the child is getting shuffled along based on a lot of factors that are not primarily focused on the child. You will get your first placement and you will wonder if you can ever do this again.
Because loving your next placement doesn't take away the sorrow of the babies who left.
You will have to decide why you are in it. These children do not get a chance to decide if they want to be part of the broken system. Babies don't get to say what they want or advocate for their needs. Big kids may be able to talk in court but they certainly aren't always listened to. You will provide a loving, stable, growth-friendly environment, and the child will become yours and hopefully thrive in your home and odds are that they will leave your whole family to go back to something broken and painful.
Your heart will be broken. But your home will still be home, and the rest of your family - however that is constructed in your home - will still be there. If you love Jesus, he will continue to be a source of stability and joy that cannot be shaken. Your heart will be broken. But you will still find wholeness. The broken won't be about you. It will be about your child, who has no control and is losing a family no matter whether they stay or go.
The way this system works - it stinks. You can't be in it for you. As North Point's Drive conference so accurately presented, you can't be in this foster care journey because you have a need to rescue a child. You will be able to make a difference in a window of the child's life and that window will have more of an impact than you can ever realize. But in most cases you won't be able to rescue the child from a broken situation. They will go back.
You have to be in it for the child. For the impact you can make on their life while they are in stability and love and wholeness. For the chance to show them that whole families are the norm for them to strive for, not the strange outlier in a world of broken families. For a chance to give them something else to hope for and work for when they are raising their own children someday.
The hard thing for us to understand from our point of view is that the broken and painful home is still home to the child. Sometimes big kids ask to go back despite all the good and the growth they are experiencing. They don't see things the way we do. They love us and they love their birth families. They might not understand what they're going back to, they might not see the long-term consequences, but they do need to be given the encouragement that it's okay to love their birth family and to be excited to go home. (Honestly, they're going whether or not they want it, so they might as well be given the emotional license to embrace that return.)
What does this have to do with Mother's Day? I guess probably not much from the outside. But it's what Mother's Day is made of for me this year. Mother's Day is a confusing opportunity to celebrate someone else as mother for the child who knows me as Mommy. It's a chance to honor someone else for the position I've been filling most hours of the day, all hours of the night, for almost every diaper change and bottle and first and teething and fever and adventure in Baby S's life thus far. Mother's Day is weird this year. It's hard. I'm Mommy, yet I'm in the store planning a Mother's Day gift for someone else.
But it's not for me. It's for baby. It has to be for baby. And it has to be through Jesus. Or I can't do this again. And this calling was not ever about me, or my husband, or my bio son.
So we'll keep on trucking, and loving little Baby S. We'll help him be able to celebrate Mother's Day for both his mothers. We'll start thinking about how to pack him up and send him away. We'll talk about doing this again someday even as our hearts and minds are resisting that this is happening. We'll keep praying in the frequent moments where it's all we can do to keep from sinning in our attitude. Pray for us!
And if you'll give me another five minutes of your time, check out this blog post from an adoptive mom friend, as she shares her thoughts approaching her son's first Mother's Day. It's worth a read.