In the foster care classes required for us to get our license they talked a lot about what is called a disruption. This just means that a placement, for one reason or another, has to move out of the foster home they are in before they are ready to reintegrate back with their biological family. Often you hear stories of children who lived in 5, 10 or even more foster homes throughout their lives. This represents many disruptions. I struggled to understand how so many disruptions could take place in one lifetime but I was also careful to not assume that it would never happen to our family. While we were optimistic that we would never need to make such a drastic choice that can have lifelong consequences for a child, the real truth we were being taught in class was that these kids have been wronged. The nature of foster care already means that a hurt has taken place in a child's life. Often they have lived their years with little guidance, been exposed to negative experiences and taught inappropriate ways to react to situations around them. I knew there was no guarantee that every child would be a good fit for our family.
Flash forward four years. We have learned a lot about the "system" and have experienced various placements lasting from a couple nights to 10 months. Our girls are 1, 2 and 5. We also had two foster children, age 2 and 5. They had been living with us for 8 months. Derek and I were continually reevaluating and monitoring how each placement affected our family. Our marriage and our girls are what God has called us to first and we are cautious to make sure that those needs are being met. We take breaks between placements, make special "dates" with each child, and pray, pray, pray that we are remaining in God's will during each placement.
Over half a year into this placement, however, we began to sense changes. We were struggling. A lot. Not with any one child or situation necessarily, but with the heavy challenge brought on by having 5 children 5 years old and younger. To say I was tired would be a deep understatement. I began to realize that I wasn't being the wife and mother that I felt God had called me to be. I went to bed tearful and discouraged, not looking forward to the next day. Derek and I noticed the way we talked to the children was becoming increasingly harsh or clipped and we didn't relate to each other in the way we once had.
For a long time we held on and kept plugging away for various reasons. We prayed that things would begin to move forward in the case and that we could focus on a reintegration plan. We feared that a different foster home would be worse than ours, arrogantly assuming that we are the only ones who could help these two kids in the right way. We didn't want any part in being their second disruption in less than a year (they had each been at a different foster home before us). I really, really had seen so much growth and joy in the 8 months that we'd had them. We loved them. Truly. I just couldn't ever make that call that it was time for us to admit that we couldn't do it any more. Derek and I talked and prayed often together and with those around us who knew and loved us about what would be the best next steps. We cried a lot. We knew we needed to either make the decision that a disruption was necessary or, pull ourselves (and our energy) up, rededicate ourselves to these kids for the duration of the time that they were going to be in foster care and stop dwelling on the hard. We decided to wait until the upcoming court date to make our final decision.
The court day came and went...and nothing changed. No moves towards reintegration, no plans to start transitioning home, no end in sight. The next court was scheduled for the fall. We realized at that moment that this was going to go on for a lot longer. Mostly likely into Christmas and maybe even next year. I immediately knew that I couldn't do it. We suddenly saw that while we selfishly assumed that we were the best for the kids that really might mean that we were keeping them back from a different foster family that could be even more beneficial to these two kids we deeply loved. Maybe a family with older children or less children that could really pour into these two the way they truly deserved. In a way that I was failing them. I knew that for our marriage and our relationship with the three girls entrusted to us that we needed to say goodbye, even though the thought made me sick to my stomach.
So, we gave our 30 day notice for a new family to be found. I prayed and prayed for the family that God would call to say yes. I prayed we would know how and when to tell these two children. How do you sit down a little boy and tell them that everything he knows right then -- everything safe and secure and routine -- was going to change? I prayed that we could properly convey that it was not their fault. I prayed that I could one day release the guilt.
This has been so, so hard. The emotions and questions that have flown in and out are too numerous to count.
- Sorrow: We miss our kids. That's the truth. It was hard and tiring and burdensome and I know in the bottom of my heart that we made the right choice but those are still my kids. Our son called us mom and dad from the moment we picked him up. For 8 months of my life my every day was those kids. I love them and my heart hurts without them.
- Confusion: Did I make the right choice? Did I truly follow God's will in this situation? Would God really call us to be their parents for a while and then asked them to move on? What can be His plan in all this?
- Relief: A weight has been lifted. A sense of heaviness is gone and I'm finding more joy in my days. I'm so in love with my three girls and my husband and there is more time and energy to focus on those loves.
- Guilt: So much guilt. Do they understand? Do they feel abandoned? Do they think they did something wrong to have to move? Will our son asking, "Is Taryn still my sister?" after we told him about the new family anxiously awaiting him coming to live with them ever stop ringing in my head? Guilt that I couldn't just suck it up and power through for the sake of two little kids tossed around due to the consequences of their parents choices. Guilt that I feel so relieved to be done with this placement. Oh, guilt is a tricky emotion that satan works so effectively in.
- Worry: Did they go to a Christian home? When will the next time they hear about God? Will our foster daughter's language delays be addressed? Will our foster son's new school be as proactive and supportive to his challenging behavior as his school here was?
- Embarrassment: Will people understand why we had to say goodbye? Do they think we should have just stuck it out? Pride is a paralyzing emotion that can keep so much good from happening. I'm praying that setting aside our pride will reap big benefits in the life of our two foster loves.
I can carry all these feelings and emotions (and I run through them all several times a day!) but I also have freedom and comfort in knowing that:
- As much as I loved these two blessings, that my God loves them infinitely more. "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
- His plans for them are good. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
- Joy is still to be found even in the pain. "You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11
- Our weariness will be transformed. "For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish." Jeremiah 31:25
Will we foster again? Mostly, likely, yes. Will it be soon? Doubtful. But, we continue to trust that God will help us to know if and when it is time to open our home again. I still love knowing that we were called to this mission. I don't hold fears that we could have a similar situation or that we won't have a placement that is a good fit for us again. I'm fairly certain we will. For now though, we're enjoying our new "little" family and helping our children mourn the loss of their two siblings. We're able to look back a the last long, hard months and see God's hand throughout, teaching us and guiding us.
I don't say all this to discourage others from fostering. I don't say it because it is easy to admit or to remember. I do say it to be honest about the hard and the challenging side of foster care. Not every child is going to be a perfect fit in every family.
I'm still learning to not always be counting in my head for 5 children when we're out and about. I still break down in tears every time our son's favorite song plays on the radio and I hear his earnest out-of-tune passionate singing in my head. We're early everywhere we go b/c we're so used to the time it takes to get 7 of us somewhere....5 is much simpler. My life is drastically different.
In my Bible study a couple weeks ago I found these words so comforting:
In my Bible study a couple weeks ago I found these words so comforting:
"I know it may seem so precarious to stake your joy not on your circumstances, or even on the gifts that God has given you, but on the person of God himself. I know that's difficult. That's why we need faith to do it. We need faith to trust that God doesn't merely "know what's best for us," but that He is what's best for us no matter what our circumstances are.
Jesus answered them, 'This is the word of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent' (John 6:29). When we believe in Jesus to provide all that we need for life and godliness, we can confess with tears of joyful relief, 'For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.' (Romans 11:36)." from Glimpses of Grace: treasuring the gospel in your home by Gloria Furman
Side note: Thank you to our friends and family who selflessly poured into our two needy kids for the last 8 months. They loved you and knew that you loved them. You made difference that God will put to great use in these two lives. From the bottom of this momma's heart.....thank you.