When you are caring for a child from foster care, unexpected challenges can arise.
Step into a day in the life of a foster family with Chosen Care Manager Bethany Hall to learn about their challenges and how to support them.
This is not the story of one foster parent, but rather a combination of thoughts and stories shared with her by many foster families over the years. Their lives share a common thread of selfless love and persistence through the hardest moments..
The Story of a Foster Family
I’ll never forget that first placement phone call. We thought we were ready. But seeing her small, frail body on my porch made my heart skip a beat. On her back was a small backpack and in the caseworker’s hand, a garbage bag. As the lights of her caseworker’s car pulled away, we tiptoed past the rooms of our sleeping children, to get her settled in.
The first days and weeks were a blur of home visits, medical and dental appointments, shopping for clothes and toys, and getting to know one another. As weeks turned into months we navigated family visits, court dates, and big behaviors. Many nights I laid in bed unsure of how to pray. There was no way to remove the loss and pain from her life’s story. If she reunited with her family, she would lose us and someday possibly even forget our time together. But by becoming our forever child, she would suffer the loss of her biological parents.
I already knew I was getting “too attached.” There are things people say to you when they hear you are a foster parent: “I could never do that; I would get too attached.” As I sang her to sleep at night, I remembered that she had no choice in any of this. And I chose to get up the next day, willing to let my heart break a little if it will help heal hers.
One of the best gifts a foster family can give to a child is the gift of attachment—also known as connection with a primary caregiver. Even if a child reunifies with their biological family or is adopted by another family, time spent in a safe and loving environment is never wasted. When a foster parent models healthy attachment, they are helping their foster child build resiliency skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
An often-unknown reality of foster care is the intense time commitment that comes with a new placement. There are home visits, therapy appointments, family and sibling visits, court dates, doctors’ appointments, and more. Families can be overwhelmed by the financial needs as well as transportation issues that can arise. A great way to encourage a foster family is to offer to watch their other children during an appointment or visit. Or buy them a gas gift card!
Foster parents live in the tension of deeply caring for a child while holding out hope that their foster child’s family of origin can safely reunify. Because they love this child so much, when it is safe to do so, they hope and pray for reunification. All the while, knowing that it will break their hearts to say goodbye. The process can be confusing and frustrating for both foster parents and biological parents. Case plans can change, and delays happen. The ambiguity can take a deep emotional toll.
Trauma can have deep and lasting effects on the brain, body, and beliefs of a child. However, not all professionals, teachers, caregivers, or even case workers understand this. Foster parents often feel like they struggle to be heard or understood. They work tirelessly to get their children the support they need to be successful. It helps them to have someone on their team, cheering them on and giving them tools to succeed. By taking the time to learn about trauma, you can be an understanding and educated support to these children and an encouragement to their foster parents.
There are many endpoints in the foster care journey—placement changes, reunification, adoption. One thing remains the same: when a child is placed in a foster home, they will always be a part of that family. The memories made, the gift of connection and safety given, and the loving investment will last a lifetime.