Losing a foster child is excruciating. I know because last month I lost my sweet boy two days before his second birthday. He had lived with us for over a year. He learned to walk in our house. My arms held him while he was sick or upset. Now both are empty. I wake up every morning wondering how he is doing. I wonder if he is happy or if he is wondering when we are coming to pick him up. Is he scared or mad wondering why we aren’t coming to get him? Does he think we abandoned him? What other conclusion could he reach? My baby who had already been through so much “transitioned” out of our home. The transition made no logical sense. I fought with everything I had to keep him in with us, but in the end, I had to hand him over. I have to live with that, as well as the hole his absence has left behind. Going out as a family, it always feels as if something, someone, is missing. My other son, whom I vowed to love and protect, is also suffering. At three years old, he too is suffering another loss and mourning. His little (foster) brother and roommate is gone. He does not understand why. He only knows that mommy and daddy let it happen, so he is confused and angry. We lost a part of our family, and you do not survive that and end up the same person on the other side of that loss.
For those of you who think you could never be a foster parent, you can. Fostering isn’t meant to be a pleasant journey, but it is a rewarding one. They deliver a child to your door who is going through unthinkable trauma. Their home may not have been perfect, but it was all they knew. It was theirs. They now stand before you raw, terrified, and alone. Your job is to help them piece their lives back together, work through the trauma, and carry on. We give them a place to rest their weary heads and let them know that they are not alone. Our pain and our trauma is the price we pay to make sure they feel loved and safe in a home. If not forever, at least for a while. Regarding my remaining son, he too will be changed. He has an extensive support network of family who loves him and is helping him through this time. He will heal, learn and grow from it. We gave our (foster) son a safe place to develop and grow during one of the most formative years of his life. We helped him find his voice and shared laughter, tears, and love. Both boys deserve a stable home and healthy family that many of us take for granted. They deserve to be loved and have their needs met. It is never about us. It is about them. If we made his journey even slightly better, it is worth it. Fostering only hurts if you do it right. That may not be a tremendous comfort, but it is something. Although we may never see it, the effects on these children can be seismic. These children are strong and resilient. Like a seedling, once they have found a place to lay their roots, they can break through impossible odds to flourish and bloom.
It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it.
It takes a village to raise children. Every parent knows that. There is no shame in asking for help. We can’t do it alone. These children are our children. We are the village. If those of us who love deeply don’t do it, who will? Those of us who have happy, healthy homes have a responsibility to these children. How can this problem be solved unless we become part of the solution? If every one of us took in one child one time. We could change the face of foster care forever. Instead, as I sit at my computer writing this, downstairs my son has a new roommate. A new, brave little face arrived at my door at 8:30 this evening. An adorable little boy, the same age as my son, showed up with bags in hand. I don’t know why he is here, or what prompted his arrival. I don’t know who or what he left behind. I do know tonight he has a safe place to lay his head, and because of that, I rest easier. I also become a better person to have known each of them. They have taught me so much, and it has been an honor to be part of their village.
[…] is a common misconception that all foster children are in some sort of therapy or reform school. They must work their way through these institutions […]