What goes through your mind when you think of foster parents? Do you see someone swooping in like a superhero to save vulnerable children? Or someone devoting their entire lives to nothing but caring for orphans, like Mother Teresa? Surprise! Foster parents are ordinary people.
The most unexpected thing for me in foster care has been the reaction from people when they hear we are foster parents. They speak with awe in their voice, like we’re someone to be revered.
After we became foster parents, and subsequently adoptive parents, people who were previously ambivalent toward us began treating us with a new respect. They were friendlier and more likely to smile our way or to stop and ask us how we were doing. What changed?
The first time someone started talking about how amazing we are, I was taken aback. Not really sure how to respond, I just smiled awkwardly. I still do many times. How does one reply when someone says, “You’re so wonderful,” or, “I love you so much for doing this!”
Here’s the thing: we are the same people we’ve always been. We love our family and try to do what’s best. Sometimes we fail, sometimes we succeed. We volunteer at our church, help our neighbors, and teach our kids to respect their teachers. We are ordinary people, just like most everyone we know.
Anyone who is following God’s leading will be right where he wants them to be. For some that will be taking on a very public leadership role. For others that will be going overseas as a missionary. For most of us, that means being “missionaries” in our own neighborhoods, sharing the love of Jesus and making the world a better place because we’ve been there.
For our family, it meant foster care and adoption, and we simply answered the call. These things were not foreign to us. When I was 13 and the “baby” of the family, my parents welcomed a baby boy into our home through foster care. We adopted him a few years later. (They were the original Starting Parenting Over couple of our family!) When my husband was just ten months old, his parents took in a newborn baby who they adopted. God has blessed us with that heritage, so it just felt natural to us.
Foster parents are not superheroes. We are ordinary people who have been called to do seemingly extraordinary things. We don’t need your admiration and awe, but what we are doing is hard, sometimes very hard. What we do need is your support. Instead of saying, “You’re amazing! I could never do that,” try “What can I do to support you?” and then follow through. Or even, “I am praying for you,” and actually do it.
Everyone can play a part in this story. Though some people are called to be foster parents, many are not. That doesn’t make them less important.
Are you one who is called to simply represent Jesus to the world in your everyday life? You may be the best candidate to come alongside and support foster parents in your community. Want to hear a little about what life is like for foster parents welcoming a new child into their home? Wondering what practical things you can do to help? Check out my post: What’s Missing in Foster Care?
Come back next week as I talk about the forgotten piece in foster care: the biological parents.
Want to read the other posts in this series on foster care? See them here:
The Hardest Goodbye in Foster Care
How Foster Care Affects Your Biological Children
What About the Parents of Foster Children?