Imagine with me for a moment. You drop off your children at school or daycare in the morning and are notified later that they’ve been picked up by someone else and brought to a stranger’s house to live. Or perhaps you’re a father who receives a call telling you that your children have been sent to a stranger’s home because their mother, who you are no longer with, couldn’t care for them. I wonder what would be going through your mind in that moment. Anger? Worry? Helplessness? You didn’t even get to say goodbye. This scene is played over and over for parents of foster children every day.
What Are They Thinking?
Many parents of foster children have never learned to trust others. They have very little experience with people who genuinely care about them. So naturally, they doubt. They doubt the motives of the system that took their kids. They doubt the sincerity of the foster family that is providing care.
Can you imagine the questions and the fear? Who are they with? Are they scared? Are they safe? It’s true that these parents have made mistakes. Some factor has caused them to abuse or neglect their children or to place them in a dangerous situation. But many people think all parents of foster children are evil, and that is simply not the case. It hurts my heart when I hear someone speak of them in a degrading way. Most of them love their children and want to care for them, but they can’t.
Parents of foster children usually come from hard places. Very few of them grew up in what we might call a “Leave it to Beaver” family. Often times they don’t provide a proper home for their children because they just don’t know how. Many come from abusive or addiction-filled homes. Most of them are addicts themselves. They love their children. They truly want to provide a safe and loving home for them, but they just can’t.
Calming The Fears
Parents of foster children are usually allowed to talk to their kids on the phone a few times a week. Sometimes there are in-person visits as well. What would you do or say if your young child had never been away from you and was now struggling with that separation? You would probably tell them how much you love them, tell them you miss them, and sing a few of their favorite songs to help calm their fears.
Parents of older children are full of questions when they have an opportunity to talk to their kids. “Are you safe? Are those people being nice to you? Are you okay?” They are valid concerns, and the parents have a right to be reassured.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.” You will never feel the plight of parents of foster children quite like you could when you hear a mommy singing that song to her precious little one over the phone. I wonder if that mom thought about the rest of the song, the part we never sing to our children: “The other night dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms. But when I awoke dear, I was mistaken. So I hung my head and cried.”
Parents of foster children are not monsters. They need our caring support as much as their children do. We should be rooting for them, cheering them on to get to a place where they can care for their children. Will stand with me in their corner?
Check out the other posts in this series on foster care: