When we first started the process of getting a foster license on our adoption journey, I heard two things with almost equal frequency.
“I could never do that.” and “I’ve always wanted to do that.”
More than 400,000 kids are in the U.S. foster care system — some live with extended family, some hope to be reunited with their parents, and nearly half are waiting for an adoptive family. If everyone who had thought of doing foster care actually did, there would be far less children waiting and far less stress on the foster homes that are available.
The problem is, that phrase was always, always followed with “but…”
“I don’t have enough money.” Is there ever enough money? If we all waited until there was “enough” money to have children, I’m fairly certain the human species would be endangered by now. We realize adding a child or two to our family may have a minor impact on the budget, but we stick to grocery deals, focus on free family fun, and work hard to teach our children that people and kindness are more important than money and things.
“Our house isn’t big enough.” Yeah, mine either, but we’re making it work. Our office is in the dining room; we eat in the kitchen. The girls share a room; the boys will too. Foster kids require 50 square feet per person and their own bed — that means this house that “isn’t big enough” has the bedroom space for up to 3 more kids.
“My husband/wife/family would never let me do that.” Okay, I’ll admit this one is a big deal. The whole family has to be on board, but have the conversation. You’ll never know how the rest of your family feels about it, if you don’t at least bring it up. I thought I might have to do some talking with my own husband, but he surprised me by jumping on board as soon as I finally sat down and started the conversation.
“I could never let them go.” Oh, yes. You can. You’ll love them. You’ll get attached. And, it will hurt to say goodbye, but you can do so much good while you have them. And, here’s the thing — parenting hurts. A lot. That doesn’t mean you don’t do the best you can with the time you’ve got. If the attachment is truly a struggle for you, consider respite care. It’s short term (basically babysitting) but really helps relieve the stress of foster families and provides another support system for kids in need.
We provided respite care last week for 3 siblings, giving their parents a much needed break. The kids were sweet, loving, and a lot of fun. We spent the day with 6 kids, then sent half of them back home to their foster/adoptive family in time for bed.
Respite care sometimes includes overnights, weekends or extended care while foster families travel or manage illness and hospital stays. The thing is, anyone with a heart for these kids can find a way to be helpful.
If expanding your family through adoption is not for you, perhaps you could provide a temporary family for foster kids. If fostering is not a good fit, please consider respite care. And if nothing else, you can provide additional support through donations, fundraisers, Project Linus or the Pajama Program.