It’s 4 months into full time foster care (caring for an 11 year old soul) and 20 months since completing our full certification as “therapeutic” foster care providers. We have opened up our home for 5 souls as respite (part time foster care) week/weekends since our certification date of Feb 2017. Read specifics (dates) of a timeline of this journey here (to be posted).
I was posed a question by a long time friend of mine as the latest meltdown was still fresh from the night before during our weekly Skype Bible study meeting, “What are you learning from your time in foster care?” I thought she had seen my most recent blog I’d posted at the time about my struggles so I was thrown off guard by her question. It was a great question. It just wasn’t a “poor you” type response. That’s why I maintain contact with friends who keep it real and keep me on track. Thank you Lord for true accountability.
So…. other than my standard initial response when people ask me, “How’s it going?” I say well…. (quickly gauging how much time we have for this question and if it looks like they really want to know), “I am learning how selfish I really am. I thought this was going to be easy but it isn’t. The Lord is breaking me down and yet He gives me just what I need when I need it.” I also say that “our family, every single person in our home, is learning from this experience.”
Now, depending on if there is time to elaborate, I may go into some detail but really that response is just in the moment and it is incomplete. It’s kinda like asking my kids if they like school and immediately they respond that they HATE school. C’mon, if they took time to think about it and look beyond the initial fact of not being able to play video games and eat candy all day- which even if they weren’t in school they would NEVER (well it is not likely that they would) get to do that on any day, anywhere at their age. Living under our roof. Not paying any bills… Not ever in OUR house. I think you get my drift. Anyway, so allow me to add to my previous response above. Or, better yet, let’s just turn it all the way around and allow me to tell you how my family has benefited from being a foster family. Because we have benefited. In fact, when I found myself struggling before and confessing this to a friend at church, she had the audacity to ask me- “What are you complaining about?” I’m laughing here because I was the one who admitted to her that I was getting all these answers to my previous prayers resulting from this soul who was unexpectedly put on our plate. (I’ll write about this soon.) “But it’s hard!,” I whined. It IS hard, she said. “Yes, I want these results but not like this though.” She just laughed at me. God help me. Later that same day, she happened to be standing next to me as the subject of being content and ‘answering God’s call, well, with the people He’s placed in your life‘ came up from someone else- I just had to laugh. I ended up confessing to this person also that she was not alone in this and explained about our (now including the other friend in the conversation) “discussion” just hours earlier. God help us!!!! It is so true, there is nothing is new under the sun for sure.
Okay, okay so here goes, our families’ Top 10 Benefits From Doing Foster Care are (drum roll please): (in no particular order)
Top 10 Benefits From Doing (Therapeutic/Treatment) Foster Care
1. A cleaner house.
A cluttered house has always been an issue for me for YEARS. Wanna hear more about this? Click here. Foster care has helped me to keep the house maintained because we have lots of guests now! No, seriously (well, yes we do but that was a bit sarcastic there), the kids do work to clean up after themselves and they help with chores so I’m thankful for their extra hands as they learn how to keep house too.)
2. A trimmed schedule.
My schedule has been whittled down- not because I didn’t try to make it all work. It was too much FOR MY SANITY to keep doing it all. I’ve slowly had to make decisions to cut more and more from my schedule in order to fit the new schedule in. Now my schedule adjusts around what NEEDS to take place (in home counseling sessions three times a week, doctor appointments, home visits by different persons, training or meetings and court visits). The good thing is everyone tries to be very flexible and we all are a great team with a common goal in mind. It was a prayer of mine for a long while for God to help me better manage my time. I wondered if the things that took up my time was the “best” things He had for me to do. Well now I know.
3. Deeper appreciation & respect for spouse.
Seeing him come home from a long day at work but then helping the kids (especially with the one that is not his own) with their questions and needs (with homework, with exercising, with disciplining, with kung-fu skills- joking). My spouse has been forced to look beyond himself and give to someone else outside of family (and outside of work). Regardless of the reason or if he likes it or not – he does do what he said he would do.
4. Spiritual growth in my children.
There have been numerous opportunities to remind my birth children of how God wants us to live as Christ followers. Denying self. I have seen my children struggle and grow in this area. Especially when it comes to forgiving others. We want to see this change in our children and when I do see it, small bits of it, it is very precious to me. I have reminded the kids often, especially in the beginning and periodically as times are tough that we have ALL been given opportunities to use whatever we have to serve others. We can choose to pass on the love and blessings and grace that we were given by Jesus to those that are around us. When it was just us living in our home, these lessons weren’t as frequent and we really didn’t need to sacrifice much at home for one another. We already established our patterns as a family and most things were worked out and understood.
5. Tangible way to help the hurting.
Opening up your life like this costs more verses giving money to someone or to an organization. You really experience what it is like in the day in and day out. Each moment is an opportunity to choose how you can help influence a life, possibly the trajectory of future generations, just through our simple daily actions.
6. New level of following Jesus. Deepened relationship with the Lord.
It is not just learning about what Jesus said but actually DOING IT that I believe has propelled me in understanding and appreciation for what Jesus willingly did and went through for me. And for you. We’ve struggled yes, and God meets us in it. He hears my cry and He helps me in my time of need. Every. Single. Time.
7. Stronger marriage.
Because of the added pressures, we have had many experiences that have provided us more opportunities to refine our communication skills and work closer together as a team. Usually when one is spent the other compensates and helps to offer rest and vice versa. I realized although I “could” learn to do this without my better half, it is easier (and more enjoyable for everyone) when we operate as one. James 1:2-4. As a couple we are stronger through the adversity and the pressure and the trials as we are motivated by a common purpose. To survive. (haha)
8. Deeper appreciation and respect for other foster families.
I now know more about what they are dealing with and talking about. I couldn’t understand it before I experienced it (even though I thought I did). Even as a respite (part time) provider, I thought I knew what it was like. HA!! There is nothing like this. I have much respect for ALL who open up their homes to foster. I have seen many elderly persons foster and single parents foster. Those who work full time also foster. It amazes me what they do and I am so very thankful and appreciative for each of them/you. It is “obedience over comfort” as one experienced foster mom shared with me.
9. Thankfulness for foster-related services and those who work those roles- paid or volunteer.
I didn’t really understand what a case-worker/manager did until now. I don’t know if they all are as great as ours is, but she is wonderful. Always gets back to me promptly with responses. She is dependable. She shows up on time. She listens. She pulls out the clinical verbiage needed as an effective “go-between” from foster family to everyone else. She seems to be available at all times-day or night. It takes a special person to do this work and she is just one of the service providers on the team. There is also the Department of Social Services case manager, the in-home treatment counselor(s), the outpatient counselor, the school teacher(s) and principal (and staff), the transportation agency that transports children to and from school because they are usually living in an area outside of their zoned school, the psychiatrist, the CASA volunteer, the GAL, … I’m sure there are more involved but those are the ones that I’ve worked with or seen recently. Each person has their role and our role, as foster parents (family), is to provide a healthy home and a family relationship (no one said we needed to be perfect- who is anyway?) for our foster child to experience safe relationships and hopefully thrive.
10. Husband stepping up more in role of father.
Well I will say that my husband’s role is so important because there aren’t enough accessible male role models. This is an experience that no one else in this house can provide. My husband models how to be a good husband and what a good father looks like. What a man looks like and how he carries himself- especially in the privacy of his own home behind closed doors. Day in and day out. I am so thankful for my husband stepping out of his box for someone else. Believe me when I share with you that this was NOT at all his plan- AT ALL. But he is specially equipped for the task in many unique ways, not just because he is a man. I am reminded, again and again, that God knows what He is doing and often He is doing many more things than what we think.
My spouse asked me about 2 weeks ago, “if you knew then what you know now- would you still have said yes (to accepting our first full-time foster placement or investigating foster care at all)?” Without hesitation, absolutely I would still say yes. Really, going through what we are going through right now is how we “know” what we know. No training can teach you. No book can tell you. You learn through the experience. There are other families before you and in the fight with you- you are not alone. And, God shapes us all along the way as we submit to his leading. I have learned how to apologize when losing it with a child that frustrates me. I have learned how to stop and listen. I have learned it is not ‘my way or the highway.’ They have needs and desires that I don’t know and they may not even realize yet. It takes patience and care but any willing heart can do it. You can learn. You will grow. You will experience your own ‘top 10 benefits’ and you will know that you did what you could do because of the Lord’s strength surrounded with the help of those who love and support you and those within your community. I am who I am today because of the Great I AM. I am forever grateful and thankful to be entrusted with this opportunity to help another and to also witness the shaping of these benefits experienced by each of us in our family because of our answer to the call to foster care.
This is the agency that has introduced us to foster care and that which we are currently working through. They are a Christian-based foster care organization located in Virgina, USA. Hopetree Family Services. Contact an agency near you or go directly through the Department of Social Services for information on their next informational briefing if you’d like to hear more about what it might be like to explore this opportunity and help these children who are looking for someone just like you.
Here are some of my initial thoughts as we started this journey back in 2016. To read them, click here.