We were in the middle of building our new home. The process had been fun, especially since our daughters were old enough to enjoy it with us. They got excited about their new rooms, their new neighborhood and their new friends next door and down the street.
The building process brought up several interesting conversations with them - most notably ones about how many more sisters they wanted in our family. They would ask, "Where are their rooms going to be?", and when we push our handprints in the wet cement on the driveway, they asked, "How are we going to get the new sisters handprints in there?" On some level they understood something just as much as my wife and I did - this house was not just for us.
The entire process gave us yet another small glimpse into something big that was happening in our family, and more specifically, in our daughters. Foster care and adoption was changing our family - in obvious family-picture type ways but also in subtle, less seen, more perspective-shifting type ways. Our daughters had not gone unaffected - they wanted more sisters - they want our home to be a place where kids who need a family can find one for a little while, or forever.
So do we.
A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONCERN
My wife and I were initially concerned about the effect bringing foster children into our home would have on our biological kids. Would it take away from the attention they deserve from us? Would it interrupt their routines? Would they resent us for it?
Now, after the fact, we’ve become more concerned about the effect NOT bringing foster children into our home would have had on our kids. A different kind of fear. It has changed them for the better, and we’re convinced they will never be the same as a result of it.
THE NORM OF ENTITLEMENT
The natural posture of parenting often bends itself towards protecting our kids at all costs. And rightly so in many ways – there’s no shortage of things to guard them from. However, if opening our home to foster care has taught me anything about being a parent it's that there is a fine line between protecting my kids from the dangers of being exposed to hard things and protecting them from the dangers of NOT being exposed to hard things. My natural tendency would be to create a world of comfort and convenience for them while unintentionally never allowing them to see and respond to a world of brokenness and hopelessness that exists around them. Perhaps my greatest fear as a parent should not be the dangers and difficulties which exist all around my daugthers as much as it should be the self-centeredness and entitlement which exist deep within them. Perhaps my goal as a dad is not that I necessarily raise safe kids, but that I raise strong ones. If our society has anything today it's self-centered, self-entitled kids. I see it in my own. That's the terrifying norm.
A COLLISION OF TWO WORLDS
Foster care is nothing if not the collision of two worlds - one of relative ease and comfort is systematically dismantled so that one of extreme brokenness and loss can have the opportunity to be restored. My daugthers' worlds were changed the day their new sister's entered into theirs. Their worlds have been changed through the grief of saying goodbye. Their worlds have been changed through the trauma of having someone else's trauma significantly disrupt our home. They've had the police at our house because of foster care, they've seen their mom and dad hurt and struggle and cry because of foster care. They've sacrificed and questioned and loved in ways they otherwise would never have had to because of foster care. It's by no means been easy. They now know something about this world - it's hard and costly and broken.
They grow up in a different world now, one that's embraced the tensions and inherent difficulties that come with taking a peak behind the curtain of society's deep, dark underbelly of brokenness. It's a world of new normals for them - a world they can't grow up pretending doesn't exist. They've seen it now. They can never ever unsee it.
They sit in classrooms at school, go to gymnastics class and soccer practice, attend Sunday school and eat lunch in the cafeteria with their friends at school – all with a new and different normal than most of the other kids around them. They see a different world, and see the world differently. Foster care has given them something we as mom and dad would likely never have been able to give them on our own.
There are very real and often times legitimate concerns over the effects bringing a child from hard places into our homes could have on our biological children. I am not oblivious to that and do not negate it. We have had to say no to some things because we just didn’t feel like it would be the safest or wisest thing for us as parents to expose our family to at the time. So by no means am I suggesting we compromise the safety of our children. This is to say, however, that an equally legitimate concern we should have for our kids is the honest awareness as parents that we are prone to raise them in a sheltered, child-centered, entitlement oriented environment sometimes - all in the name of their safety. This too is dangerous.
RAISING THE NEXT GENERATION OF ADULTS
It’s sometimes hard to imagine that we are currently raising the next generation of adults. But that is what we are doing.In the blink of an eye, our kids today will become the adults of tomorrow. Compound that with the disturbing reality that when our kids are adults there will still be marginalized, abused and orphaned children in this world. The question of who will be there to take care of those kids must both haunt us and compel us. It’s devastating for obvious reasons but motivating for others – it reminds us that right now, today, we as moms and dads are raising the next generation of people who may stand ready to care for kids from hard places. While it’s certainly not prescriptive – as if it’s guaranteed that your kids will be involved with foster care or adoption as adults – no doubt the impact of growing up in a home that is oriented around that cause is immeasurable in terms of how it may potentially express itself in the values and rhythms of life our kids may establish in the future.
What you are doing is beautiful – not only for the kids you are bringing into your home but also for those that are already there. You are giving them a gift most others will never have the privilege of receiving.
My wife and I are certainly not perfect parents, nor are raising perfect kids. We continually wrestle with wanting to provide for our girls without creating a sense of entitlement in them. Like most parents we don't always know what we're doing, but I do know one thing - they often talk about wanting more sisters, and as a father my heart rejoices when I hear them express theirs in that way. I hear them saying there's more to be done, the work is not over, more kids need to know they are loved.
So there will indefinitely be space in our home, and if nothing else in our hearts, for just that.
I fear for our daughters if there isn't.
- Foster Care, Adoption and Loving Out Of Our Poverty
- Faithfulness, Foster Care and Trusting God With the Rest
- Foster Care: An Invitation Into An Entirely New Story
- Fostering or Adopting: For The Husband That's Not Sure
- Foster Care: Loving a Child That Might Leave
- Five Powerful Truths in Scripture Every Foster Parent Must Know
- The Best Thing You Can Do For Your Marriage in Foster Care
- Counting the Costs of Fostering or Adopting
- To Foster and Adoptive Parents: Reframing Your Season of Struggle
- Defining Success and Failure in Foster Care
- Foster Care: Loving a Child That Might Leave
- Ten Unique Ways Your Church Can Get Involved with Foster Care
- Busyness, Obedience and the Perfect Time to Foster or Adopt
- Three Things Foster Parents Don't Have to Be
- Wrapping Around Foster and Adoptive Families
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