We live in a world obsessed with a happy ending. It makes sense. Most people have stress in their lives from family problems, work struggles, or money issues. So we love the idea and hope life can suddenly resolve itself into a neat, tidy bow.
There are no bows in foster care. Maybe that’s hard to hear, because we’ve become somewhat accustomed to triumphant adoption day signs or news stories that melt our hearts with joy filled reunifications. These things can and do happen in foster care, and are certainly meant to be celebrated! But they don’t— and can’t— show all the complexities that continue to coexist with those happy moments.
I’m not trying to put a rain cloud over the good in foster care. Please believe me, I’m not. However, I do have a fear that we begin to look at a happy ending as the ultimate goal in becoming involved in the foster care crisis. We begin to chase longed-for triumphant stories, instead of being solely committed to kids and families, no matter what.
Many of the children who have left my family’s home over the years have gone to great situations. They are living permanently with loving relatives. A couple are back home with parents who were able to make big changes. We were able to adopt our daughter. But not all of our kids went on to positive situations. One particular little boy slipped through the cracks, as the saying goes. Due to circumstances, mistakes made, untruths told, and the brokenness of a system, he went home to a physically and emotionally unsafe situation with a mentally ill caregiver.
This breaks my heart. But what it doesn’t do, is make me think for even a moment the five months he lived with our family wasn’t worth it. In fact, I believe the opposite. For five months, he was clean, safe, loved, and allowed to live the life of a child. I wish with all my heart it had been longer— he deserved it to be longer— but if we were able to only give him that, it was completely and utterly worth it. We’d do it a hundred times over.
Another hard reality is this— some kids from care won’t recover from the trauma of their childhoods. They will end up walking in the patterns of their beginnings. If this happens, some people in our lives will whisper sympathetically things like, ‘after all they did… adopting her… that money they spent on private school… she still got herself pregnant… she still x, y, & z…” We will become cautionary tales for other people NOT to become involved in foster care or adoption. And yes, seeing our kids struggle WILL hurt like hell and we will ache for them. But we will know the errors of the whispers. We will know the choice to step into hurt and try to help our kids fight their way back was the right thing to do, and NO outcome could ever diminish that.
Because we aren’t chasing happy endings as foster parents. We’re choosing love each and every day we have with a child. And no matter what happens, that’s the right choice. The title of a recent short film about foster care words it perfectly,
“Love is Never Wasted”
Maybe that seems too simplistic, like trying to tie it up in a neat bow. But it comes down to the fact that each and every person has value, worth, and purpose in life that doesn’t hinge on performance or results. When we see people that way, we live out the mission of foster care to love and support kids and their families without expectations or agendas. We hold people and situations with an open hand. In that way, our lives whisper the most important truth to kids,
No matter what, you’re worth it, always & everytime.
To learn more about becoming a foster parent visit www.care2foster.org. If you are interested in sharing with others the need for more foster parents and helping to alleviate the foster care crisis, visit www.care2foster.org/SHAREfostering