Getting Too Attached in Foster Care: I’m No Longer Worried

Countless people have said to me, “I could never foster because I’d become too attached.” I understand many different reasons for not fostering, but honestly I don’t understand that reason. Don’t society’s most vulnerable children deserve love from an adult who views it as a privilege to become attached to them … even if it’s temporary? Don’t all children deserve a healthy, loving relationship with someone who is willing to become emotionally invested in them?

People who would love a child so dearly, who would consider themselves ‘attached’, make ideal foster parents! What message are we sending these innocent and traumatized children if we, as adults in society, aren’t willing to share their pain?

Of course saying goodbye is hard (yes, seemingly impossible at times!), but aren’t we willing to risk experiencing our own heartbreak to ease theirs? There is no doubt goodbyes (or ideally saying ‘see you later’) are a big component of fostering, but they aren’t the biggest part. That good stuff in the middle is what’s most important. The love we provide, the basic nutrition and day-to-day care, the witnessing of milestones and sharing new experiences. The safe, loving environment that allows proper brain and physical development – that’s what’s important. The lifelong impact we are making on their lives, that’s why we do it. I’m no longer worried about becoming too attached.

The fact is that all family members are only with us for a season. Grandparents pass. Siblings move away. Our children graduate and begin living their own lives under their own roofs. Would we avoid loving these family members because they won’t be with us forever? Of course not.

The sweet one-year-old we are caring for took her first steps just before her first birthday (read more about how I learned to celebrate these milestones in tandem with her mother). Watching her meet this big milestone literally brought me to tears. My emotions were a combination of pure joy over her accomplishment, and also sadness for yet another milestone her parents missed. Like her first bite of table food. Her first word. Her first Halloween costume. She spent her first Thanksgiving with us and woke up for her first Christmas morning. With us, her temporary family. Would I consider missing the opportunity to help her reach these special milestones simply because this precious child won’t be with me for life? Of course not.

Kids in foster care are faced with a complex mix of uncertainty, loss of control, questions without answers, and feelings they can’t explain – all that is magnified by triggers both foreseeable and unforeseeable (during a pandemic, for example, or during certain holidays).

So these kids are with us for a season – throughout our lives, each of us finds family that only stays for a season – our task during this time of fostering is to make it safe and comfortable for each child, but thanks to my amazing husband and two incredible daughters, our goal is much loftier than that. We want to show these precious children what healthy relationships look like; we want to surround these kids with so much love and laughter and joy that their heartbreak and trauma is lessened.

Am I worried about becoming attached? Nope. Too attached? There’s no such thing. There’s only love, and these kids deserve that love and so much more.

Sara has been a foster parent since 2018. She and her husband have biological twin daughters, as well as a son who was born prematurely and died as an infant. She is a proud fundraiser for the March of Dimes and an active volunteer for the local, state and national organizations of parents of multiple birth children. In addition to caring for foster children in her home, Sara also is passionate about recruiting new foster parents and increasing public awareness about issues related to foster care in South Carolina.

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