Nobody really knows what they’re signing up for when they become parents. There are all kinds of warnings and advice that come when a family welcomes a child into their home, but there is no substitute for what experience teaches. And the same thing can be said for becoming a foster parent. There are classes and trainings for people to become foster parents, but until a child comes through that door there is no way to understand what it will be like to actually have a child in their home.
So, it becomes a learning process. The parent has to learn who the child is and what they need, and the child has to learn who the parent is and what they expect. And the part that gets mentioned but not nearly stressed enough is that it is just as hard for the parent as it is the child. We know that simply moving can be traumatic for children and when you add it that it may be their first move from their family of origin, it may be their fiftieth move, they may have a history of abuse, they may have cultural differences from their foster parent—it all can add up to be a very scary thing.
But it’s scary for the adults, too. Just like first-time parents bringing home a new baby, taking in a foster child comes with its own set of worries and fears. Foster parents often wonder if they’re doing the right thing for the child and for their own family. They worry about being too harsh or too lenient. They worry about saying the right thing and making sure they don’t do the wrong thing. They get frustrated because the things they’re doing aren’t working the way that they want. They worry that they’re not effective—that they’re failing at being a parent.
And, the truth is that sometimes they will fail. Sometimes they won’t say or do the right thing. But they will continue to try. They will continue to care for and worry about the children that they bring into their home. They will continue showing those children the love and affection that they so desperately need during such a difficult time in their lives.
And they’ll do it again and again and again. Despite the fears, the doubts, and the worry, these parents will continue to welcome these children into their home. They will do so because there is an underlying desire to be a sanctuary for those children who have experienced unspeakable pain and unbearable loss. They maintain the fervent hope that families can be healed and reunited or that other families can be formed, but, until that time, these parents work to provide a place for these children to heal and grow—and, usually, the parents grow with them.