Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Importance of Attachment

My husband and I became foster parents after 20 years of marriage, 10+ years of talking about it, countless months of praying about it, 4 months of training and preparations, and 3 hours of waiting for a placement after being licensed…..

We’ve been fostering for 6 months now.  During our training, we were warned about strange comments and insensitive inquiries that were sure to come.  Thankfully, we haven’t encountered TOO much of that yet, but what we have heard (over and over) is, “Oh, I couldn’t do that.  I’d get too attached….”   As if we are somehow heartless, detached robots as we welcome these little ones in and care for them….

Here are my thoughts on that whole attitude…..  First of all-- fostering is not for everyone.  We are doing it because we truly feel God has called us to it. We could not, and would not want to, do it apart from Him and we rely on His grace every day to do it well. 

But--- that being said- we absolutely get attached to the children.  If we were, for even a minute, unwilling or unable to get attached and truly love these children with all our hearts, we could not be good foster parents and would have to quit.  Foster parenting is all about getting attached. 

In our 6 months of fostering we have had three beautiful children placed with us.  Some of them we felt “attached” to instantly, some the feeling took a little more time to grow.  But we have been able (through the grace of God) to love them all and to provide for them a stable, safe, happy home.  We have cleaned up puke, changed a million diapers (none of them have been potty-trained), nursed them through colds, stomach viruses, ear infections, the sting of vaccinations.  We have held them and rocked them as they fretted in the middle of the night- afraid to be in a strange new place, with strangers all around. We have been their comfort in scary situations and have advocated for them and their needs in court.  I don’t think there is any way we could have done any of this without “attaching.” I wouldn’t have wanted to try….. 

It has been a whirlwind of emotions and of learning the system and of trying to balance the needs of our birth children and foster babies all while trying to keep our own basic needs met.  I’ve never before experienced such a roller coaster of ups and downs.

But here is the thing- the most important thing- the thing all those well-meaning people are talking about when they say they couldn’t do it:

Because we attach- and attached deeply- we have felt (and will feel again) the overwhelming heartbreak of “giving them back”.  Yes, we have already said good-bye.  Our first two babies were re-unified with birth family after 2 ½ months in our home.  We miss them more than we can say, cry for them often, talk about them daily.  They are still in our hearts and always will be. Would we love for them to be still in our daily lives?  Of course.  But it is not about us. 

We were there for them when they needed us.  And we were able to give them as much stability as possible when nothing in their lives were stable.  We were able to provide for their family an opportunity to focus on healing the problems and struggles they were dealing with and help them to get their lives on track so they could take those children back and be the family they needed. 

I cannot express how privileged and blessed I feel that God has called me to this responsibility.  I am caring for His precious children.  I am aiding His broken families to heal.  Maybe only for a little while, but it is always a gift to be a positive part of the life of a child- especially a child that is really in need and hurting. 

Will I get hurt in the process?  Without a doubt.  It is unavoidable. Heartbreak is a part of fostering. 

We knew that coming in.  We understood, right from the start, that we would be a temporary part of these babies’ lives.  That God would send them to us to love and care for, and then they would someday go back to their birth families.  (The goal of nearly every case in the foster care system is re-unification.  And the professionals in the system work very hard to achieve that.  As a birth mother myself, I understand the bond between a mother and her child and I would never advocate for that to be taken lightly or ripped away without a fight.) 
I have come to see that even in the best of circumstances, foster care is the worst of circumstances in these children’s (and families’) lives. 

They will get hurt in the process.  It is unavoidable.  Heartbreak is a part of being a foster child. 

We are willing to open our hearts, hold their hands, and endure the heart break with them.  If no one is willing to take that risk- these babies will have no hope.  And I assure you- they deserve to be loved, they deserve to be cared for, they should never have to go through the hurt alone.  They are worth the pain we endure- because loving a child is one of the greatest privileges and blessings in the world. 

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