Jamie Finn (@fosterthefamilyblog) likes to talk about getting off of the foster care roller coaster. When you’re deep into foster care, it feels natural to ride the coaster of emotions and scary scenarios and upcoming court dates.
I can clearly remember one day in 2014 as a newly-licensed foster mom, sitting on the floor in our sun-filled library, just weeping. There was yet another placement that we said “yes” to, it seemed “perfect,” and then the caseworker called back to say that they already found another home. All the waiting just seemed pointless when we were ready and willing.
Fast forward to 2017, our three foster children had been in the system for almost two years. Then suddenly a relative from Madrid, Spain shows up in Indiana, hires an attorney (who happened to be friends with our small-town judge), and starts pursuing custody. Oh, and did I mention this relative does not speak any English? I was making photo books and calling the pediatrician to see what vaccinations the children might need.
I think as women our brains naturally “play out the tape,” which is often a helpful gift that allows us to plan ahead and to be prepared. But this tendency can cause so much unnecessary heartache in foster care. The “what ifs” are enormous and multiplying and heart-rending. Carrying the weight of those maybes gets incredibly heavy months or years into a case.
Recently I was comparing the state of my heart now versus our last long term case in 2015-2018 and my heart is incredibly lighter and freer! Right now we have a little guy who has been with us for over a year and a half. While I adore him and worry about his situation, I do not carry the weight of his case like I used to carry other cases. TODAY he is here; TODAY he is safe. There is nothing I can do about tomorrow. Nothing I can do to sway the court. There is truly NO telling what will happen and we will handle whatever happens when it comes.
I like to tell new foster moms: nothing is happening until it is literally happening (and even then it might not happen). Placements might show up or not, relatives might step in to provide kinship care or not, visits with birth family might take place at the planned time or not . . . this is the rollar coaster that is foster care.
Thankfully, my heart has learned how to handle the ups and downs better. It’s as if the roller coaster is happening just outside our home; I can glimpse the track through the windows. But today, inside, there is peace. I do not allow the uncertainties to drag my heart into potential scenario anxiety. Working to get off the roller coaster is completely worth it. And I think this skill has certainly helped us to continue fostering for over a decade. My heart is not so weary. There is a greater sense of peace. I am certainly involved in our little man’s case, but I do not unnecessarily carry the weight of the outcomes. It is not mine to carry.