“Isn’t it hard . . .”
Of course it is. I am not an unfeeling human being. I am not a mother who can stay unattached to the child in her care.
“. . . to give them back?”
The children were never mine to begin with. They should never have been in my home in the first place. Our prayer as a foster family is that we are but an interim stopping place—full of safety and attachment and love—until they can return to their birth family.
“Isn’t it hard to give them back?” Someone I don’t know said this to me a couple of Sundays ago when she overheard me say I was a foster parent. This is such a hard question to hear and to respond to in the moment. It breaks my heart. Honestly, on that Sunday morning, I initially froze. And then I gave a basic two sentence answer since she really wasn’t looking for a full conversation.
But later my brain wouldn’t stop turning the question around and around. This is what I might say if I had more time to process and if I was conversing with someone who wanted to engage in a discussion.
Any heartache I experience on my end after “giving a child back,” I consider a privilege. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). Suffering while serving Jesus is to be expected! Dare I say, perhaps we should even learn to embrace it. Bottom line: foster care is literally not about me. I must die to myself. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, we get attached (as we should!). But, as a mature believer, I can bravely love children and grieve their loss through the power and enabling that Jesus gives.
Above all, let’s think of the children. Truly, it feels petty and selfish to consider how hard it may be on me when these precious children have no choice when they are taken from the only home and parents they ever knew. They are then dragged through the ensuing trauma through no fault of their own. Any sadness I experience in having to “give them back” is an honor to bear on their behalf.
If foster families might provide a safe home and a peaceful space where Jesus resides, for the children’s sake, it is worth it. Foster care provides a real life, tangible avenue to practice living as a disciple of Jesus “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20) and who “made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).
For foster children (and their birth families!), the world of foster care is loss and grief and trauma. As believers, it is our privilege and honor to come alongside in their moment of crisis and need. We deny ourselves and submit to the heartache, knowing that Jesus will be faithful to carry us no matter the outcome as we are faithful to His gospel mission in the world.