As a social worker and foster-adoptive consultant for Utah Foster Care, I hear the many different reasons why someone would want to become a licensed foster parent. There are those who want to help and make a difference in the life of a child, some hope to expand their families by fostering and adopting, others do it for the pleasure of having laughing, young voices around; then, there are those that are led into it after seeing a family in crisis. One thing is certain; everybody has a reason for being here.
Recently my husband and I decided that we would become licensed and open our home to children in foster care, specifically teenagers. If you were to ask my husband’s reason for doing foster care, he would jokingly tell you that being married to a social worker was the factor that convinced him fostering teens was right for us. Honestly, the way we see it is we are doing something really ordinary and normal, and that is taking care of kids in need. If a child showed up on your doorstep dirty and hungry, needing a safe place to stay, you’d care for them, wouldn’t you? We just signed up to be the doorstep they arrive at.
I personally didn’t understand the emotional level involved until we made the decision to become licensed and became ensconced in the training. Through the training we heard the good, the bad and the ugly, but still we went on. Sane people would have been scared away, but for some reason we kept going. I saw the emotional toll it took on my kids for us to be gone so much and have their parent’s attention devoted to other things.
When I went to bed collapsing from exhaustion, I couldn’t help but think, “What am I doing? What am I exposing my children to and how are we ever really going to help these kids?” In my mind, I kept telling myself I had control over my heart and that there were no guarantees on this road called foster care.
The truth is, I don’t have control. The reasons I choose to foster outweigh any bad story reported in the news. We are doing this because it needs doing, because we love kids, because everybody deserves a second, third or even fourth chance, but mostly because this is our thing. Not everyone is going to “get it” or think it’s great. But they don’t have to “get it.” It’s not about them, it’s about what’s right for us.
As human beings, we are always looking for life’s answers from outside of ourselves. We want a sign to come down and smack us upside the head with a letter explicitly saying what we are supposed to do. The truth is, no one knows you better than you do. Something within you knows this is the right path and that you can do this. Don’t get me wrong, once you decide foster care is the right thing for you doesn’t mean it won’t be scary. It’s going to be scary as you actually start making the changes to become licensed and it’s going to feel scary as you continually make adjustments. It’s scary until it isn’t; until it’s a habit, until you’re comfortable with it.
So onward we go into this strange and scary world of foster care. I still have ambivalence, and I know there will be tough days but I also know there will be great days. But that’s life, isn’t it? Some days are just bad days. That’s all. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. It is the hard part of life that makes it great. For now, something in me says I can do this knowing there is a place for us where we will be accepted and supported for the people we are: foster parents.