When someone ask me to explain what it’s like to be a foster parent, I always struggle. Should I talk about the overwhelming joy you feel when a child is able to go home to parents who are now able to provide them with a safe and loving home? Or do I mention the sleepless nights spent consoling a little one who has seen more ugliness in the world than anyone ever should? Do I focus on the blessing of adoption, not for the child as is mistakenly assumed, but for me personally? There are also endless meetings and a somewhat difficult system to navigate that can come into the conversation. After being a foster parent for 19 years, I have come to the conclusion that the most important focus should always be the children.
Being a foster parent can, in all honesty, be challenging. Hearing the nightmares that brought the innocent child into your home can be gut-wrenching. Expectations can be difficult to meet for the child and confusing for a foster parent to set appropriately. Birth parents, caseworkers and judges, although on the same team with the same ultimate desire, can at times see different priorities than you may have; which can be disconcerting.
Yet if your focus is on the plight of more than 120 children in Washington County who are in foster care, your experience will be altogether different. You may still experience some of the lows but the highs will leave you with a feeling of satisfaction, pride and awe. Watching an “F” student change, virtually overnight, into a confident pupil with a desire and the ability to be successful in school because of the nourishment you provide is astonishing. Seeing a baby, or even a “seasoned” teenager finally learn it is okay to cry, and that their needs can be met by a caring adult. Simple things like having dinner together every night, clean clothes and the tooth fairy will quickly become not so simple. The things we tend to take for granted will soon become things you never again take for granted, and that knowledge will set you apart from others for the rest of your life.
When the focus is on squarely on the child and making a difference on their life, then foster care; although still hard at times, becomes the easiest and best thing you will ever be a part of. The hugs from a teenager who would barely speak to you the first week they lived with you will be priceless. The smiles as a little one, or even a big one, runs to show you their first Easter basket will make the restless nights not seem as long. Their achievements, the normalcy they get to experience, for perhaps the first time, and the beauty of being able to provide, if only for a short time, a loving, safe home will be enough motivation to answer the call again and again.
The children I have met through foster care are some of the strongest, most inspiring people I have ever known. Focusing on them makes meeting the tremendous need we have for more foster parents in our area not only a worthwhile endeavor, but a task well worth your time and energy. If you are interested in learning more please contact Utah Foster Care at 1-877-865-8065 or utahfostercare.org