Love, Grace, and Dislike for Foster Care

I lived in the same house for nearly 15 years. Rather, my stuff lived in the same house for nearly 15 years while I made dorm rooms and apartments and summer camp cabins my home. (In an effort of true transparency, much of my stuff still lives with my parents but in a different house; I don’t want them to throw any of it away, but it won’t fit with all my new adult years stuff.)

When my parents put my childhood/teenager home on the market, my closet door was covered with bumper stickers because, at the time, that was the thing. I remember there were also a lot of Journey stickers because that was also a thing. One of the stickers read “I’m not opinionated; I’m just always right.”

I knew everything back then as a teenager and then as an early 20something. And I made sure that everyone around me also knew that I knew everything. I was absolutely lovely.

It’s easy for me to say that was just a phase, but again, in an effort of full transparency, I am still very much this person when it comes to certain things. Most of those things have to do with social work and foster care, but this personality trait of mine also lends itself to my marriage and relationships. I am working on it because this trait isn’t quite as lovely as I once considered it to be (while everyone else held on tightly and hoped the phase would pass swiftly… So sorry this is who I am).

I don’t want to be a foster parent. Even though I clearly know everything about parenting and foster care (because CLEARLY). But really I sort of despise being a foster parent. It’s not that I dislike caring for the children or providing for their needs. This does occasionally get old, especially when I am trying to go to the bathroom or study and there is a never-ending, always off key chorus singing songs from “Frozen” or ones made up. Also? They never do this for my husband, but he is able to laugh and enjoy this torture done to me. It is simply not fair.

My issue with foster care is the system. I mean this as a whole and the smaller pieces involved.  It is against every fiber of my being to allow others to make decisions for me or mine. And when you foster, eventually the children feel like they are yours. It’s not that you want to sever any ties with the family that birthed them but more than you want to fight passionately and completely for only good things to come across these little lives.

I say little lives, and in the numeric age of the children, they are often little. But the experiences… So many of these “little people” have lived more lives than any of us could ever imagine living or wanting to live. Some have gone hungry for days, learned to cook before they could dress themselves, and cared for siblings that are just barely younger than they are. Then there is never-ending change, relationships lost, frustration and anger they have no verbal way to express, and the expectation from so many that they act like regular kids.

And the system doesn’t help this. If you know me at all, you know I can rant with the best of them about this system. I have plenty of ideas on how to fix it but some of those ideas simply are not appropriate for a public forum. (I was once told by a supervisor that I should never be allowed to speak to the press because of some of these ideas. I have, thankfully, gotten better at keeping some of these thoughts to myself. You’re welcome.)

Children were never meant to live these sorts of lives. And I don’t just mean the children currently in foster care but also the ones who exited foster care, had babies, and then watched as the system that hurt them swallowed up the little ones they had thought they could love enough to fix some of their broken places.

The system is not something that should exist. It shouldn’t have to. Though I am grateful it does because every child deserves the opportunity to live in a safe home and to know they are loved. Did you know that animal welfare came before child welfare? So many human lives that were seen as less important while animals were protected. Bless it all.

The system now hopes to protect, but the lines on this are so blurred. How do you know what is best for a child? Is it okay to remove constitutional rights from people by also removing their children and then deciding they are never allowed to parent again. It is just so weighty.

We aren’t called to judge. Only God can do that, really. But with foster care, there are court hearings and a judge presiding. There are overworked and underpaid attorneys and case workers. Many who specialize in the field of social work have left child welfare due to the system and the disgustingly low pay; instead, many states now employ anyone with a bachelor’s degree. I know because I was this person, and looking back now, I do not know how or why I got the job. This simply should not be the case. Knowing what I know now (thanks USC for making me a bit more of a know it all about foster care), I see that it is essential for those with a background in social work to be in this field and no one else. The things at stake are too precious and consuming for anything less.

I am grateful Jesus was present when I was a recent college grad with little knowledge of poverty or struggle. I also am keenly aware that God is good, and that those experiences have reignited this passion for foster care and the forgotten fatherless that is in my belly, heart and mind.

There’s so much talk of fatherlessness but so little action. I think that no one really knows where to start. I also think that, often times, people are afraid of the system in place and don’t want to anger anyone at the top. I’ve tried to do this, but since I have this personality trait of feeling I am always right, I have pushed the envelope professionally and such. I am so grateful God is good and seems to have a hand of protection over me, even though I am sure I cause him some headaches and lots of mutterings about “what is this daughter of mine thinking?”. I’m comfortable with that that…. I think.

Additionally, I think fatherlessness and poverty on American soil is easy to forget. We forget that these stories exist around us. We push them out of our mind. We stay in our bubbles and protect ourselves. We go on missions overseas to paint orphanages and play with children, but we don’t volunteer at the local shelters or purchase new linens or mattresses for the worn out beds. By no means do I want to elicit shame on anyone. I am just as guilty. I walked away from child welfare and the grueling work. I talked about things but didn’t honor anyone with the way I spent my time. I am in need of these reminders as much as anyone else.

So, yes, like I said I don’t want to be a foster parent. I am so tired of having to ask permission or so many things. I am exhausted from waiting on other people. And I really hate that there is no definitive plan to my life, that I can’t control or anticipate anything. I think God probably loves this because it is forcing me to run to Him and forcing me to trust Him since I can’t seem to navigate things the way I feel they should go.

I want nothing to do with this side of life. It would be easy to just move on, but I would never be able to forget. I wrestle with this daily and if I can even go one more day as a foster parent. Ask my friends and my husband. They know. They get the texts and the sobbing in the bathroom phone calls.

Of course, I don’t want to admit that I hate foster care. I don’t want this frustration to translate to any families. It is solely reserved for the system. I also feel quite guilty that I can’t be this adorable, ever affirming foster mother but instead fall into the category of “spicy with a side of salty” in how I operate. I also struggle when I am told how “amazing” I am because I feel like I am living this lie and double life as there is a war waging inside of me daily.

But I also believe it essential to admit my frustrations so they don’t fester and splatter, burning whoever is standing too close to the boiling anger I often have. Because my frustration with the system should not harm anyone walking life out with me. And because others need to know hos frustrating the system is. Those in the system need to know it is okay to be angry and to fight for something better.
I used to think everyone should foster. There is enough need for it after all. I completely retract that. This stuff is FREAKING HARD. And not all of us should do it. I daily wonder if I am even remotely cut out for it.

But we can all serve. We all have to step into it somehow to alter the system. The system has to change before any additional damage is done to the lives of parents and children and case workers and all those other people who somehow find themselves in the world of foster care.

Jesus never wanted systems to rule. He wanted people and love and grace. All those things should be a part of the system and humanize it in such a way that loving and lasting changes happen. If we can strengthen this generation, the next generations will be better off.

I may not be right about how to fix it all. (That was so hard for me to write.) Or right about my specific place in it all. And I get all too riled up and beyond with the system and the impact it has on my life. (Did I mention I am bent towards selfishness? Because I so am.)

Something has to change. I have considered this for so long. I have hidden from it. Chewed and wrestled with it. Cried out to God about it. Gone to the church about it. Waited for someone else to fix it. Begged for help. And still so little happens. 
Click above watch Remember My Story (Removed Part Two)
I want to try being less right and more open. I want to let go and open my hands up to Jesus. I want to see the world change so that foster care doesn’t have to exist. I want children to have full bellies and whole brains and mended hearts. I want all of this because it is essential to the world and because it is what every person and child should have.

I’m not lovely or meek when it comes to this all. I am a snotty and crying mess that tends to mimic the roars of a lion versus the baa’s of a lamb. I am never going to be lovely or meek; just ask my husband as he often (rightfully) blames my tendencies for any grey hairs poking through. But I am firm in my belief and resignation and desire to see real, true change take this world by storm.


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