“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:2 NLT
One thing that I have found surprising joy in with fostering is connecting with the birth families. I say surprising for a few reasons. For one, I admit, I pretty much think about adoption with every placement right away. “Could we adopt this child?” “What would that look like for our family?” “How does their name sound with ours?” Fostering is about reunification though. The initial goal is not adoption. It can lead to adoption but that’s not the intended purpose. Secondly, interacting with birth families is scary at first. You never know how the relatives of this child are going to respond to you.
I really want to encourage those that are fostering or thinking about fostering to embrace the ministry of the birth family. Because these kids are coming out of hard, tough situations. Some really bad, horrific even. But that doesn’t disqualify their family altogether. Sometimes, yes, there are no suitable family members. Not one. And thank goodness for the beautiful act of adoption and for the families who step into that role. But a lot of times there is family. Family who has been loving or fighting for what’s right. Family that wants to break cycles of abuse and addiction. And this is a unique opportunity for those of us as foster parents. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To encourage. To uplift. To point them to Jesus.
Baby E has family that loves him. Family that was there when I picked him up from the hospital. Family that has been here for him long before I was and pouring into him in ways that make him healthy and happy in my care. They long for him. They have attended every court hearing and are fulfilling every requirement to have him placed in their care. Today we met with them at the park. They were kind and caring. They were attentive to Baby E. Their children were so thrilled to see this little guy. They showered him with love and kisses and snacks and toys. And Baby E was happy to see them. He knows them and he knows he’s loved by them. What a tremendous joy to see this family reunited with this baby boy.
I stated in my first post about Baby E that we must resist the temptation to jump to conclusions. We must. Every time. Every placement. We can’t allow prior experiences with birth families to dictate how we respond to future ones. Which is hard. But every placement, every family, needs fresh eyes of grace.
I don’t know how normal it is for foster moms to get a baby and within 3 days attach their name to baby’s name just to see how it fits. You start dreaming of their future with you, and yours with them. Obviously I do this. I’m not saying it’s wrong. In fact, I wonder if it is Gods grace in allowing this little one to be loved as naturally as I love my own children. But given the opportunity we must make every effort to connect with the child’s birth parents and/or relatives. We have to give them opportunity. It can be nerve racking, talking with strangers that YOU have their family member. Baby E has my heart but he has a few others even deeper than mine. And the more I correspond with his family and see these adults AND children that love and cherish him, how can I not want him to go home to them? It would be selfish of me to want to keep him from that. They’re his family. So when we think about the hard thing of letting them go, think about the times we are giving them back to the ones who loved them first. What a blessing in this child’s life that there ARE people who came before us, his foster parents, that are doing whatever it takes to bring him home with them. I recognize this is not always the case. Sometimes these children return to unhealthy environments. Sometimes we do need to advocate fiercely for their safety. But a lot of times we need to strive to encourage and support the birth family. Maybe in ways they’ve never felt it. Ways Jesus would.
Today Baby E’s relative asked me, “How do you do this? Is it hard when they leave?” And I told him through tears, “Yes. But I think about, what if no one did it? What if no one was willing to bring this child to a safe place because they were too concerned about it hurting when they left? I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting E. Or meeting you. So I consider it worth it. And even though it will be sad when he leaves, it’s happy because he’s going to family that is striving to do what’s right for him.” I didn’t get to share my testimony of what Jesus did for me and how Jesus gives me the courage to do this and how Jesus mends my heart to do it all over again,…..yet. We have another visit for that. 🙂
But after spending that time with them I am so full of joy. Joy that comes from the love of Jesus. So Christians, foster parents, I implore you, to courageously, mercifully, and lovingly navigate the waters of foster care and birth families, for the JOY awaiting you. Because it IS so worth it.