Why Family Preservation in Foster Care Is So Important
It became apparent, that about 7 months into our first placement, the baby girl that had been placed with us at birth, would go home soon... and I did not know what to do with this.
My name is Gina, and my husband and I are foster parents. We had always been open to the thought of adoption, but never foster care. However, one day it felt heavy on my heart to become a foster parent, and when I mentioned it to my husband, he said that he was feeling the same way. The more we looked into it, the more we realized the huge need for foster parents. We saw that lots of kids were getting adopted from overseas and even privately, but what about the kids that need a loving home for just a few months or a couple of years?
When we went into foster care, we said that we would foster to foster, however, if any child in our home became legally free, we would adopt them. I had such a hard time at the beginning seeing my role as a foster mom, and my role to love this child in my care until they went back to their own family.
Right from the get go, the social workers we worked with started asking if we were an adoptive home. They also didn't paint birth parents in a very good light. When our first placement, a baby girl that I had picked up at the hospital, was preparing to go back home, I didn't know what to do with this. I loved this little girl so much, I just could not imagine letting her go. One day, I went to court to see what the upcoming plan was and if she would transition home soon. I remember thinking that I needed to become friends with the family, so that they may be willing to keep me in the baby's life. However, sitting in the court room that day I felt like my faith challenged me to something else, and it wasn't about me or the baby. It was about this mom and helping her get her baby back. My heart and mindset had changed so much that by the end of the day, I was so disappointed that the baby wasn't reunited with her mother yet. I was confused by my feelings because I loved this baby like crazy! But so did her mom, enough to work and sacrifice everything. Shortly after this, our first placement did get reunified with her mom and it was the most heartbreaking and beautiful thing I have ever been a part of. We still see them both and I am honored that they have kept us in their lives. That first baby challenged how I view foster care. This first placement made me see that it’s about more than just the child in our home, it's about their whole family.
I believe in caring for the whole family, not just the child. This will look different for every foster family and maybe for every placement. It's important that we are asking how to support the whole family and that we are always listening.
Even while watching children leave your home and return to their birth families or even into a not so great situation, I have realized that foster care is worth it. Having a safe, loving place for a child to land is so crucial to their development and bonding. I have also learned that birth parents are worth it too! We don't know all of their stories, but they deserve just as much love and support. In my experience, I believe that God can use foster parents to partner with birth parents. Yes, it’s still up to birth parents to do the work, but I feel I have a duty to offer them hope and support.
If you’re thinking about getting involved in foster care, my greatest advice would be not to over think it… just do it! Be open to having your heart changed and enjoy the ride. Yes, it will be challenging at times, but it's been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. If now is not the time in your life to become a foster parent, find someone in your community who is and ask how you can support them.
Foster care is worth it.