Present Over Perfect
One Foster Dad's journey of realizing he doesn't have to be perfect, just present, to love and help heal vulnerable children.
My wife and I have been foster parents for two years now. We have had a total of five children, one was adopted by another family, one was reunified with his parents, one was adopted by us a year ago, and our current two, siblings, we will adopt in a couple of months.
In the last two years, we have experienced more loss than we have ever experienced in our entire lives. We have experienced the emotional ups and downs that are inevitable when you allow intimate access into your life. We've experienced exhaustion, stress, heartache and a packed schedule of appointments and visits. But along with all that, we have also experienced joy like we have never experienced, our faith has deepened, and as our family has expanded and contracted, we feel our hearts beating more and more in sync with the heart of God. There's no doubt that foster care is hard, sacrificial work, so why would we willingly subject ourselves to this kind of life?
Simply because our God never gives up.
My wife and I both come from families of divorce. We experienced loss at a young age that was beyond our control. Our parents definitely made the best decision for us at the time, but that didn't change the sting of loss that occurred. Because of this, we feel deeply connected to these children that come into our home and into our family.
There were fears before entering the world of foster care but my biggest fear was the fear of not being enough for these kids. Would I be able to love them through it all? Would I be able to be the father to these kids that I never had growing up? As we enter our third year of foster care, I've realized that I will never be the father that they need - only God can do that, I can simply be used by God to show these children a small picture of the Father's love for them. This is what has surprised me about foster care – I didn't have to be perfect, I didn't have to have it all together. I didn't have to love these children perfectly… What I needed to do was be present with them, and allow love to live, move, and speak through me.
The first 2 years of foster care for us were all babies. Although these babies all come with their own unique set of challenges, they can not run from you, or say no to you, or tell you how much they don't like you. But an 8 year old can…
A few months ago when another foster baby came into our home, we found out that she had an older eight-year-old brother. He began visiting with us to get to know his baby sister. We immediately fell in love with this child and, after we found out that his mother's rights had been terminated, we prayed about adopting his sister and him. We felt that it was clear that we needed to explore this possibility so we had him over a few weekends and this past month he came to live with us. This summer we will have the supreme privilege to adopt them both, and we all so excited!
These children that are in foster care don't need a perfect guardian, they need a present parent. They need a parent that is all in for them and with them. And the reality of that call is that you will sacrifice much of yourself, your life, and your family's life to be present for them because you would do the same for the kids that were born into your family. Jesus stepped into the muck and the mire with us. My wife used this analogy once. She said it's like these children have fallen into deep pit and, as foster parents, we don't yell down to them or send a rope down, we jump in with them, not to rescue them, but simply to be with them. To sit next to them when they are alone and scared.
This call for our family has drastically increased, our faith and grown us closer than we have ever been before.
Shaun Lafferty, Foster and Adoptive Dad