Outside of our Comfort Zones
My name is Suzanne and I am married to my husband Theo. Theo works in law enforcement and I get to stay home with the children both biological and who we’ve received through foster care.
My husband and I have both had a passion growing in us for children since we were young. My parents have spent 30+ years on the mission field, so growing up, I knew what poverty and the marginalized looked like. I also knew that they were real people, often my very best friends and the people I was able to rub shoulders with. My husband also grew up in a family who was passionate about missions, and spent many years overseas doing medical missions. As I wade knee-deep through the world of foster care, I can only blame our parents who raised us to not isolate ourselves within our own comfort zones, but to step out and break down those walls. If there is a need out there, we have a responsibility to help with that need.
Before we were married, we felt led towards adoption, however after we said ‘I Do’ and began looking into all of the logistics we became burdened by the expenses of international adoption. It was then, during my research about adoption, that I kept stumbling upon foster care. Being raised overseas I had never really heard of it before, but the more we learned about it, the more it tugged on our hearts.
We finally began the process to become foster parents in the summer of 2013. Soon after starting classes we found out we were pregnant and it took us a full year to get our feet under us in order to complete the licensing process. It was never a question of whether or not we would quit when we had biological children, our desire was to foster and have birth children.
Just one month after our daughters first birthday, we took in our first foster placement, a newborn baby girl. I may have been crazy to have two kids 13 months apart (and find myself pregnant a second time, too!), but we were crazy about giving our sweet girl a safe home and as much love as we possibly could until she was moved to a separate adoptive home nine months later. We took almost a year off of fostering, mostly to have our second biological baby and adjust to life with him, and then we said yes to a 10 year-old girl! We have had our pre-teen daughter for 11 months now!
One of the most unique roles we face in being foster parents is fostering a pre-teen, as we are barely out of our teens ourselves! Before becoming parents, we thought we knew how to parent. We had preconceived notions about how parenting would look and how our kids would look. As all parents know, these ideas went out the window within the first 48 hours of being parents. Well, parenting a pre-teen was much the same. You think, of course, when I have a pre-teen, they won't have attitude, make bad choices, be lazy… just fill in the blank. However, within 48 hours of having a preteen I realized (once again) that I had it all wrong! In saying yes to an older child we have the fantastic privilege of raising someone who can think critically, who can tie her own shoes, who has her own personality and who is ready to change the world (once she is ready to get up from her nap ;))
Before getting involved in foster care, I will admit that I was extremely naive. My thinking often went one of two directions: I had pride in myself, and my accomplishments, or I was fearful that a child would destroy us, since "hurting people hurt people." First, I would pursue the thinking that I was going to be the savior to these children. Through my good works and deeds, I would save lives! Change lives! Be the change! Win awards! Be applauded! Obviously, this thinking was not accurate. While it is INCREDIBLY rewarding to be the one stable person or family in a child's life, it can also be incredibly isolating and exhausting. While this thinking was incredibly wrong, it has allowed me to learn a lot about myself. I am not perfect; I am not a savior. But I am a Christian and I believe in and worship a God who is perfect and is a Savior, and I'm so glad that I can point my children to someone who can be so reliable in their lives! And then on the opposite side of the spectrum, I would pursue thoughts of fear about foster care ruining me, or my family. What if we get hurt? What if my children get hurt? What if my marriage gets hurt? What if I have to say goodbye? What if? What if? What if???
Letting this fear rule me, listening to horror stories from the news and Facebook pages. This wasn't helpful thinking, either. Instead, we have been able to tackle foster care one day at a time. It's not always easy, and sometimes loving someone from a hard place is HARD, but again, it's so very worth it. The benefits and character growth that I've experienced through foster care is worth so much more than the pain and "suffering" it has caused.
I want the world to know that the average person can be a foster parent. It doesn't take ‘a saint’ or ‘an angel’ or even someone who seems to have a special gift for helping those in need. It takes an ‘average person’ to step up and parent a child who needs a home (temporary or permanent.) On top of that, it takes a whole tribe of people to come alongside those who are fostering. I would have quit long ago, if I didn't have the support and care of my church family and the support team that surrounds me.
Foster care really is hard, I'm not going to sugar coat it to recruit potential foster parents. But, I will say, that it’s worth it. I also would want to encourage anyone who knows someone who is fostering to be an incredible supporter. Instead of saying the words, "I could never do that" and leaving it at that, why don't you think through the reasons that you couldn't do it, and then provide support to foster parents in those areas. For example, gift cards, babysitting, emotional or spiritual support, meals when the child leaves their home, clothes or gift cards for the foster children, etc. It IS hard, and the only way foster parents can do it, is through the help of their community. There is never going to be an ideal time to foster. There will always be a million reasons why we should not do it right now. However, I have found that, if you are passionate about foster care or are feeling called to get involved, it is important to at least start taking the steps towards fostering, and not ignore that passion until everything feels right.