Next week will mark one year of fostering for our family. One year, five sweet boys. [I count the three boys we kept before our home was officially opened!]
Our one-year mark will be punctuated by the permanency hearing for Little J.
Our first experience in fostering was a short-term safety plan with three young boys. That means we had six children in our home—ages 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 7. Multiple churches rallied around these kids (and us!)—praying, providing clothes, shoes, toothbrushes, meals, childcare, help with doctor appointments, and lots of extra hands and advice! We still have contact with these little ones and their family.
In early October, we picked up a 4-day-old boy from the NICU—Baby C. The hospital
debrief and first court hearing were followed by a blur of feedings, diaper changes, meetings, paperwork, and state/agency visits. Somehow, school and work and the rest of life happened as well. And, again, our foster support team held our arms up—praying, bringing meals and diapers, giving rides, loaning baby gear. That little one left after 6 weeks—to a mom who worked incredibly hard to get her baby home.
Following his departure, we were sad. Relieved, rejoicing…and sad. Our children cried for him—we all cried. We were invited to visit Baby C and his mom in their home around Christmas. What a gift for us! Then his mom stopped communicating in January. So, we pray for and think about them…. We giggle with our kids about Baby C’s little quirks. Sometimes I still hold them while they cry for him. And, in a couple weeks, we will send a birthday gift to his last known address. He will be one year old.
In early January, we received a call for Baby J—a sweet, 7-month-old boy. At almost nine months in, this has been our first long-term placement. Throughout Baby C’s time with us, our three-year-old would introduce him saying, “This is my bruvver, C—-, and he is going home to his mommy soon!” The children know our goal is to help Baby J get home as well, but that conversation is no longer a part of our daily experience. He is simply their brother.
Yet, we continue to have regular conversations about fostering. We (and our children) struggle with the ambivalence. Our eight-year-old asked, “Is it okay to want him to go home (because his mom is sad) and to want him to stay forever…at the same time?” That is the tension every day. We are rooting for the biological parents. We send letters and pictures and try to connect them with needed resources. And we love Little J as our own—delighting in milestones (and sometimes exasperated by the tantrums!).
Delight…exasperation…colored with grief. Every day.
As we were headed to a foster/adoptive training some months ago, our six-year-old asked, “Are you going to adopt me to someone?” Surprisingly, she did not seem overly concerned about being sent to live with another family—very matter-of-fact actually. But we realized our explanations had been inadequate. We had to explain more fully the gravity of a child being removed from their parents. It’s more than a bad day or a family squabble. Yet we want to leave plenty of room for change—for grace.
“So, [J]‘s mommy isn’t safe for him?”
“…Not yet, but she is trying.”
[Big, tear-filled eyes staring at me.]
“Are you safe for me?”
Lord, have mercy. I am inadequate for this task—for these little souls.
My understanding of the upcoming permanency hearing is that DFCS will announce their current plan for establishing permanent placement for J—either to start the process of terminating parental rights or to start the reunification process (or perhaps to give the parents more time?). Regardless, I don’t anticipate any major changes right away as far as we are concerned. I also understand the plan can change again at any point.
Many of you have expressed your desire that Little J would stay with us forever. We hear your hearts and see the love you have for him—the time and emotion you have invested in him and our family. And, of course, part of me wants the same thing. Of course we are more than willing to adopt J if he needs a permanent home! We made that decision before we accepted the placement in January.
But, know this: We cannot fight for the child without fighting for his parents as well. Not enabling; but speaking truth, encouragement, and grace.
So, for today, we seek to content ourselves in the ambivalence and engage the grief. To trust in a God who is both sovereign and good. Together. All the time.