The One Thing You Should Never Say to a Foster Parent

I’ve heard it so many times that I should be immune. I should have a gracious response or just let it roll off my back. But sadly I’m not, I don’t and I can’t.

People can say many ignorant things about the beauty that is foster care, and I try to practice grace and understanding in these moments. But this comment hits me in the gut each time I hear it. How are you supposed to respond?

“Oh, you’re a foster parent? I could never do that. I care too much…I would get too attached. I just couldn’t give them back.”

For my heart and your own, please keep this comment to yourself. But let me help you understand why!

Oh, you foster? I could NEVER.

Unfortunately, while perhaps well-intentioned, this statement implies that people who do venture into the fostering world don’t care very much, or that we don’t bother to get attached. The response of a foster parent could easily become sarcastic, “Yeah, good thing I don’t care what happens to the children. It sure makes things easier.”

But of course we become attached! That attachment is one of the most healing aspects of a fostering relationship. When you love that child, it helps that child heal.

Jesus’ Command to His Followers

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” As Christ-followers, we are called to actively pursue meeting the needs of children living in difficult situations.

Is doing nothing truly an indication of caring? Is that how Jesus asks us to respond to another human’s need? Even if the child is only meant to be part of your life for a short time, your influence could be a turning point in his life.

Jesus didn’t call us to inaction. He didn’t even give us an escape clause that lets us turn away from need when it costs us something.

Love demands a sacrifice (1 John 3:16–18). Jesus’ love for us cost him everything. What if he had decided that the pain wasn’t worth it? Sometimes we just need to look past ourselves and see the bigger picture.

The Reality of Foster Parenting

I won’t sugar coat the experience. The pain of saying goodbye to a child that you’ve done your best to love is real and heartbreaking. You may have to send that child back to a home that you don’t think is safe. But do you trust God’s sovereignty?

I had to ask myself this question over and over again as I saw the system fail children when I knew they would have been safer with us. But he is, indeed, trustworthy, and doesn’t owe me an explanation. I just needed to be obedient and make the most of the time I have with each child.

Why not at least pray about it? If you sense that God is calling you to help kids who need homes but giving them back is truly too much for you, why not consider one of the 100,000 children in the United States that are legally free for adoption? It’s still a long and difficult process, but reunification isn’t a threat in these cases.

Other Opportunities to Serve Children in Need

In addition to foster care and adoption, organizations around the country provide opportunities for you to help hurting children. There are so many boys and girls all over the world who can benefit from your help. Can you volunteer in a classroom at your local school? Provide meals for a family with a new child? Donate to a foster agency? Sponsor a child in another country?

So the next time you meet a foster parent, say something encouraging. Instead of praising their ability to disassociate with the children in their home, ask how you can support them. Talking with people in the trenches may inspire you to make a difference in your own way.

Keep an open heart. How is God calling you to improve the lives of children?

Emily Plezia is a child advocate for Compassion International and lives in rural Montana with her family. After feeling a strong calling from the Lord to care for the ‘least of these’, Emily and her husband began to pursue foster care. They currently love and support three beautiful children and dedicate much of their time to helping children in need, both locally and internationally.

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