Take a deep breath and plunge into the rewarding world of foster parenting
May 12, 2009 · Updated 1:09 AM
Last summer, my wife and I began one of the greatest adventures of our lives: we became foster parents. She was interested in adopting children and I was often ready to give away our own kids, so foster parenting seemed like a good compromise.
What do you know about foster parenting? We knew very little, so we attended an orientation. I figured it would convince us to put this crazy idea on hold; I mean, taking care of other people’s kids? We have enough trouble taking care of our own!
Then we found out there are 9,000 children in the foster system right now, just in Washington state: 9,000 kids, that is almost the size of Enumclaw. An entire city of kids, all needing a safe, secure place to live. Once we realized the scope of the need, we said, “OK, count us in.”
We were officially licensed in July – this was very exciting. On the day we got our license, we had five calls from workers wanting to place children with us – this was very frightening. But we still felt like this was what we were supposed to be doing; so we took a deep breath and plunged in.
For the past nine months, we’ve had the privilege of caring for a foster son. He is 1 year old and has turned our lives upside down in many ways. Diapers are suddenly back in the picture, a bit of a shock. We also quickly realized how nonchildproof our house is, so back came the outlet covers, the stairway gates and the kitchen drawer locks (which seem to be adultproof as well.) It was quite a shift – adding a 1-year-old to the mix brings about all kinds of changes and challenges.
But I will also say this: foster parenting has been one of the best things our family has ever done. Sometimes we get so insulated by our middle-class lives; sometimes our time and energy get consumed by the demands at work and home, or the daily crises that erupt, or our constant quest for entertainment and escape. We build a protective bubble around ourselves and our families and breathe a sigh of relief.
There are some good things about this bubble, don’t get me wrong. Safety and security are important for our lives. The problem is that sometimes our bubble isolates us from the hurting world around us. The bubble blinds us to the reality of a suffering world – not just overseas in a foreign country, but a hurting world right in our neighborhood. We wind up holding it at arm’s length.
Having a foster son is a way for our family to constantly burst that bubble. A foster child is a visible, tangible reminder that we are meant to reach out and help our neighbors and the world. Whether or not you are a Christian, we all have a moral imperative to help those around us, those whose needs are greater than our own. Our foster son has taught us a lot about our inward-turned perspective and about what really matters in life.
I recently read about a homeless shelter that has this mission statement: “No one is home, until everyone is home.” Foster parenting brings that reality to the forefront of our lives. We cannot, and should not, fully enjoy our own homes, our own dinner tables, our own warm beds, our own closets – until everyone is able to do the same.
Are you living in a bubble, looking out at a hurting world? What habits are you building into your life, your family’s life – ways to break out of the bubble? Maybe foster parenting is something to consider. Or sponsoring a child through a group like World Vision or Compassion International. Or volunteering at Plateau Outreach Ministries, right here in Enumclaw. The possibilities are endless – find something that works for you and your family, then take a deep breath and plunge in.