“My husband and I have been considering foster care but are afraid of the impact it will have on our very young children. Do you have resources you’d suggest or ways to start looking into working in foster care for the beginner?”
I completely understand that fear! Our family has had different opportunities over the years to have different children (various ages) be a part of our family for short (or long) periods of time. We have had to say “no” more often as our family has grown because we did not feel we had the capacity to meet that child’s needs while at the same time meeting the needs of our current family.
When we started our foster parent classes, our agency told us that it was vital to know your current family well before fostering. It is important to make sure that you (and everyone in your family) are in a position to expand your role as mother, father, brother, or sister. 4 years ago we were in a position to bring a 4 & 7 year old sibling set into our home, but right now we could not do that. There have been certain teenagers we have let join our family and live with us for a period of time, but we couldn’t say yes to just any teenager. With each choice we have to examine the impact it will have on our family unit, our marriage, and our children. We want to make sure we can disciple our children and teach them, by God’s grace, to fear and love the Lord above all else on this earth.
That being said, if you waited until your current children were not impacted at all then you would never take a child into your home. Caring for traumatized children will cost all in your family as it changes everything about your lives, but that is okay. Christ calls his followers to do hard and difficult things. We are told that if we give up our life for Christ’s sake, we will actually save our lives (Luke 9). This does not mean you should enter foster care out of guilt or an attempt to be a “good” Christian, but if God is pulling your heart toward the ministry of adoption or foster care, then begin down that road. Our lives should not be comfortable.
This does not mean we should start fostering five children at once just to meet needs and stretch our comfort zones, because we are still called to be wise. In walking this path, it may become obvious that this is not wise timing for your family or that you are limited in the amount or ages of children you can take. My biggest advice is to make decisions out of answering the question, “What is wise for us at this time?” instead of “What is the worst that can happen?” or “How can I avoid my fears?”
For a beginner who is leaning toward foster care, but is worried and not sure if they could do it, my BIGGEST suggestion would be to start getting around other foster families and foster kids. You will see some things that scare you and look overwhelming, but you will see MANY more situations that you will think, “We could do that! We could love and meet that child’s needs.” You could do this through attending a foster care support group, asking to spend time with families in your church who foster or have adopted, or volunteering at a local shelter for children. The more you are around children who need families, the less scary the faceless “foster kid” will be.
If you are in Arizona, I would also suggest attending an orientation class and possibly even taking the 10-week, PS-MAPP class. I think the scariest thing is the unknown. These classes fill you in on ALL the “horror stories” and potential scary things of foster care, but also provide training, resources, and encouragement.
Hope this is a helpful start!