One of the most common misconceptions I have come across during our foster care journey is this that the children all need rescuing from their horrible pasts.
We have only had one placement thus far, but I have found that statement to be very far from the truth.
Here is how foster care works:
A parent is seen as unfit to care for the child at that point in time. This does not mean that the parent(s) are horrible people and that they should never have rights to children again. In some cases, this is true. But not in all.
The goal in foster care is reunification.
Let me say that again: the goal in foster care is reunification.
I went into foster care with a hero complex: I was going to rescue these children and give them the love that they weren’t getting at home.
As we grew alongside Little Miss, we realized how incredibly broken the system is. To us, it actually doesn’t seem helpful to take the children away from the parents and tell them to “get it together”. Often, no resources are provided or the bare minimum is done because of funding, rehab wait lists or unbroken cycles of addiction.
As we neared the end of Little Miss’ time with us, it dawned on us: this model of helping these families is not working.
We take the children away from the parents, then tell the parents to get it together, then insist that the goal is reunification.
Theo and I went into fostering Little Miss with the mindset that she needed to be kept safe and if her Mama could just get it together…that would be great.
By the end of our time with Little Miss, we have a completely different vision of what foster care and reunification should like it. In our hearts, it looks like helping the whole family. It looks like taking in not just Little Miss, but her Mama, too. It looks like helping her Mama learn how to do Mama things, instead of me doing 110% of the work, and all of us holding our breath and crossing our fingers that Mama doesn’t fall down the rabbit hole tonight with Mr. Boyfriend #7. It would look like setting boundaries and rules for Mama, and it would like a non-existent wait list for rehab. Because what are those Mamas (and Dads) doing while they wait? They are doing exactly what they are waiting to fight against.
The goal is foster care is not to hope that Mama and Dad will “get it together”. No, the goal in foster care should be to help the entire family be able to function as family. Maybe there are chains of addiction that need to be broken. That needs to be our goal as foster parents. Maybe there is an abusive relationship that needs to be done with. That needs to be our goal as foster parents. Maybe there is homelessness that needs to be tackled. That needs to be our goal as foster parents.
When we take in a foster child, my hope is that we don’t just advocate for the child and for a future reunification with their family. My hope that is while I keep that child in my care, I am doing everything to fight for them to be back in the family that they were born into. My hope is that I am not only an example of what motherhood could look like, but that I am also an advocate for that Mama to succeed as a mother. My hope is that we have a huge role in redeeming not just the trauma that the child has been through, but the things that the family has been through as well.
I know that this isn’t ideal, and I’m not naïve enough to realize that there are many families who simply should not get their children back. I know that the system is made up of broken people doing the best job they can while burnt out and barely scraping by.
But I just wanted to write Theo and I’s heart on this matter: we might have gone into foster care for the children, but God has led our hearts to see the needs of the whole family. I hope and pray that the Lord will continue to guide us as He sees fit to help these children AND the families that they have been taken from.
If you have any questions at all about foster care or adoption from foster care as I go through this series, please don’t hesitate to ask. You can leave a comment or send an email. At the end of the series, I will have a Q&A day and will be answering any questions I receive throughout the month.
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