25 Ways That Foster Care Will Break Your Heart

There are so many celebrations and milestones you will share as you follow the journey of foster care with the children placed on your path. So many exciting moments and days will be filled with gratitude and awe of all that you and your foster children are able to overcome and accomplish. But even the most optimistic of us know that not everything in foster care can be fixed, not all the stories have a happy ending that we get to see or be a part of. There are so many ways that foster care will test your faith, your family, your marriage, your children, and everything you think you know about humanity and the fairness of the world. But I encourage you to take the leap and join us anyway. There is no greater power to transform the world than love.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

And when I tell you ALL things, I mean each and everything from this list can be overcome with love in some capacity.

  1. You will be sad to hear their “story,” the reasons that led them to you.
  2. Sometimes you see them sneaking and hoarding food, sometimes they save food for parents or siblings for later on or just in case. You’ll wish it mattered that your cupboards are full.
  3. The late nights you’ll spend with tears and shaking and the fear of sleeping in a stranger’s home.
  4. The questions you know the answer to, that you know you are better off not answering
  5. The questions you have but you may never get an answer to yourself.
  6. The fact that the child asks no questions and expects complete dysfunction as normal.
  7. When you wake up at 3 am from rustling and you find your foster child in their closet, in bed with a sibling, or at the foot of your own.
  8. When they introduce you as Aunt or Uncle so-and-so for years even though you feel like mom.
  9. When they start calling you mom.
  10. On the day of the visit, the parents are there and the kids run from you without looking back.
  11. On the day of the visit, the parents aren’t there and the kids don’t want to talk to you about it.
  12. When the caseworker stays into the evening throwing off your family’s routine.
  13. When you get a caseworker who never stays.
  14. When a distant relative comes forward for a child you’ve been with for months.
  15. When no distant family member or friend comes forward.
  16. On the day of court watching the parents struggle and become frustrated or overwhelmed as they try to make sense of how to fix things.
  17. On another court day watching the parents making progress, doing well, and knowing you have done your part, but you feel that deadline looming because you will be sad to see your child go.
  18. At the therapist or case managers office waiting because there is a case before you, and realizing there are probably 8-10 after you as well. You see that this is much more prevalent than you ever knew.
  19. The day when your child’s parent’s rights are terminated, you will cry for them and your children.
  20. When you see the children dancing or singing or doing something that you know to be unique to their DNA and their biological parents, and you almost want to share that, but you know it will just ruin the moment, so you think it to yourself. 
  21. When the biological parents don’t get well.
  22. On the 16th birthday, first steps, graduation, or even just field trip days when you keep showing up because you know in your heart that it matters even when you are greeted by a disappointed child who was hoping for their parents instead.
  23. When major decisions are to be made, and you aren’t in the position to make them.
  24. And on the day that you know your child(ren) have gone home and are happy with their parents and doing well, things are in order and the case is closed. You haven’t heard of any new cases lately, you are almost hoping no new children come into the system needing foster care, and then that day your phone rings again. And you are waiting to start back at the beginning with another family.
  25. When you realize how needed you are, how important this work is, and you know you can only do so much.

Foster care is the most rewarding trial you will ever walk through. I encourage you to get involved, pay attention, and help those who are doing it if you are unable to yourself. What better result can come from your life’s work than happy, healthy, and kind people who know the power of love because they learned it from there time in foster care.